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Weekend Movie Forecast: <em>The Informant!</em> Vs. <em>Jennifer's Body</em>

<p>Stephen Soderbergh's new movie <em>The Informant!</em> stars Matt Damon in the true story of Mark Whitacre, a biochemist and executive for Archer Daniels Midland who blew the whistle on his firm's global price-fixing scheme back in the '90s. <a href="http://movies.nytimes.com/2009/09/18/movies/18informant.html?ref=movies">Manohla Dargis at the Times</a> calls it a "smart, cynical movie about how we buy now — oops, I mean, how we live now. Money makes the world go ’round in <em>The Informant!</em>, much as it does everywhere and much as it most certainly does in his previous movie, <em><a href="http://gothamist.com/2009/04/30/soderbergh_sasha_grey_explain_the_g.php">The Girlfriend Experience</a></em>, about a young prostitute selling her waxed wares. This time, though, Mr. Soderbergh has trained his focus and expertly wielded digital camera on the other side of the buy-and-sell equation, on the men in suits who fly in corporate planes, nursing drinks while they chortle about the breasts of their female employees.<strong> These are masters of our universe, the big little men who control and distort world markets."</strong></p>


<p>Then there's <em>Jennifer's Body</em>, which stars Megan Fox (the frat-boy's Zooey Deschanel) as a small town high school student who's possessed by a hungry demon. It's the sophmore feature from <em>Juno </em>screenwriter Diablo Cody, and <a href="http://www.avclub.com/articles/jennifers-body,33014/">The Onion's Scott Tobias calls it</a> <strong>"excruciating</strong>... When you win an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, as Diablo Cody did with her debut script for Juno in 2007, you have reason to feel confident in your talent. For Cody, this turns out to be a dangerous prospect... The dialogue reaches for the darkly funny abstraction of <em>Heathers</em>, but Cody shows off more than she illuminates; even in the middle of the gory climactic sequence, the characters are hurling one-liners at each other like rival battle-rappers. They forget that anything’s at stake."</p>


<p>Set in 1818, Jane Campion's <em>Bright Star</em> concerns the secret love affair between the young, short-lived English Romantic poet John Keats and the girl next door, Fanny Brawne, and outspoken student of fashion. <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/cinema/2009/09/21/090921crci_cinema_denby">The New Yorker's David Denby</a> assures readers it's "not the kind of portentous bio-pic in which history, like some sort of hooded eagle, perches on the shoulders of every scene, waiting to soar. Campion, who wrote the script as well as directed, keeps the action day-by-day, small-scale, and casually lyrical...In some ways, <em>Bright Star</em> is a conventional tale of frustrated young love... <strong>What makes the movie extraordinary, however, is not so much the portrait of a poet as the accuracy and the detail of the period re-creation." </strong></p>



<p>Indie comedy <em>Harmony and Me</em> is about a 30-year-old lovelorn "dumpee" named Harmony moping about Austin, Texas moaning to his friends. It doesn't sound funny, but Vadim Rizov <a href="http://www.villagevoice.com/2009-09-15/film/harmony-and-me-poorly-shot-consistently-funny/">at the Village Voice</a> insists it works: "<em>Harmony</em> should theoretically be a comedy of awkwardness—it's got ugly broken marriages, pedophile jokes, and a suicide attempt—but, <strong>with hilarious dialogue, it's poised at the exact sweet spot where awkward encounters don't make the audience themselves uncomfortable, just amused.</strong> Director Bob Byington understands comic editing, cutting scenes to their essence—rarely longer than a minute—and gets the most out of a sharp cast. His film is continually quotable, from Harmony's query to a friend driving his mom's cracked-windshield minivan—'Is that like an ongoing adrenal rush of low self-esteem?'—to a morning-after exchange with a deranged neighbor (She: 'You got some in my hair.' He: 'That wasn't unintentional')."</p>


<p>The <a href="http://www.villagevoice.com/2009-09-15/film/coetzee-s-disgrace-rendered-crisply-by-anna-maria-monticelli/">Village Voice's Ella Taylor thinks</a> that John Malkovich (Malkovich Malkovich) is perfect in this adaptation of Noble Prize for Literature winner J.M. Coetzee's South African-set novel, <em>Disgrace</em>, "The actor brings his languid creepiness to the part of David Lurie, a fifty-ish aesthete whose chilly, power-tripping attraction to women of color leads him to seduce a mixed-race student... Though overwrought in its early scenes, the movie quickly settles into an intelligently faithful rendering of a calling to account, whose visceral power and political implications need no hyping."</p>


<p>Move over, Morgan Spurlock: You may have thought that <em>Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs</em> was just a fun computer animated spin on the children's book. However, the <a href="http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2009/09/18/MVD519O2KA.DTL">San Francisco Chronicle's Amy Biancolli says</a>, "In truth, 'Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs' is a dead-serious piece of activist filmmaking. A cautionary tale about gluttony, obesity and genetically modified food, the movie transforms Judi and Ron Barrett's ink-drawn tale of edible precipitation into some kind of IMAX aversion therapy for popcorn-snarfing theater-goers. In a word: gross. If the fountain of cheese sauce doesn't get you, the blimp-size meatball will - and that's before it sprays giant foodstuffs from its butt."</p>



