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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.

ACROSS THE UNIVERSE

(B-) It doesn’t always come together, but visionary “Frieda” director Julie Taymor’s magical musical mystery tour through the ’60s boasts so many visual splendors (to say nothing of imaginative renderings of more than 30 Beatles tunes) you’re tempted to overlook the stale, trite romance between a working-class Brit named Jude (Jim Sturgess) and a starry-eyed, all-American idealist named Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood) somewhere in New York City. (131 min.) PG-13; sexual situations, drug use, nudity, profanity, brief violence, mature themes. (C.C.)

THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD

(A-) Bullseye: A venerable outlaw saga gets a haunting new interpretation in Andrew Dominik’s witty and pictorially voluptuous account of infamous outlaw Jesse James’ betrayal at the hands of a once-devoted gang member. Brad Pitt is properly scary as a paranoid, end-of-the-trail James, while Casey Affleck (also a standout in “Gone Baby Gone”) delivers a knockout performance of glorious complexity as James’ disillusioned acolyte, a forerunner of all the celebrity- worshipping, attention-grabbing assassins to come. (160 min.) R; strong violence, brief sexual references. (C.C.)

THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM

(B+) You can’t go home again, but amnesiac spy guy Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) keeps trying, racing to uncover the final clues to his past — in New York, where it all began. After too many underwhelming threequels , this one more than lives up to its predecessors, thanks to a top-chop cast (including David Strathairn and Joan Allen) and director Paul Greengrass’ ability to combine exhilarating action with a weighty sense of dread. (114 min.) PG-13; violence, intense action sequences. (C.C.)

THE BRAVE ONE

(C) Jodie’s got a gun: A New York public radio host (Jodie Foster) becomes a pistol-packin’ urban avenger after slimy thugs beat her fiancé to death and leave her for dead in Central Park. Despite Foster’s full-bore intensity (and co-star Terrence Howard’s steady presence as the cop on her case), “The Brave One” proves that artists the caliber of Foster and director Neil Jordan (“The Crying Game”) are just as capable of making a soulless revenge thriller as any Hollywood hack. (122 min.) R; strong violence, profanity, sexuality. (C.C.)

THE COMEBACKS

(D-) Losing college football coach Lambeau Fields (David Koechner) vows to whip his ragtag team into winning shape in lowbrow sports-movie spoof that targets everything from “Rocky” to “Field of Dreams” — and scatters cheap giggles along its sludgy surface. Still, one has the sneaking suspicion that there’s a coach like this one desperate or dumb enough to use this movie to get his guys up for a game. With Carl “Apollo Creed” Weathers. (84 min.) PG-13; crude and sexual content, drug material.

CORAZON MARCHITO

(Not reviewed) They’re devoted best friends (Ana Seradilla, Mauricio Ochmann) who’ll do anything for one another. She needs a good job, so he’s helping her find one. He’s looking for love, so she sets him up with eligible women. There’s just one thing wrong: they’re both overlooking the obvious in this romantic comedy from director Eduardo Lucatero. In Spanish with English subtitles. (110 min.) NR.

EASTERN PROMISES

(B+) Director David Cronenberg and star Viggo Mortensen, who brought you 2005’s standout “A History of Violence,” reunite for an intriguing gangster thriller about the Russian mob in London. Naomi Watts (as an inquisitive innocent) and Armin Mueller-Stahl (as a deceptively courtly mob boss) provide striking support, but this is Mortensen’s movie all the way, and once again he and Cronenberg prove kindred spirits, challenging audiences to form their own conclusions — after they’ve delivered more than a few body blows. (100 min.) R; strong, brutal, bloody violence, graphic sexuality, nudity, profanity. (C.C.)

EL DIABLO

(Not reviewed) When his mentally troubled sister Eva is attacked — because neighbors believe she’s possessed — Juan sells his soul to the devil to avenge her in this action horror tale featuring John Solis, Luis Fernando Peña, Agustin Bernal, Jorge Luke, Elias Hernandez and Agustin Navarro. In Spanish with English subtitles. (93 min.) NR; violence, nudity, profanity.

ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE

(D+) Cate Blanchett reprises her star-making role as the willful, fair-minded and ever-virginal Queen Elizabeth I, who’s forced to battle Mary, Queen of Scots (Samantha Morton), the Spanish Armada — and her attraction to dashing adventurer Walter Raleigh (Clive Owen). The costumes are opulent, the music obnoxious. Silence would be a blessing to this less-than-equal sequel, which substitutes symphonic din in place of drama. Stay with the first picture. (114 min.) PG-13; violence, sexuality, nudity.

