OPENING THIS WEEK
MY NAME IS KHAN
In this Bollywood drama, an Indian Muslim afflicted with Asperger’s Syndrome (Sharukh Khan) fights to clear his name when U.S. airport authorities mistake his disability for suspicious behavior, taking his quest to the White House — and a meeting with President Barack Obama (Christopher B. Duncan, who appeared as Obama on Jay Leno’s "Tonight Show" during the 2008 campaign season). In Hindi and English, with English subtitles. At the Palms. (160 min.) PG-13; violence, sexual content, profanity .
PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS: THE LIGHTNING THIEF
This latest attempt to find a new "Harry Potter" adapts Rick Riordan’s book about a teen ("3:10 to Yuma’s" Logan Lerman) who discovers he’s the descendant of a Greek god — and must undertake an odyssey to settle a score on Mount Olympus., via Las Vegas (as seen in second-unit footage filmed here). Pierce Brosnan, Rosario Dawson, Uma Thurman, Sean Bean, Kevin McKidd and Catherine Keener co-star for director Chris Columbus, who (probably not coincidentally) directed the first two "Harry Potter" movies. At multiple locations. (119 min.) PG; action violence and peril, scary images, suggestive material, mild profanity.
SAINT JOHN OF LAS VEGAS
The opening-night attraction from last year’s (and, perhaps, last) CineVegas film festival, this quirky comedy focuses on a reformed gambling addict (Steve Buscemi) turned insurance claims adjuster, who returns to Sin City — and temptation — when he joins a fast-talking colleague (Romany Malco) on a fraud investigation. Sarah Silverman, Peter Dinklage, Emmanuelle Chriqui, John Cho and Tim Blake Nelson co-star for debut writer-director Hue Rhodes. At Suncoast. (85 min.) R; profanity, nudity.
Nothing says Valentine’s Day like an old-fashioned monster mash; this remake of the 1941 "Wolf Man" stars Benicio Del Toro as the long-estranged son of a British nobleman (Anthony Hopkins) who returns to his ancestral home and finds himself embroiled in strange circumstances indeed. "The Young Victoria’s" Emily Blunt co-stars for director Joe Johnston ("Honey, I Shrunk the Kids," "Jurassic Park III"); Oscar-winner Rick Baker ("An American Werewolf in London") handles the makeup. At multiple locations. (125 min.) R; bloody horror violence and gore.
ALREADY IN THEATERS
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.
ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS: THE SQUEAKQUEL
(D) Twice the Chipmunks, half the fun: The title trio (voiced by Justin Long, Jesse McCartney , Matthew Gray Gubler) faces competition from rival cuties the Chipettes (Amy Pohler, Anna Faris, Christina Applegate) in this "squeakquel" to the 2007 hit. Your kids will love it, but you’ll need a hazmat suit. (88 min.) PG; mild rude humor.
(D+) Something old, nothing new: Veteran armored truck guards (led by Matt Dillon) coerce the newbie in their midst (Columbus Short) to steal a vehicle with $42 million aboard — but their supposedly foolproof plan isn’t, triggering dishonor and dissent among thieves. Supporting players Laurence Fishburne, Jean Reno and Skeet Ulrich have their moments, but none leads to anything other than a factory film made from recycled parts. (88 min.) PG-13; intense violence, disturbing images, brief strong profanity.
(B-) Dances with "Aliens": Writer-director James Cameron ("Titanic") takes us to the 22nd-century planet Pandora, where paraplegic ex-Marine Jake Sully (clunky hunk Sam Worthington) joins a corporate mining operation’s scientific program — and finds a new life when he encounters the native Na’vi. Zoe Saldana (as Sully’s Na’vi love interest), Sigourney Weaver (the resident rebellious scientist), Giovanni Ribisi (the resident corporate creep) and Stephen Lang (the resident military whackjob) co-star in a spectacular effects extravaganza that might have been a genuine landmark — if only Cameron had paid as much attention to story as he does to technology. Nominated for nine Academy Awards, including best picture, director and visual effects. (162 min.) PG-13; intense epic battle sequences and warfare, sexual references, profanity, smoking. (C.C.)
