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.
(C) Gynecomedy: With her biological clock nearing midnight, an overachiever ("30 Rock’s" likable Tina Fey) hires a dubious young woman ("Saturday Night Live’s" Amy Poehler) to carry her baby. Detecting human life here would require a sonogram; this is mild to the point of pablum, making the fertile topic of surrogate motherhood inoffensive to anyone. Which is not an endorsement; in comedies, delivery is everything. (99 min.) PG-13; crude and sexual humor, profanity, drug references.
THE BANK JOB
(B) In 1971 London, petty thieves (led by Jason Statham as a struggling mechanic and Saffron Burrows as his ex-model ex-flame) break into a Baker Street bank vault, unaware their record haul includes salacious photos incriminating a royal family member. It’s a tangled web "The Bank Job" weaves, but under the crisp direction of Roger Donaldson ("No Way Out"), the movie keeps multiple plot threads tangle-free and multiple colorful characters in orbit — until their various worlds collide. (111 min.) R; sexual content, nudity, violence, profanity. (C.C.)
COLLEGE ROAD TRIP (D+) Phi beta krappa: Disney Channel star Raven-Symoné is Daddy’s Little Girl heading off to college — that is, if Daddy (Martin Lawrence), a maniacal, control-freak police chief, will let her go quietly. Alas, this crass, disposable comedy (also featuring a cameo by Donny Osmond) is so over-the-top that its sheer mindless excess is a borderline saving grace — but not enough of one to save this movie, or us from it. (83 min.) G; all ages.
(B) Oscar’s best foreign-language film this year, inspired by a true story, takes place in a World War II concentration camp, where a Nazi officer (Devid Striesow) enlists a Jewish forger (Karl Markovics) in a scheme to counterfeit Allied currency — saving the criminal from torture, starvation and death. Full of chilling, ironic details, director Stefan Rukowitzky’s provocative drama proves that, no matter how many Holocaust stories the movies tell, there are always new and unexpected ones worth relating. In German with English subtitles. (98 min.) R; intense violence, nudity.
(C) No fooling: A suave, man-about-Manhattan attorney (Hugh Jackman) lures a timid accountant (Ewan McGregor) into an elite New York sex club (populated by the likes of Michelle Williams, Natasha Henstridge and Charlotte Rampling), setting the stage for blackmail, embezzlement, arson — and snooze-inducing plot twists so obvious they might as well have neon arrows pointing to them — in a would-be erotic thriller with no heat and zero chills. (108 min.) R; sexual content, profanity, brief violence, drug use.
(C) Three desperate high school dweebs (Nate Hartley, Troy Gentile, David Dorfman) solicit a beach bum who claims to be an Iraq veteran (Owen Wilson, very much in his comfort zone), hoping this budget bodyguard will protect them from a sadistic bully (Alex Frost). Watching the latest from the Judd Apatow hit machine ("Knocked Up," "Superbad") makes you feel as though your arm’s being twisted on your way to class. And that’s not a compliment. (102 min.) PG-13; crude, racy humor, profanity, drug references, violence, partial nudity.
(C-) After receiving a death threat informing him that he has (surprise!) only 88 minutes to live, a famed forensic psychologist (gleeful scenery-chomper Al Pacino) tries to sort out the usual suspects, including a serial killer (Neal McDonough) he helped put on Death Row. This might have been slightly more tolerable if it were actually 88 minutes long, but it’s too long at any length, given its lame premise and labored execution. (108 min.) R; disturbing violent content, brief nudity, profanity. (C.C.)
EXPELLED: NO INTELLIGENCE ALLOWED
(C-) In this propaganda disguised as a documentary, Ben Stein — actor, comedian, columnist, game show host and Nixon-era White House speechwriter — tries to make the case for intelligent design, traveling to various universities to interview advocates on both sides of the creationism-vs.-evolution debate before turning his inquiry into a diatribe. Stein claims to denounce the tyranny of dogma, then browbeats us with his own. (90 min.) PG; mature themes, disturbing images, brief smoking.
THE FORBIDDEN KINGDOM
(C+) Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore. Emerald City metamorphoses into Jade City for a martial arts fantasy about a Boston teen (Michael Angarano) who lives for kung-fu movies — until he finds himself in one, transporting a magical staff back to its legendary owner, with more than a little help from a drunken master (Jackie Chan) and a silent monk (Jet Li). Too bad this first-time teaming of martial arts legends Chan and Li can’t keep up with its resident speed demons, succumbing to draggy predictability in between kicky kung-fu sequences. (113 min.) PG-13; martial arts action, violence. (C.C.)
FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL
(C) Dumped by his TV-star girlfriend (Kristen Bell) after six years together, a struggling musician (Jason Segel, a cross between Albert Brooks’ sad-eyed clown and Will Ferrell’s bubbly klutz) struggles to recover with a solo trip to Hawaii — where he winds up in the same hotel as Sarah and her new British-rocker boyfriend. Sporadically funny, yet this latest from the Judd Apatow comedy factory lacks the crackle and snap of previous Apatow-zers; the sell-by date is getting ever closer. (112 min.) R; sexual content, profanity, graphic nudity.
