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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.

BABY MAMA

(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.

BRA BOYS

(B-) This Australian surfing documentary focuses on "one of the most infamous surf tribes in the world," based in the depressed Sydney beach suburb of Maroubra, who fight, carouse and ride the waves. Archival film of bloody confrontations with police and local gangs gives way to knockabout interviews with tribe members and big-wave legends like Laird Hamilton, resulting in a crude, rowdy movie that’s also unexpectedly touching in its embrace of surfing as an escape from the stigma of poverty and broken homes. (90 min.) R; profanity, violent content, reckless behavior.

THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN

(B-) It doesn’t seem quite so magical anymore, but the Penvensie siblings — stalwart Peter (William Moseley), practical Susan (Anna Popplewell), mischievous Edmund (Skandar Keynes) and little Lucy (Georgie Henley) — are back in Narnia nonetheless, helping the title character (dashing Ben Barnes) battle his scheming uncle (Sergio Castellitto) and reclaim his realm. Rousing, if occasionally ponderous, this combat-weary adventure lacks much of the magic that marked 2005’s "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe," but this return trip to Narnia retains its appeal. Just barely. (140 min.) PG; epic battle action, violence. (C.C.)

DEEP SEA 3-D

(B) Get up close and personal with ocean wildlife, unveiled in the reach-out-and-touch weirdness of Imax 3-D 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 3-D: 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." (40 min.) NR; very large, very loud dinosaurs.

88 MINUTES

(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.)

EMMA SMITH: MY STORY

(C+) This melodramatic biography depicts Emma Hale Smith (Katherine Nelson) as a dutiful wife and helpmate to her husband, Joseph Smith Jr. (Nathan Mitchell), despite her struggles during the early history of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, recounting her struggles. Handsomely mounted, rich in visual and historical detail, but so stiflingly reverential that it would be more at home in a Mormon visitor center than a multiplex. (95 min.) PG; mild thematic elements, brief violence.

THE FALL

(C) Visual whiz Tarsem Singh ("The Cell") returns with a loose and infinitely more pretentious remake of the 1981 Bulgarian movie "Yo Ho Ho," set in 1920s Los Angeles, about a paralyzed movie stuntman (Lee Pace) who mesmerizes a hospitalized little girl (Catinca Untaru) with tales of five larger-than-life heroes. Tarsem has style to burn, but his storytelling skills need work, resulting in the kind of movie for which the phrase "you’ve never seen anything like it before" was invented. The question is whether anyone would want to. (118 minutes.) R; violent images.

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.

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.)

INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL

(A) Whip-crackin’ good: Indiana Jones (inimitable, irreplaceable Harrison Ford) returns to derring-duty, reuniting with director Steven Spielberg and executive producer George Lucas for an exhilarating, thrill-a-minute romp that recaptures "Raiders of the Lost Ark’s" gleeful spirit. This time out, it’s 1957, and a graying, gritty Indy teams up with a rebellious teen (Shia LaBeouf) and "Raiders" flame Marion Ravenwood (Karen Allen) to battle Soviet spies (led by Oscar-winner Cate Blanchett) hot on the trail of a mystical Amazon artifact that may hold the key to life on earth — and beyond. Of course it’s ridiculous, but this ridiculously entertaining romp is exactly why popcorn was invented. (124 min.) PG-13; adventure violence, scary images. (C.C.)

IRON MAN

(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-setting 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.)

KUNG FU PANDA

(C) Kung phooey: This computer-animated romp follows the fortunes of roly-poly Po (voiced by Jack Black), a pot-bellied panda who’s plucked from obscurity to train as a martial arts warrior under the tutelage of pint-sized Master Shifu (a wry Dustin Hoffman). Kids will adore the broad slapstick (and maybe even the "you gotta believe" homilies), but the all-star vocal cast (including Jackie Chan, David Cross, Angelina Jolie, Lucy Liu and Ian McShane) is largely wasted and the movie never figures out how mesh its comedic and chop-socky elements. (124 min.) PG; martial arts action. (C.C.)

