2011.10.14 NOW PLAYING

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2011.10.14 NOW PLAYING

Fighting Spirit (15)


Drama / 124 / Korean

“Fighting Spirit” is the story of a famous rowdy baseball player on the verge of ripping apart his family because of his actions.

Hotshot pitcher Yoon Do-hoon, played by Kim Joo-hyuk, rises fast with 149 wins but falls into an immediate slump, ending up second string and in a downward spiral of arrogance and contempt. There comes a point when he is even kicked out of his house and is forced to live off of his juniors.

His longtime wife, Oh Yoo-ran, played by Kim Sun-ah, does all she can to inspire him to not only get back on his game, but also to realize that in his struggle to keep his own baseball career alive he is losing something much more important - his family. Stardom turned him into a snob and a tabloid sensation, but humiliation forces him to contemplate the choices he has made in hurting those around him. The movie may belabor a theme that has been overdone over the years, but it still manages to have a refreshing and heartwarming touch with a welcoming comedic side to it.

“Fighting Spirit” is directed by Kim Sang-jin who also directed “Jail Breakers” (2002), and “Kick the Moon” (2001).

Real Steel (12)


Drama / 127 / English

So boxing robots and Wolverine. Could this possibly be the best film ever made?

Set in a “Blade Runner”-esque future where robot boxing is a top sport, “Real Steel” is centered around a struggling robot boxing promoter (Hugh Jackman) who thinks he has found a champion in a discarded sparring bot.

Yes, he discovers he has an 11-year-old son who wants to know his father, and there is a woman thrown in too, but this is all about the robots. Big, flashing, fighting robots.

Made by Dreamworks, whose summer movie “Cowboys & Aliens” flopped somewhat, the company was looking to “Real Steel” to claw back its reputation a bit, which it did by earning a decent, but not fantastic, $27.3 million on its opening weekend.

Directed by Shawn Levy, who has seen success with “Night at the Museum” and its sequel “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian,” and starring the aforementioned Jackman with Evangeline Lilly, perhaps best know for “Lost,” this film will thrill kids and fans of robot wars alike.

Biutiful (18)


Drama / 123 / Spanish

In “Biutiful,” Uxbal, played by Javier Bardem, is truly a mess of contradictions. As a single father, he struggles everyday to make ends meet, having recently separated from his dangerous, bipolar wife. To do so, he plays a middleman in the grimy underbelly of Barcelona, Spain, working with a Chinese sweatshop owner who seriously mistreats his workers and Senegalese illegal immigrants who hawk counterfeit goods.

But at home, he sets an upstanding example for his children, who admire him in a way that only children can love their parents. And that’s what makes this Oscar-nominated film so riveting: it shows the tender human side of characters who otherwise wouldn’t deserve our empathy. Even the sweatshop owner and immigrant vendors have families to support.

When Uxbal is diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer - and then decides to hide his disease from his children despite its painful physical effects - we fall for him all over again. And Bardem’s stupendous acting, which earned an Oscar nomination, clearly demonstrates the effect of each and every blow on Uxbal, physical and otherwise.

Some of this tragic drama’s most touching scenes are those which reveal moments of emotional intimacy between characters, especially between Uxbal and his children. Such emotional rawness has, in some sense, become the trademark of director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, who is also behind memorable films like “21 Grams” and “Babel.”

Inarritu has managed to craft a masterpiece in “Biutiful” that leaves an inspiring mark, showing us that even those who might deserve society’s scorn in some ways can be good people at heart.

Nader and Simin, A Separation (18)


International, Drama / 123 / Persian

Asghar Farhadi, an Iranian screenwriter and director, navigates through the politics of contemporary family life in Iran, offering a rare glimpse into the oft-censored dynamics of Iranian society. This stunning project, winner of the Golden Bear for Best Film at the Berlin International Film Festival and a candidate for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars, captures the dramatic story of an upper-middle-class family in Tehran struggling with marriage, pregnancy and the caretaking of a grandparent suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.

This Persian-language film is destined to become an internationally appraised work that reveals the raw human experience in one of the world’s most censored societies.

Abduction (15)

Action, Mystery / 105 / English

When Nathan (Taylor Launter), who has always felt distanced from his parents, discovers that he was kidnapped as a child, he begins to uncover a vast conspiracy and must go on the run in order to survive.

The trailer opens with Nathan’s “dad” helping him with his martial arts skills, but they are stopped by “mom,” who tells them that it looks like they are trying to kill each other. Oh mom.

Those martial arts skills are going to come in very handy later on, though.

Alfred Molina (“Raiders of the Lost Ark”) delivers perhaps the best line of the movie when he tells Nathan “they weren’t your real parents,” which comes off a tad dismissive when our hero has just asked who killed them.

This angers young Nathan (or whatever his name is). Then, right on cue, all hell breaks loose.

Automatic weapons, glass flying everywhere, helicopters, obligatory shots of computer screens showing little dots bleeping, car chases, fights on trains (an homage to Bond perhaps?) and general mayhem - with an attractive woman thrown in for good measure.

At the start of the movie, there are only four people who know “Nathan’s” real identity, but after his parents get wasted by gun-toting assassins, only two remain.

The tension builds as we ask ourselves: will Sigourney Weaver (“Ghostbusters”) and Molina, presumably the other two who know Nathan’s real identity, survive long enough to tell him his real name? Will he find out where his real parents are?

And will they run, in slow motion, into each others arms and live happily ever after?

This is a dirty martini of a film. It’s one measure of “Kickboxer,” two measures of Jason Bourne, a measure of vodka and a dash of Bond. Shake (not stir) that up and you get yourself a run-of-the-mill action-film martini. Maybe it would better to get an actual dirty martini (dirty on the side) and watch some Bond or Bourne.
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