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Tea With Mussolini

Posted 7/14/2010

FANTASTIC MR. FOX Co-writer/director Wes Anderson takes many liberties with Roald Dahl's 1970 source novel, turning Mr. Fox (voiced by George Clooney) into a dad and husband who starts back to thieving on the sly much to the chagrin of his family and friends. Despite offering the concession of the stealing-is-bad moral, smoothing out Dahl's typically biting story doesn't improve it. Sure, farmers Boggis (Robin Hurlstone), Bunce (Hugo Guinness), and Bean (Michael Gambon) are horrible, but the oh-so-slick Mr. Fox is a pompous ass--and his son Ash (Jason Schwartzman) is really quite awful. Merely turning typical Anderson characters into foxes, badgers, and beavers doesn't make a kids movie. The stop-motion animation, though, is fabulous. Just don't expect more from it than a momentary smile. (Anna Ditkoff) At the JHU Homewood campus' lower quad July 16 at 8 p.m .

THE HANGOVER Groom-to-be Doug (Justin Bartha) heads for a night in Las Vegas with his boys--Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms), and his weird future brother-in-law Alan (Zach Galifianakis)--for a night they'll never forget. The Hangover is spent trying to remember what the hell happened. The night is as lost to the audience as it is to them, and they spend the next two days unraveling the clues--including Jade (Heather Graham), the earth-mama professional dancer with a baby and, yes, a heart of gold; a stolen police car; hospital time; Mike Tyson; Mr. Chow (Ken Jeong), a seriously demented business man; a chicken; a baby; a tiger; and a black Doug (Mike Epps). (Wendy Ward) At Fells Point's Broadway Pier July 14 at 8:45 p.m .

THE HURT LOCKER Kathryn Bigelow and first-time screenwriter Mark Boal may not have set out to reinvent the war movie with The Hurt Locker, but this insistently soldier's eye-view of the Iraq War adamantly avoids conventional war storytelling. Informed by Boal's embedded reportage, Locker's narrative counts down the days left in its three-man Explosive Ordnance Disposal unit's active-duty rotation, just as a bomb's timer ticks toward its entire reason to be. During these days, the unit goes about its business--one of the most insanely dangerous and stressful jobs in the military. And Staff Sgt. William James (Jeremy Renner) is ridiculously good at it. (BM) At Fells Point's Broadway Pier July 21 at 8:45 p.m .

INCEPTION With a fab cast--Cillian Murphy, Joseph-Gordon Levitt, Marion Cotillard, Pete Postlethwaite, and somebody named Leonardo DiCaprio--writer/director Christopher Nolan's dreams-invading crime thriller could be a visually baroque good time. Opens July 16.

PLANET 51 Animated family fare about humans invading a foreign planet from the writer of Shrek. At the Enoch Pratt Free Library's Wheeler Auditorium July 17 at 2 p.m .

THE PRINCESS BRIDE Robin Wright stars as the most beautiful girl in the land in Rob Reiner's once-upon-a-time old-fashioned romantic comedy from 1987. A robust cast--Wallace Shawn, Peter Cook, and Carol Kane--keeps everything moving along fairly painlessly. At the American Visionary Arts Museum July 15 at 9 p.m .

THE SORCERER'S APPRENTICE Monica Belluci, Nicolas Cage, and Jay Baruchel star in Disney's latest riff on the Goethe ballad--which the studio immortalized in its 1940 animation Fantasia--from director Jon Turteltaub. Opens July 14.

STANDING OVATION This tweener musical/dance-pop comedy follows a group of junior-high BFFs as they compete in a music-video contest; directed by Stewart Raffill, the man who delivered 1988's shameless E.T. knockoff Mac and Me. Opens July 16.

TEA WITH MUSSOLINI Filled with a cast of Oscar winners (Cher, Judi Dench, and Maggie Smith) and an Oscar nominee (Lily Tomlin), Tea With Mussolini really belongs to two-time Oscar nominee Joan Plowright, who plays Mary Wallace, a sensible Englishwoman who takes responsibility for Luca, the illegitimate son of her caddish employer in the Florence, Italy of the 1930s. Mussolini, written by Englishman John Mortimer, working from director Franco Zeffirelli's autobiography, is ruthlessly sentimental, relentlessly Anglophilic, and gorgeously evocative of both the beauty of Tuscany and a vanished era. (Jack Purdy) At the intersection of High and Stiles streets July 16 at 9 p.m .

WELCOME Writer/director Philippe Lioret's 2009 drama follows 17-year-old Bilal (Firat Ayverdi), a Kurdish refugee, as he tries to immigrate from Iraq to England via Calais, hoping to swim across the English channel. At the Charles Theatre July 20 at 7 p.m .

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