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Charlie Wilson's War, Juno, Sweeny Todd and more

This was a big week for new movies, here's a quick overview

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Charlie Wilson’s War

Based on a true story.  Tom Hanks as a hard-drinking Texas congressman who, at the urging of a Houston socialite (Julia Roberts), uses his congressional subcommittee to arrange a secret $1 billion arms deal between Israel and Afghan freedom fighters, with Pakistan as the intermediary.  That results in the defeat of the Russians, and the beginning of the end of the Cold War.  Philip Seymour Hoffman is droll and funny as a rogue CIA man who becomes Charlie’s partner in deception.  A smart, funny, wicked political comedy by Mike Nichols, written by Aaron (“West Wing”) Sorkin. (R) ★★★ – RE


Very smart, very funny and then very touching; it begins with the pacing of a screwball comedy and ends as a portrait of characters we have come to love.  Ellen Page in an Oscar-worthy performance as a pregnant 16-year-old who decides to keep the child.  With J.K. Simmons and Allison Janney wonderful as her parents, older and wiser than most parents in teenage comedies.  And Jennifer Garner and Jason Bateman as the would-be adoptive parents, and Michael Cera, shyly winning as Juno’s boyfriend.  Screenplay by Diablo Cody, directed by Jason Reitman; the best movie of 2007. (PG-13) ★★★★ – RE

The Kite Runner

Another magnificent film by Marc Forster (“Monster’s Ball”), based on the much-loved best seller about two boys in 1970s Afghanistan and the lives they go on to lead.  Doesn’t depend on stars, effects or genres, but simply fascinates us with how it will turn out.  Superimposes human faces and a historical context on the tragic images of war.  One of the year’s best. (PG-13) ★★★★ – RE

National Treasure: Book of Secrets

Without a doubt the most absurd and fevered plot since “National Treasure” (2004).  What do I mean by fevered?  What would you say if I told you that Mount Rushmore was carved only in order to erase landmarks pointing to a fabled City of Gold built inside the mountain?  Starring Nicolas Cage, Helen Mirren, Ed Harris, Jon Voight, Diane Kruger, Harvey Keitel and Justin Bartha, who were all but one in the first adventure, but never once mention it.  I’d just about forgotten it, too. (PG) ★★ – RE

P.S. I Love You

Oscar winner Hillary Swank takes a leap into the romantic comedy genre and it’s a real tear-jerker at that.  She plays Holly Kennedy, a beautiful and smart woman married to the love of her life, Gerry (Gerard Butler).  Alas, a love that strong can never last and soon Holly is a widow.  The real hook of this film is when Gerry, knowing his wife would take his loss hard, continues to communicate with her in the weeks and months following his death.  With letters and tapes Gerry attempts to push her into a new future, signing each in the same way: P.S. I Love You … puke!  Hey, I’m a guy. (PG-13) – Bill White

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Tim Burton’s macabre, blood-soaked, brilliant film version of Stephen Sondheim’s hit musical.  Johnny Depp and Helena Bonham Carter do their own singing, and very effectively, too, as the cut-throat barber and the landlady he supplies with fresh meat for her pies.  With Alan Rickman as a vile judge and Timothy Spall as his flunky.  A dark look at London poverty and desperation, filmed with bizarre intensity. (R) ★★★★ – RE

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