Picks and Pans Main: Movies

updated 10/05/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/05/2009 AT 01:00 AM EDT

The Boys Are Back

Clive Owen | PG-13 |

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After his wife dies of cancer, Joe Warr (Owen), an English expatriate working as a sportswriter at an Australian newspaper, is left to raise their young son. Soon the household expands when Joe's sullen teenage son (George MacKay, a Rupert Grint lookalike) from an earlier marriage arrives for an extended visit. In this heartfelt drama, a grieving Joe initially decides that the best way to let joy return to all their lives is to allow the boys to run wild. "Just say yes" becomes his golden rule of parenting.

Inspired by a memoir by British journalist Simon Carr and ably directed by Scott Hicks (Shine), The Boys Are Back is about learning to be a real dad rather than just a father figure. The movie gets the small details of parents and kids exactly right, from how a child stomps off in anger to how laundry is a chore that never seems to end. Owen, appealingly relaxed here (and smolderingly sexy as ever), movingly depicts a father who, though he may not always know best, eventually figures it out.

Love Happens

Aaron Eckhart, Jennifer Aniston, Dan Fogler | PG-13 |

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Just about any of Aniston's movies could accurately have been called Love Happens. But not this one, in which love most decidedly does not happen, despite what the ads desperately want you to believe (then again, who'd want to see a film called Like Happens?). Aniston is a Seattle florist who catches the eye of a slick self-help author (Eckhart) and helps him finally come to terms with his wife's death three years earlier. She has never looked more luminous, but she's stuck in a film as meaningless and muddled as its title.

Capitalism: A Love Story

Michael Moore | R |

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Love him or hate him, Moore is a funny guy. Who else would, literally, cordon off Wall Street with yellow crime scene tape after last fall's financial collapse and subsequent $700 billion government bailout? In his latest agitprop documentary, the writer-director-star argues that capitalism benefits the few while subverting democracy. It's a complicated topic and Moore overreaches, going off on tangents, but even with such a scattershot approach, he hits the bull's-eye often enough to keep you amused, engaged and sometimes enraged.

Coco Before Chanel

Audrey Tautou, Alessandro Nivola | PG-13 |



French designer Coco Chanel (1882-1971), a liberated woman before the term existed, was among the first to make women's clothes as comfortable and unfussy as they were stylish. But you wouldn't know it from this lifeless, French-language drama, which tells of her early predesigner years. We see Chanel (Tautou) floundering as she tries a singing career, moping about as a rich man's mistress and falling for a British dandy (Nivola). It's her later years that were fascinating; that's the movie I want to see.

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