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.
ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS
(C+) Everybody’s favorite singing chipmunks add rap to their repertoire in a live-action/animation combo starring Jason Lee as David Seville, who loses control of the computer-generated title cuties (voiced by Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler and Jesse McCartney) to an evil music executive. (92 min.) PG; mild rude humor.
(B) Keira Knightley reunites with "Pride & Prejudice" director Joe Wright for an admirable, if less than enthralling, adaptation of Ian McEwan’s novel, set in 1935 Britain, about a precocious 13-year-old (Saoirse Ronan), who misinterprets the romance between a servant’s son ("The Last King of Scotland’s" James McAvoy) and her older sister (Knightley). (123 min.) R; disturbing war images, profanity, sexual situations. (C.C.)
BE KIND REWIND
(B-) When a dimwit mechanic (Jack Black) becomes caught in an electromagnetic field, his magnetized presence accidentally erases the tapes in a video store run by his childhood pal (Mos Def), forcing the duo to star in remakes of everything from "King Kong" to "Citizen Kane." (And nobody knows or cares about the difference.) A thin, airy premise threatens to dissolve this whimsical fable from writer-director Michel Gondry, but a bigger-than-average heart saves the movie. (100 min.) PG-13; sexual references.
(B — what else?) Just out of college, bee student Barry B. Benson (voiced by Jerry Seinfeld, who also co-writes) rebels and ventures outside the hive, where he encounters a sympathetic florist (voiced by Renée Zellweger) — and decides to sue the human race for stealing honey. (90 min.) PG; mild suggestive humor.
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 duo of Nicholson and Freeman, 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.)
(B-) After he’s kicked out of private school — again — 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, pill-popping 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.)
CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR
(B) Finally, a movie about America’s (mis)adventures in Afghanistan that’s actually entertaining, focusing on a good-time Texas congressman (a wry Tom Hanks), a right-wing Houston socialite (a sly Julia Roberts) and a rogue CIA agent (Philip Seymour Hoffman, in another grand-slam portrayal) teaming up to funnel money and weapons to Mujahedin rebels after the 1979 Soviet invasion. (97 min.) R; profanity, sexual situations, nudity, drug use. (C.C.)
(C-) There Will Be Motion Sickness: Something (or some thing) strange and dangerous is rampaging around New York in "Lost" producer J.J. Abrams’ apocalyptic monster stomp, which pulls the plug on a party full of interchangeable 20-somethings who prove their vapidity with nitwit swiftness — and then hang around, making it even easier for the unidentified beastie to put the bite on them. Alas, we have to sit through an entire movie of shaky-vidcam hokum before they get theirs. No wonder I was rooting for the monster to end it all. Bring Dramamine, or a barf bag, if you’re susceptible to motion sickness. Better yet, steer clear. (105 min.) PG-13; violence, terror, disturbing images. (C.C.)
(C+) Maybe not: A 30-something political consultant (Ryan Reynolds) tries to explain his romantic past to his inquisitive 10-year-old daughter ("Little Miss Sunshine’s" Abigail Breslin), who wants to know everything about her dad’s love life with three very different women (Elizabeth Banks, Isla Fisher, Rachel Weisz). They’re all appealing, which is more than we can say, at times, for a disjointed romantic comedy from writer-director Adam Brooks ("Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason") that strains to realize its smart, rueful potential. (105 minutes.) PG-13; sexual content, profanity, smoking. (C.C.)
DIARY OF THE DEAD
(C-) While shooting a horror movie, film students (Joshua Close, Michelle Morgan) encounter real-life zombies in "Night of the Living Dead" director George A. Romero’s latest creature feature. Alas, Romero’s fifth "Dead" movie in four decades seems almost dead-on-arrival. (95 min.) R; horror violence and gore, profanity, adult themes.
(B) When an evil queen (Susan Sarandon) zaps storybook princess Giselle (enchanting Amy Adams) to modern-day Manhattan to get her away from her princely stepson (James Marsden, Giselle’s new surroundings — and a dreamy divorce lawyer (Patrick Dempsey) — alter her happily-ever-after plans. This fractured fairy tale succumbs to computerized effects overkill at the end, but until then it’s a tuneful Disney charmer that salutes and spoofs studio traditions. (107 min.) PG; scary images, mild innuendo. (C.C.)