THE BAD LIEUTENANT: PORT OF CALL — NEW ORLEANS
(B) Nicolas Cage takes on the title role — playing a crackpot (not to mention crackhead) law-enforcement officer emerging from the primal ooze of post-Katrina New Orleans — in Werner Herzog’s luridly entertaining police noir, which shares a title and little else with Abel Ferrara’s 1992 "Bad Lieutenant." It’s a one-of-a-kind experience with a twice-in-a-lifetime performance from Cage, who hasn’t gone this deep into the abyss since 1989’s "Vampire’s Kiss." (122 min.) R; drug use, profanity, violence, sexuality.
THE BLIND SIDE
(B-) This heartwarming, fact-based crowd-pleaser focuses on future NFL tackle Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron), a gentle giant who rises from virtual homelessness to football stardom with an assist from a force-of-nature Southern belle (sassy Oscar nominee Sandra Bullock) who takes him under her wing, and her roof. If it weren’t a true story, it would be tough to believe, yet writer-director John Lee Hancock ("The Rookie") tackles a few gritty issues between the stand-up-and-cheer and lump-in-the-throat moments. Nominated for two Academy Awards: best picture, actress. (126 min.) PG-13; brief violence, drug and sexual references. (C.C.)
THE BOOK OF ELI
(C) A loner (a well-cast Denzel Washington) fights his way across country to protect a sacred book that may hold the key to saving humanity: the last remaining Bible. Gary Oldman (as the resident bad guy) and Mila Kunis co-star for filmmaking twins Albert and Allen Hughes ("From Hell"), who mix preachiness and bloodshed to queasy effect; this is "The Road" with twice the plot, four times the ammunition — and half the brains. (118 min.) R; brutal violence, profanity.
(B+) Bad to the bone: Running-on-empty country singer Bad Blake (Oscar front-runner Jeff Bridges) strikes a chord with an aspiring music journalist (Oscar nominee Maggie Gyllenhaal), who just might be just the good-hearted woman to save a good-timin’ man for whom the good times ended long ago. Actor-turned-filmmaker Scott Cooper takes us down a well-traveled road, but his keen eye for detail — and Bridges’ subtle spellbinder of a performance — make the journey worthwhile. Nominated for three Academy Awards: best actor, supporting actress, original song. (111 min.) R; profanity, brief sexuality. (C.C.)
(C-) It’s 2019, and a plague has transformed most humans into vampires — including an undead scientist (Ethan Hawke) unwittingly caught up in a scheme to reverse the disease. Sam Neill and Willem Dafoe (as an ex-bloodsucker named Elvis) co-star for filmmaking brothers Michael and Peter Spierig ("Undead") in yet another aren’t-we-clever resurrection of the vampire genre. Alas, this one plays like a dirge, striking one long, monotonous note of gloom. (98 min.) R; strong bloody violence, profanity, brief nudity.
(C) Nothing to write home about: The spring-break romance between a young Army Ranger (a strained, pained Channing Tatum) and an idealistic college student (beatific Amanda Seyfried of "Mamma Mia!") is sorely tested by the events, and impact, of Sept. 11, 2001. The latest in a seemingly endless line of movies based on a seemingly endless line of Nicholas Sparks best-sellers ("The Notebook," "Message in a Bottle," etc.), this one’s another big ol’ sloppy tub of mush — and while lots of people may like the taste, it’s tough to work up an appetite for yet another heaping helping of the same warmed-over sentiment. (105 min.) PG-13; sexual references, violence. (C.C.)
DINOSAURS 3D: GIANTS OF PATAGONIA
(B) If you like dinosaurs (who doesn’t?), you’ll love this 3-D documentary, which follows paleontologist Rodolfo Coria as he tramps the rugged wilds of southern Argentina, where remains of the largest dinosaurs in the world — including the 120-foot Argentinosaurus — have been discovered. The perfect blend of scholarly information and totally cool dinosaurs brought to vivid life. (40 min.) G; scary dinosaurs.
