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They had me at 'ninjas'

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Admission opens at the Whistler Village 8 this Friday and it's described as a flick "about the surprising detours we encounter on the road to happiness." Which sounds so corny I will be skipping this one even though it stars usually-quite-excellent Tina Fey (Mean Girls, Date Night) and Paul Rudd (Role Models, I Love You Man). If you're looking for a white-bread flick about a career woman who has to face her own maternal instincts while helping a dairy cow give birth then go for it.

Speaking of milking it, Twilight author Stephanie Meyer's next book hits the big screen this Friday. No pre-screenings on this one but The Host looks to be a love story set in a dystopic future where aliens have taken over the bodies and minds of most everyone on earth. Most, but not all — some of us fight back, and when young love (and another love triangle) is tested by one of these alien possessions we end up with some kind of Invasion of the Body Snatchers/Red Dawn/Romeo and Juliet hybrid sci-fi that, thanks to Gattaca and Lord of War director Andrew Niccol's skill, will probably watch better than it ought to, considering the source material: Meyer can tell a story, she just can't write.

Rounding out the new flicks this week, sequel/reboot G.I. Joe: Retaliation opened on Wednesday with a flurry of ninjas, big bangs and snappy action banter from guys like The Rock and Bruce Willis. It's less fun than the last G.I.Joe flick, Hasbro went grittier and more realistic this time around (if "realistic" means "cheaper.") Other than the high-flying ninja cliff sequences the film is mostly tight-shot battles and disappointing set pieces. There is very little to call epic but for those who grew up in the '80s surrounded by "Joe" action figures and that awesome weekly cartoon (with the excellent "knowing is half the battle" public service announcements) it's better than nothing. Only a fool walks into a G.I. Joe movie with anything but low expectations and the ninjas and RZA as a blind master carry the momentum for 90 minutes of otherwise fragmented action and underwhelming battles.

Available for legal download this week: Killing Them Softly, the under-the-radar gangster/hitman flick starring Brad Pitt and James Gandolfini. The beat-downs are merciless and the dialogue is witty as director Andrew Dominik (Chopper, The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford) none-too-subtly merges the U.S. economic collapse into the criminal realm — times are tough even for the tough guys. Pitt and Gandolfini (The Sopranos) have some great back-and-forth and Dominic, a Kiwi-born, Aussie raised director, manages to keep things pretty snappy and mythologize the content without coming across as a cheap Smoking Aces-like Tarantino knock-off. Killing them Softly is a bit uneven but there are some pure moments of straight up gangsterism that make up for the at times uneven delivery.

Also on download this week: Lincoln (I turned it off about 30 minutes in), Les Miserables (a musical — no thanks), The Hobbit (it watches fast for two-plus hours and succeeds as a set-up movie; I bet the next two are killer), and smoking hot Leslie Mann (and Paul Rudd again) in This is 40, a Judd Apatow flick marketed as "the sort-of sequel" to Knocked Up. This "dramedy" didn't hit with critics or the box office but if you like Apatow's style and "medium soft" erections, it's actually pretty funny. This is 40 paints a decent picture of some peoples' "road to happiness" without all the cheese-dick schmaltz a lesser filmmaker would rely on.

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