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 (TV’s "My Name Is Earl") 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). Winner of one Academy Award: best original score. (123 min.) R; disturbing war images, profanity, sexual situations. (C.C.)
THE BANK JOB
(B) In 1971 London, a motley crew of 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 that they’re scoring a record haul — including salacious photos incriminating a royal. It’s a tangled web that "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, setting the suspenseful (and supremely ironic) climax in motion. (111 min.) R; sexual content, nudity, violence, profanity. (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 "Science of Sleep" writer-director Michel Gondry, but a bigger-than-average heart saves the day — and the movie. (100 min.) PG-13; sexual references.
(B-) A new Idaho widow (Jessica Lange) and her best friends (Kathy Bates, Joan Allen) hit the road in a cherry-red 1966 Pontiac convertible, bound for California on a life-changing odyssey filled with laughter, tears — and an unexpected date in Las Vegas. "Thelma and Louise" it ain’t. Yet despite its soothingly familiar itinerary, "Bonneville’s" enormously winning star trio makes it a trip worth taking — even if it seems, as it often does, that we’ve driven this route many times before. (103 min.) PG; mild profanity and innuendo. (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 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 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.)
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.
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.
(C+) Or 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 min..) PG-13; sexual content, profanity, smoking. (C.C.)
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.
(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, delightfully dunderheaded), 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. Alessandro Nivola and Parker Posey (let’s hope they both got fat paychecks) co-star in a preposterous remake of a Hong Kong horror hit that was — surprise! — far more compelling before it got lost in translation. (97 min.) PG-13; violence/terror and disturbing content.
(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 long-lost Spanish treasure. Donald Sutherland (as a globe-trotting billionaire), Ray Winstone (a rival treasure-hunter), Kevin Hart (a treasure-lusting rapper) and his henchmen (Malcolm Jamal-Warner, Brian Hooks) co-star; let’s hope they all enjoyed their tropical trek, because the movie they brought back is a tedious waste of time — especially yours. (112 min.) PG-13; action violence, sexual situations and references, brief nudity, profanity. (C.C.)
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. The movie’s depiction of a post-apocalyptic New York City is suitably creepy, but director Francis Lawrence ("Constantine") zooms through fleeting food-for-thought passages to get to the action. (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 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). They deserve better; so do we. (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 du jour 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. Winner of one Academy Award: best original screenplay. (92 min.) PG-13; mature themes, sexual situations, profanity. (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.
MISS PETTIGREW LIVES FOR A DAY
(B) In 1939 London, a newly unemployed governess (Frances McDormand) becomes social secretary to an American singer and actress ("Enchanted’s" Amy Adams) — and finds herself catapulted into a dizzying, glamorous social whirl that transforms her from frump to 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.
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.
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. Silly, breezy escapism with nothing on its mind but unpretentious fun. (124 min.) PG; action violence.
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.
P.S. I LOVE YOU
(C+) A young widow (tearfully gallant Hilary Swank) tries to rebuild her life, following instructions left by her late husband ("300’s" Gerard Butler). Swank’s "Freedom Writers" director, Richard LaGravenese tries to cool down the mostly overheated farrago of sentiment, self-help and romantic cliché that marks this seven-hankie weepie featuring Gina Gershon, Kathy Bates, Lisa Kudrow (will someone please give this woman her own movie already?) and Harry Connick Jr. (126 min.) PG-13; sexual references, brief nudity.
(B) Returning to Las Vegas after its U.S. premiere at 2007’s CineVegas film festival, this modern-day fairy tale focuses on a lovely young heiress (Christina Ricci), who’s cursed with a pig’s snout for a nose — and an overbearing mother (Catherine O’Hara) anxious to marry her off to the first male blue blood ("Atonement’s" James McAvoy) who can stand to be in the same room with her. Ah, but looks can prove deceiving — in all sorts of ways — as this whimsical charmer demonstrates, at least to tween girls and soft-hearted romantics of all ages. (102 min.) PG; profanity, innuendo, mature themes. (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. Indeed, the battle sequences are so muddled in execution we can’t tell who’s killing whom, which may have been the point. But knowing Stallone, and Rambo, it’s doubtful. (102 min.) R; strong graphic bloody violence, sexual assaults, grisly images, profanity.
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.
(C) Quibble and dribble: Once again, Will Ferrell drapes his goofy man-child persona in 1970s polyester as the owner-coach-power forward of an American Basketball Association franchise on its last legs. The setups are promising, but the payoffs are as flat as an airless red-white-and-blue ball, even with Woody Harrelson, André "3000" Benjamin, "ER’s" Maura Tierney, Jackie Earle Haley and Ferrell’s "Blades of Glory" co-stars Will Arnett, Rob Corddry and Andy Richter on the team. (90 min.) R; profanity, sexual content.
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 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.)
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, daughter of actor Greg 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.
(D+) A young mammoth hunter (Steven Strait) leads a warrior band through uncharted territory to secure his post-Ice Age tribe’s future — and save his sweetheart (Camilla Belle) — in this tedious, ludicrous (but harmless) prehistoric epic from bombastic "Day After Tomorrow" director Roland Emmerich. It’s a low-test "Apocalypto," minus Mel Gibson’s gore-mongering and narrative drive. If only Emmerich took as much care with his human characters as with inanimate objects and CGI animals. (109 min.) PG-13; intense action and violence.
THERE WILL BE BLOOD
(A-) Writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson ("Magnolia") finally 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 Oscar-winner 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. Winner of two Academy Awards: best actor (Day-Lewis) and cinematography. (158 min.) PG-13; violence. (C.C.)
(B-) Here’s a toast to this semi-sparkling romantic comedy about a perennial bridesmaid ("Knocked Up’s" 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.)
(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.)