EDGE OF DARKNESS
(C+) It’s been seven years since his last starring role, but Mel Gibson’s still playing martyr, this time as a vengeful Boston cop investigating the murder of his activist daughter. Martin Campbell ("Casino Royale") directs this remake of an award-winning British miniseries, which benefits from strong performances by Ray Winstone and Danny Huston. But it’s Gibson’s urgent, contemporary rage that gives this a definite, if unsettling, edge. (117 min.) R; strong bloody violence, profanity.
(A) Head of the class: This smashing coming-of-age drama, set in early-’60s Britain, focuses on a college-bound teen (Oscar nominee Carey Mulligan) who becomes involved with a smooth-talking sophisticate (Peter Sarsgaard) almost twice her age. Screenwriter Nick Hornby ("About a Boy") and director Lone Scherfig capture the endless, timeless conflict between book learning and the school of heartbreak with witty, rueful power. Nominated for three Academy Awards: best picture, actress, adapted screenplay. (95 min.) PG-13; mature thematic material involving sexual content, smoking. (C.C.)
(C+) A desperate dad (earnest Brendan Fraser) recruits a mavericky scientist (dependably grouchy Harrison Ford) to find a treatment, if not a cure, for his two youngest kids, victims of a rare (and fatal) genetic disorder. Nice to see two-fisted action heroes Fraser and Ford engaged in a literal life-or-death drama, but their frequent forays into the swamp of big-business biotech research prove more compelling than their search for a medical miracle. An extraordinary fact-based story, but far from extraordinary filmmaking. (105 min.) PG; thematic material, profanity, mild sexual references. (C.C.)
FANTASTIC MR. FOX
(B+) Quirky director Wes Anderson ("Rushmore," "The Royal Tenenbaums") goes from live-action to stop-motion animation with a captivating tale of a sly fox (voiced by George Clooney) who outsmarts the vengeful farmers out to get him. Meryl Streep, Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzman and Willem Dafoe, among others, lend their vivid voices to this fanciful story from Roald Dahl ("Charlie and the Chocolate Factory"), which proves an ideal vehicle for Anderson’s trademark whimsy. Nominated for two Academy Awards: best animated feature, original score. (87 min.) PG; action, smoking, slang humor. (C.C.)
FROM PARIS WITH LOVE
(D) In Paris, a loose-cannon CIA agent (John Travolta) and a young U.S. embassy employee (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) team up to thwart a terrorist attack. Director Pierre Morel transformed Liam Neeson into a kick-butt hero in "Taken," but Travolta and Meyers just don’t have the rough-and-tough edge for this assignment; the bodies may pile up, but "Paris" never feels like anything more than action movie dress-up. At multiple locations. (95 min.) R; strong bloody violence, drug content, pervasive profanity, brief sexuality.
THE HURT LOCKER
(A) Three members of an Army bomb-defusing squad — a cocky sergeant (Oscar nominee Jeremy Renner), his steady second-in-command (Anthony Mackie) and a scared-spitless rookie (Brian Geraghty) — hit the streets of Iraq hoping to save lives, including their own. In this riveting action drama, director Kathryn Bigelow ("Point Break") demonstrates her mastery of action (and psychology), exploring how dehumanizing — and how addictive — combat can be. Nominated for nine Academy Awards, including best picture, actor, director, original screenplay and cinematography. (131 min.) R; war violence, profanity. (C.C.)
THE IMAGINARIUM OF DR. PARNASSUS
(B-) When an enigmatic charmer (the late Heath Ledger) joins a traveling sideshow, the stage is set for phantasmagorical visions and philosophical musings from writer-director Terry Gilliam. Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law step in to complete scenes unfilmed at the time of Ledger’s death, while delightful portrayals from Christopher Plummer (as the imaginative title character), model-turned-actress Lily Cole (as his bewitching daughter) and Verne "Mini-Me" Troyer (as his sarcastic sidekick) keep the humor, and the humanity, in motion. Nominated for two Academy Awards: best art direction, costume design. (122 min.) PG-13; violent images, sensuality, profanity, smoking. (C.C.)
