opening this week
This romantic drama, which filmed in Southern Nevada in 2008, follows the fortunes of a pair of star-crossed lovers, one of whom (Bollywood heartthrob Hrithik Roshan) is a Vegas scam artist fighting for his life. Mexico's Barbara Mori plays his dancer soulmate; Bollywood bombshell Kangana Ranaut co-stars. In English, Hindi and Spanish, with English subtitles. At Sam's Town, Village Square. (130 min.) NR.
It's "Saturday Night Live" at the movies once again with a feature version of the recurring skit about the gadget-happy, disaster-prone title agent (Will Forte), called back to duty to battle his longtime nemesis (Val Kilmer), who's threatening Washington, D.C., with a stolen nuke. Fellow "SNL"-ers Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph join Ryan Phillippe and Powers Boothe in the cast. At multiple locations. (99 min.) R; strong crude and sexual content, violence, profanity, nudity.
SHREK FOREVER AFTER
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.
ALICE IN WONDERLAND
(C) Curiouser and curiouser: All the whimsical wonder that made Lewis Carroll's original such a demented delight have gone down the rabbit hole in director Tim Burton's visually vivid, thematically vapid version; it's almost as if Alice ("In Treatment's" Mia Wasikowska) took a wrong turn and wound up in Narnia (or on the Yellow Brick Road), where she encounters, among others, the Red Queen (hilariously unhinged Helena Bonham Carter), the Cheshire Cat (sly Stephen Fry) and the madcap Mad Hatter (who else but Johnny Depp?). It's demented, yes, but not exactly delightful. (109 min.) PG; fantasy action/violence involving scary images and situations, a smoking caterpillar. (C.C.)
(not reviewed) In this romantic comedy, 40-year-old bachelor Joe, convinced true love has passed him by, meets the title character -- and it's love at first sight, much to the dismay of Joe's quirky but loving parents. Randy Ryan ("Public Enemies") and Ariana Dubynin ("The List") lead the cast. (85 min.) NR; recommended for audiences 17 and over.
(not reviewed) The late Corey Haim's final completed project, this thriller casts him as a desperate husband who must find clues, and solve riddles, to free his missing wife (Angela Cullins) from a diabolical captor. Frank Molina co-stars. (93 min.) NR; recommended for audiences 13 and over.
(B-) Dances with "Aliens": Writer-director James Cameron ("Titanic") takes us to the 22nd-century planet Pandora, where paraplegic ex-Marine Jake Sully (clunky hunk Sam Worthington) joins a corporate mining operation's scientific program -- and finds a new life when he encounters the native Na'vi. A spectacular effects extravaganza that might have been a genuine landmark -- if only Cameron had paid as much attention to story as he does to technology. Winner of three Academy Awards, including best visual effects. (162 min.) PG-13; intense epic battle sequences and warfare, sexual references, profanity, smoking. (C.C.)
(B) Little people, big personalities: French filmmaker Thomas Balmes takes a documentary look at a year in the life, from birth to first baby steps, of four impossibly cute infants -- Ponijao (from Namibia), Bayar (from Mongolia), Mari (from Tokyo) and Hattie (from San Francisco) -- and reveals how much we have in common, despite different families, cultures and countries. If you're not into infants, you're unlikely to like "Babies." Otherwise, you'll be moved nearly to tears by this artful, intimate film's beautiful universality. (79 min.) PG; cultural and maternal nudity throughout.
THE BACK-UP PLAN
(C) A New York pet store owner (Jennifer Lopez) undergoes artificial insemination and immediately meets Mr. Right (Alex O'Loughlin), creating allegedly comic complications for the fated-to-be-mated couple in yet another disposable contrivance that tests our tolerance -- and our patience . Unless you're a fan of movies where you can predict the plot moves before they happen and recite the dialogue along with the actors, better find a back-up plan. (104 min.) PG-13; sexual content, crude references, profanity. (C.C.)
THE BOUNTY HUNTER
(D+) The ex-cop title character (smirking Scot Gerard Butler) gets the chance to bring in, and get back at, his ex-wife (Jennifer Aniston), a reporter who's chasing a murder cover-up story -- until everybody starts chasing them in an alleged action comedy that has little to offer besides some face-time with its handsome stars. And that's not enough to redeem either the stars -- or the movie. (106 min.) PG-13; sexual content including suggestive comments, profanity, violence.
