As testimony to American audiences' deep interest in realistic portrayals of cultures other than our own, two Hollywood fantasy versions of the Middle East stand poised to rule the box office this weekend. "Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time" is the lesser of the two weevils, a dish-headed but diverting action-adventure that owes less to the videogame on which it's putatively based and more on a long line of noisy, unpretentious B-movie swashbucklers. Is it good? Not really. Is it decent dopey fun? You could do worse.
In fact, you could go see "Sex and the City 2," in which the witches of Endor -- sorry, Carrie, Charlotte, Samantha, and Miranda -- make you regret the early 2000s ever happened by bringing their whiny, coddled, status-obsessed girly-girl narcissism to Abu Dhabi, where it fits like a burqa on a cow. I'm hardly alone in piling on this sorry excuse for a good time, so culturally tone-deaf in so very many ways, and there's some curiosity as to whether all the critical ill-will will impact the box office. Probably not, but you never know: The last movie that gave off such toxic pop vibes was "Gigli."
Those of you who still worship at the shrine of Merchant Ivory will be glad to know that director James Ivory has at least one more left in him, even after the 2005 death of his producer and partner Ismail Merchant. "The City of Your Final Destination" plays like M-I Lite: Based on a novel, it concerns beautiful, intelligent people being discreetly mean to each other in gorgeous settings. What it lacks in urgency or even a reason for being it makes up in impeccable taste, and sometimes that's enough. Worth a look if only to see Anthony Hopkins, Laura Linney, and Charlotte Gainsbourg mix it up, along with the lovely and scary Alexandra Maria Lara (in photo above).
The Somerville Theatre hosts the Reel Fest short film festival this weekend, and what local filmmaker Rod Webber's feature-length "Northern Comfort" is doing there, I don't know. Very slight in the Mumblecore, turn-on-the-camera-and-see-what-happens vein, but Webber and Greta Gerwig create some interesting, ornery sparks as a mismatched couple on the road to Canada. Good local action, too -- hello, Natick Pizza!
At the age of 70, George Romero is still pumping out socially-conscious zombie movies, bless him. "Survival of the Dead" is the latest and, per Tom Russo's review, it's a far cry from the good old days of "Dawn of the Dead."
Some mighty fine late-period John Ford at the Harvard Film Archive, including, on Sunday, "They Were Expendable," perhaps the bleakest WWII film made during the war and one of John Wayne's finest moments as an actor. The Sidney Lumet 70s festival continues at the MFA. The Brattle has tragically been forced to cancel its reunion-week audience-participation extravaganzas,the "Real Genius" Quote-Along and the "Ladies of the 80s" Sing-Along -- but they've still got "The Goonies" all weekend, for those of you who are pushing 40 and still wake up in a cold sweat thinking about the Fratellis.
About Movie Nation
ContributorsTy Burr is a film critic with The Boston Globe.
Mark Feeney is an arts writer for The Boston Globe.
Janice Page is movies editor for The Boston Globe.
Tom Russo is a regular correspondent for the Movies section and writes a weekly column on DVD releases.
Katie McLeod is Boston.com's features editor.
Rachel Raczka is a producer for Lifestyle and Arts & Entertainment at Boston.com.
Emily Wright is an Arts & Entertainment producer for Boston.com.
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Look for new reviews by Ty Burr and Wesley Morris at the end of each week in multiple formats.