(B-) In post-apartheid South Africa, president Nelson Mandela (best actor Oscar nominee Morgan Freeman) enlists the captain of the country’s white-dominated rugby squad (supporting Oscar nominee Matt Damon) to help unite the divided nation as the team competes for the 1995 world championship. Clint Eastwood’s fact-based drama uneasily blends elements of the great-man movie and the underdog-sports movie to rousing, if conventional, effect. Nominated for two Academy Awards: best actor, supporting actor. (134 min.) PG-13; brief profanity. (C.C.)
(B-) Battle of the (s)exes: Meryl Streep, Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin play the angles in this romantic comedy about a long-divorced woman who finds herself having a passionate affair — with the ex-husband who left her years ago for a younger woman. Writer-director Nancy Meyers’ usual mix of contrived humor and sledgehammer stereotyping gets classy treatment from the savvy Streep and the scene- and movie-stealing Baldwin, who emerges as the movie’s most human (and therefore most sympathetic) character, despite what the script says. (118 min.) R; drug content, sexual situations, brief nudity. (C.C.)
(D) Unlucky charms: A wannabe bride ("Julie and Julia’s" Amy Adams) follows her boyfriend (Adam Scott) to Ireland, planning to propose on Feb. 29 — but winds up wending her way through the countryside in the company of a bickering, if beguiling, innkeeper. He’s played by Matthew Goode ("A Single Man"), whose surname is the only good thing about this witless, aimless slog through the romantic-comedy bog. (97 min.) PG; sexual references, profanity. (C.C.)
(D) Pure hell: God’s given up on the human race and plans to wipe it out — again — as the archangel Michael (Paul Bettany) teams up with some folks at an isolated desert diner (Dennis Quaid, Lucas Black, Tyrese Gibson and Charles S. Dutton among them) to battle for humanity’s survival. Profane, profanely silly and blasphemous to beat the band, this may traffic in signs of the apocalypse — but only proves we’re stranded in movie hell. (100 min.) R; strong bloody violence, profanity.
THE LOVELY BONES
(C) A strangely lifeless adaptation of Alice Sebold’s 2002 best-seller, about a murdered teenager ("Atonement’s" radiant Saoirse Ronan) who witnesses the aftermath of her death from a dreamlike limbo halfway between heaven and earth. Rather that focus on her tormented parents (Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz) and her equally tormented killer (Oscar nominee Stanley Tucci), "Lord of the Rings" director Peter Jackson busies himself with special effects, blunting the emotional impact of what ought to be a heart-wrenching tale. Nominated for one Academy Award: best supporting actor. (135 min.) PG-13; mature themes involving disturbing violent content and images, profanity. (C.C.)
(B+) Homefront battle: Recovering from combat wounds, a decorated Army sergeant (an Oscar-caliber Ben Foster), assigned to the Casualty Notification Office, struggles to adjust to his new duty — and his hard-bitten new mentor (best supporting actor Oscar nominee Woody Harrelson) — as they inform family members of their loved ones’ deaths. Samantha Morton, Jena Malone and Steve Buscemi lead the supporting cast of this poignant yet bleakly funny drama; the script meanders a bit, but the characters, and their conflicts, are always on-target. Nominated for two Academy Awards: best supporting actor, original screenplay. (112 min.) R; profanity, sexual content, nudity. (C.C.)
