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.
(B) That rare bird: a tearjerker about the House of Commons and the antislavery movement in 18th-century England. Michael Apted’s idolatrous portrait of abolitionist William Wilberforce (Ioan Gruffudd) is wall-to-wall with intriguing characters and deeply felt performances, but leaves us starving to know more about the faces in the background. Also in the top-chop cast: Benedict Cumberbatch, Albert Finney, Michael Gambon, Rufus Sewell, Romola Garai and Senegalese singer Youssou N’Dour. (116 min.) PG; themes involving slavery, mild profanity. (C.C.)
AQUA TEEN HUNGER FORCE COLON MOVIE FILM FOR THEATERS
(B) The secret origins of Meatwad, Frylock, and Master Shake emerge in this big-screen expansion of the Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim favorite about super-powered fast foods. Unlike their “South Park” counterparts, writer-producers Matt Maiellaro and Dave Willis are less interested in spearing sacred cows of contemporary American culture than splaying wide the covert fantasy life of young heterosexual male cyber-nerds. It’s all rude, rambunctious fun — and by the end, you may feel as if you’ve been ballroom dancing with a live, exposed electric guitar cord for an hour and a half. (87 min.) R; crude and sexual humor, violent images, profanity.
ARE WE DONE YET?
(D) Put a fork in this “Are We There Yet?” sequel, as Nick Persons (Ice Cube) falls into his own personal money pit when he and his pregnant wife (Nia Long) and her two kids move to a dream home, which proceeds to fall apart. This alleged comedy, supposedly based on “Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House,” has about as much to do with that frothy Cary Grant confection as a Yugo has to do with a 1948 Buick Roadster. Both are vehicles. Both eventually reach a destination. The question is, what kind of ride are you looking for? (92 min.) PG; brief profanity and sexual innuendo.
BLADES OF GLORY
(C+) After spoofing soccer and NASCAR, Will Ferrell goes for the gold as an arrogant figure skater who teams with a flamboyant rival (“Napoleon Dynamite’s” Jon Heder) to shake up the pairs division when they’re both barred from solo competition. Like “Zoolander” with a Zamboni, this dumb-with-a-capital-D goofball farce takes its (almost) fleshed-out sketch-comedy idea as far as an ice-skating buddy movie with we’re-not-gay jokes and a psycho stalker can go. Which isn’t that far. (94 min.) PG-13; crude and sexual humor, profanity, comic violent image, drug references.
(B-) Think of “Rear Window” with digital equipment and front lawns and you’ll know what to expect from this spirited, smart-alecky suspense thriller in which an eavesdropping teen (Shia LaBeouf) tries to figure out if the soft-spoken bachelor (David Morse) next door is a cold-blooded killer. So what if you can see every plot twist bearing down like a rush-hour commuter express? “Disturbia” still boasts a scrappy charm. (104 min.) PG-13; sequences of terror and violence, sexual references.
(B) After a botched stunt, Hollywood’s top dog, the pampered canine star of “Jurassic Bark” and “The Fast and the Furrious” is presumed dead — but has really been adopted by a single firefighter’s sullen son in this family-friendly tail (oops, make that tale) that’s really the canine version of “Doc Hollywood” anchored by moving performances by veteran Bruce Greenwood and “Bridge to Terabithia’s” Josh Hutcherson. (111 min.) PG; action peril, mild crude humor and profanity.
(D) Crash-and-burn: Motorcycle stunt superstar Johnny Blaze (Nicolas Cage) makes a deal with the devil, becoming a demonic bounty hunter in a Marvel Comics adaptation that’s an unholy melding of religious mumbo-jumbo to motorcycle worship, Western folklore, father-son psychology, and Elvis Lives wish fulfillment. (110 min.) PG-13; horror violence, disturbing images.
(B-) Velveeta underground: Directors Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez team for a two-in-one tribute to vintage cinematic schlock. Rodriguez’s “Planet Terror” charts an alien plague that strikes a Texas town, with a sharpshooter (Freddy Rodriguez) and his dream girl, a go-go dancer with a machine-gun leg (Rose McGowan), leading the human defenders; Tarantino’s “Death Proof” focuses on a grizzled movie stuntman (a sensational Kurt Russell) targeting victims from behind the wheel of his title muscle car. Enjoyable, if overlong and hopelessly self-indulgent. (191 min. — and no, that’s not a typo.) R; strong graphic bloody violence and gore, pervasive profanity, sexual situations, nudity, drug use. (C.C.)
