MOVIES


OPENING THIS WEEK

ANGELS & DEMONS

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TYSON

Mike Tyson reflects on his rise and fall -- from troubled street kid to heavyweight champion, convicted rapist and drug addict -- in this documentary portrait that combines archival footage with original interviews filmed by Tyson's longtime friend, director James Toback (who featured Tyson in his controversial 1999 drama "Black and White"). At Suncoast. (90 min.) R; profanity, sexual references.

ALREADY IN THEATERS

Movies are rated on a letter-grade scale, from A to F. Opinions by R-J movie critic Carol Cling (C.C.) are indicated by initials. Other opinions are from wire service critics.

ADVENTURELAND

(B) Growing up's not just a job, it's an adventure, especially during the summer of '87, as cash-strapped college grad James Brennan ("The Squid and the Whale's" adorkable Jesse Eisenberg) spends his summer toiling in the arcade of a Pittsburgh amusement park -- and falling for a sharp-tongued co-worker ("Twilight's" Kristen Stewart). "Superbad" director Greg Mottola serves up a kinder, gentler coming-of-age comedy full of painfully accurate yet ruefully affectionate detail. (107 min.) R; profanity, drug use, sexual references. (C.C.)

BATTLE FOR TERRA

(C) In this animated sci-fi adventure, humans looking for a new home target the peaceful title planet, touching off an interspecies war for survival. Evan Rachel Wood, Luke Wilson, James Garner, Dennis Quaid, Danny Glover and Brian Cox lead a starry vocal cast, but they're stuck with a preachy, speechifying script that recycles plot points from a galaxy of familiar outer-space adventures. But at least the movie's 3-D effects prove striking; if only we could say the same for the rest of the movie. (85 min.) PG; sci-fi action violence, thematic elements. (C.C.)

CRANK: HIGH VOLTAGE

(D) The indefatigable Jason Statham returns as hard-charging hit man Chev Chelios, who goes after the Chinese organ harvesters who've stolen his nearly indestructible heart -- and replaced it with a far less reliable battery-powered model. Alas, this sequel to 2006's grindhouse treat "Crank" is so amped up that it suffers an energy shortage well before the finale -- and is every bit as stupid as it sounds. (96 min.) R; frenetic strong bloody violence, crude and graphic sexual content, nudity, pervasive profanity.

DINOSAURS 3D: GIANTS OF PATAGONIA

(B) If you like dinosaurs (and who doesn't?), you'll love this 3-D documentary, which follows paleontologist Rodolfo Coria as he tramps the rugged wilds of Patagonia (southern Argentina), where remains of the largest dinosaurs in the world -- including the 120-foot Argentinosaurus -- have been discovered. The perfect blend of scholarly information and totally cool dinosaurs brought to vivid life. (40 min.) G; scary dinosaurs.

DUPLICITY

(B) To scam or not to scam -- that's hardly the question for rival corporate spies (Julia Roberts, Clive Owen), who concoct an elaborate ruse to steal lucrative secrets to bankroll their into-the-sunset retirement. "Michael Clayton" writer-director Tony Gilroy's twisty yet relatively lighthearted thriller is clever (although not quite as clever as it thinks it is), polished and flirtatiously sexy, thanks to the steam heat generated by reunited "Closer" co-stars Roberts and Owen. Still, they're not the only fun couple on the scene: Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti steal plenty of scenes as corporate bigwigs (literally) at each other's throats. (124 min.) PG-13; profanity, sexual references. (C.C.)

EARTH

(B+) Disney hearkens back to its "True-Life Adventures" of the 1950s with a feature-length version of the BBC/Discovery documentary series "Planet Earth," which follows three species of mothers and babies over a year -- polar bears in the Arctic, elephants in Africa's Kalahari Desert and humpback whales near the Equator -- plus a variety of wondrous creatures in between. Their circle-of-life experiences are photographed and edited with striking scope, clarity and ingenuity; the result combines colorful entertainment and a not-too-heavy-handed message about the perils of climate change. (89 min.) G; all ages.

FAST & FURIOUS

(C) The fourth installment in the "Fast & Furious" franchise reteams original stars Paul Walker and Vin Diesel, who infiltrate -- and try to take down -- a local drug lord (John Ortiz) eager to add the twosome to his elite driving team. Original co-stars Jordana Brewster and Michelle Rodriguez are along for the ride, but the real stars are the loud racing sequences (ably directed by Justin Lin) that look like the video games inspired by these movies: candy-colored automobiles, digital dashboards and automated female voices. In short, a tough guy fantasy about cars, girls -- and other tough guys. (107 min.) PG-13; intense sequences of violence and action, sexual content, profanity, drug references.