(B) Everybody's got a secret in this beguiling indie, a slice-of-ethnic-life comedy set in the title Bronx fishing enclave, where a prison guard (a terrific Andy Garcia) with acting aspirations disrupts his already dysfunctional family even further after he brings home a young ex-con ("10,000 BC's" Steven Strait). Julianna Margulies, Alan Arkin, Emily Mortimer, Ezra Miller and Dominik Garcia-Lorido (Andy's daughter) round out the all-aces cast; writer-director Raymond De Felitta ("Two Family House") balances quirky comedy and rueful human truths with heartfelt and infectious charm. (100 min.) PG-13; sexual content, smoking, profanity. (C.C.)
CLASH OF THE TITANS
(C) "Avatar's" hunky, charisma-free Sam Worthington returns in a high-tech revamp of the campy 1981 extravaganza, as Perseus, the human son of Zeus (Liam Neeson), tries to prevent nasty Hades (Ralph Fiennes, having a blast) and his underworld underlings from spreading evil to the heavens -- and Earth. Decent but forgettable digital effects, combined with and a disappointing 3-D conversion, make for a long, joyless slog. (118 min.) PG-13; fantasy action violence, frightening images, brief sensuality.
(B-) On the town: When hapless New Jersey suburbanites (Steve Carell, Tina Fey) venture into Manhattan for a night out, they steal another couple's reservation at an uber-trendy restaurant and find themselves plunged into intrigue and running for their lives. This comic thriller can't quite decide whether it wants to be slapstick or satire when it grows up, but Carell and Fey's terrific chemistry (along with Mark Wahlberg's deadpan self-spoofery as a perpetually shirtless security expert) keep the chuckles coming. (88 min.) PG-13; sexual content, profanity, drug references, violence. (C.C.)
DEATH AT A FUNERAL
(B) Second life: Director Neil LaBute ("In the Company of Men") and an all-star cast (led by Martin Lawrence, Chris Rock, Tracy Morgan and Danny Glover) breathe new life into the 2007 British farce about an extended family coming together for a funeral marred by elaborate hijinks. The key figure connecting both movies is Peter Dinklage, reprising his role as a diminutive mystery guest who shows up with a big secret; his return is a prime reason why "Death at a Funeral" surprisingly deserves resurrection. (92 min.) R; profanity, drug content, sexual humor.
DIARY OF A WIMPY KID
(B-) Get in touch with your inner wimp -- and surrender to the impish charm of this adaptation of Jeff Kinney's illustrated novel, about the misadventures of a middle-school misfit (irresistible smarty-pants Zachary Gordon) trying to survive a daunting rite of passage: sixth grade. This inventive comedy integrates Kinney's witty drawings with live-action antics, presenting some painful -- and painfully funny -- life lessons in a movie that's endearing child's play for kids of all ages. (120 min.) PG; rude humor, profanity. (C.C.)
(D) The fur flies when woodland creatures protest a housing developer's plans for a new Oregon subdivision that threatens to wipe out their natural habitat. Brendan Fraser and Brooke Shields lead the human cast of this family-friendly comedy featuring "The Hangover's" Ken Jeong -- and a host of feisty critters. It's not easy being eco-friendly, especially not in this ham-handed comedy, in which the moral of the story uncomfortably co-exists with a farce that plays a bit like "The Birds" might have -- if Alfred Hitchcock had made it as a 5-year-old. (92 min.) PG; rude humor, mild profanity, brief smoking.
THE GHOST WRITER
(B) An exiled former British prime minister (dynamic, Tony Blair-ish Pierce Brosnan), holed up to write his memoirs, finds himself at sea when a longtime aide drowns. Enter a professional ghostwriter (a wry Ewan McGregor), who's utterly unprepared for the political and sexual intrigue swirling around him. Oscar-winning director Roman Polanski delivers an absorbing, sometimes edgy adaptation of Robert Harris' best-selling "The Ghost." Not up to such Polanski classics as "Chinatown" and "Rosemary's Baby" (what could be?), yet packs a slyly macabre punch. (128 min.) PG-13; profanity, brief nudity/sexuality, violence, drug references. (C.C.)
