MOVIES


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.

Motion Picture Association of America ratings:

G - General audiences, all ages.

PG - Parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

PG-13 - Parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children under 13.

R - Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or guardian.

NC-17 - No one under 17 admitted.

NR - Not rated.

BALLS OF FURY

(C) Goodness, gracious -- there's nothing great about the strained spoof "Balls of Fury," in which a disgraced table tennis prodigy (Dan Fogler) gets a shot at redemption by competing in a secret tournament hosted by a criminal mastermind (Christopher Walken, hip-deep in broad self-parody). Every Kung Fu cheapie and "Karate Kid" rip-off is evoked through bleary lenses and awkwardly staged sight gags. (90 min.) PG-13; crude and sex-related humor, profanity.

BECOMING JANE

(B) This charming period tale speculates, "Shakespeare in Love"-style, about how the romance between aspiring author Jane Austen (feisty, dreamy Anne Hathaway) and a dashing Irish law student ("Last King of Scotland's" James McAvoy) inspired Austen's "Pride and Prejudice." The movie's many pleasures (including a sterling supporting cast led by Julie Walters, Maggie Smith and James Cromwell) help atone for the movie's heretical implication that Austen might never have achieved literary immortality without love. (120 min.) PG; brief nudity, mild profanity and sexual references. (C.C.)

THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM

(B+) You can't go home again, but amnesiac spy guy Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) keeps trying, racing to uncover the final clues to his past -- in New York, where it all began. After too many underwhelming threequels , this one more than lives up to its predecessors, thanks to a top-chop cast (including David Strathairn and Joan Allen) and director Paul Greengrass' ability to combine exhilarating action with a weighty sense of dread. (114 min.) PG-13; violence, intense action sequences. (C.C.)

THE BRAVE ONE

(C) Jodie's got a gun: A New York public radio host (Jodie Foster) becomes a pistol-packin' urban avenger after slimy thugs beat her fiancé to death and leave her for dead in Central Park. Despite Foster's full-bore intensity (and co-star Terrence Howard's steady presence as the cop on her case), "The Brave One" proves that artists the caliber of Foster and director Neil Jordan ("The Crying Game") are just as capable of making a soulless revenge thriller as any Hollywood hack. (122 min.) R; strong violence, profanity, sexuality. (C.C.)

THE BROTHERS SOLOMON

(F) What's the difference between deadpan and dead? Alas, this misbegotten "Dumb and Dumber" knockoff never figures out the answer, as graceless dimwits (Will Arnett, Will Forte) pool their meager mental resources to convince a woman, any woman, to bear their child and give their comatose father (Lee Majors) a grandson. Majors is lucky; he gets to sleep through the whole misbegotten mess. As for the rest of you, consider yourselves warned. (91 min.) R; profanity, sexual content.

DEEP SEA 3D

(B) Get up close and personal with ocean wildlife, unveiled in the reach-out-and-touch weirdness of IMAX 3D at the Luxor. This giant-screen documentary introduces exotic denizens of the deep so extravagantly extraterrestrial, nothing created by Hollywood's special effects labs could possibly compete. (40 min.) G; all ages.

DINOSAURS 3D: GIANTS OF PATAGONIA

(B+) Now at Luxor's IMAX theater, this excursion traces the evolution -- and extinction -- of giant prehistoric beasts that rip each other's faces off in thrilling computer-generated segments showcasing species we didn't see in "Jurassic Park." Paleontologist Rodolfo Coria proves a congenial tour guide, while Donald Sutherland's droll narration emphasizes a quality all but extinct in large-format documentaries: humor. (40 min.) NR; very large, very loud dinosaurs.

DRAGON WARS

(D+) A TV reporter ("Roswell's" Jason Behr) discovers the strange cause of recent Los Angeles earthquakes: an ancient giant serpent he must battle because the 500-year-old spirit of a warrior dwells within him. Amanda Brooks and "The Office's" Craig Robinson join veterans Elizabeth Peña and Robert Forster in a futuristic fantasy, inspired by Korean legend, that's so dismal it doesn't even register as a guilty pleasure. (90 min.) PG-13; intense sequences of violence and creature action.

EASTERN PROMISES

(B+) Director David Cronenberg and star Viggo Mortensen, who brought you 2005's standout "A History of Violence," reunite for an intriguing gangster thriller about the Russian mob in London. Naomi Watts (as an inquisitive innocent) and Armin Mueller-Stahl (as a deceptively courtly mob boss) provide striking support, but this is Mortensen's movie all the way, and once again he and Cronenberg prove kindred spirits, challenging audiences to form their own conclusions -- after they've delivered more than a few body blows. (100 min.) R; strong, brutal, bloody violence, graphic sexuality, nudity, profanity. (C.C.)

FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER

(C+) It's clobberin' time! But yawnin' seems a more appropriate response to the Marvel-ous foursome's return, as a new metallic menace, plus returning nemesis Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon), torment the title quartet (Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis). Between the special effects and multiple villains, this movie doesn't have much time for, or interest in, its title characters. As a result, neither do we. (89 min.) PG; action violence, mild profanity and innuendo. (C.C.)

FIGHTER PILOT

(B) Wild blue yonder: Nellis Air Force Base zooms into the giant-screen spotlight with this IMAX documentary, now at the Luxor, focusing on Red Flag combat training exercises. The midair sequences are almost sickeningly exhilarating, but plodding on-the-ground portions seem earthbound. (48 min.) NR; all ages.

GOOD LUCK CHUCK

(D+) Bad luck for the audience: This boorish exercise in high-testosterone low comedy casts Dane Cook as a dentist (Dane Cook) whose former girlfriends always become engaged to other guys. Poor Jessica Alba turns up as a klutzy aquarium penguin specialist who might be his Ms. Right, but even her cutie-pie appeal withers in the face of the sexed-up, dumbed-down humor. (96 min.) R; strong sexual content including crude dialogue, nudity, profanity, drug use.

HAIRSPRAY

(B+) You can't stop the beat in this wigged-out blast from the past, an adaptation of the Tony-winning Broadway musical starring John Travolta (in fat-suit drag) as a super-size '60s housewife whose bubbly daughter (winning newcomer Nikki Blonsky) integrates a 1962 Baltimore TV dance party. More mainstream than the 1988 John Waters satire that inspired it, but an all-star cast (including Christopher Walken, Queen Latifah, James Marsden, Michelle Pfeiffer, a dynamite Elijah Kelly and "High School Musical's" Zac Efron) packs irresistible punch. (117 min.) PG; profanity, mild sexual references, teen smoking. (C.C.)

HALLOWEEN

(D) Musician-turned-director Rob Zombie gets into the spooky spirit early, reincarnating John Carpenter's 1978 shocker about masked psycho Michael Myers ("X-Men's" Tyler Mane) -- and attempting to fill in the blanks when it comes to the mystery behind his mayhem. That mystery was the very reason Carpenter's original still stands as one of the scariest movies ever. This isn't even scary -- just another biff-bam-off-with-your-head-ma'am slasher film. (110 min.) R; strong brutal bloody violence and terror, sexual content, graphic nudity, profanity.

IN THE VALLEY OF ELAH

(B) When his soldier son disappears after returning from Iraq, a retired Army MP (Tommy Lee Jones) investigates with the help of a dogged detective (Charlize Theron). This mournful mystery with topical overtones reflects "Crash" writer-director Paul Haggis' puppetmaster tendencies; he can't help but state, restate and overstate his points. Yet Jones' towering, almost wordless eloquence provides almost makes up for it. (113 min.) R; violent and disturbing content, profanity, sexual situations, nudity. (C.C.)

THE INVASION

(C+) The latest, and lamest, version of the aliens-on-the-loose classic "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" stars Nicole Kidman as a psychiatrist fighting to stay awake (she's not the only one) after being infected with a space-spawn virus that turns people into numb, soulless beings. Despite the best efforts of co-stars Daniel Craig, Jeffrey Wright and Jeremy Northam, this movie feels as though it were made by the kind of pod people the first three "Body Snatchers" movies warned us against. (109 min.) PG-13; violence, disturbing images, terror.

LADRON QUE ROBA A LADRON

(B) The con is on in this "Ocean's Eleven"-meets-Telemundo romp about two thieves (Fernado Colunga, Miguel Varoni) plotting to take down a TV informercial guru (Saul Lisazo) who's made millions from selling snake-oil remedies to poor Latino immigrants -- by hiring actual day laborers to infiltrate the mark's household staff. Adding a karmic kick to standard heist conventions, this caper introduces an endearing gang of scam artists that reflects not only immigrant aspiration but sweet blue-collar revenge. (98 min.) PG-13; profanity, sexual content.

THE LAST LEGION

(C+) Toss a little Arthurian legend, a few stalks of "I, Claudius," some sliced "Star Wars" and a pinch of "Harry Potter" in a vegetable spinner and you get this Caesar salad, which wastes an impressive cast (led by Ben Kingsley, Colin Firth, Peter Mullan and Aishwarya Rai) in a tale of fifth-century Rome's overthrown young emperor, Romulus Augustus Caesar ("Nanny McPhee's" Thomas Sangster), who discovers Julius Caesar's legendary sword Excaliburnus -- and leads a daring expedition to Britannia. Despite the occasional gleam of wit, very little is to be taken seriously -- not the story, not the acting and certainly not the history. (110 min.) PG-13; intense action violence.