FEEL THE NOISE

(C) Old story, new beat: After a run-in with local thugs, an aspiring New York rapper (B2K’s Omarion Grandberry) flees to Puerto Rico and the father (Giancarlo Esposito) he never knew, bonding with his teenage stepbrother (“Raising Victor Vargas’ ” Victor Rasuk) and finding his salvation in the musical melting pot of reggaeton, a spicy blend of hip-hop, reggae and Latin beats. Jennifer Lopez produces this resolutely average musical drama, which never misses a chance to invoke a “follow your dreams” cliché. (86 min.) PG-13; sexual content and references, violence, drug use, profanity.

FRESHMAN ORIENTATION

(C-) A college freshman (Sam Huntington, alias “Superman Returns’ ” Jimmy Olsen) pretends to be gay to get close to his sorority dream girl (Kaitlin Doubleday) in this low-budget attempted comedy filmed a few years ago under the (much better) title “Home of Phobia.” It’s not incompetently made or badly acted — but there’s not a fresh idea in it, and everyone on screen seems to be in a different comedy. (91 min.) R; sexual content, profanity, drug use.

THE GAME PLAN

(C) Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson acquits himself nicely enough in this overcooked kitsch-fest, in which he plays a preening pro quarterback forced to get over himself when he meets the 8-year-old daughter (adorably bratty Madison Pettis) he never knew he had. Kyra Sedgwick, Morris Chestnut and Roselyn Sanchez co-star in a family-friendly Disney romp that’s as artificial as it is predictable. (110 min.) PG; mild thematic elements.

GONE BABY GONE

(B+) Ben Affleck directs his younger brother Casey to impressive effect in this gritty thriller about a private detective combing the mean streets of South Boston for a missing child. The set-up may be familiar, but the delivery is anything but routine, thanks to terrific performances — including those from Michelle Monaghan, Morgan Freeman, Amy Ryan and especially Ed Harris as a tormented cop — and the moral conundrums their characters face, which may have you pondering their decisions for days. (114 min.) R; violence, profanity, drug use. (C.C.)

GOOD LUCK CHUCK

(D+) Bad luck for the audience: This boorish exercise in high-testosterone low comedy casts Dane Cook as a dentist (Dane Cook) whose former girlfriends always become engaged to other guys. Poor Jessica Alba turns up as a klutzy aquarium penguin specialist who might be his Ms. Right, but even her cutie-pie appeal withers in the face of the sexed-up, dumbed-down humor. (96 min.) R; strong sexual content including crude dialogue, nudity, profanity, drug use.

HALLOWEEN

(D) Musician-turned-director Rob Zombie gets into the spooky spirit early, reincarnating John Carpenter’s 1978 shocker about masked psycho Michael Myers (“X-Men’s” Tyler Mane) — and attempting to fill in the blanks when it comes to the mystery behind his mayhem. That mystery was the very reason Carpenter’s original still stands as one of the scariest movies ever. This isn’t even scary — just another biff-bam-off-with-your- head-ma’am slasher film. (110 min.) R; strong brutal bloody violence and terror, sexual content, graphic nudity, profanity.

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 (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.)

THE HEARTBREAK KID

(C-) Watching Ben Stiller squirm usually means major yuks. This time, yuks turn to yuck as Stiller squirms to break free of this strained, lame-brain comedy about a honeymooner who finds his Ms. Right — while he’s honeymooning with someone else. Unlike the scathingly satirical 1972 original, this remake (from “There’s Something About Mary” auteurs Peter and Bobby Farrelly) settles for raunchy slapstick that’s remarkable only for its misogyny — and its lack of true laughs. (116 min.) R; strong sexual situations, nudity, crude humor, profanity. (C.C.)

HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH

(B+) “Shortbus” director John Cameron Mitchell’s 2001 “post-punk neo-glam rock musical” (based on his 1997 off-Broadway hit) returns at 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Tropicana Cinemas, recounting the gender-bending odyssey of the title character (played by Mitchell himself), whose botched sex-change operation inspires a trek from Berlin to Kansas — and onward across America. (95 min.) R; sexual content, profanity. (C.C.)

INTO THE WILD

(A-) Some people march to a different drummer — including wannabe Thoreau Christopher McCandless (quiet virtuoso Emile Hirsch) abandons law-school plans for an unsettling odyssey toward a fateful solitude in Alaska. Writer-director Sean Penn’s adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s non-fiction best-seller makes for sometimes exhilarating, sometimes harrowing — but always compelling — moviegoing, with Catherine Keener, Vince Vaughan and an Oscar-caliber Hal Holbrook among the unforgettable characters McCandless meets on the road. (153 min.) R; profanity, nudity, brief violence. (C.C.)

