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Top Picks - Arkansas Daily Deal


By Karen Martin

This article was published April 5, 2013 at 2:44 a.m.

Rust and Bone Jacques Audiard (R, 118 minutes)

The daring of actress Marion Cotillard is surprising. Despite her continuing success in playing petite, fearless beauties who fearlessly take on all troublemakers (in French, as in La Vie En Rose, or English, as in Midnight in Paris), the Academy Award winner intermittently chooses roles that challenge viewers who have any thoughts of pigeonholing her into a particular genre.

That’s the case in Rust and Bone, a strange, compelling French drama in which she plays Stephanie, a trainer of orcas at a Sea World-like facility who has no trouble finding sex partners but has difficulty finding love that suits her sometimes dark and moody spirit.

A horrific accident brings her into contact with street boxer and single dad Ali (Matthias Schoenaerts), who isn’t anybody’s idea of a decent boyfriend. But this isn’t your typical sunny hearts and-flowers romance, and if you think you can figure out where this sometimes unsettling film is going once the two start spending time together, you’re in for a few surprises.

“Through restraint, French director Jacques Audiard does a better job of tugging on viewers’ hearts than most filmmakers can achieve with excess,” says our critic Dan Lybarger. In French with English subtitles.

Bachelorette (R, 87 minutes) This why-her-and-not-us wedding comedy has a superb cast and an acidity level that is considerably higher than the likes of Bridesmaids and others in the fast-growing genre. Kirsten Dunst, Isla Fisher and Lizzy Caplan play three longtime best pals who have an unbelievably over-indulgent substance-abusing bachelorette after-party following the wedding of their former classmate Becky (Rebel Wilson) - known none too fondly as Pig Face in high school - to a rich and handsome New Yorker. The trio are stunningly obnoxious, particularly Dunst as the force that keeps the wedding plans more or less on track while attempting to herd the crazy cats that are her friends. “Yes, there are guys in this movie, but the ladies seize control from the start,” says critic Peter Travers in Rolling Stone. “Dunst, Caplan and Fisher make a delicious trio as they stir up a bitches’ brew of revenge against poor Becky.”

Les Miserables (PG-13, 157 minutes) It’s hard not to take a stand on Les Miserables. Most viewers either love it or hate it. Then there are those of us who find the film version of the hit musical hilarious (definitely not the intent of the filmmaker), especially when Russell Crowe’s self-important Inspector Javert bursts into sincere song while chastising Hugh Jackman’s unfortunate ex-con Jean Valjean for one thing after another.

And don’t get me started on what I thought of Anne Hathaway as pitiful fired factory worker Fantine, who finds out that being a single mom has its drawbacks - especially in France in the 1800s. No worries for Hathaway, though; she won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her performance.

Based on a novel by Victor Hugo, the film concerns Jean Valjean, a once-destitute thief (sent to prison for 19 years for stealing a loaf of bread) who becomes a force for good in the world after his release but can’t escape the pursuing footsteps of Javert, who is convinced that Valjean, who has assumed a new identity, isn’t the upstanding do-gooder that everyone else thinks he is.

“Less a fully realized film than a strung-together series of set pieces, showstoppers,diva moments and production numbers, Les Miserables contains multitudes - not only in the form of a huge cast but in its own contradictions,” says Ann Hornaday in The Washington Post. “If, by the film’s inescapably stirring final half hour, even the most inured audience members find themselves weeping openly for the story’s tragic heroines, plucky revolutionaries and idealistic young lovers, it’s less a testament to Claude-Michel Schonberg and Alain Boublil’s strident music and lyrics or Tom Hooper’s wildly uneven direction than to the fact that somehow the wheels don’t come off entirely.”

Rise of the Guardians (PG, 97 minutes) This animated charmer brings childhood’s legendary guardians - Jack Frost, the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy and Sandman - together to protect youngsters everywhere from the efforts of evil Pitch to take over the world. “A children’s fable re-imagined as a superhero flick, a peculiar but delightful hybrid that just may be the best animated offering of the year,” says critic Christopher Orr in The Atlantic.

With the voices of Chris Pine, Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman, Isla Fisher and Jude Law. The Blu-ray/ DVD/Digital Copy combo pack includes two hopping toy eggs plus almost an hour of bonus features. Among them are games such as Jack Frost Snowball Showdown and Rock, Paper Scissors; behind-the-scenes insights on the film’s look, character design, effects and soundtrack; a dream guide, and commentary by director Peter Ramsey and producers Christina Steinberg and Nancy Bernstein.

MovieStyle, Pages 31 on 04/05/2013

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