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Film Clips 

Capsule reviews of films currently showing in Charlotte

New Releases

4 MONTHS, 3 WEEKS AND 2 DAYS / PERSEPOLIS This year's Academy Awards race may be over, but expect the controversy surrounding the group's Best Foreign Language Film category to continue. After a record 63 countries each submitted a picture for consideration in this year's contest, the members of the Academy's foreign language film committee – mainly, older and more conservative voters who have time to watch all these movies – pared the list down to nine, from which the five nominees were selected. Astonishingly, that list of nine didn't include two highly praised titles: Romania's 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days and France's Persepolis (which did manage to snag a Best Animated Feature nod). Perhaps the finalists were all better than either movie – it's impossible to say at this point, considering none have played Charlotte – but given the Academy's absurd, decades-stretching rules governing this category – nonsensical guidelines that have kept such gems as Akira Kurosawa's Ran, Claude Berri's Jean de Florette and Krzysztof Kieslowski's Trois Couleurs trilogy out of the running – that's hardly a given. At any rate, Academy heads promise an investigation of the current process. As for this neglected pair, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is a dark drama about an unexpected pregnancy that flies in the face of far sunnier pictures like Juno and Knocked Up; set in Romania during the 1980s, it centers on the efforts of a woman (Anamaria Marinca) to help her friend (Laura Vasiliu) secure an illegal abortion. The animated Persepolis, meanwhile, charts the exploits of a young girl as she comes of age in Iran in the years surrounding the revolution (out with the Shah, in with the Ayatollah Khomeini). Both films focus on women coping with unimaginable hardships while living under oppressive regimes, and both are comparably memorable. Both films: ***

Current Releases

THE BUCKET LIST If Morgan Freeman and Judi Dench ever made a film together, would the world simply explode? After all, Freeman always plays the smartest character in his movies and Dench always plays the wisest character in her pictures, so wouldn't this fall under some sort of "irresistible force meets immovable object" scenario? At any rate, it's an idea more worthy of discussion than any of the pseudo-weighty nonsense on view in The Bucket List, an interminable film about terminal patients who learn important life lessons before, yes, kicking the bucket. Freeman plays Carter Chambers, an auto mechanic with an IQ equal to that of Stephen Hawking. Dying of cancer, he shares a hospital room with the filthy rich Edward Cole (Jack Nicholson), who's beginning to realize that money can buy everything except an extended lease on life. With each man facing less than a year to live, they both elect to go out in a blaze (or at least daze) of glory, by dutifully performing tasks on their self-penned "bucket list" of activities they've always wanted to do. The list includes such items as "go skydiving" and "laugh until I cry"; unfortunately, "entertain audiences who pay to see this Bucket of you-know-what" is nowhere to be found. A lazy and condescending package from top to bottom (with uninspired efforts put forth by director Rob Reiner and scripter Justin Zackham), The Bucket List isn't nearly as torturous as the similar, "laughing in the face of death" Patch Adams; then again, neither is a broken back. *1/2

DEFINITELY, MAYBE When it comes to a worthy romantic comedy, Definitely, Maybe certainly isn't fool's gold (or Fool's Gold) – on the contrary, it's the real deal, a diamond in the rough that could use some polishing but overall sparkles with warmth and wit. Little Miss Sunshine's Abigail Breslin (suddenly more overexposed than fellow moppet Dakota Fanning) plays Maya Hayes, a precocious child whose parents are getting divorced. While staying with her father Will (Ryan Reynolds), Maya begs to hear how he and her mother met, so he turns the bedtime story into a mystery, changing all the names and leaving Maya to guess which of the women from his past ended up becoming his wife. As he details his escapades during the early 1990s – as a fledgling political consultant for the Clinton campaign – he presents three possibilities: his college sweetheart Emily (Elizabeth Banks), his campaign co-worker April (Isla Fisher), and his reporter friend Summer (Rachel Weisz). By casting three comparably drop-dead-gorgeous actresses in sympathetic and intelligent roles, writer-director Adam Brooks keeps the mystery going longer than might be expected; still, the focus isn't on the identity of Mom as much as it's on Will's romantic travails as he keeps sorting out his shifting feelings for these women as they repeatedly enter his life over the years. Affable Reynolds manages to keep pace with his gifted leading ladies, while an unbilled Kevin Kline makes a welcome appearance as a literary boozehound with an eye for young college girls. ***

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