THE KINGDOM

(B-) A terrorist bombing at a U.S. compound in Saudi Arabia launches an FBI agent (Jamie Foxx) and his crack investigative team (Chris Cooper, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman) on a mission to flex American muscle and find out whodunit. Peter Berg (“The Rundown,” “Friday Night Lights”) directs this kick-butt action thriller with hammer-down intensity, but don’t expect anything remotely resembling piercing insight. (110 min.) R; intense, graphic brutal violence, profanity. (C.C.)

MICHAEL CLAYTON

(B+) One man’s corporate failure is another man’s moral triumph in this brainy legal thriller about a world-weary fixer for an elite law film (a peak-form George Clooney) who’s had it with cleaning up behind-the-scenes messes. Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton and Sydney Pollack anchor the ace supporting cast of a movie that’s best suited to those willing to pay attention as the manipulative characters plot their moves, score their points — and gauge the price they’ll eventually have to pay. (120 min.) R; profanity, including sexual dialogue. (C.C.)

MR. WOODCOCK

(C+) A successful self-help author (Seann William Scott) discovers that he can’t follow his own advice after he returns home to surprise his mother (Susan Sarandon), only to receive an even bigger shock when he encounters her new flame: his former, much despised gym teacher (Billy Bob Thornton). A fitfully amusing comedy that capitalizes on Thornton’s deliciously subversive talent for tormenting the young. (87 min.) PG-13; crude and sexual content, mature themes, profanity, mild drug references.

THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS 3D

(A) Trick and treat: Tim Burton’s 1993 stop-motion animated classic — about the toast of Halloweentown, Jack Skellington, and his attempt to co-opt Christmas — returns in 3D, which makes a great thing even better. (76 min.) PG; scary images. (C.C.)

NO RESERVATIONS

(C) Break out the Alka-Seltzer: An uptight chef (Catherine Zeta-Jones) finds child care on the menu when she becomes guardian of her niece (“Little Miss Sunshine’s” Abigail Breslin) in a bland translation of the delightful 2002 German comedy “Mostly Martha.” Aaron Eckhart co-stars — as the resident free spirit — in a movie that doesn’t really leave a bad taste; it doesn’t leave much taste at all, save perhaps for the cloying echoes of Velveeta cheese. (103 min.) PG; sexual references, profanity.

RENDITION

(C) The CIA erroneously abducts an Egyptian-born businessman (Omar Metwally) for interrogation and torture in the wake of a suicide bombing in a baldly manipulative political thriller that reduces issues of burning domestic urgency to a rubble of burnt melodrama. Reese Witherspoon, Jake Gyllenhaal, Meryl Streep, Alan Arkin and Peter Sarsgaard play the Americans, ugly and otherwise; “Rendition” makes you wish they had just skipped the movie and taken out a full-page, public-policy newspaper advertisement instead. (122 min.) R; torture/violence, profanity.

RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION

(C) “Resident Evil” meets “Mad Max” in a post-apocalyptic fake Vegas reclaimed by the desert (created by Oscar-winning “Pan’s Labyrinth” production designer Eugenio Caballero in Mexicali, Mexico), where Alice (Milla Jovovich, yet again a butt-kicking dynamo) leads the charge against the deadly virus still threatening humanity. Returnees Oded Fehr and Mike Epps join newcomers Ali Larter, Spencer Locke and Ashanti in this been-there, done-that zombie smackdown. (95 min.) R; strong horror violence, nudity.

RUSH HOUR 3

(C-) After taking Las Vegas by storm in “Rush Hour 2,” detectives Lee (Jackie Chan) and Carter (Chris Tucker) head to Paris, where they tangle with Chinese Triads in another formulaic odd-couple-cop-buddy romp that’s equal parts dinner-theater revue and live-action Saturday-morning cartoon — a whirring, soulless pop product for those who don’t expect much more from a movie beyond cheap laughs and frantic diversion. (91 min.) PG-13 for sequences of action violence, sexual content, nudity and language.

SARAH LANDON AND THE PARANORMAL HOUR

(C-) The 17-year-old title character (the refreshingly anti-glam Rissa Walters) returns to her childhood hometown, only to discover strange and supernatural doings while investigating a case of revenge from beyond the grave. There’s something clumsily charming about this amateurish attempted thriller, but it’s beset by bad lighting, limited visual imagination and acting so wooden it might have termites. (88 min.) PG; mild peril and profanity, mature themes.

THE SEEKER: THE DARK IS RISING

(C) Ho-hum hocus-pocus: A young man (Alexander Ludwig) discovers he’s the last in a line of immortal warriors dedicated to battling the forces of the Dark — and time-trips from the past to the future and back to follow the clues leading him to a showdown that could determine the world’s very future. Director David L. Cunningham keeps things moving right along in this adaptation of Susan Cooper’s Newberry Award-winning books, but it’s still malarkey. (94 min.) PG; fantasy action, scary images.

