Don't let the bland romantic-comedy wrapper fool you. Duplicity is one of the year's best surprises, a whip-smart and entertaining mashup of His Girl Friday banter and the intricate, big-business thrills of director Tony Gilroy's first flick, Michael Clayton.
Clive Owen and Julia Roberts have the ideal skill set and old-school charms for their roles as corporate spies who share a romantic past, and they get scene-stealing support from Paul Giamatti and Tom Wilkinson. Grade: B+
Matteo Garrone's drama about the Camorra, the Neapolitan mafia, knocks the wind out of the glamorous mob anti-heroics we know from movies. It's a portrait of an institution at war with itself - one that's literally rotting the country's foundation - which proves to be just as compelling as a standard mafia story. Grade: A
"I Love You, Man"
Writer-director John Hamburg takes the male bonding of 40-Year-Old Virgin and Superbad to its next logical step, building a comedy around a mousy, friend-challenged real-estate broker (Paul Rudd) who embarks on a bromance with Jason Segel's crude but lovable slacker. The terrific cast has fun altering rom-com tropes to fit same-sex friendship. Grade: B-
Director Alex Proyas (The Crow) dumbs down his doomsday plot about a father (Nicolas Cage) whose son brings home a sheet of seemingly random numbers that are attached to actual catastrophes, making what amounts to disaster porn. He gets queasy thrills from mass chaos but seems unable to move the story forward without having Cage's character speak his every thought. Grade: C-
"Monsters vs. Aliens"
The new wave of 3-D has so far worked best with animation, and the latest from Dreamworks is no exception. It's a visual feast that's sure to look as good to parents as to kids. Unfortunately, the accompanying story about imprisoned monsters let loose to protect the planet during an alien invasion is a mess of B-grade sci-fi cliches and "jokes." If you're going to take the kids anyway, spend the extra few bucks to see it in its full-blown, 3-D glory. Grade: C
Sure to be remembered as the movie that prompted Joaquin Phoenix's infamous Letterman appearance, this flawed flick about a man torn between you-guessed-it (Gwyneth Paltrow and Vinessa Shaw) aims to be a morally ambiguous romantic drama for grown-ups, but director James Gray fails to develop the love triangle. On the other hand, Phoenix is a talent who will be missed; let's hope this isn't actually his last movie. Grade: C+
For better or worse, Zack Snyder made a pitch-perfect adaptation of Alan Moore's dark graphic novel. This is way more of a superhero drama riddled with angst and existential dread than a pre-summer popcorn flick. It's got splashes of bone-splintering violence, but also a labyrinthine plot and little of the crowd-pleasing flair of most big-screen spectacles. Fanboys, rejoice; the rest, be warned. Grade: B
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Cinematographer and director Ellen Kuras is coming to the Wexner Center this weekend with her Oscar-nominated documentary "The Betrayal." For a review of the film, click to The Bad & The Beautiful blog at ColumbusAlive.com