THE HILLS HAVE EYES 2
(D-) National Guard trainees (including Michael McMillian and Daniella Alonso) battle desert mutants in a sequel to the remake of the 1977 original. Yes, yes, there’s dismemberment, rude jolts and gore galore in this sequel, directed by Martin Weisz from a script by series creator Wes Craven and his son Jonathan. But it’s all too formulaic to be even mildly interesting. (89 min.) R; strong gruesome horror violence and gore, rape, profanity.
(B) In 1971, writer Clifford Irving (a live-wire Richard Gere) almost pulls off a scam for the ages — by convincing the publishing world that he’s the authorized biographer of elusive, enigmatic billionaire Howard Hughes. Director Lasse Hallstrom (“Chocolat,” “The Cider House Rules”) treats Irving’s con as a comic kick in the pants, a rambunctious portrait of a delusional character who’s perfectly at home in a delusional time that bears more than a slight resemblance to our own. Alfred Molina, Marcia Gay Harden, Hope Davis, Julie Delpy and Stanley Tucci lead the sparking supporting cast. (115 min.) R; profanity, sexual references. (C.C.)
THE LAST MIMZY
(B-) An owlish 10-year-old (Chris O’Neil) and his angelic little sister (Rhiannon Leigh Wryn) find common ground — and extraordinary powers — through a strange box that washes up at their beachfront vacation home. This well-meaning, if underpowered, “E.T.” wannabe brims with gifted youngsters, addled adults, awe-inducing phenomena and, for those who need it, a cautionary message, yet can’t quite conjure the magic it wants so desperately to create. (90 min.) PG; mild peril and profanity, mature themes. (C.C.)
(B+) It sounds like a routine heist thriller, but a smart script and even smarter performance elevate this gripping tale of a brain-damaged young bank janitor (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, in another knockout performance) sucked into a scheme hatched by a slimy ex-classmate (“Match Point’s” Matthew Goode). Jeff Daniels (as the protagonist’s wisecracking blind roommate) co-stars in ace screenwriter Scott Frank’s impressive directorial debut, the kind of movie where the characters generate more tension and excitement than the caper. (99 min.) R; violence, profanity, sexual content. (C.C.)
MEET THE ROBINSONS
(B-) An orphan with a flair for wacky inventions finds a home — in the future, with the even wackier title family — in this computer-animated ‘toon featuring the voices of, among others, Adam West, Tom Kenny (alias Spongebob Squarepants) and Tom Selleck. It’s not exactly original, but this breezy tale juggles its familiar elements with heart, quirkiness and energy to spare. In digital 3-D at select locations. (102 min.) G; all ages. (C.C.)
(A-) A young Calcutta couple (Bollywood veterans Irfan Khan and Tabu) starts a new life in America, only to have their all-American son (Kal Penn, stretching far beyond “Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle”) reject his cultural roots in director Mira Nair’s beguiling adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. The spices may be exotic, but the basic ingredients are universal; the resulting cinematic dish is rich, complex and utterly delicious. (122 min.) PG-13; sexuality, nudity, drug use, disturbing images, brief profanity. (C.C.)
(D+) When Vikings invade North America, a young Norse boy left behind after a shipwreck is raised by Indians — and grows up to battle the Vikings when they return. Karl Urban (alias Eomer in “Lord of the Rings”) leads the cast of a movie that degenerates into an infantile barrage of head- and limb-lopping against a fairy-tale backdrop (much computer-generated amplification) in a story that makes “Conan the Barbarian” seem like Dostoyevsky in its complexity. (99 min.) R; strong brutal violence.
(C-) Hardly perfect: An investigative reporter (Halle Berry) goes undercover at an advertising agency to find out whether its sleazy owner (Bruce Willis) had anything to do with a childhood pal’s murder. This alleged thriller boasts more smelly red herrings than a wholesale fishmarket — not to mention plot holes the size of a wholesale fishmarket, unappealing characters with murky motivations and a director (James Foley) forced to distract the audience by any means necessary, including multiple “gotcha!” moments that prove surprise is no substitute for suspense. (109 min.) R; sexual situations, nudity, violence, disturbing images, profanity. (C.C.)
