- Dr. Jeff Lang (Tobey Maguire) lives in a charming suburban home with his beautiful wife, Nealy (Elizabeth Banks), and their adorable, 2-year-old son. When we first see him, he's driving home in his Toyota Prius -- which has a campaign sticker for President Obama on it, naturally -- with a large, lovely plant from Trader Joe's in the backseat. Jeff has just resodded the backyard and the place looks terrific -- until one morning when he wakes up and finds that raccoons have gutted the grass overnight. Yes, these are literal raccoons but they're also metaphorical raccoons and sometimes, when things get especially weird, they're imaginary raccoons. They dig up transgressions in Jeff's life and weaknesses in his character that he'd rather suppress. Such is the obviousness of the symbolism in this black comedy that explores the ugly underbelly of seemingly idyllic domestic life. Perhaps this story from writer-director Jacob Aaron Estes sounds familiar to you with its drugs, adultery and murder. A lot of movies have upended the mythology of suburbia over the past decade or so, especially following the success of "American Beauty." "The Details" doesn't do much that's new or particularly inspired to add insight to this collection, but it has some surprising moments and nuggets of clarity. Laura Linney is a hoot as the nutty next-door neighbor who threatens to blackmail Jeff over an affair he's having ... by trying to launch an affair of her own with him. And Ray Liotta has one standout scene as the cuckolded husband who explains to Jeff in an extended monologue what it means to be a man. R for language, sexual content, some drug use and brief violence.
- If it weren't so exceptionally crafted and acted, this tale of self-destruction and redemption might feel like the sort of feel-good fare you'd see on the Lifetime Movie Network, or even a 12-step-program promotion. Instead, Robert Zemeckis' first live-action film since 2000's "Cast Away" is thrilling, engrossing and even darkly funny at times, anchored by a tremendous performance from Denzel Washington. This is one of those Washington roles, like his Oscar-winning work in "Training Day," in which he exudes a potent mix of damage and bravado, control and danger, but he's so charismatic even as he does bad deeds that you can't help but root for him. Here, Zemeckis and screenwriter John Gatins have given him a meaty character and placed him in a complex situation. Washington stars as Whip Whitaker, a veteran airline pilot and serious alcoholic. Major mechanical failure on a flight to Atlanta forces him to pull off a daring crash landing in the middle of a field in a breathtakingly spectacular action sequence. Afterward, he's rightly hailed as a hero for saving so many lives. But the subsequent federal investigation also reveals his rampant substance abuse, which only fortifies his denial. Don Cheadle, Bruce Greenwood and John Goodman all give strong supporting performances as the people around Whip who keep him functioning in various ways, while Kelly Reilly finds a jittery fragility as the junkie who moves in with him after the crash. But Zemeckis tends to lay on a heavy-handed tone that frustratingly keeps this from being a great film, which includes a distractingly Scorsese-esque, painfully literal use of rock music. R for drug and alcohol abuse, language, sexuality/nudity and an intense action sequence.
-- ASSOCIATED PRESS