THE GIRL WITH THE DRAGON TATTOO
(B+) Before Hollywood gets its hands on Stieg Larsson's international best-seller, here's the killer Swedish original (with English subtitles): a gripping thriller about a haunted goth computer hacker (the ferocious Noomi Rapace) who helps an investigative journalist (world-weary Michael Nykvist) solve a 40-year-old mystery. Even with subtitles, what happens is gut-punchingly clear: not pretty, but undeniably compelling. (152 min.) NR; violence and gruesome images, sexual situations, nudity, profanity. (C.C.)
HOT TUB TIME MACHINE
(C) Crazy '80s: Three middle-aged buddies (John Cusack, Rob Corddry, Craig Robinson) who've had it with adulthood discover their own personal wayback machine when a ski resort hot tub transports them back to 1986 heyday, enabling them to settle old scores and mess with the timeline for personal profit. Alas, this dude-where's-my-youth adventure is not so excellent; fitfully amusing, it's mostly as lazy, self-involved and garish as the chintzy '80s themselves. (100 min.) R; strong crude and sexual content, nudity, drug use, pervasive profanity.
HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON
(B) Up and away: In this sometimes exhilarating animated romp (especially in 3-D), a scrawny Viking teen wounds, then befriends a dragon he dubs Toothless, discovering that Toothless and his fellow flying terrors aren't so terrifying after all. "She's Out of My League's" Jay Baruchel (Hollywood's nerd du jour) and "Bounty Hunter's" brawny Gerard Butler lead the vocal cast of an adventure that truly soars when human and dragon take to the skies. (98 min.) PG; sequences of intense action and some scary images, brief mild language. (C.C.)
IRON MAN 2
(C+) Billionaire superhero Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.) resists sharing his secrets with the military, forging new alliances -- and confronting new enemies, from renegade Russian Ivan Vanko (gleefully rabid Mickey Rourke) to rival munitions maven Justin Hammer (a spectacularly smarmy Sam Rockwell). It's always a kick watching Robert Downey Jr., but this sequel to the 2008 smash isn't nearly as entertaining as its quirky, irresistibly smirky star. It assumes that more is better, but sometimes more turns out to be a bit of a bore. (124 min.) PG-13; intense sci-fi action and violence, profanity. (C.C.)
(B) Everybody wants to keep up with these Joneses (Demi Moore, David Duchovny), who are just too good to be true -- because they're not really a couple at all, merely stealth marketers on assignment in suburbia. The stars do a fine job hawking first-time filmmaker Derrick Borte's good (but far from great) satire of our all-consuming consumer culture as things degenerate from razor-sharp opening to meandering middle to mushy Hollywood ending. (96 min.) R; profanity, sexual content, teen drinking and drug use.
(D+) No slam dunk: A physical therapist (a bland Queen Latifah) falls for the NBA superstar (hip-hop star Common) she's helping recover from a career-threatening injury in an overly familiar "Cinderella" variation overflowing with clichés, contrivances and stock characters. More's the pity, because this cast (Paula Patton, Pam Grier and Phylicia Rashad co-star) and director Sanaa Hamri ("Something New") deserve better. So do we. (111 min.) PG; suggestive material, brief profanity.
(B+) Kick in the pants: A geeky teen (Aaron Johnson) reinvents himself as a superhero -- despite his total lack of superpowers -- in a seriously, nastily violent adaptation of Mark Millar's comic book series, which is utterly stolen by Chloe Grace Moretz ("500 Days of Summer") as the masked, purple-wigged 11-year-old vigilante Hit Girl. She embodies the movie's satirical attitude toward the excesses of superhero flicks -- and the very real consequences of Hollywood's slavish devotion to cartoon action. (117 min.) R; strong brutal violence, pervasive profanity, sexual content, nudity and some drug use -- some involving children.
THE LAST SONG
(C) Heard the one about two photogenic kids who meet cute and fall madly in love, only to find that tragedy trumps hormones? No, it's not "Dear John" -- it's the latest from "Dear John" author Nicholas Sparks, about a rebellious teen (Miley Cyrus) stuck in a Southern beach town to reconnect with her estranged father (a too-good-for-this-movie Greg Kinnear). Cyrus, now 17, has undeniable presence -- but she needs an acting coach. Then again, not even Meryl Streep could save Sparks' latest tub o' mush. (107 min.) PG; thematic material, some violence, sensuality, mild profanity.
