Weekend Movie Forecast: <em>Couples Retreat</em> Vs. <em>An Education</em>

<p>Look, we know <em>Couples Retreat</em>—the rom-com about four dysfunctional married couples trying to heal their marriages with a trip to a retreat center in Bora Bora—is going to bite, but we're such suckers for Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, and Jon Favreau that we have no choice but to see it... someday on DVD. <a href=",33854/">Scott Tobias at the Onion</a> has ended any naive hope we still clung to after seeing the trailer: "The marital comedy Couples Retreat features a running gag about a little boy in the midst of potty training who doesn’t always go where it’s appropriate. In a nutshell, that subplot explains everything that’s wrong about the film: Its propensity for barrel-scraping lowbrow gags, its undisciplined, catch-all approach to comedy, and perhaps above all, its chronic inability to focus on what it’s ostensibly about, and cut away the extraneous stuff... Then again, <strong>when a movie is all fat, it’s hard to know where to trim."</strong></p>

<p>Adapted by Nick Hornby from a short memoir by journalist Lynn Barber, <em>An Education</em> tells the true story of a suburban London school girl's romantic affair with a seemingly sophisticated thirty-something gadabout, played with irresistible charm by Peter Sarsgaard, whom <a href="">we interviewed this week</a>. The critics are overwhelmingly positive, and Scott Foundas <a href="">at the Village Voice</a> calls Danish director Lone Scherfig's movie "something of a deceptively packaged Oscar-season bonbon—a seemingly benign, classily directed year-I-became-a-woman nostalgia trip that conceals a surprisingly tart, morally ambiguous center. A hit at this year's Sundance Film Festival, where it collected the Audience prize for world cinema, <em>An Education</em> arrives in cinemas at a curious moment indeed for a movie about a headstrong 16-year-old who gives herself willingly to a charismatic Jewish hustler more than twice her age. <strong>Whatever will the Roman Polanski lynch mob make of that?"</strong></p>

<p>Set in 1960s and 1970s England,<em> The Damned United</em> tells the "darkly humorous" story of Brian Clough’s doomed 44 day tenure as manager of the reigning champions of English football. Leeds United. Critics are shouting <em>GOOOAAAAL! </em> Andrew O'Hehir at Salon <a href="">calls it</a> "a classic and even charming yarn of vanity, hubris and redemption, played out against the bizarre, intense alternate universe of '70s English soccer... Can viewers who don't know or care much about sports or soccer history be convinced to see <em>The Damned United</em>? I have no idea, but those who give it a whirl will discover <strong>a delightfully comic and sympathetic portrayal of British life in the hardscrabble, ciggies-and-lager '70s,</strong> fueled by Sheen's portrayal of the mouthy, cocksure Clough, who modeled his arrogant public persona after Muhammad Ali."</p>

<p>Comedy<em> Adventures of Power</em> is an "epic fable" about a small town boy who follows his dream of becoming an air-drumming champion. The Times's <a href="">Neil Genzlinger admits</a> that it's "sprinkled with moderately amusing comic moments, but basically your enjoyment of this film will be proportional to your tolerance for the one-joke phenomenon of air drumming."</p>

<em>Free Style</em> stars <em>High School Musical</em> alum Corbin Bleu as a small-town teen hoping to join the pro motocross tour. We don't need to tell you to steer clear from this one, but just to make sure, <a href=",,20310624,00.html">Entertainment Weekly warns</a>, "The plot of <em>Free Style</em>, lifted wholesale from any number of kid-with-a-dream movies, unfolds just the way you think it will...until the climax turns out to be even cheesier than you feared."

