Now playing

(Originally published in The California Aggie)

If you’ve been reading this column with any semblance of regularity, then you must have figured out one thing about me: I see a ton of movies.

Some are good, some are bad and a select few are great. As a token of my appreciation to you, dear readers, let me break down the last few new releases I’ve seen, so you know what to skip and what you absolutely can’t miss.

Water For Elephants: Sara Gruen’s bestseller about a vet student in the Great Depression who joins a traveling circus and falls in love with its leading lady is all fun, fluff and diverting (enough) melodrama. The film adaptation, starring Robert Pattinson as the young Jacob, Reese Witherspoon as his love, Marlena, and Christoph Waltz as the manic husband, follows suit pretty much as you would expect it to. The period costumes and settings are gorgeous and the animals are great fun to watch. But a new framing device, in which the older Jacob retells his story, is clichéd and the characters are a little lifeless. It’s enjoyable but not memorable. B+

The Conspirator: You probably haven’t heard of this little film about the infamous Lincoln assassination, which, for you history buffs, is a shame. James McAvoy plays a lawyer assigned to defend the mother (Robin Wright) of John Wilkes Booth’s associate in a troublingly prejudiced trial. The film (directed by Robert Redford) sometimes feels like a History Channel special, but it neatly explores a little-known facet of one of America’s biggest historical events and McAvoy and Wright are excellent. A hodgepodge supporting cast (Justin Long, Alexis Bledel, Jonathan Groff), however, may leave you groaning. B-

Jane Eyre: Now this is a book-to-film adaptation done right. I’ve never read Charlotte Bronte’s Gothic novel about a young governess and her mysterious master, but after watching this film I feel like I have. The old mansions and foggy English moors are moody and the story is dark but not without its rewards. Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender are perfect as Jane and Mr. Rochester. If you didn’t think classic literature could be breathlessly entertaining, think again. A

Pom Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold: Super Size Me’s Morgan Spurlock applies his congenial documentary style to the advertising industry in this amusing and eye-opening film. Spurlock chronicles his quest to fund a documentary about branding, advertising and product placement in movies purely through branding, product placement and advertising, which are completely visible throughout the film. Footage of Spurlock’s pitch meetings with company bigwigs and interviews with Quentin Tarantino, Donald Trump, Ralph Nader and more offer viewers a fascinating inside look at how advertising really works. A-

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