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Friday movie roundup: Flood waters rising
No matter what the weather is where you live, a hard rain is falling in movie theaters this weekend.
The biggest new release is "Noah," director Darren Aronofsky's epic telling of the story of the Old Testament hero (Russell Crowe) and his family building an ark to save the Earth's innocent creatures when a flood comes to wipe out humanity. The movie peppers the Genesis version of the story with aspects from other versions — creating a rich if sometimes messy interpretation. But it's ruggedly presented, visually powerful, and well acted by a cast that includes Jennifer Connelly, Emma Watson, Logan Lerman and Ray Winstone.
Also opening this week is "Sabotage," an aggressively stupid and gratuitously violent crime drama. Arnold Schwarenegger stars as the head of a crack DEA squad that's implicated in corrupt behavior — and, after an investigation goes nowhere, is being murdered one at a time. Director David Ayer ("End of Watch") creates a cesspool of lurid scenarios, gory crime scenes, illogical plot twists, crazy acting and macho chest-beating.
Jason Bateman makes a solid directorial debut with "Bad Words," a raunchy comedy with a surprisingly sweet center. Bateman plays Guy, who at 40 enters a children's spelling-bee competition and sets about psychologically manipulating his pre-teen rivals. The humor is scathing at times, but frequently genuinely funny — while Guy's growing friendship with a lonely kid (Rohan Chand) does have some heart to it.
The best on the art-house slate this week is "Mistaken For Strangers," a rough but engrossing documentary that's ostensibly about the indie rock band The National — but really about fame, jealousy and sibling rivalry. When The National goes on its first world tour, lead singer Matt Berninger invites his younger brother Tom, a metal-head still living with their parents, to be a roadie. Tom decides to film the tour, sometimes at the expense of his paid duties. The resulting film explores the frayed bonds of brotherhood, as well as Matt's coping with becoming a rock star.
Diego Luna's biographical drama "Cesar Chavez" aims high in its ambition to depict the life and work of the legendary labor leader, and is interesting even as it misses its target. Michael Peña plays Chavez, shown in the 1960s as he leads the effort to unionize migrant farmworkers in central California. The performances are solid, but the recitation of events comes off rather dry.
Lastly, there's "The Face of Love," a lush romantic drama starring Annette Bening as a woman who gets a little obsessive when she becomes involved with a man (Ed Harris) who's a dead ringer for her late husband. The chemistry between Bening and Harris is strong, but the movie's plot contortions get rather silly.