The Jane Austen Book Club
Lisa Haagensen

Director Robin Swicord was asking to be misinterpreted when he chose to title his debut film The Jane Austen Book Club, but those assuming the film follows the lives of the British gentry around the English countryside couldn’t be less right. Its modern day Sacramento and six book club members come together seeking the sanctuary of Austen’s six classics in an attempt to escape the turmoil of their personal lives. The strength and independence of both multiple divorcée Bernadette (Kathy Baker) and anti-romantic dog breeder Jocelyn (Maria Bello) is perfectly balanced by the quirkiness and unabashed geekiness of sci-fi fanatic Grigg (Hugh Dancy), while Emily Blunt’s show-stealing turn as the zany, neurotic, French-quoting Prudie adds razor-sharp wit. Intelligent, charming and heart-warming film will keep you giggling for its entire 105-minute duration. It might even inspire you to pick up a Jane Austen novel.

Matthew Freemantle

Hollywood has long coveted a replacement for Tom Hanks – a curly haired, attractive-but-unglamorous nice guy who can play both romantic lead and blockbuster hero. They might have found him in Shia LaBeouf, who this year has starred in ‘Transformers’ and will later appear in the new Indiana Jones film. In ‘Disturbia’, LaBeouf plays Kale, a moody high school kid under house arrest for punching a teacher, who becomes convinces he lives next door to a murderer (David Morse). Essentially, it’s a teen thriller, with Sarah Roemer weighing in with the eye candy and the romantic sub-plot. But thanks to slick filming and an above average script, ‘Disturbia’ ends up with a bit more on the bone.

Knocked Up
Matthew Freemantle

The poster for the film said it all: An enormous mugshot of leading man Seth Rogen’s chubby, unshaven, goofy face, grimacing queasily above the words, ‘What if this guy got you pregnant?’. Judd Apatow, who brought us the 40-year-old Virgin, casts Grey’s Anatomy hottie Katherine Heigl alongside Roger to explore just what might happen. Like Apatow’s breakthrough film, the ‘40-year-old Virgin’, ‘Knocked Up’ forgets to give its female cast its due – there is less sympathy for Heigl’s having lost her career to a stoner working on a celebrity nudes website – but Knocked Up is too funny too often for such things to matter. It’s easily the best US comedy of the year and a mouth-watering taste of several things to come from Apatow and company.

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