NEW THIS WEEK
-- JUST AS FUNNY AND CHARMING, COLORFUL AND (EWWW!) EDUCATIONAL AS IT WAS IN 2003, BUT ALSO A BIT SCARIER IN 3-D:
"FINDING NEMO 3D" G -- In 2003, The Family Filmgoer suggested "Finding Nemo" was fine for kids 6 and older. This is still her opinion, but parents need to be mindful of kids getting too scared and perhaps needing reassurance or a lobby break when seeing the story in 3-D on a giant screen. The fable is unchanged: A timid orange-and-white clownfish, Marlin (voice of Albert Brooks), travels many hundreds of miles through the Great Barrier Reef and all the way to Sydney Harbour to rescue his little son Nemo (Alexander Gould), who was captured in a net after disobeying his dad and venturing too far out on his first day of school. A sweet but forgetful blue tang named Dory (Ellen DeGeneres) joins Marlin on his journey. They learn that little Nemo was probably taken to Sydney. They ride the current with surfin' sea turtles, they're helped by a whale who blasts them out its blow hole, aided and sometimes stalked by sharks trying to swear off fish-eating, and guided by a busybody pelican. The film cuts between Marlin's and Dory's travels and little Nemo, imprisoned in a dentist's office aquarium, and very sad. A tough old fish named Gill (Willem Dafoe) urges Nemo to plan an escape through the aquarium filter before he's given as a gift to the dentist's bratty, fish-killing niece (LuLu Ebeling). In 3-D, the shark's huge gaping grin, with rows of teeth behind it, is scarier, but the stinging jellyfish, the coral and the creatures under the sea and above it are more beautiful.
The movie is preceded by a funny Pixar short, "Partysaurus Rex," in which bathtub toys, plus some of the "Toy Story" characters, are partying in a bathtub that overflows.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The 3-D actually increases the emotions in the film -- the sense of loss and danger and even sadness. In a prologue, we see how Marlin lost Nemo's mom and all her newly laid eggs -- except for Nemo's -- to a hungry shark. This explains why Marlin has been so overprotective and crystallizes a theme about parents learning to let go. Dory's short-term memory loss is played for comedy, but is also sad.
-- A LITERARY SOAP OPERA THAT PROMISES MORE THAN IT DELIVERS:
"THE WORDS" PG-13 -- A struggling writer, unsure of his talent, finds a manuscript and passes it off as his own in "The Words." Questions of artistic and personal ethics weave through narratives-within-narratives in this initially intriguing film, which never strikes emotional or intellectual gold. Literary-minded high-school and college students may be drawn to it, though, with its attractive cast and brainy premise, even if they come away feeling slightly cheated. Middle-schoolers may find it tedious. The film starts with a successful author (Dennis Quaid) doing a reading from his newest book. We enter the story he tells, about a young writer, Rory Jansen (Bradley Cooper), who lives with his college sweetheart Dora (Zoe Saldana) and can't seem to sell his work. He finally gets a lowly day job at a literary agency. On a trip to Paris, Dora buys him an antique briefcase. In it Rory discovers an old manuscript that he loves so much he types it into his computer, just to feel the words go through him, as the narrator says. Dora reads it and thinks it's genius. Rory can't tell her the truth. The book is published and becomes a hit. One day, an elderly man (Jeremy Irons) confronts Rory and claims authorship. We then enter the old man's tale: A young GI (Ben Barnes) in Paris, circa 1945, falls in love with a girl (Nora Arnezeder), marries her, loses a child, then turns his pain into a novel, which is lost. The third thread focuses on Quaid's storyteller, but the three stories never weave into a tapestry.
THE BOTTOM LINE: The film earns its PG-13 with steamy but nonexplicit sexual situations between lovers who eventually become married couples. The subplot about the death of a baby is upsetting, but an important narrative turn. Characters drink wine and smoke cigarettes. The dialogue includes occasional moderate profanity.
-- RICHARD GERE IN A SMOOTH AND SUBTLE PORTRAIT OF A WALL STREET TITAN WHO COMMITS A MAJOR FRAUD:
"ARBITRAGE" R -- College-age film buffs aware of the 2008 Wall Street meltdown and the moral and ethical fault lines it exposed in the financial sector might find this smooth drama truly absorbing. Richard Gere plays billionaire hedge- fund operator Robert Miller, seemingly happy on his 60th birthday and celebrating with his wife (Susan Sarandon) and family, content that his brilliant daughter (Brit Marling) helps him run his thriving company. But unbeknownst to his daughter, Miller owes more than $400 million. He borrowed it to cover his firm's big losses and cooked books because he's trying to sell it off to an unsuspecting buyer. He also has an expensive mistress (Laetitia Casta). It all comes to a crisis when he and she are out driving in his vintage Mercedes. He dozes at the wheel, they crash, and she is killed. Desperate to cover up the incident, Miller calls Jimmy (excellent Nate Parker), the son of his late chauffeur, and asks him to whisk him away from the accident scene. A police detective (Tim Roth) investigating the accident quickly intuits that Miller was probably driving the car, but he has trouble proving it. He is willing to manufacture evidence against Jimmy to get at Miller. Meanwhile Miller's other Bernie-Madoff-esque lies come to light and tear his family apart.
(c) 2012, Washington Post Writers Group.