John Turturro's "working-class opera" Romance & Cigarettes (Sony) was in theaters for a few seconds at most, but its wonkiness will probably work better on the small screen, where there's less reason to try to take it all seriously. Those who really want to see the likes of James Gandolfini and Susan Sarandon essentially singing karaoke and fighting in heightened, lyric-like language finally have their chance
Ben Affleck's best decision in adapting Dennis Lehane's gritty crime novel Gone Baby Gone (Miramax) was to stay out of the way of his actors and his script, and let the events surrounding a south Boston kidnapping play out without distracting visual flash or hammy overacting. Affleck's brother Casey anchors the movie as a private investigator arrogantly staying true to his underclass roots. His character insists that our identities are forged by the arbitraries of where we were born, and the story tests that philosophy in the crucible of an impossible choice. This movie is sometimes cruel, and frequently astounding
Tyler Perry left his Madea fat suit in the closet for the sleeper hit Why Did I Get Married (Lions Gate), but otherwise retained the lumpy-but-potent formula that's made him a one-man empire. Married follows the romantic travails of a group of upper-middle-class African-American friends who reunite at a cabin for some living, some loving, and some Jesusified life lessons. An embarrassingly stiff Janet Jackson is the big name in the cast, but Jill Scott steals the film as a plus-sized diva who trades in her good-for-nothing man for a much nicer model
James Gray's stately mini-epic We Own The Night (Sony) plays with any number of familiar elements that hover between classical and shopworn, but why was it so badly treated while the more generic American Gangster got a pass? The ambiguous ending probably didn't help, but the film is worth seeking out for two instant-classic setpieces: a car chase through driving sheets of rain, and a sting operation gone spectacularly awry
With Shine director Scott Hicks at the helm, a bland German dramedy called Mostly Martha got turned into an even blander American dramedy called No Reservations (Warner), starring Aaron Eckhart (who's kind of fun) and Catherine Zeta-Jones (who's less fun than usual). At least the food looks appealing.