Friday Movie Roundup: Art House Edition

As I wrote a few days ago, the local movie landscape gets a shot in the arm with today's opening of the Kenwood Theatre, which will be run by Theatre Management Corporation (TMC), the same outfit that operates the Esquire and Mariemont theaters.

The Kenwood will offer a similar mix of independent fare and mainstream Hollywood features across its nine screens. Sure enough, the theater's first crop of openings includes two documentaries (Cool It and Last Train Home) from small indie distributors; another gem from independently minded Sony Pictures Classics (Stephen Frears' Tamara Drewe); and the latest in the Harry Potter juggernaut (Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part I), which will occupy three screens. —-(The three remaining screens won't open until Nov. 24.)

Though the Kenwood is officially open for business today, the Grand Opening Gala, which benefits the Cincinnati & Northern Kentucky Film Commission, takes place 6:30 p.m. tomorrow. The gala's $100 ticket price includes entrance to the Hollywood auction hosted by Nick Clooney, hors d'oeuvres, a seated dinner and drinks. To reserve a spot, which are dwindling quickly, call 513-784-1744.

Not to be overlooked by its shiny new cousin, the Esquire opens a pair of intriguing films based on real people: Doug Liman's Fair Game, which tells the story of outed CIA agent Valerie Plame, and Mesrine: Public Enemy No. 1, the second in a two-part film series about the epic life of a French gangster played by the ever-charismatic and -compelling Vincent Cassel.

Then there's Paul Haggis' The Next Three Days, the only one of this week's seven new releases that isn't playing at one of the three TMC-run theaters, which is probably a good thing — Haggis is an annoyingly heavy-handed filmmaker.

Opening films:

COOL IT — Ondi Timoner's feature-length documentary platform for mapping out facts and fallacies about global warming might shed light on additionally pressing issues like global poverty and lack of clean drinking water but it never brings lets audience into the one-sided conversation. (Read full review here.) (Opens today at Kenwood Theatre.) — Cole Smithey (Rated PG.) Grade: C-

FAIR GAME — Director Doug Liman uses all of the techniques we’ve come to expect of contemporary thrillers (the restless hand-held camera, dialogue bleeding into scenes and the ever-looming threat of violence and torture to obtain objectives) in the service of a true story (the outing of CIA agent Valerie Plame by the Bush administration), not some explosive moment of glory or cheap heroics. (Read full-length review here.) (Opens today at Esquire Theatre.) — tt stern-enzi (Rated PG-13.) Grade: A-

HARRY POTTER AND THE DEATHLY HALLOWS: PART 1 — A flawed decision to split the final installment of the Harry Potter books into two films results in a formless narrative that overstays its welcome. For as detailed as director David Yates attempts to be with slick visual effects that periodically invigorate the movie, the overemphasized spectacle merely illustrates the film's lacking storyline. (Read full review here.) (Opens wide today.) — CS (Rated PG-13.) Grade: C

LAST TRAIN HOME — China's coming maelstrom of cultural tension is a central theme in Chinese/Canadian filmmaker Lixin Fan's Last Train Home, a gritty, verite-style documentary about a family struggling to adapt to its country's evolving, increasingly globalized economy. (Read full review here.) (Opens today at Kenwood Theatre.) — Jason Gargano (Not Rated.) Grade: B

MESERINE: PUBLIC ENEMY NO. 1 — Part two of the lean, explosive, unsentimental French biopic of that country’s most notorious gangster of the modern era, Jacques Mesrine, has just as much rivetingly realistic, kinetically filmed excitement and great acting as part one, which is just finished its run at the Esquire Theatre. Public Enemy No. 1 basically covers Mesrine’s life in France in the 1970s and features an amazingly alive, alert and downright magnetic performance by Vincent Cassel as the chameleon-like Mesrine. (Read full review here.) (Opens today at Esquire Theatre.) — Steven Rosen (Rated R.) Grade: A

THE NEXT THREE DAYS — Paul Haggis, the heavy-handed screenwriter of Million Dollar Baby and the writer/director the unfortunate Oscar-winner Crash, returns with this story of a professor (Russell Crowe) who plans to break his wife (Elizabeth Banks), who has been convicted of murder, out of jail. Co-stars Brian Dennehy, Liam Neeson and Olivia Wilde. (Opens wide today.) — JG (Rated PG-13.) Review coming soon.

TAMARA DREWE — A pompous philandering author (Roger Allam), his dutifully long-suffering wife (Tamsin Greig), a handsome groundskeeper (Luke Evans) and the titular young journalist (Gemma Arterton) constitute the foundation of this entertaining Stephen Frears adaptation of a graphic novel by Posy Simmonds. (Read full review here.) (Opens today at Kenwood Theatre.) — tts (Rated R.) Grade: B

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