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.
DEEP SEA 3D
(B) Get up close and personal with ocean wildlife, unveiled in the reach-out-and-touch weirdness of IMAX 3D 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 3D: 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." Paleontologist Rodolfo Coria proves a congenial tour guide, while Donald Sutherland’s droll narration emphasizes a quality all but extinct in large-format documentaries: humor. (40 min.) NR; very large, very loud dinosaurs.
(C-) Any movie that advocates random acts of kindness can’t be all bad. But this sort-of sequel to 2003’s "Bruce Almighty" proves not good, as obnoxious anchorman Evan Baxter (anxious Steve Carell), newly elected to Congress, finds an even greater calling when the Almighty (seen-it-all Morgan Freeman) instructs him to make like Noah and build an ark. This lame-brain exercise in strained sanctimony botches both of its goals: to make you laugh and (horrors!) make you think. That’s a mission: impossible for all but the most assured movies; this isn’t one of them. (95 min.) PG; mild rude humor, some peril. (C.C.)
(C+) Even with magical ingredients, the spell doesn’t always take, as in this classy but inert drama, based on Susan Minot’s novel, about a dying woman (Vanessa Redgrave) who recalls the man (Patrick Wilson) who got away 50 years before. Even Claire Danes (as Redgrave’s coltish younger self), Natasha Richardson (Redgrave’s daughter), Toni Collette, Glenn Close, Meryl Streep — and Streep’s lookalike daughter Mamie Gummer — in the cast, this vacillates between who-cares reserve and melodramatic overkill, displaying the kind of well-meaning artificiality no one could ever possibly mistake for real life. (117 min.) PG-13; mature themes, profanity, sexual content, a brief accident scene. (C.C.)
FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER
(C+) It’s clobberin’ time! But maybe yawnin’ would be a more appropriate response to the Marvel-ous foursome’s second big-screen adventure, as a new metallic menace (played by Doug Jones, voiced by Laurence Fishburne), plus returning nemesis Victor Von Doom (Julian McMahon), give the title quartet (Ioan Gruffudd, Jessica Alba, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis) plenty of trouble. Between the special-effects set pieces and multiple villains, this movie doesn’t have much time for, or interest in, its title characters. As a result, neither do we. (89 min.) PG; action violence, mild profanity and innuendo. (C.C.)
(B) Wild blue yonder: Nellis Air Force Base zooms into the giant-screen spotlight with this IMAX documentary, now at the Luxor, focusing on Red Flag combat training exercises. The midair sequences are almost sickeningly exhilarating, but plodding on-the-ground portions seem earthbound. (48 min.) NR; all ages.
(B-) A writer (John Cusack) who specializes in debunking paranormal phenomena at supposedly "haunted" inns checks into a notorious New York City hotel — and confronts true terror — in this Stephen King adaptation with Samuel L. Jackson and Mary McCormack. Not interesting enough to linger in the mind, but at least it provides jack-in-the-box chills without an avalanche of torture and decapitated body parts. (94 min.) PG-13; disturbing sequences of violence and terror, frightening images, profanity.
HOSTEL: PART II
(C) Talk about hostile: there’s more gore in store at writer-director Eli Roth’s sinister Slovakian hotel, where three American exchange students (Lauren German, Bijou Phillips, Heather Matarazzo) join a model from one of their art classes (Vera Jordanova) for a getaway stay that threatens to slay them — literally. Sure, it’s graphic (and gratuitous), but that’s the point. And Roth is darn good at making it — repeatedly. (93 min.) R; sadistic scenes of torture and bloody violence, terror, nudity, sexual content, profanity, drug use.
(B) The "40-Year-Old Virgin" team of writer-director Judd Apatow and co-stars Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann reunites for this seriously hilarious (and surprisingly sweet) tale of a drunken one-night stand and its all-too-permanent aftermath, as a rising cable TV reporter ("Grey’s Anatomy’s" Katherine Heigl) discovers she’s expecting — and that a chubby, schlubby stoner (Rogen, a leading man at long last) is the equally shocked papa-to-be. (132 min.) R; sexual situations, drug use, nudity, profanity. (C.C.)
