2012.2.3 NOW Playing

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2012.2.3 NOW Playing

Dancing Queen (12)

Comedy, Drama / 124 / Korean

Singer-actress Um Jung-hwa and actor Hwang Jung-min burned up the screen in the 2005 hit “All for Love,” with Um playing a stuck-up divorced doctor and Hwang playing a foul-mouthed detective. The chemistry between the two boosted ticket sales back then and now the duo returns for another round.

“Dancing Queen” tells the story of Um Jung-hwa, who shares the name of the actress who plays her. In the film, Um is a girl who dreamed about becoming a singer when she was young but had to put her dream aside when she married Hwang Jung-min, who also uses his real name. Although Hwang is a lawyer, he is always worrying about paying the rent.

One day, Hwang rescues a man who falls off of a subway platform and becomes an instant hero. His heroic act even pushes him into the political arena and he decides to run for Seoul mayor. Things go along just fine until Um receives a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity in the form of a proposal from an entertainment agency and she is forced to choose between her dream and his. It’s not long before she realizes that she can’t give up her dream and she decides to pursue both.

The film demonstrates that age is just a number and that dreams can sometimes come true. Great performances by Um, a talented singer-actress in her own right, and Hwang are just the icing on the cake.

Wonderful Radio (15)

Drama / 120 / Korean

In her heyday, Jin-ah (Lee Min-jeong) was a popular singer, but all she has left now is her manager (Lee Gwang-soo) and her job as a radio disc jockey for “Wonderful Radio,” a program on the verge of getting canned. Fiery and outspoken, Jin-ah is an unrestrained DJ who spouts everything that enters her head on air and changes song requests at whim.

One day, the station brings in a new producer, Jae-hyuk (Lee Jeong-jin), as a last attempt to raise the program’s dismally low ratings. He wants to revamp “Wonderful Radio,” while Jin-ah suggests they instead add a new segment in which listeners share their life stories and favorite songs on air.

To her disappointment, the first broadcast is a wreck, but the program soon begins to take off as one listener’s heartwarming story encourages more listeners to tune in.

War Horse (12)

Drama, War / 146 / English

“War Horse” is, in many ways, your typical war-themed tear-jerker. Best friends part painfully at a train station, nearly witness each other’s death in battle and forever anguish over what they have witnessed if they manage to make it out alive. It’s all run-of-the-mill except that the protagonists are horses.

The whimsical montages and dramatic music all focused on the four-legged creatures can, at times, be a bit off-putting as if the film is set in a world where horses have become the master race, but director Steven Spielberg had to do something right to garner six Oscar nominations. And indeed, by the end of the film, you’ll likely find yourself attached in an oddly human way to the horses, who took such a critical and overlooked role in World War I.

Indeed, what makes this film worth watching is that it takes a time in history that has been overused as inspiration in Hollywood and still manages to share a new perspective. Spielberg and crew took a real risk with this plot, because with just one element slightly off, “War Horse” could have been a freak sci-fi film about super-intelligent animals - and not in a good way. But the story, acting and special effects all come together to produce a work that wows with emotional moments and suspenseful war scenes that do their best to portray the hell that was trench warfare - for both humans and animals.

Mr. Nice (18)

Comedy, Drama / 121 / English

Howard Marks was once the most wanted man in Britain. He was at one time or another involved with the IRA, the DEA, Customs and Excise, the Police, MI6 and the Mafia. He had 43 different aliases but become known as Mr. Nice.

Born near Bridgend in south Wales, Marks was a drug smuggler. One of the most prolific in history.

Educated at Oxford University, Marks got involved in drug smuggling through a friend and, not surprisingly, found it to be profitable. Things escalated and Marks, among many other escapades, found himself importing huge quantities of hashish from Pakistan in the 1970s and being courted by MI6, the British secret intelligence service.

Based on his 1996 memoir, the film traces Marks’ rise and fall.

Rhys Ifans plays Marks and got the part after a chance meeting some years ago. After meeting at a concert in Wales before Ifans was an actor and Marks was a published author, the pair got on so well that they agreed that if the book ever got made into a film Ifans would play him, or so the anecdote goes. It did and so he is.

Journey 2: The Mysterious Island (all)

Action, Adventure / 94 / English

Those who remember the “Land Before Time” dinosaur fantasy flicks fondly will get a kick out of the 3-D family-friendly adventure “Journey 2: The Mysterious Island,” which takes viewers on a fun - if exaggerated - tropical adventure.

Budding teenage actor Josh Hutcherson returns for the sequel to “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” but is joined by an entirely new cast of characters for this trip to a Jules Verne-inspired island hidden in the middle of the ocean.

In theory, this film should be a perfect fit for 3-D, and in many ways, it does fit the bill. Nature on the mystical island is backward, with miniature elephants small enough to be carried and gigantic insects large enough to carry the cast on their backs. The bright colors and quick movements of the animals, which are shown off as the cast makes pit stops around the island, will certainly please the target demographic. The must-have chase scenes will keep them in their seats, too.

Those less distracted by the effects, though, and perhaps more interested in what the characters have to say, will find themselves disappointed. Dialogue is often short and superficial, led by the father figure played by Dwayne Johnson, also known as “The Rock” from his wrestling days. Though his efforts to be a stand-up father figure for Hutcherson’s character are admirable, his less-than-sophisticated humor sabotages him from the start. Though this film could be an impressive showcase of the latest in 3-D theater technology, it’s more likely to be remembered for The Rock’s cheesy romantic advice, especially the cringe-worthy scene when he bounces berries off his pecks.
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