FIGHTING

(C) Before he hits screens this summer as the ultimate fighting man in "G.I. Joe," Channing Tatum puts up his dukes as a young bare-knuckles bruiser who finds a wise but down-and-out mentor (Howard) to take him to the big time and a nice new girlfriend (Zulay Henao) to lend him emotional support. Yo, Rocky! The fight scenes pack a punch, but this turns into a dull, cliché-sodden drama during the many moments when someone's fist isn't connecting with someone else's jaw. (105 min.) PG-13; intense fight sequences, sexual situations, brief profanity.

GHOSTS OF GIRLFRIENDS PAST

(B-) At his brother's wedding, a bachelor playboy (Matthew McConaughey) finds himself confronted by memories of his past girlfriends -- and his role model, his Uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas) -- in this romantic comedy co-starring a wise, wistful Jennifer Garner as the one who got away. As a romantic comedy, it's average -- but as Matthew McConaughey McComedies go, this one's above average. If you're a low-expectations moviegoer, it qualifies as a mildly pleasant surprise. (115 min.) PG-13; sexual content, profanity, drug references.

GRAN TORINO

(C+) A widowed Korean War vet (growling, glowering Clint Eastwood) in a deteriorating Detroit neighborhood finds his prejudices challenged when he becomes an unlikely neighborhood hero to the fatherless Hmong teens (Bee Vang, Ahney Her) next door. Eastwood says this vigilante melodrama will be his on-screen swan song, and it's a trip to watch Clint the Squint channel the ghosts of Eastwood past, but this underpowered star vehicle stalls and backfires at least as often as it shifts into high gear. (116 min.) R; pervasive profanity and racial epithets, violence. (C.C.)

HANNAH MONTANA: THE MOVIE

(B-) Not to be confused with "Hannah Montana" the TV show, or last year's "Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour," this new movie finds the title pop princess (Miley Cyrus) gettin' too big for her britches, so Dad (Billy Ray Cyrus) takes her alter ego, Miley, back to down-home Tennessee, where her people, her roots and her music can straighten her out. The story line may be a bit moldy and much of the frantic change-of-identity shtick is slapstick filler, but "Hannah'" tween-age fans will love it, and parents won't resent it. Much. (102 min.) G; all ages.

THE HAUNTING IN CONNECTICUT

(C) Another supposedly true Amityville-style horror movie, this one recounts a family's ordeal when they parents move to a home near their teenage son's cancer clinic -- and discover it's a former mortuary with a demonic past. Despite a classy cast (Virginia Madsen, Martin Donovan, Elias Koteas), the script's even creakier than the house; even worse, what scares there are don't get scarier, just more annoying. (92 min.) PG-13; intense sequences of terror, disturbing images.

I LOVE YOU, MAN

(B-) A fine bromance: A newly engaged yet curiously friendless guy (Paul Rudd) launches a search for a best man that bears unexpected fruit when his instant bond with a fun-loving lug (Jason Segal) threatens his relationship with his understanding fiancée (Rashida Jones). Rudd's wry warmth balances Segal's fearlessly funny portrait of permanently arrested adolescence, while writer-director John Hamburg ("Along Came Polly") proves that he's got more on his mind than a snickering celebration of testosterone gone wild -- despite the inevitable jokes involving masturbation, projectile vomiting and flatulence. (104 min.) R; pervasive profanity, including crude and sexual references. (C.C.)

IS ANYBODY THERE?

(B) Michael Caine continues his remarkable late-career renaissance with another standout portrayal, this time playing a curmudgeonly magician who finds an unlikely friend in a precocious, death-obsessed 10-year-old ("Son of Rambow's" endearing Bill Milner) whose parents have transformed the family residence into an old-folks home. Caine's far from the only attraction, thanks to a sensitive script and direction, but he once again proves that he needs no tricks to conjure a magical character. (95 min.) PG-13; profanity, sexual references, disturbing images. (C.C.)

KNOWING

(C) A widowed MIT professor (Nicolas Cage) who opens a time capsule at his son's school discovers that some of its chilling predictions already have come true -- and his family may be implicated in future events -- in this weird, gloomy existential thriller from "Dark City" and "I, Robot" director Alex Proyas, who can't seem to keep Cage from lapsing into hysteria. You expect wild-and-crazy from a Nicolas Cage movie, but this is ridiculous. So is "Knowing's" ending, which borrows from L. Ron Hubbard, the Rapture Index, and a mess of apocalyptic sci-fi movies -- most of them vastly more entertaining than this one. (122 min.) PG-13; disaster sequences, disturbing images, brief profanity.