LICENSE TO WED

(D+) Dreaming of a traditional wedding, a newly engaged couple (Mandy Moore, "The Office's" John Krasinski) schedules the big event, but can't get the blessing of a charismatic church pastor (Robin Williams) -- until they complete his patented marriage-prep course. Christine Taylor and De Ray Davis round out the cast of an alleged comedy where love goes out the window, followed by wit and good taste. It's a one-joke affair -- and that one joke isn't even funny. (100 min.) PG-13; sexual humor, profanity.

LIONS 3D: ROAR OF THE KALAHARI

(B+) This award-winning National Geographic production, filmed in the wild by Tim Liversedge, goes 3-D, focusing on a lion king's battle with a young challenger for control of his throne -- and a valuable water hole in Botswana's Kalahari desert. It's not a new movie, but this remastered giant-screen version, now at the Luxor's IMAX theater, has been magically transformed: you're not merely there, you're a lion, an honorary member of the pride. (40 min.) NR; animal violence.

LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD

(C+) Yippie-ki-yay, y'all! After 12 years, the unstoppable John McClane (Bruce Willis) is once again tossed into a maelstrom of exploding machinery and impending disaster, this time from various corners of cyberspace as Internet terrorists plot to shut down the U.S. economy. Nothing more (or less) than a three-ring festival of intricate stunts and pyrotechnic effects, punctuated with clown routines and wisecracks that fly around almost as much as the shrapnel; you might not even mind that it's too long. (130 min.) PG-13; violence, profanity.

MR. BEAN'S HOLIDAY

(C) Rubber-limbed Rowan Atkinson's back, for what he (mercifully) promises is the final time, as the disaster-prone title character wins a trip to France, where he unwittingly comes between a boy and his father on the way to the Cannes film festival. Like the humble legume from which he takes his name, Mr. Bean is an acquired taste best appreciated in small portions. Those with an appetite for his crashingly predictable slapstick will relish the jaunt; the rest of us will wonder whether this trip was really necessary. (88 min.) G; slapstick violence. (C.C.)

MR. WOODCOCK

(C+) A successful self-help author (Seann William Scott) discovers that he can't follow his own advice after he returns home to surprise his mother (Susan Sarandon), only to receive an even bigger shock when he encounters her new flame: his former, much despised gym teacher (Billy Bob Thornton). "My Name Is Earl's" Ethan Suplee and "Saturday Night Live's" Amy Poehler co-star in a fitfully amusing comedy that capitalizes on Thornton's deliciously subversive talent for tormenting the young. (87 min.) PG-13; crude and sexual content, mature themes, profanity, mild drug references.

THE NANNY DIARIES

(C+) The best-selling novel is transformed into bitter-tasting fizz about a working-class Jersey girl (Scarlett Johansson, desperately seeking perky) who literally stumbles into a job as live-in caregiver for the bratty son of Park Avenue basket cases (Laura Linney, once again better than the movie, and miscast Paul Giamatti). Satire should be knife-sharp and whip-smart, but this is neither. How Oscar-nominated, husband-and-wife filmmakers Robert Pulcini and Shari Springer Berman ("American Splendor") got lost here we'll never know, but lost they are, and so is the movie. (105 min.) PG-13; profanity.

RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION

(C) "Resident Evil" meets "Mad Max" in a post-apocalyptic fake Vegas reclaimed by the desert (created by Oscar-winning "Pan's Labyrinth" production designer Eugenio Caballero in Mexicali, Mexico), where Alice (Milla Jovovich, yet again a butt-kicking dynamo) leads the charge against the deadly virus still threatening humanity. Returnees Oded Fehr and Mike Epps join newcomers Ali Larter, Spencer Locke and Ashanti in this been-there, done-that zombie smackdown. (95 min.) R; strong horror violence, nudity.

RUSH HOUR 3

(C-) After taking Las Vegas by storm in "Rush Hour 2," detectives Lee (Jackie Chan) and Carter (Chris Tucker) head to Paris, where they tangle with Chinese Triads in another formulaic odd-couple-cop-buddy romp that's equal parts dinner-theater revue and live-action Saturday-morning cartoon -- a whirring, soulless pop product for those who don't expect much more from a movie beyond cheap laughs and frantic diversion. (91 min.) PG-13 for sequences of action violence, sexual content, nudity and language.