SHOOT ‘EM UP

(B-) Clive Owen and Paul Giamatti lend loads of grace and dashes of gravitas to this willfully outrageous action spoof in which Owen is a carrot-chomping gunslinger protecting an orphaned baby from Giamatti and his armies of assassins. Writer-director Michael Davis’ amiably pointless goof on amiably pointless action movies is so casually ludicrous it would be tough to swallow without its crafty stars, who almost convince us there’s something at stake, although they — and we — know better. (87 min.) R; violence, profanity, sexual content.

SUPERBAD

(C+) When their booze-soaked party plans go awry, inseparable high school seniors (“Arrested Development’s” Michael Cera and “Knocked Up’s” Jonah Hill) face the comic consequences in a raucous, super-raunchy celebration of teen angst and lust that tempers its arrested-development comedic approach with glimmers of genuine insight. It would have been better — and funnier — if you could laugh with “Superbad” as easily as you laugh at it. (112 min.) R; pervasive crude and sexual content, profanity, drinking, drug use, fantasy/comic violence — all involving teens. (C.C.)

3:10 TO YUMA

(B) All aboard: In post-Civil War Arizona, a downtrodden rancher (Christian Bale) joins a posse escorting a wily outlaw (Russell Crowe) to the prison-bound title train, setting up a psychological as well as literal showdown. This rip-snortin’ remake of the 1957 original isn’t the second coming of the Western, dang it, but the dynamic duo of Crowe and Bale demonstrates how satisfying it can be to watch two men — one good, one bad, with more in common than either imagined — facing off in a life-or-death test. (117 min.) R; violence, profanity, sexual references. (C.C.)

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS

(C-) Thou shalt not (go): This computer-animated feature kicks off a series presenting “Epic Stories of the Bible,” and while the opening credits are terrific — quickly reeling off the highlights of Moses’ youth — it’s all downhill from there, except for a uniquely childlike point of view on the parting of the Red Sea. “Prince of Egypt” already gave us an animated Moses; there’s nothing distinctive or fresh enough about this to justify a new version. (88 min.) PG; mild peril.

THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE

(B-) A Seattle widow (Halle Berry) invites her late husband’s childhood best friend (Benicio Del Toro), a heroin junkie trying to kick his habit, to stay with her and her children in Danish director Suzanne Bier’s U.S. debut. Bier is graceful, observant of small details, but her efforts to augment the schematic script through filmic technique seem like a diversion. As a result, this is not as soulful as intended, but rare, and quite human. (118 min.) R; drug use, profanity.

30 DAYS OF NIGHT

(C-) Bobbing for Adam’s apples: An Alaska town buried for a month in uninterrupted darkness becomes a cafeteria for the undead in a horror movie that starts with a promisingly good, bloody premise and, alas, becomes progressively anemic — at least for those who would like to see the horror genre become something other than a runaway meat wagon driven by the Marquis de Sade. Josh Hartnett, Melissa George and Danny Huston (impressive as leader of the vampire legion) star. (113 min.) R; strong horror violence, profanity.

WE OWN THE NIGHT

(B-) In ’80s Brooklyn, a second-generation cop (Mark Wahlberg) clashes with his brother (Joaquin Phoenix), a coked-up nightclub owner linked to the Russian mob. Writer-director James Gray has been down this road before (in “Little Odessa” and “The Yards,” the latter with Wahlberg and Phoenix), which may explain why this foray is sometimes solid and suspenseful, sometimes implausible and woefully familiar. (117 min.) R; strong violence, drug material, profanity, sexual content, brief nudity.

WHO’S YOUR CADDY?

(B-) A superstar rap mogul (Antwan “Big Boi” Patton) and his niblick-wielding crew of goofballs invade an uber-exclusive country club with surprisingly funny results. (Faizon Love, Sherri Shepherd and Finesse Mitchell lead the nimble supporting cast.) Yes, it’s the old racial dynamic rearing its malformed head, but this movie, which is far more indebted to “Caddyshack” than to W.E.B. DuBois, is smart enough to play for belly laughs, knowing the race issue will be out there floating anyway, like your opponent’s 400-yard tee shot. (93 min.) PG-13; crude and sexual content, nudity, profanity, drug material.

WHY DID I GET MARRIED?

(C) The best of Tyler Perry’s string of therapeutic dramas — which makes it mediocre rather than intolerable. Perry adapts his play, directs and stars (alongside Janet Jackson, Malik Yoba, Tasha Smith and Richard T. Jones) in a tale of married couples shocked by infidelity in their midst. You don’t have to be black to enjoy this, but you do need a strong desire to watch people work out their issues using pop-psychology and self-help techniques. (118 min.) PG-13; mature themes, sexual references, profanity.

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