(D+) Following a corneal transplant, a blind violinist (laughably miscast Jessica Alba) recovers her sight, but is tormented by strange, shadowy images, which may be her imagination — or visions of a terrifying supernatural world. (97 min.) PG-13; violence/terror and disturbing content.
(C) We wuz robbed: Ice Cube and Tracy Morgan lumber about as a pair of serial petty crooks with their eyes on a church collection plate. Choir director Katt Williams, peeking out from under a Little Richard fright wig, coaxes most of the laughs in this so-called heist comedy. (98 min.) PG-13; profanity, sexual humor, brief drug references.
(D+) Pure pyrite: "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days" sweethearts Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey reunite for an "as-if" action romp about newly divorced couple on the trail of Spanish treasure. Donald Sutherland (as a globe-trotting billionaire), Ray Winstone (a rival treasure-hunter), and Kevin Hart (a treasure-lusting rapper) co-star; let’s hope they all enjoyed their tropical trek, because the movie they brought back is a tedious waste of everyone’s time. (112 min.) PG-13; action violence, sexual situations and references, brief nudity, profanity. (C.C.)
HANNAH MONTANA & MILEY CYRUS: BEST OF BOTH WORLDS CONCERT
(B-) It’s screaming-tweenie time as the Disney Channel’s singing sensation takes the stage in a 3-D concert film, with Miley Cyrus appearing as herself — and her TV alter ego, rock princess Hannah Montana. The 3-D camera throws drumsticks and confetti in our faces, but the technical effects seem superfluous to the star’s bona fide energy. (74 min.) G; all ages.
I AM LEGEND
(C+) Will Smith steps into the roomy shoes of Charlton Heston (1971’s "The Omega Man") and Vincent Price (1964’s "The Last Man on Earth"), playing the last uninfected survivor of a cataclysmic plague that’s transformed fellow survivors into ravenous vampires. (100 min.) PG-13; intense sci-fi action, violence. (C.C.)
(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 picturesque Belgian town of Bruges, 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 glaring shifts in tone that make this a wild yet only sporadically satisfying trip. (107 min.) R; strong bloody violence, pervasive profanity, sexual references, drug use. (C.C.)
(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). (88 min.) PG-13; intense action violence, profanity, brief sexuality.
(B) Major critical buzz (only some of it deserved) surrounds this witty comedy-drama, from screenwriter Diablo Cody, about a wisecracking high school misfit (a deadpan Ellen Page), pregnant by her boyfriend ("Superbad’s" Michael Cera), who finds a seemingly perfect couple (Jason Bateman, Jennifer Garner) to adopt the baby. Mostly a delight, if a bit too self-consciously clever for its own good. (92 min.) PG-13; mature themes, sexual situations, profanity. (C.C.)
MEET THE SPARTANS
(D-) How do you make fun of something that was already dangerously close to self-parody? Badly, in turns out, in an alleged "300" spoof that finds 13 strapping warriors (led by erstwhile TV Hercules Kevin Sorbo) attempting to defend their homeland from invading Persians — and a few dirt-cheap laughs. (94 min.) PG-13; crude and sexual content, profanity, comic violence.
NATIONAL TREASURE: BOOK OF SECRETS
(B-) Dauntless treasure hunter Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicolas Cage) returns for more fractured history lessons and Indiana Jones-ing as he searches for 18 missing pages from the diary of Abraham Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth — which could prove the key to an international conspiracy. (124 min.) PG; action violence.
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN
(A) The Coen brothers, Joel and Ethan, get back to basics with an instant-classic adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel of the wild New West, finding deadpan humor on the blood-soaked trail of a crime spree gone wrong, as a good ol’ boy (Josh Brolin) finds $2 million at the site of a botched drug deal — and flees from a spectral psycho killer (a stunning Javier Bardem) who wants his money back. Tommy Lee Jones rounds out the superb starring trio as a sheriff who wonders where the code of the West went. (122 min.) R; strong graphic violence, profanity, nudity. (C.C.)
(C) After 20 years, Sylvester Stallone revives America’s favorite mercenary, who stirs from his sullen stupor to rescue missionaries from ruthless Burmese soldiers fighting a decades-long civil war. Not as bombastic as its predecessors, which is both its blessing and its curse. (102 min.) R; strong graphic bloody violence, sexual assaults, grisly images, profanity.
