Friday movie roundup – Jan. 5

As noted in a previous blog entry, I’m taking January off from reviewing new releases. There will be a few reviews trickling in for movies I saw in December that are now going wide, and perhaps a couple new ones that I’m assigned to review for Salt Lake City Weekly. But overall, the reviews will be scarce this month — though as I pointed out in the above-mentioned blog entry, January movies tend to stink anyway.

“Notes on a Scandal,” a December release, is opening in more cities today, and it’s a fun ‘n’ tawdry little gem. It stars Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett, but don’t worry, it’s not nearly as highfalutin as the presence of those actresses might suggest.

As far as wide releases go, we have three. Here’s what I said about them in this week’s “In the Dark”:

“CODE NAME: THE CLEANER” (1 hr., 31 min.; PG-13 for sexual content, crude humor and some violence) stars Cedric The Entertainer as a janitor who wakes up with amnesia and stumbles into a top-secret FBI investigation. I just watched the trailer, and it made me sterile. From the director of “Flubber,” “Blue Streak” and last year’s Eugene Levy/Samuel L. Jackson abortion, “The Man.”

“HAPPILY N’EVER AFTER” (1 hr., 27 min.; PG for some mild action and rude humor) is an animated comedy in which a wicked stepmother sets out to ruin all of fairy tale land. The trailer mentions it’s from the producers of “Shrek,” which is fortunate, as it means they can’t be sued by the producers of “Shrek” for ripping off “Shrek.” From a first-time director and first-time writer.

“FREEDOM WRITERS” (2 hrs., 3 min.; PG-13 for violent content, some thematic material and language) stars Hilary Swank as a teacher of tough inner-city high-school kids. Does she inspire them to greater heights through the use of unorthodox methods? One assumes so.

This week’s “In the Dark” podcast can be heard here.