LETTERS TO JULIET
(C) Return to sender: In Verona, Italy, an American tourist ("Dear John's" Amanda Seyfried) finds a 50-year-old letter -- and writes a reply to the once-lovelorn correspondent (Vanessa Redgrave), who arrives, accompanied by her skeptical grandson (Christopher Egan), to search for her long-lost flame (Redgrave's real-life husband, Franco Nero). The scenery's lovely, and so is Redgrave's graceful presence, but everything else is so gooey and predictable it can't help but turn the movie's potential charm into undeniable smarm. (105 min.) PG; brief rude behavior, profanity, incidental smoking. (C.C.)
(D+) The title's definitely an accurate description of this action loser about members of a CIA black-ops squad, betrayed and left for dead during a search-and-destroy mission in the Bolivian jungle, who go after the turncoat who targeted them. Deadly only in its dullness, this is all noise, no substance, stranding such appealing performers as Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Zoe Saldana and Chris Evans, whose comedy flair briefly spices up the movie's vast smorgasboard of nothingness. (98 min.) PG-13; intense action and violence, sexual references, profanity.
A NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET
(C) Play it again, Freddy: In a needless do-over of the long-running horror fave, teens on the title street (Kyle Gallner, Katie Cassidy and Rooney Mara among them) keep having the same killer nightmare -- featuring razor-fingered fiend Freddy Krueger ("Shutter Island's" Jackie Earle Haley, who inherits the role created by Robert Englund). Haley's somebody who can really act -- and be deeply creepy, as evidenced by his Oscar-nominated "Little Children" performance, but here he's smothered by the special-effects makeup, the distorted voice and the cheesy puns. And while a shred of Wes Craven's original concept remains intact, the novelty has long since worn off; what's left is cheap, generic scares. (97 min.) R; strong bloody horror violence, disturbing images, terror, profanity.
(B+) The vanishing wonders of the aquatic world -- from fish that look like anything but fish to frolicking otters and a newborn walrus pup -- populate this stunningly beautiful nature film. "Winged Migration" directors Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud shoot and edit this documentary like a fictional feature, building palpable emotional connections (bring tissues) as narrator Pierce Brosnan reminds us that all this majesty is in danger. (100 min.) G; all ages.
OUR FAMILY WEDDING
(C) Feuding fathers (Carlos Mencia, Forest Whitaker) reluctantly come together when their children ("Ugly Betty's" America Ferrera, Bonanza High School graduate Lance Gross) become engaged in this culture-clash comedy featuring Taye Diggs, Diana-Maria Riva and Regina King. Despite the inherent cheesiness of the wedding genre -- and the equally checkered history of stridently ethnic movies -- this one manages to find the charm within the clichés. (90 min.) PG-13; sexual content, brief profanity.
THE OUTLAW EMMITT DEEMUS
(not reviewed) Four short films about the title character (Larry Hankin), described as "Don Quixote on a motorcycle," including the award-winning title short, plus the Oscar-nominated 1980 short "Solly's Diner," written, directed by and starring Hankin. (84 min.) NR; recommended for audiences 17 and over.
PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS: THE LIGHTNING THIEF
(C) No spark: This latest attempt to find a new "Harry Potter" (from Chris Columbus, who directed the first two Potter movies) adapts the first installment of Rick Riordan's five-book series about a teen (Logan Lerman) who discovers he's the descendant of a Greek god -- and must undertake an odyssey to Mount Olympus. (Via Las Vegas, which is seen in second-unit footage filmed here.) Uma Thurman's snake-haired Medusa and Pierce Brosnan's studly centaur almost make this worth seeing, but despite the starry supporting cast (Rosario Dawson, Sean Bean, Kevin McKidd and Catherine Keener), this is more a list of ingredients than a magic movie. (119 min.) PG; action violence and peril, scary images, suggestive material, mild profanity.
