Teresa Palmer and Liam Helmsworth
“CUT BANK” My rating: C+
93 minutes | MPAA rating: R
“Cut Bank” is a slice of country noir that despite an interesting cast and an array of eccentric characters still feels like a slice of warmed-over Tarantino.
Parts of it clicks. But the overall chemistry — that delicate blend of darkness and laugh-out-loud weird — lies just outside TV director Matt Shakman’s grasp.
In tiny Cut Bank, Montana — notorious as the coldest place in the continental U.S. — grease jockey Dwayne (a blah Liam Hemsworth) is out in a field of flowering canola videotaping
his high school girlfriend Cassandra (Teresa Palmer) when his camera records something unexpected in the background.
About 100 yards off a mail truck has stopped on the roadside. The driver (Bruce Dern) gets out and walks toward a man approaching on foot. The man raises his hand, a shot is fired and the mail carrier falls.
The young lovers flee, then show the video to her sour-dispositioned father (Billy Bob Thornton) and the local sheriff (John Malkovich). The latter is so upset (it’s the town’s first homicide ever) that he immediately heads for the bathroom to throw up. Turns out this will be his ritual every time he encounters a corpse.
But when the lawman visits the crime scene there’s no mail truck and no body.
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“PENGUINS OF MADAGASCAR” My rating: B
92 minutes | MPAA rating: PG
Some of the best moments in the three “Madagascar” films were delivered not by the stars — a lion and his zoo buddies — but by four peripheral figures.
We’re talking about the penguins, a bunch of madcap Marxists (of the Groucho variety) who have somehow gotten it into their fuzzy little heads that they are an elite military unit. Despite their overall incompetence, at a crucial moment these diminutive black-and-white commandos always come up with an outlandish plan to save the day.
The penguins have enjoyed their own animated TV series, and in DreamWorks’ “Penguins of Madagascar” they seize the big screen. If you’ve managed to overlook them so far, well, they’re kinda great.
Part of it is their distinct personalities, even though they look pretty much alike. The leader Skipper (voiced by Tom McGrath, who created the characters) is a distillation of every movie drill sergeant ever. He spits out rapid-fire orders (Skipper’s mouth moves much faster than his brain) but has a soft spot for his “men.”
Kowalksi (Chris Miller) is the idea man, expected to come up with an appropriate plan for any contingency. Rico (Conrad Vernon) has a voracious appetite: He’ll gulp down just about anything, only to regurgitate those items days later when they are needed.
Finally there’s Private (Christopher Knights), the new kid, still finding his way and fawned over by the others.
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“WARM BODIES” My rating: B- (Opening wide on Feb. 1)
97 minutes | Audience rating: PG-13
The zombie romance “Warm Bodies” probably shouldn’t work.
In fact, for the first hour I was pretty sure it wasn’t going to work.
Well, that’s what I get for underestimating Jonathan Levine, maker of “The Wackness” and the sublime cancer comedy “50/50.”
“Warm Bodies,” you see, is a “Romeo & Juliet”-type romance about kids from two warring factions. Seriously, it even has a zombie-human balcony scene.
R (he can’t remember the rest of his name) is a hungry zombie wandering a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Julie (short for Juliet, naturally) is a human survivor, one of several hundred who live behind a walled-off section of the city. Her dad is the guy in charge.
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