HAROLD & KUMAR ESCAPE FROM GUANTANAMO BAY
(B) High jinks (and we do mean high): Mistaken for terrorists aboard an Amsterdam-bound plane, the title stoners (John Cho, Kal Penn) try to prove their innocence in this sequel to 2004’s "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle." Sure, the nasty toilet jokes and sex gags are there, but the gratuitous nudity (male and female) and crazed cannabis-ness serve a greater good, mocking social and political hypocrisy — and a culture steeped in prejudice and pretense. (102 min.) R; strong crude and sexual content, graphic nudity, pervasive profanity and drug use.
HORTON HEARS A WHO
(B) Finally, a Dr. Seuss tale that won’t make you wail! After live-action travesties "The Cat in the Hat" and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," your faith will be restored by this charming computer-animated adaptation, about a helpful elephant (voiced by "Grinch’s" Jim Carrey) trying mightily to protect a microscopic community from his judgmental jungle neighbors. Vivid animation from the "Ice Age" folks and a top-chop vocal cast (also featuring Steve Carell, Carol Burnett, Seth Rogen and Charles Osgood) make this a true family treat. (88 min.) G; all ages. (C.C.)
(B) Up, up and away: The summer blockbuster season gets off to a flying start with this fast, funny retooling of the tired superhero genre, as jet-set zillionaire arms merchant Tony Stark (a magnetic Robert Downey Jr.), captured by terrorists, devises a flying metal suit and weapons system, transforming himself from war profiteer to hero-with-a-conscience. It’s still the same old story, but a top-chop cast (including Gwyneth Paltrow, Jeff Bridges and Terrence Howard) and a sly sense of humor make almost everything old new again. (126 min.) PG-13; sci-fi action and violence, brief sexual references. (C.C.)
(C+) It’s not quite a fumble, but this amiable romantic romp, set during pro football’s Roaring ’20s stone age, never scores with its tale of a brash player (George Clooney, who acts better than he directs) trying to save his ragtag team by recruiting a war hero turned college gridiron standout ("The Office’s" John Krasinski). A miscast Renée Zellweger rounds out the starring trio as an ace reporter who attracts the attention of both players. It’s all good-natured and droll, but watching this is like taking a sip of champagne — and discovering it’s flat. (114 min.) PG-13; brief profanity.
MADE OF HONOR
(C-) Something borrowed: "My Best Friend’s Wedding" gets a gender-switch makeover and a serious brain-drain as a bed-hopping Manhattan millionaire (Patrick "McDreamy" Dempsey) realizes that he loves his art-restorer best friend (Michelle Monaghan) — but not until she gets herself engaged to a Scottish hunk (Kevin McKidd). while working overseas. Predictable, generic and only fitfully amusing, there’s nothing to justify this rehash. You’ll have more fun watching "My Best Friend’s Wedding" on DVD. (101 min.) PG-13; sexual content, profanity.
(B-) When her scientist father ("300’s" Gerard Butler) disappears from their remote island home, the title character ("Little Miss Sunshine’s" Abigail Breslin) appeals for help to swashbuckling Alex Rover, author (and hero) of her favorite adventure books — little dreaming that Alex (Jodie Foster) is really an agoraphobic klutz ill-equipped for life on Nim’s island. This mildly diverting, kid-friendly adventure scores points for its focus on a spirited young girl who discovers how reading can inspire her to become her own hero. (95 min.) PG; mild adventure action, brief profanity.
(D-) "Hairspray’s" Brittany Snow takes over for ’80s scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis in this remake of the 1980 slasher fave about an obsessed killer (has-been hottie Johnathon Schaech) determined to give a high school senior and her friends a night to die for — literally. There’s no suspense or perversity and no one seems to know what to do, unless it involves waiting for the studio’s check to clear. You certainly don’t care who lives or who dies — just please make it soon. (88 min.) PG-13; violence and terror, sexual material, underage drinking, profanity.
(B) Writer-director David Mamet focuses on a moral man in an amoral universe in a mixed martial-arts drama about a Gulf War veteran (that masterful chameleon Chiwetel Ejiofor) who runs a jujitsu studio in L.A. shuns competition, until events — and people — conspire to force him into the ring. Mamet regulars Joe Mantegna and Ricky Jay join Tim Allen (sharp as an over-the-hill movie star) in a movie that may be more character study than movie, but at least the character feels fresh and real. (99 min.) R; profanity.