LIONS 3D: 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. It’s not a new movie, but this remastered giant-screen version, now at the Luxor’s IMAX theater, has been magically transformed: you’re not merely there, you’re a lion, an honorary member of the pride. (40 min.) NR; animal violence.
LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD
(C+) Yippie-ki-yay, y’all! After 12 years, the unstoppable John McClane (Bruce Willis) is once again tossed into a maelstrom of exploding machinery and impending disaster, this time from various corners of cyberspace as Internet terrorists plot to shut down the U.S. economy. As long as you understand that it’s nothing more (or less) than a three-ring festival of intricate stunts and pyrotechnic effects, punctuated with clown routines and wisecracks that fly around almost as much as the shrapnel, you may not mind that it’s about a half-hour too long. (130 min.) PG-13; violence, profanity.
A MIGHTY HEART
(C+) Marianne Pearl’s memoir about the life and death of her late husband, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl (who was kidnapped and beheaded by militants in Pakistan in 2002), inspires a well-meaning drama undercut by director Michael Winterbottom’s hyperkinetic visuals — and star Angelina Jolie’s inability to disappear inside her role and sidestep her tabloid-fodder image. Alas, this movie can’t quite bridge the gap between well-meaning dramatization and genuine dramatic tension. (108 min.) R; profanity, mature themes. (C.C.)
(C+) A respected businessman, husband and father (a surprisingly convincing Kevin Costner) battles his maniacal alter-ego (gleefully evil William Hurt), who transforms him into a serial killer. Dane Cook co-stars as a voyeur who catches him in the act — and blackmails him so he can learn his murderous ways; Demi Moore’s the detective on everybody’s trail. Despite Costner and Hurt’s Jekyll-and-Hyde dynamic, "Mr. Brooks" suffers from plodding pacing that makes us more anxious to get things moving than to learn the characters’ fates. (120 min.) R; strong bloody violence, graphic sexual content, nudity, profanity. (C.C.)
MYSTERY OF THE NILE
(B+) This IMAX documentary, 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.
(B-) Clued in: The venerable title sleuth, who’s been thrilling generations of kids since 1930, proves equally at home in the 21st century, solving a legendary Hollywood homicide while surviving the challenge of being the new girl in school. Despite a contemporary setting, this adventure takes its cue from its oh-so-retro heroine, embodied by Roberts (Eric’s daughter, Julia’s niece) with crisp aplomb. (99 min.) PG; mild violence, brief profanity, thematic elements. (C.C.)
(B-) Honor among thieves: When a megalomaniacal casino mogul (Al Pacino) double-crosses Reuben (Elliott Gould) just before the opening of the Strip’s latest megaresort, Danny (George Clooney) and the gang (including Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Carl Reiner, Bernie Mac, Don Cheadle and Andy Garcia) reunite in Neon Nirvana to avenge their pal. This second sequel to the 2001 remake of the original 1960 Rat Pack romp (whew!) cruises along on the easy camaraderie and roguish charm of its all-star cast — and the filmmaking savvy of its almost-slumming director, Oscar-winner Steven Soderbergh. (122 min.) PG-13; brief sexual references. (C.C.)
(A-) This year’s Sundance Film Festival yielded nothing as widely beloved as writer-director John Carney’s captivating, winningly low-tech tale of a an Irish guitarist (real-life rocker Glen Hansard) and a Czech émigré pianist (Markéta Irglová) who meet on a Dublin street corner and literally make beautiful music together. No matter your musical tastes, "Once" will reinforce your belief in the power of melody and harmony to heal one’s inner wounds. (88 min.) R; profanity.
PARIS, JE T’AIME
(B) The City of Lights inspires this cinematic love letter from such directors as Joel and Ethan Coen, Wes Craven, Alfonso Cuaron, Alexander Payne, Walter Salles, Tom Tykwer and Gus Van Sant, who explore legendary neighborhoods in segments featuring, among others, Juliette Binoche, Steve Buscemi, Willem Dafoe, Gerard Depardieu, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Bob Hoskins, Nick Nolte, Natalie Portman, Gena Rowlands and Elijah Wood. With 18 pieces in all, there’s something here to tantalize everyone’s taste. In English and French with English subtitles. (120 min.) R; profanity, brief drug use, sexual situations.