(C) As Yogi Berra would say, it’s deja vu all over again in a been-there-seen-that thriller about a desperate housewife (Sandra Bullock, back in “Lake House” time-displacement territory) who loses her husband (Julian McMahon) in a car crash. But wait, maybe she doesn’t. Or maybe she does. Maybe she’s losing her mind. But there’s no doubt we’re losing patience — and interest. (97 min.) PG-13; violence, disturbing images, mature themes, brief profanity. (C.C.)
(D+) A former Christian missionary (seriously slumming double Oscar-winner Hilary Swank) who specializes in debunking miracles agrees to help a teacher (“Basic Instinct 2’s” David Morrissey) whose Louisiana hometown has become the target of eerie biblical-style plagues. Stephen Rea (“V for Vendetta”), Idris Elba (“Daddy’s Little Girls”) and the angelically creepy AnnaSophia Robb (“Bridge to Terabithia”) round out the cast of this highfalutin hodgepodge of biblical mumbo jumbo (100 min.) R; violence, disturbing images, sexuality.
(D-) Bored billionaires organize illegal drag races in a motorhead action flick that makes a good argument for mass transit. Moviegoers among certain demographic groups will be enticed by the ornamental female population (led by Nadia Bjorlin) and by the overly agitated fleet of exotic cars, from Lamborghinis to Ferraris. Still, this isn’t exactly a car wreck, mainly because it’s far less exciting and you can, in fact, look away. (95 min.) PG-13; violence, illegal and reckless behavior, sexual content, profanity, drug references.
REIGN OVER ME
(B) Former college roommates — one (Don Cheadle) who has it all, the other (Adam Sandler) who lost it all when his wife and daughters died on Sept. 11 — reconnect on the streets of New York and help each other find themselves. Unlike too many dramas that package people and plots so neatly they feel artificial, “Reign Over Me” isn’t afraid to embrace life’s messiness and pain. And Cheadle and Sandler create such heartfelt rapport that everything surrounding them picks up their positive vibes. (125 min.) R; sexual references, profanity. (C.C.)
(C+) Mark Wahlberg follows his Oscar-nominated “Departed” turn with this intermittently preposterous, drawn-out — but sometimes entertaining — tale of an unstoppable ex-Marine, an exiled marksman, who’s framed for a presidential assassination and sets out to track down the true killer. A straight pulp-fiction sniper movie that benefits from Wahlberg’s gritty performance, stinging political commentary and more “Here’s how you do that” moments than the complete “MacGyver” DVD collection. (124 min.) R; strong graphic violence, profanity.
(C+) When a deputy district attorney (Jolene Blalock) confesses to killing someone in self-defense, her politically ambitious boss (Ray Liotta) finds himself tangled in a web of contradictions in a thriller featuring James Todd Smith (better known as LL Cool J), Mekhi Phifer and Taye Diggs. Applying sexual and racial spins to a story subletting its format from “The Usual Suspects” isn’t the worst thing a movie can promise, which results in sloppy fun — at least while you’re watching. Afterward, you wonder how so much effort can yield so little. (89 min.) R; sexuality, violence, profanity.
(C+) Time to raise some shell! Yes, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are back, digitally animated and ready to kick some serious behind — that is, as soon as they stop all this unseemly bickering with each other. This latest big-screen incarnation is closer in spirit to the original comic book than the animated TV series that baby-sat a generation of youngsters, but what’s lacking, except in too-quick flashes, are the wit and self-mockery that have marked the franchise in its various formats. (88 min.) PG; animated action violence, scary cartoon images, mild profanity.
(C) Well, at least it’s not 300 minutes long. This adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel only feels that way, as 300 strapping Spartans try to repel thousands of Persian invaders during the bloody (and we do mean bloody) Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C. Everything looks cool, but “300” is so busy reveling in bombastic, blood-drenched excess that the acting can’t hope to match the action; the chiseled, Chippendales-ready performers resemble action figures hacking their way through the cartoon carnage of a video game. (117 min.) PG-13; graphic battle sequences, sexual situations, nudity. (C.C.)
(D) Weekend warriors (Tim Allen, John Travolta, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macy) go from mild to wild when they rev up their suburban lives on a cross-country motorcycle trip. Or, more precisely, they embarrass themselves by falling off motorcycles, setting fire to inanimate objects and indulging in hissy fits with spectacularly unfunny results, while others (including those of us in the audience) watch helplessly. (100 min.) PG-13; crude and sexual content, violence.