The next round is on J.K. Rowling and Warner Bros. as "Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part 1" will invade theaters for a huge weekend at the box office. The films in the series have brought in more than $5 billion worldwide so far and the audience certainly isn't going to shrink as the story enters its final stage. Russell Crowe and Paul Haggis hope to draw some of the more mature crowd this weekend with "The Next Three Days," but even that crowd will probably be more interested in the boy wizard than another mediocre thriller from Crowe. The art-house is starting to heat up as we ramble into awards season. Claire Denis' latest "White Material" gets a stateside release alongside the British imports "Made In Dagenham" and "Heartless." If you're not a devotee of Quidditch, there are plenty of interesting options out there this week, so go support your local independent cinema.
In Wide Release: It's the beginning of the end for the world's most famous boy wizard as "Harry Potter & The Deathly Hallows Part 1" hits screens this weekend. The film is an adaption of J.K. Rowling's final book in the phenomenally popular series and the filmmakers have chosen to split the epic novel into two parts rather than leave out parts of the storyline that fans have been clamoring to see on the big screen. Of course it doesn't hurt that it will double the box-office returns as well. We posted our review of the picture earlier this week, finding it to be a dark and thrilling ride leaving us starving for Part 2, which is coming next summer. RT: 77% Metacritic: 69.
Paul Haggis returns to the director's chair for the first time since 2007's "In the Valley of Elah" with "The Next Three Days." The film is an adaptation of the acclaimed 2007 French thriller "Pour Elle." Russell Crowe stars as a professor whose wife (Elizabeth Banks) has been arrested and accused of murder. Doubting her guilt, he will stop at nothing to break his wife out of prison. We reviewed the film earlier in the week, finding a limp and overcooked thriller weighed down by subplots and a desire to be taken way too seriously. RT: 45% Metacritic: 51.
In Limited Release: Playlist favorite Claire Denis ("35 Shots of Rum," "Beau Travail") returns with her latest work, "White Material." Legendary actress Isabelle Huppert stars as Maria Vial, a French woman managing her family's African coffee plantation. When the country is torn apart with conflict, the natives begin to turn against the foreign family who have settled in their country. We reviewed the film, finding another strong entry from Denis; it's a warm and intimate picture with a fantastic lead performance from Huppert. RT: 90% Metacritic: 78.
"Made in Dagenham" is a dramatization of the 1968 strike at the Ford plant in Dagenham, England, from director Nigel Cole ("Calendar Girls"). The female workers, who made up less that .01% of workforce at the plant stood up for sexual equality in the male-dominated industry. Sounds like a recipe for a bad TV movie of the week, but with a strong script from Billy Ivory and a great cast which includes Sally Hawkins, Rosamund Pike and Bob Hoskins, the film manages to avoid the pitfalls and becomes rousing, crowd pleasing entertainment (as we note in our review). RT: 86% Metacritic: 63.
Returning the screen after a 14-year absence, cult director Phillip Ridley unleashes his sci-fi/horror/dark comedy "Heartless." Jim Sturgess stars as an outcast photographer with a disfiguring birthmark covering his face living in east London. When wandering around abandoned yards taking pictures, he comes across a group of thugs who soon reveal to him that they aren't of this world. RT: 70% Metacritic: 54.
Also opening in limited, the meditative drama "Nothing Personal," which has drawn good buzz as the first feature from writer-director Urszula Antoniak. RT: 71% Metacritic: 70. The cooking comedy "Today's Special" stars Aasif Mandvi as Samir, an upscale sous chef who is forced to leave his dreams of studying in Paris behind when his father suffers a heart attack and he must take over the family curry house. RT: 79% Metacritic: 56. The Hindi romantic drama "Guzaarish" tells the story of a paralyzed magician who petitions the court to end his own life. RT: n/a.