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.
(C) A cliché grows in Brooklyn: “Diner”-meets-“Manhattan Melodrama”-meets you name it in a thuddingly familiar crime drama of three buddies forging separate identities in 1980s Bay Ridge. Freddie Prinze Jr., Scott Caan and Jerry Ferrara are the friends; Alec Baldwin (in a vivid performance) is the evil mob- world influence. (99 min.) R; violence, pervasive profanity, sexual content.
(D) Torture porn strikes again as boy meets girl — in a dungeon where Jennifer (Elisha Cuthbert) awakens, after downing a spiked appletini at a Manhattan club, to discover that she’s the prisoner of a wacko who’s also abducted a pretty boy (Daniel Gillies) for some gruesome games. This slick, sick sleaze is devoid of suspense, humor or vicarious visceral thrills. Director Roland Joffé’s come a long way (down) from “The Killing Fields” and “The Mission.” (88 min.) R; strong violence, torture, pervasive terror, grisly images, profanity, sexual material.
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, delivering strained, lame-brain sanctimony 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. (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 with 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, “Evening” vacillates between who-cares reserve and melodramatic overkill, displaying the kind of well-meaning artificiality no one could ever 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) trouble. Between the special effects 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. This Stephen King adaptation, with Samuel L. Jackson and Mary McCormack, isn’t 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.
(B+) In early 20th-century Sicily, an illiterate widower (Vincenzo Amato) embarks on an arduous journey to America, encountering a mysterious Englishwoman (Charlotte Gainsbourg) who’s also hoping to find a a new life in the New World. Writer-director Emanuele Crialese delivers a wildly imaginative gem, a meditation on pilgrimage and what it requires of one’s soul and spirit. In English and Italian with English subtitles. (120 min.) PG-13; brief graphic nudity.
HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX
(B-) Familiarity breeds contentment, not contempt, in the bleak fifth chapter of J.K. Rowling’s beloved tales, which finds an authoritarian bureaucrat (the smilingly sinister Imelda Staunton) seizing power at Hogwarts magic academy — and casting a suspicious eye on Harry (quietly intense Daniel Radcliffe), who rebels when the powers-that-be doubt that villainous Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has returned. Not great or wildly imaginative, but good enough to get the job done. (138 min.) PG-13; fantasy violence, frightening images. (C.C.)
(B) The “40-Year-Old Virgin” team (writer-director Judd Apatow and co-stars Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann) reunites for a seriously hilarious yet 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.)
LICENSE TO WED
(D+) Dreaming of a traditional wedding, a newly engaged couple (Mandy Moore, “The Office’s” John Krasinski) schedules the big event, but can’t get the blessing of a charismatic church pastor (Robin Williams) — until they complete his patented marriage-prep course. Christine Taylor and De Ray Davis round out the cast of this alleged comedy where love goes out the window, followed by wit and good taste. It’s a one-joke affair — and that one joke isn’t even funny. (100 min.) PG-13; sexual humor, profanity.
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. 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 might not even mind that it’s too long. (130 min.) PG-13; violence, profanity.
THE LIVES OF OTHERS
(A-) This year’s Oscar winner for best foreign-language film — a remarkably assured debut by writer-director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck — takes place in 1984 East Germany, where a Communist Party loyalist (Ulrich Muhe), a captain in the secret police, is assigned to spy on a playwright (Sebastian Koch) and his live-in actress girlfriend (“Mostly Martha’s” Martine Gedeck). It works beautifully, both as a social and psychological drama and as a taut, tightly wired thriller. In German with English subtitles. (137 min.) R; sexual situations, nudity.
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-) Honor among thieves: When a megalomaniacal casino mogul (Al Pacino) double-crosses Reuben (Elliott Gould) 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 for revenge in Neon Nirvana. 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. (122 min.) PG-13; brief sexual references. (C.C.)
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 Davy Jones’ Locker interrupt his (or our) fun. This could use a lot more Depp (what movie couldn’t?), but 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 serves up the summer’s tastiest animated treat as Remy, a rat with gourmet sensibilities, teams with a hapless kitchen helper to restore an on-the-skids Paris restaurant to glory. With an all-star vocal cast (including Ian Holm, Janeane Garofalo, Brad Garrett and, as the restaurant critic from hell, 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.)
SHORTCUT TO HAPPINESS
(D-) The devil’s in the details, and all of them are hellish, in a misbegotten update of “The Devil and Daniel Webster,” which hits theaters after six years on the shelf. (It should have stayed there.) Alec Baldwin directs and stars as a down-and-out writer who sells his soul for fame and fortune — and lives to regret it; Jennifer Love Hewitt plays the devil (badly), while Anthony Hopkins does battle as an officious publisher. This train wreck should be taking the shortcut to DVD very soon. (105 min.) PG-13; profanity, sexual content.
(B+) Open wide — and say “Ouch!” — as cinematic muckraker Michael Moore makes a wry, passionate and thought-provoking inquiry into the state of America’s health care system 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-) Following in the footsteps of “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 “Transformers’ ” 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-) Rock-’em, sock-’em robots: The mechanical title characters have more personality than the flesh-and-blood ones in a big-screen version of the ’80s cartoon hit (inspired by the shape-shifting Hasbro toys), as dueling robot aliens bring their extra-terrestrial war to Earth, where a goofy teen (the adorkable Shia LaBeouf) unwittingly possesses the key to the conflict. Overlong, overblown, over-everything, but the muscle-car ‘tude and eye-popping effects put the pedal to the metal where it counts, triggering more miles of smiles per gallon than most rival summer blockbusters. (144 min.) PG-13; intense sci-fi action violence, sexual humor, profanity. (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.)
YOU KILL ME
(B) Back in Las Vegas after debuting at the CineVegas film festival, this off-kilter tale — about an alcoholic hit man (Ben Kingsley) shipped to rehab after botching a big assignment — returns director John Dahl (“The Last Seduction,” “Red Rock West”) to neo-noir territory, balancing on the knife-edge between dark comedy and darker melodrama. And high-wire performances from Kingsley and screwball delight Téa Leoni make this a pleasure, if not quite a treasure. (92 min.) R; violence, profanity. (C.C.)