THE LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT

(D) A grisly, sadistic update of the 1972 horror fave about a terrorized couple (Tony Goldwyn, Monica Potter) getting revenge on the prison escapee ("Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles' " Garrett Dillahunt) who's kidnapped and assaulted their daughter. Plodding and completely predictable, the carnage is depicted in slow, quasi-reverential fashion, giving the entire experience a torture-porn veneer. (100 min.) R; sadistic brutal violence including a rape, disturbing images, profanity, nudity, drug use.

MONSTERS VS. ALIENS

(B) Creature feature: A mysterious space ray transforms a lovely bride (voiced by Reese Witherspoon) into a 50-foot Bridezilla -- who becomes the latest member of a mutant monster team battling invading aliens. This computer-animated sci-fi romp is machine-tooled to provide something-for-everyone fun -- goofy slapstick for the kids, movie spoofs for the grown-ups -- anchored by a top-chop vocal cast. (Seth Rogen, Hugh Laurie, Kiefer Sutherland, Rainn Wilson, Paul Rudd and Will Arnett are in on the fun.) It's all a definite kick, it not exactly an instant classic -- and even more eye-popping in 3-D. (94 min.) PG; sci-fi action, crude humor, mild profanity. (C.C.)

NEXT DAY AIR

(D-) After a Mexican drug lord overnights 10 bricks of cocaine to an East Coast flunky, a no-account delivery driver (Donald Faison) delivers the package to the wrong address, where the inept crooks who sign for it race to unload it, triggering a blood fiesta when the Latinos strike back. This is obviously modeled on Guy Ritchie's English crime comedies, in which a dozen colorful cutthroats intersect haphazardly until fate shuffles them together for a big shootout, but this revamp (set in ghetto L.A. in Philadelphia) is one of those movies that aims low -- and still misses the target. (90 min.) R; pervasive drug content, profanity, graphic violence, sexual content, brief nudity.

OBSESSED

(D+) "Fatal Attraction" meets "The Temp" when a wacko new office worker (Ali Larter) makes life miserable for a happily married asset manager ("The Wire's" Idris Elba) -- and his hands-off-my-man wife (Beyoncé Knowles). The three leads may be easy on the eyes, but the dialogue they're forced to spout is pretty harsh on the ears. One doesn't expect this type of movie to be plausible, but this one stretches the plausibility factor past the snapping point -- to the unintentional-laughter point. (100 min.) PG-13; sexual material including suggestive dialogue, violence, mature themes.

OBSERVE AND REPORT

(D+) A bipolar shopping center security chief (Seth Rogen) who lusts after a bimbo-fied cosmetics clerk (Anna Faris) from afar -- and clashes with a hard-charging detective (Ray Liotta) who's investigating a raincoated flasher stalking the mall. This could be the feel-bad comedy of the year; it wants desperately to be a bold experiment in dark humor, but it turns out to be a virtually empty exercise in wretched excess. (86 min.) R; pervasive profanity, graphic nudity, drug use, sexual content, violence. (C.C.)

PARIS 36

(B-) In 1930s Paris, as social upheaval simmers and the specter of fascism appears on the horizon, old-school performers attempt to revive a venerable neighborhood music hall -- with the help of a charismatic chanteuse (Nora Arnezeder) and a young accordion player (Maxence Perrin). Unapologetically schmaltzy, but far from unenjoyable, this is the best 1936 musical made in 2009. In French with English subtitles. (120 min.) PG-13; sexuality, nudity, violence, brief profanity.

PAUL BLART: MALL COP

(C) Sitcom stalwart Kevin James stars and co-writes this comedy about a mild-mannered single dad trying to make ends meet as a New Jersey mall cop forced to take on insidious Santa's Helpers. Completely forgettable, yet frequently funny and weirdly satisfying -- in a Jersey-Loser-Gets-Respect kind of way. (87 min.) PG; violence, mild crude and suggestive humor, profanity.

RACE TO WITCH MOUNTAIN

(B-) Southern Nevada proves more than ready for its latest cinematic close-up in this revamp of the 1975 Disney favorite "Escape to Witch Mountain," about a hard-luck Vegas taxi driver (Dwayne Johnson, the artist formerly known as The Rock) whose latest fares (AnnaSophia Robb, Alexander Ludwig) prove to be aliens on the run from government agents and inter-galactic killing machines alike. True to its title, the action-packed "Race" hardly stops to catch its breath, but it does capture a bit of the original's hokey-smokes vibe. (99 min.) PG; sequences of action and violence, frightening and dangerous situations, thematic elements. (C.C.)

17 AGAIN

(B-) Teenthrob Zac Efron graduates from "High School Musical" -- but not from high school -- as the adolescent incarnation of an embittered family man (Matthew Perry) who magically gets a chance to live things all over again. It's not as clever as "Freaky Friday" or even "13 Going on 30," but, as a teen with the brain of a father, Efron ably carries this featherweight farce; for adults, this is mildly diverting stuff, but for its target tween audience, Efron's outside shot is a three-pointer. (102 min.) PG-13; profanity, sexual material, teen partying.

