Reviews of the Cedar Lee's weekend films

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The Cedar Lee Theatre opens two new movies this weekend. Here are our reviews.

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The Boys are Back It’s funny how the movies will change a person. Consider Simon Carr, a political columnist for Britain’s The Independent, whom former Prime Minister Tony Blair once called “the most vicious sketch writer working in Britain today.” Yet it’s not his scabrous wit that brings Carr to the screen, but a touching memoir he wrote about his life as a widowed father raising his young son and older boy from a previous marriage. The book, a sort of wry parenting manual for the hopelessly messy, is the basis of The Boys are Back, directed by Australian Scott Hicks (Shine). Through cinematic alchemy, the paunchy, balding Carr has been transformed into impossibly handsome Clive Owen, who plays Joe Warr, an English sportswriter living in Australia. Joe’s beloved ex-equestrian wife (Laura Fraser) dies of cancer, leaving Joe alone to raise 6-year-old Artie (Nicolas McAnulty). Overwhelmed by his unaccustomed responsibilities and Artie’s inconsolable grief, Joe determines to say “yes” to every childish request, no matter how silly or inconvenient, and to approach housekeeping with casual indifference. The movie is achingly sad at times, and in lesser hands might have been a mawkish mess. But it is lovely and moving, with exceptional talent at work. **** (Pamela Zoslov)

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The Burning Plain The directorial debut of Amores Perros/21 Grams/Babel screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga may lack the polish that Mexican auteur Alejandro González Iñárritu brought to their collaborations, but it’s a damn sight better than its damaged goods reputation might suggest. Featuring another of Arriaga’s jigsaw-puzzle narratives in which seemingly disparate storylines ultimately coalesce, the movie stars Charlize Theron as an emotionally bruised Portland restaurateur with a mysterious past. Figuring out just how Kim Basinger’s straying wife and mother in New Mexico fits into the equation is part of the fun. And the performances are predictably first-rate. Theron and Basinger haven’t been this good in ages, and impressive screen newcomer Jennifer Lawrence is remarkably touching as Basinger’s emotionally fraught 17-year-old daughter. *** (Milan Paurich)

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