- Associated Press - Thursday, September 30, 2010

Capsule reviews of films opening this week:

“Buried” _ Ryan Reynolds has been cast as a sardine. He’s packed tightly in an underground coffin, a setting from which the film never strays. It’s a 94-minute exercise in minimalism, the sort of filmmaking puzzle Hitchcock reveled in. “Buried” and its Spanish director, Rodrigo Cortes, don’t deserve the comparison, but the film _ written by Chris Sparling _ succeeds as an intriguing if absurd B-movie. Its biggest surprise is that it’s not pure torture. Paul is a contract truck driver in Iraq whose convoy was ambushed and he’s being held hostage for ransom. He has a phone that still miraculously gets service, and he uses to try to summon help. The film’s politics are fuzzy; it works better in representing the frustration of hold music and disinterested receptionists. Whatever the reasons that draw us to the movies, spending an hour-and-a-half trapped in a box with Ryan Reynolds isn’t one of them. You will not see “Buried” for its lush scenery, ensemble acting nor its chase sequences. Yes, “Buried” pulls off its trick. But few besides magicians will be much impressed. R for language and some violent content. 94 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.

_ Jake Coyle, AP Entertainment Writer

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“Freakonomics” _ Baby names, sumo wrestlers, crack prices and high school grades all collide here with mixed results. Acclaimed, award-winning documentarians Morgan Spurlock, Alex Gibney, Eugene Jarecki, Rachel Grady and Heidi Ewing, and Seth Gordon take on various sections of the New York Times best-seller, which forced readers to reconsider how the world works by looking at it from new perspectives and asking different questions. University of Chicago economics professor Steven D. Levitt and journalist Stephen J. Dubner, who wrote “Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything,” appear throughout to explain their theories and bounce off each other with the well-honed patter of a veteran comedy team. The film as a whole, though, isn’t as reliable. It has its high points, including Spurlock’s lead-off segment on whether your name dictates your destiny. Meanwhile, Jarecki’s section on whether abortion has helped lower America’s crime rate is sure to stir debate. But the problem is, any of these topics could have been expanded into its own film and been more fully engaging. Trying to tackle each of them in about 20 minutes or so often feels too cursory. PG-13 for elements of violence, sexuality and nudity, drugs, and brief strong language. 93 minutes. Two stars out of four.

_ Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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“Let Me In” _ When the Swedish horror film “Let the Right One In” debuted a couple of years ago, it was deservedly hailed as one of the most original vampire tales to come along in a while. Now, it’s been remade as an American thriller, but rest assured, much of what made the first film so special remains intact. Aside from making a few structural tweaks, writer-director Matt Reeves (“Cloverfield”) has stayed extremely faithful in his adaptation, right down to chunks of dialogue, details like the Rubik’s Cube the kids play with, and the jungle gym in their courtyard _ even some camera angles. Reeves also smartly recreated the sense of tension that built in the original film’s stillness, and similarly, the quiet moments that allowed the two young characters to forge their bond. On the surface, both films are about a bullied boy and the 12-year-old vampire girl who comes to his rescue. But really, they’re about a couple of lonely misfits who are drawn together _ the sweetness in the way they strengthen each other, and the sadness of the realization that their friendship can’t last _ and Reeves gets that right, too. “Let Me In” is also gory, startling and intense, as you’d expect from any worthwhile vampire story, although Reeves makes the violence more explicit, which wasn’t terribly necessary. Still, the relationship at the film’s core always works, with excellent casting choices in Kodi Smit-McPhee and Chloe Grace Moretz. R for strong, bloody violence, language, and a brief sexual situation. 116 minutes. Three stars out of four.

_ Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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“The Social Network” _ Facebook was created to allow people to share mundane updates and observations immediately. But the origin tale of Facebook itself is filled with high drama, betrayal and rage _ just one of the many fascinating contradictions that make “The Social Network” so smart, meaty and compulsively watchable. Director David Fincher and writer Aaron Sorkin have gotten together to create an epic tale about how we’re able to tell the world about the tiniest details of our lives; they depict potentially dry, unwieldy topics _ computer coding and competing lawsuits _ and they do it in an intimate way. These are two guys who aren’t exactly checking their smart phones constantly for new friend requests, but “The Social Network” represents the best of what they do: Fincher’s mastery of fluid, visual storytelling, Sorkin’s knack for crisp, biting dialogue. It’s sharp, funny and tense, has great energy and pulsates with the thrill of discovery. Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg is the biggest contradiction of all: a socially inept guy who came up with a revolutionary way for others to connect, a hugely inventive genius who’s also depicted as being small, petty and back-stabbing. Jesse Eisenberg rises beautifully to the challenge of portraying an unlikable protagonist and making us feel engaged by him _ or even want to see him succeed, depending on your perspective. And perspective is everything here. The excellent supporting cast includes Andrew Garfield, Justin Timberlake and Armie Hammer playing a set of twins. One of the year’s best. PG-13 for sexual content, drug and alcohol use and language. 120 minutes. Four stars out of four.

_ Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic