The first movie weekend of November is highlighted by a bad guy going good.
The big movie this weekend is Disney's "Wreck-It Ralph," a funny and sweet computer-animated comedy about a videogame villain (voiced by John C. Reilly) who — after 30 years of wrecking stuff in his "Donkey Kong"-like game — wants to be the hero for a change. The movie finds great humor bouncing around the different videogame worlds, from a violent first-person-shooter game to a candy-themed racing game where Ralph encounters the acerbic but good-hearted Vanellope (voiced by Sarah Silverman). The voice work, particularly by Silverman, give this hilarious movie its heart. (Read The Cricket's interview with director Rich Moore.)
"Flight" marks the first live-action movie that Robert Zemeckis has directed since "Cast Away" in 2000. Denzel Washington stars as an airline pilot who performs a miraculous move to save a plane from a horrific crash. But the investigation into the crash raises questions about his alcohol abuse. The movie becomes a straightforward drama about substance abuse, but Washington's strong performance makes it work.
One more studio movie wasn't screened for critics: "The Man With the Iron Fists," a kung-fu extravaganza that stars and is directed by RZA (founding member of the Wu-Tang Clan).
On the art-house side, there's a little post-Halloween horror in "The Bay," an effective found-footage thriller directed by Barry Levinson ("Rain Man," "Diner"). It depicts a biological epidemic striking a Chesapeake Bay town over a Fourth of July weekend, shown via smartphone images, surveillance cameras and other cool tricks.
"Hello I Must Be Going" is an offbeat romantic comedy, about a divorcee (Melanie Lynskey) moving back in with her parents — and starting up a relationship with a much younger man (Christopher Abbott). It's sharp and funny, and Lynskey is delightful.
The French thriller "The Big Picture" starts with a Paris lawyer (Romain Duris) learning his wife (Marina Fois) has been unfaithful — and spins out of control from there. The movie, based on a novel by American author Douglas Kennedy, is tension-filled and intriguing.
Lastly, several Megaplex theaters are screening "Christmas Oranges," a made-in-Utah melodrama based on the popular holiday story about a kindly orphan (Bailie Johnson) teaching a mean orphanage operator (Edward Herrmann) the meaning of Christmas. It's syrupy stuff, with the emotions laid on with a trowel.
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