(C) Tormented director Guido Contini (a miscast Daniel Day-Lewis), the toast of 1960s "Cinema Italiano," struggles to overcome a major creative block — and juggle the attentions of the (too) many women in his life — in an adaptation of the Tony-winning musical inspired by Federico Fellini’s Oscar-winning 1963 classic "81/2." Underwhelming, despite the best efforts of its all-star cast (including Day-Lewis’ fellow Oscar-winners Marion Cotillard, Penélope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, Judi Dench and Sophia Loren), this too often plays like a series of music videos — more or less diverting, but incapable of adding up to more. Nominated for four Academy Awards, including best supporting actress (Cruz), costumes and original song. (118 min.) PG-13; sexual situations, smoking. (C.C.)
(C-) In this cute but clichéd animated space romp, an American astronaut (voiced by Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) lands on the title sphere and discovers little green people living in fear of alien invaders — just like him. Instead of spinning its spoof of 1950s sci-fi paranoia in new directions, the movie trades in potty humor and tired "Terminator" and "Star Wars" send-ups. (126 min.) PG-13; brief violence, drug and sexual references.
PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL "PUSH" BY SAPPHIRE
(B) Set in 1987 Harlem, director Lee Daniels’ Oscar-nominated drama focuses on a black teen (Gabourey Sidibe) who’s pregnant (for a second time) by her absent father, stuck at home with her abusive mother (Mo’Nique), virtually illiterate — and determined to find dignity in, and endure, her unendurable situation. Marked by heroic performances (especially from Oscar nominees Sidibe and Mo’Nique), "Precious" looks squarely in the wounded eyes of its title character and sees the poetry within. Nominated for six Academy Awards, including best picture, actress (Sidibe), supporting actress (Mo’Nique), director and adapted screenplay. (109 min.) R; profanity, violence, sexual abuse. (C.C.)
THE PRINCESS AND THE FROG
(A) Let the good times roll: The magic’s back in this Disney delight, a traditionally animated tale set in Roaring ’20s New Orleans, about nose-to-the-grindstone Tiana (voiced by "Dreamgirls’ " Anika Noni Rose), who dreams of running her own restaurant — until a close encounter with a voodoo-cursed prince changes everything. Co-directors Ron Clements and John Musker ("The Little Mermaid," "Aladdin") serve up a scrumptious jambalaya that’s the best traditionally animated Disney feature since "Beauty and the Beast." Nominated for three Academy Awards, including best picture and original song. (97 min.) G; all ages. (C.C.)
(C-) In Victorian-era London, the title sleuth (Robert Downey Jr.) and his faithful companion Dr. Watson (Jude Law) take on a sinister serial killer ("The Young Victoria’s" Mark Strong) in an anachronistic adventure that trashes one of the world’s most beloved literary characters, transforming him into a brash action hero. "Rocknrolla" director Guy Ritchie’s hyperkinetic style puts the focus on brawn rather than brain, which seems a cruel fate for an actor as smart as Downey — and a character as brilliant as Holmes. Nominated for two Academy Awards: best art direction, original score. (128 min.) PG-13; intense sequences of violence and action, startling images, suggestive material. (C.C.)
A SINGLE MAN
(B) In early-’60s Los Angeles, a grief-stricken British professor (best actor Oscar nominee Colin Firth) tries to carry on — and contemplates ending it all — after the sudden death of his longtime lover ("Leap Year’s" Matthew Goode). Firth’s marvelously restrained, deeply moving performance (and that of Julianne Moore as his brittle, bitter friend) breathe welcome life into this adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s novel from designer-turned-director Tom Ford, who stages scenes with the studied precision of a fashion layout, thereby robbing the movie of some of its life — and heart. Nominated for one Academy Award: best actor. (99 min.) R; disturbing images, nudity, sexual content. (C.C.)
THE SPY NEXT DOOR
(C-) Former CIA agent Bob Ho (Jackie Chan) finds himself back in the spy game while babysitting his girlfriend’s kids — one of whom accidentally downloads a top-secret formula, prompting a visit from Bob’s longtime nemesis, a Russian terrorist. Amber Valletta, Billy Ray Cyrus and George Lopez round out the eclectic starring cast of yet another lazy, kid-pleasing comedy about a man unprepared for fatherhood who’s suddenly saddled with children he must win over in order to win the heart of their hot single mom. Luckily, that man is Chan, who’s still fit and charming — even in a charmless movie like this. (92 min.) PG; action violence, mild rude humor.