<p>In the documentary <em>Good Hair</em>, Chris Rock travels to beauty salons and hairstyling battles, scientific laboratories and Indian temples to explore how hairstyles impact the black community. Jeannette Catsoulis at the Times <a href="">loves it</a>: "Spirited, probing and frequently hilarious, it coasts on the fearless charm of its front man and the eye-opening candor of its interviewees, most of them women—including the actress Nia Long and the hip-hop stars Salt-n-Pepa—and all of them ready to dish. In fact, one of the happy consequences of <em>Good Hair</em> should be a radical increase in white-woman empathy for their black sisters."</p>

<em>The Heretics </em>is a documentary about the "Second Wave" of the Women's Movement, as seen through the eyes of Joan Braderman, who joined a NYC feminist art collective in the '70s. Melissa Anderson <a href="">at the Voice</a> calls it "spirited... For a movement that was 'fundamentally leaderless,' Braderman's film gives its participants an opportunity to rightfully claim: 'We thought we could change things—and, in fact, we did.'"

<p>Indie romance <em>Peter and Vandy</em> tells the story of a young NYC couple's romance out of chronological order. Reviews are mixed, as epitomized by <a href="">Lou Lumenick's NY Post review</a>: "While there are some good individual scenes—like an argument over the proper way to make a PBJ sandwich—the story doesn't build on their chemistry. In fact, it's undercut by jumping around in non-chronological order, something that worked far better in '(500) Days of Summer.' DiPietro actually carried the gimmick over from his 2002 play he adapted for <em>Peter and Vandy</em>. <strong>But you know a low-budget indie has problems when it's less emotionally honest than a studio-backed project like '(500) Days.'</strong>"</p>

<em>Yes Men Fix the World </em>is the second documentary to chronicle the Swiftian hi jinks of the titular progressive pranksters. (You'll recall their recent <a href="">fake New York Post stunt</a>.) Time Out's <a href="">Stephen Garrett says</a>, "the stunts are exhilarating, as much for their audacity as for the gullibility of their targets. But once the ruse is exposed, the short-term gain of humanist outrage evaporates into the chum of an obfuscating news cycle. God bless their antics, but the Yes Men’s jestful jousting feels more like tilting at windmills."

<p>BAM Cinematek's <a href="">Hungarians in Hollywood</a> series continues this weekend; on Saturday they're screening Ken Russell's 1975 film <a href=""><em>Lisztomania</em></a>, starring The Who's Roger Daltry in a musical that reimagines the life of Hungarian composer Franz Liszt. Roger Ebert calls it "a berserk exercise of demented genius." </p>

<p>Nicolas Winding Refn’s <em>Bronson</em> tells the story of the "most famous prisoner" in England, Michael Peterson, who calls himself Charles Bronson and lived a colorful life in mostly solitary confinement. <a href=",33842/">The Onion's Noel Murray says</a>, <strong>"There are times during Bronson when it’s unclear what Refn is going for, and times when the movie seems like a derivative, extra-pretentious version of <em>A Clockwork Orange</em>. </strong>For long stretches of Bronson, nothing much happens—and what does happen is, well, odd... But by the end of the movie, it becomes clearer how Refn uses stillness and nothingness to keep the audience tense and anxious. There are two Bronsons on display here: the impossible thug that we don’t dare release into polite society, and the guy we enjoy watching do his terrible thing. The man and the movie are both living, punching contradictions."</p>

<p>For <em>Paranormal Activity</em>, PRESS ONE. The mockumentary concerns a young, middle class couple who moves into what <em>seems</em> like a typical suburban “starter” tract house. You'll never guess what happens! And yet, critics seem to be generally going for it. The Onion's <a href=",33858/">Nathin Rabin says</a> it "derives much of its power from juxtaposing supernatural otherworldliness with the mundanity of the apartment where its action takes place. At best, <em>Paranormal Activity</em> makes the banal and commonplace deeply unsettling... The film loses some of its grimy verisimilitude toward the end, but it’s nevertheless a surprisingly effective low-budget shocker with a sensibility as current as the latest viral videos, yet rooted in the suggestive, less-is-more atmospherics of Val Lewton."</p>

<p>This weekend at midnight (including Sunday), <a href="">the IFC Center screens</a> John Hughes's 1986 comedy <em>Pretty in Pink.</em></p>

<p>Meanwhile, across town <a href="">the Sunshine</a> has Hughes's 1984 classic <em>Sixteen Candles</em> all weekend at midnight.</p>