LIONS 3-D: 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. (40 min.) NR; animal violence.

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.

MYSTERY OF THE NILE

(B+) This Imax documentary, now playing at the Luxor, chronicles the first descent of the Blue Nile from source to sea, a 3,250-mile, 114-day odyssey that brings explorers face-to-face with rapids, crocodiles, bandits, malaria, sandstorms and the fierce desert sun. (47 min.) NR; all ages.

SEA MONSTERS: A PREHISTORIC ADVENTURE

(B+) Go under the sea — and back in time — with this Imax 3-D documentary from National Geographic, now at the Luxor, about the 82-million-year-old creatures that swam the world’s oceans — from the Tylosaurus (the T. rex of the deep) to the most dangerous sea monster of all, the mosasaur. (40 min.) NR; all ages.

SEX AND THE CITY

(C) Let’s not get Carried away: After a four-year hiatus, the HBO comedy’s fab four — Carrie (Sarah Jessica Parker), Samantha (Kim Cattrall), Miranda (Cynthia Nixon) and Charlotte (Kristin Davis) — return for what feels like an entire season of shoe love, true love and everything in between, all crammed into one loooooooooong sitting. Fans undoubtedly will revel in every bloated moment, but because this never finds a middle ground between its TV roots and its big-screen incarnation, those who never acquired an addiction to the series may wonder what the frenzy was, and is, all about. (145 min.) R; strong sexual situations, graphic nudity, profanity. (C.C.)

SON OF RAMBOW

(B) During a sleepy ’80s summer, two British boys armed with a video camera — one (Bill Milner) a member of a strict religious sect, the other (Will Poulter) a school terror who makes bizarre home movies — come up a pirated copy of the first "Rambo" movie, which inspires them to make their own, home-grown tribute. This charmer from writer-director Garth Jennings ("The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy") dusts the clichés off the coming-of-age movie with its flashback to the stone age of VHS and VCR technology — and to the timelessness of the central characters’ clumsiness and innocence. (96 min.) PG-13 for violence, reckless behavior.

SPEED RACER

(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’s out to avenge his brother’s death. Not even a supporting cast featuring John Goodman and Susan Sarandon (as Speed’s supportive parents) and Christina Ricci (as his sassy girlfriend Trixie) can breathe life into a 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.)

THE STRANGERS

(D) Three masked assailants (Gemma Ward, Kip Weeks, Laura Margolis) terrorize a young couple (Liv Tyler, Scott Speedman) staying at a secluded vacation home. Writer and first-time director Bryan Bertino wastes his taut, tense premise — two lovers, three villains, one house — by letting his imagination run mild: loud noises, faces popping up in windows, menacing messages scrawled in red. The movie may think it’s staring bravely into some moral abyss, but it’s really just a disappointing downer. (85 min.) R; violence/terror, profanity.

THEN SHE FOUND ME

(B+) Helen Hunt, as tightly wound as a ukulele string, makes her directorial debut and stars in this bittersweet tale about a teacher undergoing the mother of all midlife crises when she meets her birth mother (played with polished nuance by Caesars Palace headliner Bette Midler) just as her adoptive mom dies — and her Peter Pan of a husband (Matthew Broderick) leaves her. Colin Firth (as a divorced dad seeking her favor) almost steals the show, thanks to his stoic grace and wiry moodiness, especially because Hunt’s character presents such a stern challenge to an audience’s collective sympathy. (100 min.) R; profanity, sexual content.

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 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.)

THE VISITOR

(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.)

YOU DON’T MESS WITH THE ZOHAN

(B-) Adam Sandler plays an Israeli secret agent who, tired of endless stand-offs with his Palenstinian nemesis (John Turturro), fakes his death so he can reinvent himself — as a New York hairstylist. Sure, there’s the familiar Jewvenile humor, but this crude, idiotic, ridiculous romp also happens to be flat-out hilarious — and Sandler’s funniest film in years, less about a manic manchild than it is a raunchily wholesome message movie that deploys stereotypes in order to smash them. (113 min.) PG-13; crude and sexual content, profanity, nudity.

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