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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.

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.)

THE BUCKET LIST

(C) Doing it to death: After sharing a hospital room during cancer treatment, a grouchy billionaire (Jack Nicholson) and a dignified mechanic (Morgan Freeman) share death-defying adventures during one last spree. Despite the dynamic Nicholson-Freeman duo, Rob Reiner’s languid pacing and hokey staging transform what might have been a touching meditation on life’s fleeting wonders into a maudlin exercise in audience manipulation. (97 min.) PG-13; sexual references, profanity. (C.C.)

CHARLIE BARTLETT

(B-) After he’s kicked out of yet another private school, a lonely, brainy rich kid ("Alpha Dog’s" Anton Yelchin) goes slumming at the local public high school, where he becomes self-appointed psychiatrist (and prescription-pill supplier) for his new classmates. Not in the same league as "Pump Up the Volume," but an articulate script and an engaging supporting cast (led by Hope Davis as Charlie’s oblivious mother and Robert Downey Jr. as his beleaguered principal) help keep the mildly satiric hits coming. (97 min.) R; profanity, drug use, brief nudity, brief violence. (C.C.)

THE COUNTERFEITERS

(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.

DRILLBIT TAYLOR

(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 ("The 40-Year-Old Virgin," "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.

FOOL’S GOLD

(D+) Pure pyrite: "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" sweethearts Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey reunite for a labored action romp about newly divorced couple on the trail of long-lost Spanish treasure. A tedious waste of time — especially yours. (112 min.) PG-13; action violence, sexual situations and references, brief nudity, profanity. (C.C.)

FUNNY GAMES

(C+) Austrian writer-director Michael Haneke ("Caché," "The Piano Teacher") serves up a shot-by-shot English-language remake of his 1997 breakthrough, about a vacationing couple (Naomi Watts, Tim Roth) terrorized by a pair of oh-so-polite psychos (Michael Pitt, Brady Corbet). Despite Haneke’s rigorously intellectual approach, these horrific "Funny Games" seem a bit too enamored of the exploitation-like action the movie claims to explore. (112 min.) R; terror, violence, profanity. (C.C.)

THE HAMMER

(B) Jerry (Adam Carolla) has just said goodbye to his live-in girlfriend, his construction job and his 30s. So, naturally, he tries out for the Olympic boxing team. Like its hero, this comedy is basically a good-natured slob. In other words, it’s no classic, but , unlike recent attempts at sports comedy (we’re looking at you, "Semi-Pro"), it comes through by not seeming to try to hard. (90 min.) R; brief profanity.

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.)

IN BRUGES

(C+) Laurel-and-Hardy hit men — one (Colin Farrell) forever getting into not-so-fine messes, the other (Brendan Gleeson) stuck with cleaning them up — bide their time on an enforced vacation in the title Belgian town, awaiting further instructions from their rabid boss (Ralph Fiennes). Playwright-turned-director Martin McDonagh’s off-kilter killers prove diverting, but in trying to balance twisted humor and explosive violence, McDonagh creates a wild yet only sporadically satisfying trip. (107 min.) R; strong bloody violence, pervasive profanity, sexual references, drug use. (C.C.)

JUMPER

(C-) A genetic glitch allows a young man (a sullen Hayden Christensen) to teleport himself anywhere, anytime — and into a centuries-long war between the "jumpers" and their enemies — in "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" director Doug Liman’s sci-fi misfire. Rarely have so many humdrum digital effects and so much expensive location photography been lavished upon so many disagreeable characters (played by, among others, Samuel L. Jackson, Diane Lane and Rachel Bilson). They deserve better; so do we. (88 min.) PG-13; intense action violence, profanity, brief sexuality.

LEATHERHEADS

(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.

MEET THE BROWNS

(C) Laid off from her job, a struggling single mother from inner-city Chicago (Angela Bassett) heads to Georgia for a family funeral — and discovers the down-home Southern relatives she never knew. In other words, it’s more crowd-pandering cheer from the tireless Tyler Perry, the one-man entertainment factory who once again adapts and directs his own stage hit — and reprises his cross-dressing role as the madcap, meddling Madea. (100 min.) PG-13; drug content, profanity, sexual references, mature themes, brief violence.

MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR A DAY

(B) In 1939 London, a starchy, newly unemployed governess ("Fargo’s" Frances McDormand) stumbles into a job as companion to a madcap American singer ("Enchanted’s" Amy Adams), and finds herself catapulted into a dizzying social whirl that transforms her from frump to late-blooming flower. Based on an all-but-forgotten ’30s novel, this nostalgic Cinderella story is a jubilee for McDormand, a scandalously underutilized treasure in Hollywood, and jolly good fun for most everyone else. Including the audience. (92 min.) PG-13; partial nudity, innuendo. (C.C.)

NEVER BACK DOWN

(C-) Extreme martial arts and dark family skeletons vie for center stage in an interminable "Karate Kid"-meets-"Fight Club" workout about a rebellious teen (Tom Cruise lookalike Sean Faris) who tangles with a popular rich kid (Cam Gigandet) at his new high school — and seeks mixed martial arts training from a wise mentor (Djimon Hounsou). This hyperkinetic bash-a-thon leaves no cornball cliché unturned, proving the ancient adage: Stay away from movies with titles providing brainless macho advice. (110 min.) PG-13; mature themes involving intense fighting/violence, sexuality, partying and profanity, all involving teens. (C.C.)

NIM’S ISLAND

(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. The movie’s three parallel stories dilute its power (and its performances), but chances are the kids won’t care. (95 min.) PG; mild adventure action, brief profanity.

ONE MISSED CALL

(C) Yet another Hollywood co-opting of a Japanese horror hit, this remake of 2003’s "Chakushin Ari" admonishes us that personal electronics are the highway to hell, as several people (including Shannyn Sossamon) receive voice-mail messages from the future — including the chilling details of their deaths. Sure, it’s absurd, but it also taps into our concealed fantasies of what we’d like to see happen to people who talk too much on their cell phones. (87 min.) PG-13; intense sequences of violence and terror, frightening images, some sexual material, thematic elements.

THE OTHER BOLEYN GIRL

(B-) Historical hooey: In 16th-century England, two sisters from the powerful Boleyn family — scheming Anne (Natalie Portman) and dreamy Mary (Scarlett Johansson) — vie for the heart (and hot bod) of lusty, zesty King Henry VIII (Eric Bana) in an adaptation of Phillppa Gregory’s best-selling bodice-ripper that suggests a Tudor-era combo of "Mean Girls" and "Desperate Housewives." OK as far as it goes — which is not far enough. (115 min.) PG-13; mature themes, sexual content, violent images.

THE RUINS

(B-) A leisurely Mexican vacation turns terrifying when five tourists (Jonathan Tucker, Jena Malone, Shawn Ashmore, Laura Ramsey and Joe Anderson) leave the beach and venture into the jungle, where they become the main course for malevolent vegetation enveloping a Mayan tomb. The usual gore-and-gristle fare, but served up with a tad more suggestiveness and smarts than usual. (91 min.) R; strong violence and gruesome images, profanity, sexual situations, nudity.

RUN FATBOY RUN

(C+) "Shaun of the Dead’s" Simon Pegg plays a chronic screw-up who takes up long-distance running to show up the smarmy suitor (Hank Azaria) of his ex-fiancee (Thandie Newton). Pegg and his co-stars are charming, but the story gets windy — and winded — as "Friends’ " David Schwimmer, in his big-screen directorial debut, battles to balance the snarkiness and sentimentality. (100 min.) PG-13; rude and sexual humor, nudity, profanity, smoking.

SHINE A LIGHT

(B-) Director Martin Scorsese — who delivered one of the greatest concert docs of all time with 1978’s "The Last Waltz" — focuses on the Rolling Stones’ 2006 "Bigger Bang" gig at New York’s Beacon Theater, contrasting the now-legendary rockers with interview footage from their bad-boys ’60s roots. Despite Scorsese’s efforts to pump up some drama, it’s sorely lacking; this is just a concert film. But at least it’s a concert film with one of the most formidable rock bands of all time. (120 min.) PG-13; brief profanity, drug references, smoking.