SIN NOMBRE

(B+) Writer-director Cary Fukunaga collected top directing honors at the Sundance film festival for his startlingly impressive first feature, which follows several Latin American immigrants bound for the U.S., from a Mexican gang member (Edgar Flores) to a Honduran teen (Paulina Gaitan) who reunites with her estranged father. Tough and beautiful, this is almost ruthless in its depiction of the brutality and degradation confronting the hidden hordes that cross rivers and hop trains trying to get to the United States. In Spanish with English subtitles. (97 min.) R; violence, profanity, sexual content.

THE SOLOIST

(B-) Looking for a story, a Los Angeles Times columnist (Robert Downey Jr.) finds something more -- an unexpected friendship -- when he encounters a homeless, Juilliard-trained musician (Jamie Foxx) on the Skid Row streets. Based on columnist Steve Lopez's best-selling book, this is an undeniably touching tale. But, rather than simply presenting it, the movie keeps trying to tell us how we feel -- despite the fact that it doesn't always know how it feels about things either. (109 min.) PG-13; mature themes, drug use, profanity. (C.C.)

STAR TREK

(B) A blast from the past (and a blast, period), this relaunch of the venerable Starship Enterprise delivers, saluting Gene Roddenberry's original without embalming its best qualities. Actionmeister J.J. Abrams ("Lost") breaks no new ground, but shakes the mission free of numbing nostalgia, while a near-perfect cast (Chris Pine as hot-headed, hot-blooded James T. Kirk, "Heroes' " Zachary Quinto as young Spock, Karl Urban as Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy, Simon Pegg as Scotty -- and, inevitably, Leonard Nimoy as time-warped Spock Prime) does the rest. (126 min.) PG-13; sci-fi action and violence, brief sexual content. (C.C.)

STATE OF PLAY

(B) Stop the presses: A veteran Washington reporter (the commanding Russell Crowe) and a neophyte blogger (feisty Rachel McAdams) investigate the mysterious death of a congressional staffer -- employed (and then some) by a rising political star (a slick Ben Affleck), the reporter's college roommate. Based on an acclaimed British miniseries, this streamlined, Americanized version loses a bit in translation, but director Kevin Macdonald ("Last King of Scotland") builds taut-wire tension without flashy camera tricks or computerized effects. (127 min.) PG-13; violence, profanity, sexual references, brief drug content. (C.C.)

SUGAR

(A) Grand slam: A Dominican baseball star, Miguel "Sugar" Santos (Algenis Perez Soto, a real-life baseball player making his acting debut), is recruited to play in the U.S. minor leagues -- and finds his field of dreams in Iowa in a modest but masterful drama from the writing-directing team of Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck ("Half Nelson") that's a baseball movie, a stranger-in-a-strange-land movie and a movie about real people facing real challenges in the real world. (114 min.) R; profanity, sexuality, brief drug use.

TAKEN

(B-) Liam Neeson kicks major butt as a former CIA agent out to rescue his kidnapped daughter (Maggie Grace) from human traffickers in a fleet, no-nonsense rescue thriller from crackerjack French director Pierre Morel. Satisfying for the Gaelic gravitas of its star, slam-bang chase scenes, bone-snapping martial arts -- and, of course, the scenic Paris setting. (94 min.) PG-13; intense sequences of violence, disturbing thematic material, sexual content, drug references, profanity.

WATCHMEN

(C-) The landmark graphic novel hits the screen, with a vengeance, in an alternate-universe 1985, as a masked vigilante rounds up some ex-colleagues to battle conspirators out to discredit -- or kill -- past and present superheroes. Malin Akerman (as Silk Spectre), Billy Crudup (alias Dr. Manhattan), Matthew Goode (Ozymandias), Jackie Earle Haley (Rorschach), Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Comedian) and Patrick Wilson (Nite Owl) star for "300" director Zack Snyder, who knows how to depict bloody destruction -- but, like Dr. Manhattan, lacks the humanity to understand why it should not be taken lightly. (163 min.) R; strong graphic violence, sexuality, nudity, profanity.

X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE

(C+) Hugh Jackman returns as Marvel Comics' angry, adamantium-clawed title character in a prequel that explores how he's driven to join the for-mutants-only Weapons X program -- by the murderous back-stabbing of his lifelong brother-in-arms, Sabretooth (a smilingly sinister Liev Schreiber). Just don't ask why; though the mega-buff Jackman gives it his all, his appealing humanity can't overcome the overwrought tedium that makes a movie like this the cinematic equivalent of a $150 million video game. (107 min.) PG-13; intense action and violence, partial nudity. (C.C.)

 

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