(C+) The title Hawaiian ("The Lost World's" gifted Q'orianka Kilcher) returns from exile in Victorian England to fight for her homeland's future in this 19th-century historical drama, which tries to make sense of the politics of the period (Barry Pepper and Will Patton play the U.S. boosters) despite the fact that the filmmakers are clearly more interested in dramatizing a doomed love story between the princess and her English beau (Shaun Evans). As a result, this all too often plays like a condensation of a miniseries -- which it is, in a way, considering 30 minutes have been cut from its original running time. (100 min.) PG; some violence and thematic material, brief profanity, sexual references, smoking.
REACH FOR ME
(C) An embittered, potty-mouthed hospice patient (Seymour Cassel) learns the meaning of compassion while at death's door, thanks to his young, cancer-stricken roommate (Johnny Whitworth). This well-intentioned tearjerker earned director (and co-star) LeVar Burton a "Breakthrough Accomplishment" citation from AARP managzine's "Movies For Grownups" awards; it's competently handled, with a solid cast of small-screen names (Alfre Woodard, Adrienne Barbeau and Lacey Chabert among them), but utterly formulaic. (98 min.) NR; recommended for audiences 17 and over.
(C) A rebellious NYU student ("Twilight" heartthrob Robert Pattinson, still in full brooding mode) meets his match in a fellow student (Emilie de Raven), but their relationship is threatened by the very thing that brought them together in this dread-filled character study featuring Pierce Brosnan (once again demonstrating his character-actor chops) and always solid Chris Cooper. Set in the summer of 2001, this romanticizes -- and pretentiously revels in -- tragedy and its aftermath. (128 min.) PG-13; violence, sexual content, profanity, smoking.
(D) In a future where human organs can be bought, sold -- and repossessed -- a repo expert (Jude Law) suffers cardiac arrest and gets a new heart, but can't pay the bill, prompting the company to send his former partner (Forest Whitaker) after him. Liev Schreiber, Alice Braga, RZA and "Black Book's" Carice Van Houten headline the supporting cast of a trashy, empty-headed thriller that offers its slick dystopian vision as an excuse to indulge in gut-wrenching gore. But there's a key organ missing: a brain, replaced by a memory bank of other, better movies. (111 min.) R; strong bloody violence, grisly images, profanity, sexuality, nudity.
(B-) Not so very merry: Russell Crowe reunites with his "Gladiator" (and "American Gangster") director, Ridley Scott, for a sweeping, yet not quite stirring origin tale -- one that doesn't completely scale the heights to which it (and they) aspire. Despite a top-chop cast (including Cate Blanchett as a forceful Marian, William Hurt and Max Von Sydow as noble nobles and Mark Strong and Oscar Isaac as venal villains), Crowe's straight-arrow "Robin Hood" is more like Gladiator (in the) Hood -- a far cry from the impudent, irreverent, irrepressible (and utterly irresistible) rogue of Sherwood Forest we've come to know and love through a century of cinematic derring-do. (140 min.) PG-13; violence, including intense combat sequences, and sexual situations. (C.C.)
(C+) Shudder Island: Director Martin Scorsese and actor Leonardo DiCaprio ("The Departed," "The Aviator") reunite for this adaptation of "Mystic River" author Denis Lehane's novel, set in 1954, about a haunted U.S. marshal searching for a murderous escapee from a hospital for the criminally insane. Exquisitely crafted, but an exercise in B-movie melodrama, albeit with an A-level cast: Ben Kingsley, Mark Ruffalo, Max von Sydow, Michelle Williams, Emily Mortimer, Jackie Earle Haley and Patricia Clarkson are among the heavy hitters trying to score. Scorsese works hard (too hard) conjuring a creepy atmosphere, but creating sustained suspense seems beyond him. (138 min.) R; disturbing violent content, profanity, nudity. (C.C.)
(C) When a minor-league hockey player (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) tells a youngster the Tooth Fairy doesn't really exist, he gets his comeuppance when he's transformed into the title character, complete with tutu and wings. Stealing liberally from "Monsters Inc." and "Elf" (among others), this is exactly what you'd expect: a harmless tale of optimism overcoming disbelief, complete with comical casting (including Julie Andrews as a Fairy Godmother) and a heaping helping of Johnson's game, antic charm. (101 min.) PG; mild language, rude humor, sports action.