"This Means War"

Richard's Review: 2 stars

In "This Means War" Chris Pine's character coins a new term -- cromantic -- which is a combo of creepy and romantic. In that spirit, I have come up with a new word to describe the movie. It's crapming. That's a mix of crappy and charming, which is the most accurate way I can sum up this violent romcom.

Pine and Tom Hardy are Franklin and Tuck, best friends and CIA agents fighting for the attention of the same woman (Reese Witherspoon). She's a successful businessperson with zero luck in the romance department until she finds herself wooed by these two men. The trouble is she doesn't know the extent to which she's being pursued. Both men have fallen for her and both will use any means necessary -- including using the resources of the CIA -- to win her heart.

It doesn't come as a big shock that "This Means War" was written by Simon Kinberg, the screenwriter of "Mr. and Mrs. Smith." The mix of romance and action echoes that movie. Unfortunately, the chemistry that made Brad and Angelina sizzle on screen is sadly lacking here.

The love triangle takes up most of the film, despite the early promise of some good action scenes. The movie begins with a fairly cool shoot 'em up. It then spends far too much time on the dull romance and does this at the expense of a perfectly good bad guy (Mike Dopund) and the action element of the story.

As a result, "This Means War" feels very uneven. That's the crappy part.

Some of the film's roughness is smoothed out by the considerable charm of the cast. Pine and Hardy pull off some good light comedy here. Chelsea Handler has some of the best lines in the film, even if her delivery sounds like she's reciting her stand-up act. Finally, Witherspoon is an expert of the romcom genre, but those skills are not enough to rescue what could have been a fun movie.

"The Secret World of Arrietty"

Richard's Review: 3 1/2 stars

Already a hit in Asia, "The Secret World of Arrietty" makes its North American debut with a new voice cast that includes Carol Burnett, Amy Poehler and Will Arnett. Aside from these changes, the film's gorgeous animation remains intact.

Based on Mary Norton's fantasy novel "The Borrowers," "The Secret World of Arrietty" tells the story of the Clock family, the four-inch Borrowers who live under the floorboards of Sadako's home. They borrow items from her to furnish their home. When young Arrietty befriends Sadako's ailing nephew, she threatens to upend the delicate balance between the Borrowers and their human landlords.

"Take Shelter" DVD

Richard's Review: 3 1/2 stars

Fear of the end of the world was a predominant theme at the 2011 Toronto International Film Festival. I blame the Mayans. Lars Von Trier's "Melancholia" was a study of depression and family dysfunction set against a backdrop of impending disaster and "Take Shelter," starring "Boardwalk Empire's" Michael Shannon and Jessica Chastain explored pretty much the same thing but from a much different point of view.

In "Take Shelter," Shannon plays Curtis -- a hard working husband and father who begins to have visions of the apocalypse.

Plagued by nightmares, hallucinations and panic attacks, the terror Curtis feels extends beyond his dreams. "It's a feeling," he says. "Something is coming." He can't describe what it is coming, but finds solace by building a storm cellar in his backyard -- a sort of panic room for him and his family to hide in when the end of the world comes.

Throughout all this chaos, one question remains: Is Curtis mentally ill or is he a prophet?

"Take Shelter" is a strong effort that is marred by a disingenuous ending that feels like a cheat. I won't tell you what it is, but it was a disappointment.

Other than that, there's much to enjoy here. Shannon has usually been seen playing larger-than-life characters. It's refreshing to watch his empathic work as an everyman who doesn't understand what is happening to him. Motivated by fear we feel his anxiety grow as the character surrenders his self-control.

Chastain, in her fourth movie of 2011, once again proves that she is as versatile as anyone working today. She brings strength, resilience and purpose to a character that could have been very one note.

"Take Shelter" is an interesting movie with beautiful cinematography, effective performances and an intriguing story. Too bad it sells itself short in the closing minutes.