SHUTTER

(C) What "The Ring" did for videotapes and "Pulse" did for cell phones, "Shutter" tries to do for cameras, as this remake of a 2004 Thai shocker finds a young photographer (Joshua Jackson) and his new bride (Rachael Taylor) in Japan, where their vehicle suddenly plows into a young girl who appears out of nowhere and mysteriously vanishes — until her face begins materializing everywhere they go. Occasionally, the movie’s banality works in its favor; most of the time, it merely works on your (rapidly disappearing) patience. (83 min.) PG-13; gruesome imagery, sexual themes.

THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES

(B-) After moving (unwillingly) to a rundown estate, twin brothers (one rebellious, one brainiac, both played by Freddie Highmore) and their plucky older sister (Sarah Bolger) battle hobgoblins, trolls and other assorted beasties lurking in the woods. This brisk adaptation of Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black’s fantasy tales overdoes the computer-generated effects, but potent fractured-family themes, plus memorable turns by Nick Nolte (the movie’s resident monster), Mary-Louise Parker (the kids’ embattled mother) and David Strathairn (the inquisitive scientist who started it all) make this an all-ages treat. (97 min.) PG; scary creature action and violence, peril, thematic elements. (C.C.)

STOP-LOSS

(B) "Boys Don’t Cry" director Kimberly Peirce returns, after nine years, with an impassioned drama about troubled Iraq war veterans (Ryan Phillippe, Channing Tatum, Joseph Gordon-Levitt) struggling to readjust to Stateside life — until one of them is ordered back to battle, despite the fact his enlistment is up. Particularly memorable in initial sequences that focus on our heroes’ psychic wounds, "Stop-Loss" loses punch when it shifts from an aftermath-of-war movie to a more conventional road-trip narrative. But powerful performances (especially from Phillippe and Gordon-Levitt) never quit. Neither does this movie’s sense of urgency. (113 min.) R; graphic violence, pervasive profanity. (C.C.)

SUPERHERO MOVIE

(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. Alas, there’s no gas left in the tank (figuratively speaking, that is) of a movie-spoof genre that wore out its welcome as far back as "Scary Movie 2." 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.

21

(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 presence of double Oscar-winner Kevin Spacey (who also produced) as the kids’ calculating mentor, "21" never adds up. Like a gambler who won’t cash in while he’s ahead, "21" keeps playing, hoping another winning hand will turn up even though its luck has run out. (122 min.) PG-13; violence, sexual content including partial nudity. (C.C.)

UNDER THE SAME MOON

(B) Carlitos (adorable Adrian Alonso), a bright 9-year-old living with his grandmother in their native Mexico while his mother (Kate del Castillo) toils as a Los Angeles maid, stows away in a U.S.-bound minivan driven by two students (Jesse Garcia and "Ugly Betty’s" America Ferrera), launching a dauntless quest to reconnect with his mother. Patricia Riggen’s feature-directing debut, a hit at this year’s Sundance film festival, shamelessly piles on the melodrama, but its heartfelt themes and even more heartfelt performances ultimately save the day. In English and Spanish with English subtitles. (109 min.) PG-13; mature themes. (C.C.)

VANTAGE POINT

(C+) You’ve gotta get a gimmick, and this thriller has one, exploring an apparent assassination and terrorist attack at an international summit from multiple perspectives, including those of Secret Service agents (Dennis Quaid, "Lost’s" Matthew Fox), an American tourist (Forest Whitaker), a TV news producer (Sigourney Weaver) and the U.S. president (William Hurt) himself. Alas, once you’ve got a gimmick you’ve gotta know what to do with it, and "Vantage Point" doesn’t, forcing us to try and solve a puzzle with pieces that never fit. (90 min.) PG-13; intense violence and action, disturbing images, brief profanity. (C.C.)

 

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