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Picks and Pans Main: Movies

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The Incredible Burt Wonderstone

Steve Carell, Jim Carrey, Steve Buscemi | PG-13 |


Since destroying magic in order to save it would be extreme, broad satire Wonderstone settles for kicking it in the pants. (I’ll let you guess where.) On one side are moldy acts like Vegas headliners Burt Wonderstone (Carell) and Anton Marvelton (Buscemi), cornballs batter-dipped in spray tanner, then fried in the desert sun for extra crispiness. On the other is their rival, self-adoring street illusionist Steve Gray (Carrey), star of the TV show Brain Rape. Sound familiar? That’s the fun of Wonderstone – along with the fact that beneath the mockery is real affection for magic, and loads of solid jokes.

It all starts when Burt gets a magic kit for his 10th birthday. It all goes wrong 30 years later, with Burt sniping at Anton, harassing their assistant Jane (Olivia Wilde) and getting shoved out of the spotlight by Gray, who’ll do anything for attention. This is why you cast Carrey: He’ll also do anything for attention. But the script, from Jonathan Goldstein and Bones star John Francis Daley (writers of Horrible Bosses), knows just how much of him to dole out, balancing his concentrated lunacy with Carell and Buscemi’s drier wit, as they try to out-idiot each other. The result is an astute comedy that claims to have nothing up its sleeve but wears its magical heart proudly on it.

Dead Man Down

Colin Farrell, Noomi Rapace | R |


Victor (Farrell) and Beatrice (Rapace) have much in common: They’re neighbors, loners and motivated by revenge. Former stylist Beatrice longs to kill the drunk driver who scarred her face. Victor, part of a crew serving mid-level gangster Alphonse (Terrence Howard), has an even darker, sadder story. There are too many logical fallacies for Dead Man Down to entirely succeed. Why is Victor’s revenge fantasy so byzantine? Are we really supposed to believe that the neighborhood kids live to torment Beatrice and call her “monster”? Still, Farrell and Rapace give nuanced performances, while Dominic Cooper amuses as Victor’s dopily ambitious cohort Darcy.

Ginger & Rosa

Elle Fanning, Alice Englert | PG-13 |


Films are meant to be moving, but when they move a viewer to drink or break things, that’s a problem. In this sadistic exercise, teens Ginger (Fanning) and Rosa (Englert) are best friends, bonded by their antinuke stance in 1960s London. Well, they are until Rosa begins an affair with Ginger’s pseudo-intellectual father, Roland (Alessandro Nivola), not bothering to hide it from Ginger, though they expect her to keep their secret. Fanning is astounding as the slowly shattering girl, but the script makes Rosa and Roland maddeningly two-dimensional —paper tigers inflicting real wounds. By the end, you just want her to spill the devastating secret already.