TO SAVE A LIFE
(C) Shaken by a childhood friend’s suicide, a high school basketball star (Randy Wayne) turns to a local youth minister (Joshua Weigel) — and decides to reach out to misfit classmates in this faith-based teen drama. Writer Jim Britts and director Brian Baugh avoid fire-and-brimstone sermonizing, but fall short of delivering the full-blooded drama they’re after. PG-13; mature thematic elements involving teen suicide, teen drinking, drug content, disturbing images, sexuality.
(C) When a minor-league hockey player (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) tells a youngster the Tooth Fairy doesn’t really exist, he gets his comeuppance when he’s transformed into the title character, complete with tutu and wings. Stealing liberally from "Monsters Inc." and "Elf" (among others), this is exactly what you’d expect: a harmless tale of optimism overcoming disbelief, complete with comical casting (including Julie Andrews as a Fairy Godmother) and a heaping helping of Johnson’s game, antic charm. (101 min.) PG; mild language, rude humor, sports action.
(C-) It’s a disaster movie, all right, but what else can you expect from master of disaster Roland Emmerich ("The Day After Tomorrow," "Independence Day")? Once again, the director demonstrates how to blow stuff up real good, putting everyone on Earth on a collision course with oblivion — including a few plucky souls (led by quirky Everyman John Cusack and Noble Scientist Chiwetel Ejiofor) who prove humanity’s resilience while faceless billions perish. (158 min.) PG-13; intense disaster sequences, profanity. (C.C.)
THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON
(C-) The second bite(s): In this chapter of Stephenie Meyer’s best-selling series, Bella (Kristen Stewart) discovers that the course of true love never does run smooth, especially when her beloved Edward Cullen (brooding Robert Pattinson) leaves town with his vampire family rather than endanger her life. Good thing her friend Jacob Black (hunky Taylor Lautner) is still around — but he’s got a deep dark secret all his own. Goes double on the swoon factor, transforming the urgency of teen lust into a dour, draggy mopefest. (130 min.) PG-13; violence and action. (C.C.)
UP IN THE AIR
(B+) Flying high: A cynical corporate terminator (Oscar nominee George Clooney), whose job is telling other people they’ve lost theirs, struggles to make connections — between flights and between people. Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick also earned Oscar nominations in this witty, sometimes wise comedy-drama from writer-director Jason Reitman ("Juno," "Thank You for Smoking"), which blends timely and timeless themes with throwaway ease. Nominated for six Academy Awards, including best picture, actor, supporting actress and director. (109 min.) R; profanity, sexual content, brief nudity. (C.C.)
WHEN IN ROME
(D+) Romantic bomb-edy: On a whirlwind trip to Rome, an unlucky-in-love New Yorker (Kristen Bell) steals some coins from a legendary fountain of love — and finds herself pursued by several ardent suitors, including a sausage magnate (Danny DeVito), a street magician (Jon Heder), a painter (Will Arnett), a narcissistic model (Dax Shepard) and a charming reporter (Josh Duhamel) who might just be Mr. Right. It’s all exceptionally predictable and disappointingly laugh-free. (91 min.) PG-13; suggestive content.
THE YOUNG VICTORIA
(B) The turbulent early years of Britain’s Queen Victoria (Emily Blunt), who tries to survive multiple power plays as she ascends to the throne — and discovers true love with Prince Albert ("Chéri’s" Rupert Friend). This old-fashioned period drama (scripted by "Gosford Park" Oscar-winner Julian Fellowes) isn’t terribly lively or insightful, but it’s rich in pageantry and dramatic moments, all of which hinge on Blunt’s beguiling performance. Nominated for three Academy Awards, including best art direction and costumes. (100 min.) PG; mild sexual references, brief violence, brief profanity, smoking.