(B+) Struggling 40-something siblings (Laura Linney, Philip Seymour Hoffman) struggle even more when their ailing dad (Philip Bosco) slips into dementia, forcing them to do right by someone who never did right by them. This astringent comedy-drama from writer-director Tamara Jenkins ("Slums of Beverly Hills") nails the psychic maelstrom of the nursing-home blues so precisely you may find yourself squirming in your seat — or laughing because it hurts too much to cry. (113 min.) R; sexuality, profanity. (C.C.)
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 (as the movie’s resident monster), Mary-Louise Parker (as the kids’ embattled mother) and David Strathairn (as the scientist who started it all) make this an all-ages treat. (97 min.) PG; scary creature action and violence, peril, thematic elements. (C.C.)
STEP UP 2 THE STREETS
(C-) Been there, danced that: In this sequel to the 2006 sleeper, romantic sparks strike between a street dancer (Briana Evigan) and a new classmate (Robert Hoffman) at the Maryland School of the Arts. Less a sequel than a variation on a theme, this dance movie can move — which is fortunate, because the rest of it, from the predictable class conflicts to sanitized keeping-it-real bluster, is too leaden to get off the ground. (98 min.) PG-13; profanity, sexual references, brief violence.
THERE WILL BE BLOOD
(A-) Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson ("Magnolia") gets out of his own quirky way to spread his filmmaking wings with an epic adaptation of Upton Sinclair’s "Oil!" about the showdown between a budding oil baron (powerhouse Daniel Day-Lewis) and a neophyte preacher (Paul Dano) in early 20th-century California. A bit overlong and over-the-top, this gripping study of all-American greed and rapaciousness signals Anderson has finally struck gold — black gold. (158 min.) PG-13; violence. (C.C.)
(B-) Here’s a toast to this semi-sparkling romantic comedy about a perennial bridesmaid (Katherine Heigl), whose fixation on other people’s weddings — and the lack of romance in her own life — makes her a prime target for a cynical reporter ("Enchanted’s" James Marsden) desperate to escape the wedding beat. As frilly and fluffy as the title attire, but a nimble cast and an insouciant spirit make this more fun than its by-the-numbers plot indicates. (107 min.) PG-13; profanity, innuendo and sexuality. (C.C.)
(B) This IMAX 3-D concert documentary, filmed in South America on the last leg of U2’s 2005-2006 "Vertigo" tour, captures the Irish superband in action, from close-ups of Bono to sold-out soccer stadiums of frenzied fans. Cinematically, it’s nothing special, but it works so well because the concert is so well-executed. (92 min.) G; all ages.
(C-) Bringing new meaning to the term "Internet hit," an FBI agent Diane Lane) races against the clock to catch a psycho who displays his graphic murders online — with visitors to the site determining how fast his captives die. Lane is, as always, fascinating, but this abhorrent cyberthriller exploits the inhumanity of torture as it cynically condemns Internet rubberneckers (and by extension, moviegoers) for watching it. (111 min.) R; strong gruesome violence, profanity.
(C+) You’ve gotta get a gimmick, and this topical 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, it’s not enough to have a gimmick — you’ve gotta know what to do with it, and "Vantage Point" doesn’t, forcing us to solve a puzzle where the pieces never fit together. (90 min.) PG-13; intense violence and action, disturbing images, brief profanity. (C.C.)
WELCOME HOME, ROSCOE JENKINS
(C) A big TV star (Martin Lawrence) gets cut down to size when he heads south to join his extended family for his parents’ 50th anniversary celebration, reconnecting with old rivals (Cedric the Entertainer) and old flames (Nicole Ari Parker) alike. Despite a promising premise and an all-star cast (including James Earl Jones, Michael Clarke Duncan, Mo’Nique and Mike Epps), this recycles so much material it’s a wonder the film stock didn’t turn green during filming. (114 min.) PG-13; sexual content, profanity, drug references. (C.C.)
(F) If you need a GPS unit to find your own backside, you’ll laugh uproariously at this aptly-named attempted comedy, in which a bumbling small-town deputy (played, inevitably, by Larry the Cable Guy) rushes to rescue a kidnap victim (Ivana Milicevic) who turns out to be a protected federal witness. There’s an air of desperation surrounding this witless-as-promised outing. (100 minutes.) PG-13; crude and sex-related humor.