Big Miracle

Drew Barrymore, John Krasinski, Kristen Bell | PG |

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ADVENTURE

Despite the bumper stickers, I've never braked for whales. (How does that help, anyway?) But even I was entranced by the 1988 real-life saga of a family of gray whales trapped beneath Alaskan ice. Big Miracle captures the spirit of the world uniting in concern over the aquatic giants, even though it nearly drowns with too many characters and plot twists.

Krasinski stars as Adam, a local reporter whose story on the whales attracts the attention of his irksome ex, environmentalist Rachel (Barrymore), and an oil mogul (Ted Danson) who bankrolls a rescue effort. Soon, everyone from the Native tribes to the President to the global press gets involved-all of them acting out of self-interest. That display of moral complexity isn't the only thing Big Miracle gets right. The film lavishes attention on the whales, photographing them so beautifully that the chemistry-free Rachel and Adam become irrelevant. In the end even a curmudgeon like me had to cheer for those majestic creatures.

W.E.

Abbie Cornish, Andrea Riseborough, James D'Arcy | R |

DRAMA

Nearly 30 years after "Material Girl," Madonna is still easily distracted by shiny objects. In this tone-deaf biopic, the director obsesses over the sumptuous gowns and glittery baubles of Wallis Simpson (Riseborough), the woman for whom Edward VIII (D'Arcy) abdicated the British throne. The goods are up for auction, and Wally (Cornish), a present-day woman in a bad marriage who has delusions of royal grandeur, visits them daily. The film cuts between Wally and Wallis, paralleling their stories for no decent reason. It doesn't help that Madonna can't keep her camera still or coax a lifelike performance out of Cornish, who looks bored. And poor Riseborough seems to have made a career out of being the best thing in bad movies (see: Brighton Rock). Her Wallis is crisp and bracing, the real gem in a pile of junk.

THE WORDS

Real-life couple Bradley Cooper and Zoƫ Saldana capped the festival with their high-concept drama about a writer (Cooper) who steals his breakthrough book from a long-forgotten manuscript. The multilayered plot is about as twisty as Inception.

RED HOOK SUMMER

Director Spike Lee got a less rapturous response to his drama about an Atlanta boy who moves in with his preacher grandpa for the summer.

CELESTE & JESSE FOREVER

Rashida Jones, who cowrote the script, won kudos for her comedy about a divorcing couple (Andy Samberg plays her ex) who try to stay friends while dating others.

FOR A GOOD TIME CALL ...

Katie (Ari Graynor) and Lauren (Lauren Miller) start a phone-sex line in this raunchy comedy that got some of the festival's biggest laughs.

WEST OF MEMPHIS

Peter Jackson (The Hobbit) coproduced this gritty doc about the West Memphis Three that all but indicts someone else for the 1993 murders of three boys.

6 MOVIES THAT CHANGED MY LIFE

TOY STORY

It may be the first film I saw in the cinema. My parents found it as funny [as I did]-that was a big deal. Suddenly you feel you're getting smarter.

INCEPTION

The first time I took my lovely girlfriend Rosie [Coker] to a film was to see Toy Story 3. It started, and I was going, "Why is Leonardo DiCaprio waking up on a beach? This is a long trailer, isn't it?" We were in Inception! We had to fight our way out of the row, and I lost my hat. But we're still together.

ANCHORMAN

The funniest thing I've ever seen. I don't know how many times I've re-created Will Ferrell's "I'm trapped in a glass case of emotion" thing in telephone boxes around London.

THE HARRY POTTER SERIES

The last one is the one that [fans] are most interested in talking about, but I'll never get tired of telling people what a fantastic time we had for 10 years. I never think people believe us! I made a comment that me and Rupert [Grint] don't text, and it was blown out of proportion. We all get on very well.

In Man on a Ledge, cop-turned-con Nick (Sam Worthington) hopes to clear his name by hanging onto the side of a high-rise in this silly but pulsing heist picture.

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Smarter and funnier than your average teen movie, Chronicle gives three kids superpowers, but not super judgment, as one pushes back against his abusers.

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