(B-) An arrogant literature professor (Dennis Quaid, having a blast as a rumpled misanthrope) finds his world turned upside down when his bad-penny brother (a sly Thomas Haden Church) turns up — and so does a former student (Sarah Jessica Parker) who’s still got a bit of a crush on the old prof. "Juno’s" Ellen Page (as Quaid’s high-achieving, Young Republican daughter) rounds out the starring quartet of a comedy-drama that manages to be reasonably smart about following its familiar path. (95 min.) R; profanity, brief teen drug and alcohol use, sexual situations. (C.C.)
(C-) Roadkill: "Matrix" mavens Larry and Andy Wachowski revamp the cult cartoon about the speed-demon title character ("Into the Wild’s" Emile Hirsch), who teams with former rival Racer X ("Lost’s" Matthew Fox) to avenge his brother’s death. The supporting cast includes John Goodman and Susan Sarandon (as Speed’s supportive parents) and Christina Ricci (as his sassy girlfriend Trixie), but not even they can breathe life into this hyper-stylized, hyperactive computer game that does nothing but spin its wheels. If this brain-dead, soul-deadening exercise in effects overkill represents the future of movies, include me out. (135 min.) PG; action sequences, violence, profanity. (C.C.)
(C) "Training Day" meets "L.A. Confidential" as a violent, soul-deadened vice cop (Keanu Reeves), investigating his ex-partner’s death, uncovers a web of corruption that leads him into the heart of darkness: his own cop colleagues. Despite an impressive supporting cast (including a hammy Forest Whitaker, a smirky Hugh Laurie and an earnest Chris Evans as the young detective on the case with Reeves), this is a missed opportunity, with "L.A. Confidential" author James Ellroy contributing a convoluted script that "Training Day" screenwriter Ayer directs in equally overheated style. (109 min.) R; strong violence, pervasive profanity. (C.C.)
(D) The "Scary Movie" folks take on another ripe-for-parody tale with a "Spidey"-lite account of a high school loser (Drake Bell) who’s bitten by a genetically altered dragonfly and becomes a costumed crime fighter, complete with too-tight tights. Only those who thrill to flatulence jokes and comedic overuse of the "s" and "f" words will cheer. (85 min.) PG-13; crude and sexual content, comic violence, drug references, profanity.
(C+) This slick, made-in-Vegas fictionalization of the best-selling "Bringing Down the House" focuses on math-whiz college students (Jim Sturgess, Kate Bosworth) who take their card-counting expertise to the Strip, winning millions at blackjack — and attracting the ire of an old-school casino enforcer (Laurence Fishburne). Despite the estimable presence of Kevin Spacey (who also produced) as the kids’ calculating mentor, "21" is like a gambler who keeps playing long after his lucky streak has run out. (122 min.) PG-13; violence, sexual content including partial nudity. (C.C.)
(B+) Proving "The Station Agent" was no fluke, writer-director Tom McCarthy returns with another heartfelt fable of lost souls finding each other. This time, a widowed economics professor (ace supporting actor Richard Jenkins, triumphant in his first leading role) returns to his little-used New York apartment to find an illegal immigrant couple living there: gregarious Middle Eastern musician Tarek (Haaz Sleiman) and wary African jewelry maker Zainab (Danai Gurira). What follows, including the arrival of Tarek’s mother (Hiam Abbass), offers a poignant study of kindred spirits struggling, against all odds, to embrace their common humanity. (108 min.) PG-13; brief profanity. (C.C.)
WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS
(C) Nothing unexpected happens in this upbeat fluff, as two vacationing New Yorkers (Cameron Diaz as a workaholic, Ashton Kutcher as a slacker) meet cute in Vegas, get plastered and get married, only to put their morning-after annulment on hold so they can hold onto a $3 million slot jackpot. It’s nothing we haven’t seen before — and won’t see again. Yet as the movie stumbles through its connect-the-dots plot and sitcom-style slapstick, there’s a frustrating sense of missed opportunities — and missing smarts. (98 min.) PG-13; sexual and crude content, profanity, drug references. (C.C.)
THE YEAR MY PARENTS WENT ON VACATION
(B-) Brazil’s official Academy Awards entry, this coming-of-age tale, set in 1970 Sao Paolo, focuses on young Mauro (Michel Joelsas), who’s dispatched to his Jewish grandparents while his Communist parents, facing death under Brazil’s military dictatorship, go on "vacation." This sweet, somber film works hard to overcome its limitations; the setting is so quirkily unfamiliar that it holds our interest, even when the boy’s story doesn’t. In Portuguese, Yiddish and German with English subtitles. (105 min.) NR; mild violence and profanity, brief sexual references, thematic material and smoking.
(B) This life-affirming, death-defying documentary focuses on the final weeks of rehearsal for the Young@Heart Chorus: a 24-member singing group from Northampton, Mass., average age 80, who spend their golden years touring the world and singing covers of songs from groups like the Talking Heads, the Clash and Coldplay. Overall, a heartening and poignant exploration of music’s transformative power. (108 min.) PG; mild profanity, thematic material.