Andy Bockelman: So many movies, so little time


The past several months have seen a wide array of films, some of which still are in theaters; others already are on DVD. The following is a selection of movies released between August and December 2008.

1. "Hamlet 2" - A delusional high school drama teacher (Steve Coogan) learns his theater program will be cut, so he decides to pull out all the stops in writing his final production: a sequel to Shakespeare's opus featuring a meeting between the Prince of Denmark and Jesus Christ, among others. The envelope gets a mighty push in this script by one of the co-writers of "South Park," but the laughs are genuine.

2. "Traitor" - A pair of FBI agents (Guy Pearce, Neal McDonough) track a rogue operative (Don Cheadle), unaware he is working for them. Cheadle and fellow cast members are great, but the story - surprisingly a brainchild of Steve Martin - is strictly by-the-numbers political thriller.

3. "My Best Friend's Girl" - A luckless romantic (Jason Biggs) hires his sleazy best friend (Dane Cook) to date his girlfriend (Kate Hudson) hoping he will look better in comparison. Cook's talent for playing scumbags does not help this sorry excuse for a romantic comedy.

4. "The Duchess" - Georgiana, the Duchess of Devonshire (Keira Knightley), clashes with her emotionless husband (Ralph Fiennes) in 18th century Britain. Knightley is radiant, as are the production values, but there is little in the story that we did not already see in 2006's "Marie Antoinette," set in the same time period.

5. "Lakeview Terrace" - A volatile LAPD officer (Samuel L. Jackson) menaces his new neighbors (Patrick Wilson, Kerry Washington), hoping to scare them out of his suburban domain. Directed by playwright Neil LaBute, this race relations piece has a touch of theatricality, strengthening already-tense circumstances.

6. "Choke" - A sex-addict slacker (Sam Rockwell) who supports himself through various cons - performed by pretending to choke in restaurants - struggles with his demented mother's (Angelica Huston) mortality. This black comedy is not for the faint of heart, but it offers a much lighter side of the novel by author Chuck Palahniuk ("Fight Club").

7. "Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist" - The title teenagers (Michael Cera, Kat Dennings) share a wild New York night while chasing down an elusive, indie rock band. Cera and Dennings fare nicely, but the real star is the prominent alternative music soundtrack.

8. "Body of Lies" - A CIA agent (Leonardo DiCaprio) tracking terrorist suspects in the Middle East is run ragged by his demanding superior (Russell Crowe) back in the States. Director Ridley Scott returns to "American Gangster" territory with characters in drastically different positions in their respective jobs, developing both equally.

9. "Sex Drive" - Hapless teenager Ian (Josh Zuckerman) endeavors to travel cross-country to meet the dream girl with whom he has been trading e-mails. A lot of crude gags do not hamper the many sincerely likable characters.

10. "Changeling" - In 1928 Los Angeles, a single mother (Angelina Jolie) finds her young son (Gattlin Griffith) abducted, but when the corrupt local law enforcement returns a different boy (Devon Conti) in his place, she is in for the fight of her life to prove the truth. Based on a true story, Clint Eastwood's period piece tugs at heartstrings, despite a story with too many subplots.

11. "Milk" - The biography of Harvey Milk (Sean Penn), who became the first openly gay man elected to public office in 1977 San Francisco. Penn is outstanding in the title role of the magnificent opera that is Gus Van Sant's best movie yet. James Franco, Emile Hirsch and Josh Brolin do well in supporting roles, but the crowning achievement is the successful merging of documentary footage of the era with the rest of the story.


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