the mare for breeding purposes until learning she’s infertile, the financially strapped Ben, with constant prodding by his daughter as well as his own crusty dad (Kris Kristofferson), decides to take a chance on prepping her for competition contention. Many child stars are either sloppily sentimental or coldly calculating, and while Fanning has occasionally veered toward the latter, she delivers her warmest and most natural performance in this picture.
IN HER SHOES ✰✰✰
Schmaltz-loving women will grab their tissues while Neanderthal males will roll
A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE ✰✰✰1/2
In the same manner that David Lynch deconstructed the myth of the squeakyclean small Southern town in Blue Velvet, so does director David Cronenberg take a hatchet to the façade of bland Midwestern homeliness. The movie establishes the proper tone from the start, as two men check out of their motel in the grisliest way imaginable. From here, we jump to the home of Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen), a hard-working café owner blessed with a devoted wife named Edie (Maria Bello) and two children. Tom’s peaceful existence disappears the night that a pair of murderous strangers bust into his diner. Tom kills the intruders, which in turn leads to his national status as a hero. This widespread exposure brings more strangers to town -- gruff mobster Carl Fogarty (Ed Harris) and his two flunkies. Viggo Mortensen, formerly a wretched actor who has matured in leaps and bounds these last few years, was a wise choice -- it’s impossible to read anything on his passive face, thus making it hard to gauge whether or not he’s telling the truth about his past. ◗
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Ever since winning that Oscar for Scent of a Woman (still the worst con job ever to snag a Best Actor statue), Al Pacino has elected to “Hoo-ah!” his way through almost every subsequent role. Pacino’s back in full manic mode in Two for the Money, a malnourished morality tale not dissimilar in structure to the other Pacino vehicles in which he serves as a shady mentor to a hot young actor. Here, he plays Walter Abrams, the head of a sports consulting firm who finds his protege in Brandon Lang (Matthew McConaughey), a former college football star permanently sidelined by a leg injury. Brandon scrapes together a living at a small Las Vegas betting house. Walter learns of Brandon’s ability to correctly handicap gridiron match-ups and lures him to New York with a substantially better job offer. Under his new boss’ tutelage -- and with Walter’s sharp wife (Rene Russo) also offering expert advice -- Brandon becomes a raging success by providing gamblers with surefire tips, but personality conflicts between the two men threaten to drive both their careers into the ground.
Writer-director Rob McKittrick obviously views his pet project as the new Clerks, but whereas that Kevin Smith gem featured genuine wit beneath the rampant vulgarity, Waiting is merely puerile, crammed with incessant employment of the “F” word (fag, that is) and featuring more unkempt pubic hair (male and female) than any picture this side of a 50sera stag film. Ryan Reynolds plays the veteran employee at Shenanigan’s, an eatery in the Applebee’s/Bennigan’s mold. He’s assigned to show the new kid (John Francis Daley) the ropes, and the story kicks into high gear once he explains to the rookie that every male employee must trick the other guys into looking at his exposed genitalia.
C r a b H o u s e Great Food • Great Music
1 0.1 9.05
TWO FOR THE MONEY ✰1/2
With Elizabethtown, director Cameron Crowe seeks to honor the memory of his father, who died of a heart attack in 1989. It’s a noble endeavor but a disappointing movie, as engaging individual scenes fail to disguise either the slackness or superficiality of the piece. Orlando Bloom, nothing special but getting the job done, stars as Drew Baylor, a failed shoe designer who temporarily shelves his own demons in order to attend the funeral of his dad back in the title Kentucky town. Along the way, he meets a chatty flight attendant (Kirsten Dunst) who stirs him out of his stupor -- she’s the new constant in his life as he attempts to do right by his various relatives, including his grieving mother (Susan Sarandon). Crowe, a former editor at Rolling Stone, is renowned for his films’ savvy music selections, yet here he overplays his hand: The final portion is one long road trip in which Drew explores the country while his car CD blasts a multitude of diverse tunes, and the overriding feeling is that Crowe simply wanted to impress audiences with his music collection.
their eyes. But In Her Shoes isn’t designed for any of these people; instead, it will attract viewers who have little use for rigid societal labels and who anticipate a well-crafted blend of comedy and pathos. The picture stars Cameron Diaz and Toni Collette as Maggie and Rose, two sisters who have nothing in common except their shoe size. In this case, the ties that bind have been shredded down to a mere string, one which snaps when Maggie cruelly betrays Rose in an act of astonishing thoughtlessness. Banished by her older sister, Maggie heads to Florida to meet Ella Hirsch (Shirley MacLaine), the grandmother she only recently learned she had. It isn’t hard to guess how this will all play out, but the pleasures rest in the journey more than the destination.