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD’S END
(B-) Yo ho-hum — and then some — as this rollicking buccaneer band gets a few new hands on deck (including Chow Yun-Fat as a Singapore pirate lord) and resurrects some old friends — notably Geoffrey Rush as the scoundrelly Barbossa and, inevitably, the deliriously swishbuckling Capt. Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), who’d never let a little thing like being trapped in the limbo of Davy Jones’ Locker interrupt his (or our) fun. This movie could use a lot more Depp (what movie couldn’t?), but for all its blockbuster bombast, it delivers enough rib-tickling hijinks to power through occasional rough seas. (168 min.) PG-13; intense action/adventure sequences, frightening images. (C.C.)
(B+) "Incredibles" writer-director Brad Bird strikes again, serving up the summer’s tastiest animated treat — literally and figuratively — as Remy, a rat with gourmet sensibilities teams with a hapless kitchen helper to restore an on-the-skids Paris restaurant to its former glory. With an all-star vocal cast (including Ian Holm, Janeane Garofalo, Brad Garrett, Brian Dennehy and, as a vicious restaurant critic, Peter O’Toole) and inventive slapstick routines recalling legendary silent clowns Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, "Ratatouille" ranks as a major cinematic feast for kids of all ages. Dig in — and bon appetit! (110 min.) G; mild cartoon violence. (C.C.)
SHREK THE THIRD
(C+) Talk about your middle-aged spread: the latest installment in the fractured fairy-tale franchise proves it’s tough to generate laughs when we already know the joke. This time around, the title ogre (once again voiced by Mike Myers) and pals Donkey (Eddie Murphy) and Puss in Boots (Antonio Banderas) search for an heir to the throne of Far, Far Away, while Prince Charming (Rupert Everett) plots to seize power with a little help from his villainous f(r)iends. (93 min.) PG; crude humor, suggestive content, swashbuckling action. (C.C.)
(B+) Open wide — and say "Ouch!" — as cinematic muckraker Michael Moore makes a wry, passionate, characteristically irreverent and ultimately infuriating inquiry into the state of America’s health care industry and the millions of Americans who can’t afford it. "Sicko" overflows with horror tales of America’s uninsured, under-insured and insured (many of whom still can’t get medical treatment), but Moore’s impish irreverence injects welcome humor into a painful subject. You may laugh until your sides ache — until you remember that this is no laughing matter. (116 min.) PG-13; brief profanity. (C.C.)
(B-) The third time’s hardly the charm in a diverting but less-than-equal sequel (also in IMAX at the Palms), as our friendly neighborhood webslinger (Tobey Maguire) confronts his dark side, quarrels with a whiny Mary Jane (Kirsten Dunst) and battles three villains (James Franco, Thomas Haden Church, Topher Grace). It all adds up to too many plot twists and not enough plot, too many characters and not enough character. (139 min.) PG-13; intense action violence. (C.C.)
(B-) Following "Happy Feet’s" singing and dancing penguins, this computer-animated mockumentary focuses on motion in the ocean as newcomer Cody Maverick takes the annual Penguin World Surfing Championship by storm — and revives the life of a washed-up beach bum. Hardly the stuff of legend, but undeniably pleasant, thanks to a top-chop vocal cast (led by "Disturbia’s" Shia LaBeouf and veteran dude Jeff Bridges) and hypnotic water imagery that’s the best since the instant-classic "Finding Nemo." (85 min.) PG; mild profanity, rude humor. (C.C.)
(B+) A pregnant, small-town waitress (winsome Keri Russell) finds herself caught between an unhappy marriage to a possessive lout (Jeremy Sisto) and a risky affair with her dreamy new doctor (Nathan Fillion) in a bittersweet slice of life that’s a little flaky, yet undeniably tasty. Writer-director Adrienne Shelly (who co-stars with "Curb Your Enthusiasm’s" Cheryl Hines and old pro Andy Griffith) finds the humor in the movie’s heartfelt observations — and the shadows lurking beneath its sunny disposition. (104 min.) PG-13; sexual situations, profanity, brief violence, mature themes. (C.C.)