The week's best movie is a timeless classic - and almost old enough to buy alcohol.
First released in 1991, Disney's "Beauty and the Beast" remains a brilliant, funny and emotionally rich movie. The "tale as old as time," of the yearning Belle (voiced by Paige O'Hara) learning to love and be loved by a melancholy beast (voiced by Robby Benson), has great characters, strong animation and some of the best musical numbers ever put to film. (Admit it, you're humming "Be Our Guest" right now, aren't you?) This week's re-release, in digital 3-D, is a great chance to be bowled over by its charms all over again. (The movie is accompanied by a short, "Tangled Ever After," a follow-up to Disney's 2010 Rapunzel story.)
Among the new films, there are slim pickings, though the thriller "Contraband" is a fun ride. Mark Wahlberg plays a retired smuggler who is forced back into the game for one more run, to get his idiot brother-in-law (Caleb Landry Jones) out of trouble with a ruthless drug thug (Giovanni Ribisi). The action is pleasantly gritty, even if the plot veers sharply toward the ridiculous toward the end.
The big Oscar-bait movie of the week is "The Iron Lady," which boasts a note-perfect performance by Meryl Streep as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. But as good as Streep is at nailing Thatcher's imperious cadences, the movie is rather a mess of disjointed scenes that don't bring any analysis to Thatcher's controversial career.
Another movie with highbrow intentions is "Carnage," an adaptation of Yasmina Reza's hit play "God of Carnage," hectoringly directed by Roman Polanski. Two New York couples - one played by Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly, the other by Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet - try to amicably settle a playground dispute between their 11-year-old sons. But after some cobbler, Scotch and vomit, the verbal knives come out. The acting is mostly one note, and that note is shrill and hard to listen to.
There's some fine listening in "Joyful Noise," a comedy-drama in which two Southern ladies -- hard-working Vi Rose Hill (Queen Latifah) and wealthy G.G. Sparrow (Dolly Parton) battle for control of their small town's gospel choir. Writer-director Todd Graff ("Bandslam") stages some show-stopping numbers, but also overloads the story with heavy-handed subplots that shortchange any meaningful character development.
Lastly, there's the French comedy-drama "Tomboy" over at the Tower. The movie tells of a 10-year-old girl who passes herself off as a boy when the family moves to a new neighborhood. I was unable to screen the film this week.'