- 'Playing For Keeps'
Playing For Keeps Hey, female America! Hollywood heard how pissed off you were about that whole War on Women business. So they made a picture specifically to reflect your practical, up-to-the-minute concerns. You're bound to see yourself in at least one of the sex-crazed, predatory soccer moms who tramp after a former sports pro (Gerard Butler) when he's reduced to coaching his kid's team. My gosh, it's like the thing was written by Lily Ledbetter herself, instead of a guy whose last screen credit was for Pauly Shore's In the Army Now. Not sold yet? One of the moms is played by Catherine-Zeta Jones … and we all know she's a performer of many moods indeed. (PG-13) – Steve Schneider
Anna Karenina (five stars) Director Joe Wright's stunning marriage of style and substance is the best film of the year so far. The device of setting almost everything in Tolstoy's tale inside a theater illuminates the theatricality of Imperial Russia better than anyone could have probably imagined. Keira Knightley is superb in the title role, with Jude Law equally effective as Anna's regal husband, Alexei Karenin. It's impossible to capture the entire novel in just two hours, but Tom Stoppard's screenplay shows great respect for Tolstoy's characters and themes. Yet style is the real star here: Wright has combined literature and theater with dance and design to weave a bold and ambitious cinematic tapestry. (R) – Cameron Meier
Killing Them Softly They done shot up Jesse James real good, so writer-director Andrew Dominik and star Brad Pitt are at it again. Their latest collaboration has a mob operative (Pitt) on the trail of three bumbling thieves whose ill-advised heist hurt all the wrong people. Also in the cast are genre faves Richard Jenkins, James Gandolfini and Ray Liotta – although, in years to come, you'll nonetheless be referring to this flick as "the one that didn't have Christopher Walken and the Shih Tzu in it." (R) – SS
The Collection With the Wal-Mart body count revealing that we're now in the thick of the Christmas season, it's time for the movie business to do its part to get us all in the right warm-and-fuzzy frame of mind. And what says "home, hearth and family" better than a little warmed-over torture porn? Filmmaker Marcus Dunstan, one of the "brains" behind the Saw franchise, has his own little cottage industry of commercial sadism going on with this sequel to his 2009 offering, The Collector. This time, a survivor of the murderous Collector's booby traps has to re-enter the maze to save the life of the madman's next would-be victim. See? It's the spirit of giving, in all its Judaeo-Christian splendor. Just watch out for perforated testicles. (R) – SS