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Reviews of films opening this week

By Christy Lemire
Associated Press
Julie & Julia” ó The Julia parts are a delight, but the ones about Julie? More like an annoying distraction. Writer-director Nora Ephron has woven together the real-life stories of two women separated by decades and a body of water but connected by a love of food and a quest for identity. One is Julia Child (Meryl Streep), the larger-than-life TV cook and author who inspired untold numbers of ambitious gourmands to embrace French cuisine the way she had. The other is Julie Powell (Amy Adams), a New York cubicle dweller who spent a year making all 524 recipes in Child’s “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” and blogging about it. Ephron cuts back and forth between their lives ó reminiscent of her earlier hits “Sleepless in Seattle” and “You’ve Got Mail” ó and too often spells out the obvious parallels. But the more time we spend with Julia, the less we want to spend with Julie. Streep is an absolute hoot, portraying Child with a mix of sweetness, awkwardness and most of all an unabashed joie de vivre. When she casts aside the baggage of being “the greatest living actress of our generation” and revels in her inner goofball, as she did in “Mamma Mia!” it’s infectious. She’s also lovely alongside Stanley Tucci as Julia’s adoring husband, Paul; all that tension they created as co-stars in “The Devil Wears Prada” has transformed into a different kind of chemistry. Julie, by contrast, isn’t so well-defined. The deeper she delves into her cooking project, the more whiny, narcissistic and unlikable she becomes ó which is surprising given Adams’ seemingly boundless charm. PG-13 for brief strong language and some sensuality. 123 min. Two stars out of four.
“Paper Heart” ó You could think of this as sort of a benevolent version of the Sacha Baron Cohen model, with its mixture of documentary and fiction. Only instead of providing raunchy satire or exposing people’s prejudices, it seems all Charlyne Yi wants to do is sweetly entertain. The writer, actress and standup comic travels the country interviewing regular people about being in love, a phenomenon that has eluded her in her early 20s. She goes to a biker bar in Oklahoma City, a playground in Atlanta and everywhere in between. She also gleans insight from friends, including her “Knocked Up” co-stars Seth Rogen and Martin Starr. At the same time, Yi (playing a version of herself) finds that she’s unexpectedly falling for a new guy she’s met named Michael (Michael Cera, playing a version of himself). This is the made-up subplot. In real life, Yi and Cera are close pals; they even co-wrote the score for “Paper Heart” together. And the “director” of Yi’s documentary, Nick Jasenovec, is played by actor Jake Johnson; the real Jasenovec is the real director of “Paper Heart,” making his feature debut. Confused? Just go with it. Sure, it might be a little too twee for its own good, with its use of intentionally crude puppets to recreate the love stories Yi’s interview subjects share with her. She wanted to find a unique, whimsical way to depict these tales, rather than just showing talking heads, but the figures and sets she and her dad fashioned are just too self-consciously cute. Nevertheless, this is a charming little movie based on a clever concept that will leave you with a genuinely positive feeling afterward. PG-13 for some language. 89 min. Three stars out of four.
“A Perfect Getaway” ó The whole movie is essentially one big red herring, flopping around on an idyllic Hawaiian beach, desperately trying to call attention to itself. Everyone’s a suspect and no one’s a suspect, and writer-director David Twohy’s raison d’etre with this thriller ó aside from jolting us ó is to mess with our brains and keep us guessing until he reveals his Big Twist. It’s not as earth-shattering as “Bruce Willis is actually dead” but it’s a pretty good one, and it’ll make you go back and think twice about what the characters did and said to make sure it all makes sense. It does, but it’s also a gimmick, and a self-conscious one at that. One of the travelers on this supposedly perfect island vacation keeps talking about screenwriting devices like red herrings (though he mistakenly calls them red snappers) and second-act twists. This is not nearly as cute as Twohy seems to think. But you could just ignore all that, though, and give into the many B-movie conventions “A Perfect Getaway” has to offer: skeevy hitchhikers and strangers in the jungle, skinny dipping and girl-on-girl fistfights. It’s ridiculous but fun. Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich co-star as newlyweds Cliff and Cydney, who spend their honeymoon backpacking to a remote beach in Hawaii. Along the way they run into two other couples: Nick and Gina (Timothy Olyphant and Kiele Sanchez), who seem friendly enough if a bit trashy and brazen, and Kale and Cleo (Chris Hemsworth and Marley Shelton), who try to bum a ride in their Jeep but seem way too obviously unhinged. R for graphic violence, language including sexual references and some drug use. 98 min. Two stars out of four.

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