<a href="http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20090916/REVIEWS/909169994">Roger Ebert has no patience for</a> <em>The Burning Plain</em>, the semi-star-studded (Charlize Theron, Kim Basinger, John Corbett) debut feature from Guillermo Arriaga, who wrote <em>Amores Perros, 21 Grams</em> and <em>Babel</em>. The Chicago film critic grouses, "<em>The Burning Plain </em>involves events perhaps 20 years and 1,000 miles apart, with many of the same characters. Told chronologically, it might have accumulated considerable power. <strong>Told as a labyrinthine tangle of intercut timelines and locations, it is a frustrating exercise in self-indulgence."</strong>


<p>A chance encounter between a celebrity therapist and a love-scarred florist provides the basis for romantic dramedy <em>Love Happens</em>, starring Jennifer Aniston and Aaron Eckhart. Let's let Kyle Smith at the Post <a href="http://www.nypost.com/p/entertainment/nothing_happens_7oEXRqmqBFh9q7T8EPDIdP">have the takedown</a>: "<em>Love Happens</em> is a weepie about the grieving process, mainly my own. Two hours of my life have been brutally stolen from me, and I need closure... <strong>Writer-director Brandon Camp wouldn't be able to get a job writing parking tickets if he hadn't been born into the movie business.</strong> His father, Joe Camp, created the profitable <em>Benji</em> dog movies in the 1970s. Even his title is unfortunate, carrying a reminder of a popular bumper-sticker phrase that also ends with 'happens' but begins with a different four-letter word. Come to think of it, that would have made a far more accurate label for this film."</p>


<em>Paris</em> stars Juliette Binoche in a story about a man who reunites with his sister and her lively children while waiting for a heart transplant that could save his life. <a href="http://www.avclub.com/articles/paris,33013/">The Onion's Nathan Rabin</a> says it "isn't anything more than a pleasant diversion...Nothing adds gravity to an otherwise featherweight trifle quite like terminal illness: In film, as in life, it’s all fun and games until somebody dies a tragic, early death. <em>Paris </em>prominently features a freak death, a handsome young dancer (Romain Duris) who might perish if he can’t get a heart transplant, <em>and</em> a running time that tops two hours."


<em>The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers</em> is a documentary about the titular man who leaked the titular papers during the Vietnam War, and the controversy and legal battle that ensued. <a href="http://www.avclub.com/articles/the-most-dangerous-man-in-america-daniel-ellsberg,32970/">The Onion's Nathan Rabin</a> says, "It’s a fascinating story, but in Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith’s frustratingly conventional [film], it doesn’t always make for a fascinating documentary... In spite of the dry telling, 'Dangerous Man' develops a cumulative power as Ellsberg risks everything for a cause he believes in. 'Dangerous Man' does a serviceable job of mapping out the particulars of his struggle, but the definitive cinematic version of his too-strange-for-fiction story has yet to be made."


<em>Made in Jamaica</em> is a documentary about the leaders of the reggae music movement, and how reggae has become a worldwide phenomenon. The film showcases performances by the best reggae and dance hall artists "ever assembled," including Lady Saw, Bounty Killer, Nadine, Bogle, Elephant Man, etc. It screens <a href="http://www.landmarktheatres.com/Films/films_frameset.asp?id=73969">at the Sunshine</a> this weekend at midnight.


<p>I'm afraid I can't do that, Dave. This weekend <a href="http://www.ifccenter.com/films/2001-a-space-odyssey/">the IFC Center screens</a> Stanley Kubrick's mind-blowing 1968 masterpiece <em>2001: A Space Odyssey. </em></p>



<p>Starting tonight through October 1st, <a href="http://www.filmforum.org/films/fatcity.html">Film Forum's screening</a> a new 35mm restored print of John Huston's 1972 film <em>Fat City</em>, about two boxers; one on the way up: 18-year-old Jeff Bridges, bound for the pros via an intro to manager Nicholas Colasanto (later Coach on Cheers); and one on the way down: "pushing-30 ex-pro Stacy Keach, mortified by pulling a muscle in his first workout after a two-year layoff." <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2009/09/18/movies/18fat.html?_r=1&amp;adxnnl=1&amp;ref=movies&amp;adxnnlx=1253283259-mKyQjUFOUTV/scXxhcL10w">Mike Hale at the Times</a> says it "has many of the markers of the classic boxing film: the aging fighter who could have been champ; his young, unspoiled counterpart; their gnarled and nostalgic trainer; the women who distract them; and the menacing outsider — in this case a Mexican former champion — who must be faced...Yet it manages to avoid most of the genre’s clichés."</p>