SHOOT 'EM UP

(B-) Clive Owen and Paul Giamatti lend loads of grace and dashes of gravitas to this willfully outrageous action spoof in which Owen is a carrot-chomping gunslinger protecting an orphaned baby from Giamatti and his armies of assassins. Writer-director Michael Davis' amiably pointless goof on amiably pointless action movies is so casually ludicrous it would be tough to swallow without its crafty stars, who almost convince us there's something at stake, although they -- and we -- know better. (87 min.) R; violence, profanity, sexual content.

STARDUST

(C) "The Princess Bride" it's not. This adaptation of Neil Gaiman's fractured fantasy follows a small-town lad (Charlie Cox) who promises his beloved he'll retrieve a star that's fallen into a nearby magical realm. Claire Danes (as the star's human incarnation), Michelle Pfeiffer (as a scheming witch), Peter O'Toole (as a dying king) and Robert De Niro (as a flamboyant pirate who makes Capt. Jack Sparrow look like an "Ultimate Fighter" contender) lead the starry cast, but this potentially entrancing storybook tale tries too hard. In a movie all about magic, the magic shouldn't seem so maddeningly elusive. (125 min.) PG-13; fantasy violence, risqué humor. (C.C.)

SUPERBAD

(C+) When their booze-soaked party plans go awry, inseparable high school seniors ("Arrested Development's" Michael Cera and "Knocked Up's" Jonah Hill) face the comic consequences in a raucous, super-raunchy celebration of teen angst and lust that tempers its arrested-development comedic approach with glimmers of genuine insight. It would have been better -- and funnier -- if you could laugh with "Superbad" as easily as you laugh at it. But most audiences will be too busy laughing to care. (112 min.) R; pervasive crude and sexual content, profanity, drinking, drug use, fantasy/comic violence -- all involving teens. (C.C.)

SYDNEY WHITE

(C) Definitely Dopey: "Snow White" goes to college as a tomboy freshman ("Hairspray's" bouncy Amanda Bynes) ditches her conniving sorority sisters to find a new home with seven "Revenge of the Nerds"-worthy outcasts in an extravagantly unsubtle Greeks-vs.-geeks romp, a carnival of ethnic and social stereotypes rising up against the lily-white status quo. (90 min.) PG-13; profanity, sexual humor, partying.

THE TEN

(C-) The 10 Commandments get the sketch-comedy treatment in a raunchy, spotty, genre-spoofing survey of shalts and shalt-nots from the State's David Wain and Ken Marino. Winona Ryder, Adam Brody, Rob Corddry, Gretchen Mol, Justin Theroux and Liev Schreiber star -- along with Paul Rudd, who introduces the chapters and spars with girlfriends past (Famke Janssen) and present (Jessica Alba). Alas, this violates the only comedy commandment that matters: Thou shalt be funny. (95 min.) R; profanity, drug use, nudity, pervasive crude sexual content.

3:10 TO YUMA

(B) All aboard: In post-Civil War Arizona, a downtrodden rancher (Christian Bale) joins a posse escorting a wily outlaw (Russell Crowe) to the prison-bound title train, setting up a psychological as well as literal showdown. This rip-snortin' remake of the 1957 original (which also inspired director James Mangold's 1997 update "Cop Land") isn't the second coming of the Western, dang it, but the dynamic duo of Crowe and Bale demonstrates how satisfying it can be to watch two men -- one good, one bad, yet with more in common than either imagined -- facing off in a life-or-death test of their true mettle. (117 min.) R; violence, profanity, sexual references. (C.C.)

2 DAYS IN PARIS

(B-) After a disastrous European holiday, a French photographer (Julie Delpy) and her boyfriend, an American interior designer (Adam Goldberg, Delpy's real-life ex), endure more misadventures en route back to New York in a rueful romantic romp Delpy wrote, directed, edited, produced and scored. This might have befitted from some additional creative input; its story is fairly routine, as neurotic romantic comedies go. But Delpy has a knack for finding just the right details to bring out its charms. In English and French with English subtitles. (96 min.) R; sexual content, nudity, profanity.

WAR

(D) Don't get your hopes up for this teaming of action aces Jet Li and Jason Statham. Instead of a lean, mean, butt-kicking machine, this utterly forgettable thriller -- about an FBI agent tracking the mysterious assassin who murdered his partner -- turns out to be a flabby and formulaic programmer that plays to neither man's strength. (99 min.) R; sequences of strong bloody violence, sexual situations, nudity, profanity.

 

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