OPENING THIS WEEK
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. Willem Dafoe (as an ex-bloodsucker named Elvis), Sam Neill and Isabel Lucas ("Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen") co-star for Australian filmmaking brothers Michael and Peter Spierig ("Undead"). At multiple locations. (98 min.) R; strong bloody violence, profanity, brief nudity.
I LOVE YOU, GOODBYE
In this Filipino romance, a divorced high-society doctor (Gabby Concepcion) finds new love with a woman (Angelica Panganiban) who falls for the photographer (Derek Ramsay) dating the doc’s rebellious teenage daughter (Kim Chiu). In Tagalog. At Village Square. (120 min.) NR.
THE IMAGINARIUM OF DR. PARNASSUS
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 (Matthew Goode). Anand Tucker ("Hilary and Jackie," "Shopgirl") directs. At multiple locations. (97 min.) PG; sexual references, profanity.
YOUTH IN REVOLT
Michael Cera ("Superbad," "Juno") returns as another geek in lust: bookish Nick Twisp, who falls for a precocious prep school student (Portia Doubleday) while on vacation — and invents an arrogant "supplementary persona," a bad-boy Frenchman (also played by Cera), to help him win her heart. Jean Smart, Justin Long and "The Hangover’s" Zach Galifianakis co-star in this adaptation of novelist C.D. Payne’s tales. At multiple locations. (90 min.) R; sexual content, profanity, drug use.
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 and Las Vegas’ own Matthew Gray Gubler) faces competition from rival cuties the Chipettes (Amy Pohler, Anna Faris and Christina Applegate provide their voices) in this "squeakquel" to the 2007 hit. At least that one had a story; here, they’ve basically dropped the Chipmunks into "High School Musical" and, God help us, we’ll take the warbling of Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens over the sound of processed rodents any day. In other words, 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 of them 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 population. Zoe Saldana (as Sully’s Na’vi love interest), "Aliens" vet Sigourney Weaver (the resident rebellious scientist), Giovanni Ribisi (the resident corporate creep) and Stephen Lang (the resident military whackjob) co-star in a visually spectacular effects extravaganza (especially in immersive 3-D) that might have been a genuine cinematic landmark — if only Cameron had bothered to pay as much attention to his story as he does to the technology. (162 min.) PG-13; intense epic battle sequences and warfare, sexual references, profanity, smoking. (C.C.)
THE BLIND SIDE
(B-) This heartwarming, fact-based crowd-pleaser — a natural for both football and holiday seasons — 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 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 in between the stand-up-and-cheer and lump-in-the-throat moments. (126 min.) PG-13; brief violence, drug and sexual references. (C.C.)
THE BOONDOCK SAINTS II: ALL SAINTS DAY
(C) Almost a decade after their first cinematic appearance, the vigilante McManus brothers (Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus) return to Boston to avenge the death of their beloved hometown priest. Billy Connolly, Clifton Collins Jr., Judd Nelson and Peter Fonda co-star for writer-director Troy Duffy in a sequel that, unlike the original, doesn’t make you want to claw your eyes out. It’s just a scurrilous, sub-Tarantino action comedy that goes in all directions at once — especially over the top. (118 min.) R; bloody violence, profanity, nudity.
(C-) A simple wooden box arrives on the doorstep of a married couple (Cameron Diaz, James Marsden), giving them the chance at a million dollars — but only, as a mysterious stranger (the great Frank Langella, shamefully treated) explains, at the cost of someone else’s life. Writer-director Richard Kelly ("Donnie Darko") delivers a preposterous chiller, based on a short story by the legendary Richard Matheson ("Twilight Zone," "I Am Legend") that, like a magician’s prop, gives the illusion that it’s full of stuff — ideas, portents, clues, meaning — when it’s all but empty. (115 min.) PG-13; thematic elements, violence, disturbing images.
(B) When a Marine captain (a peak-form Tobey Maguire) disappears in Afghanistan, his black-sheep ex-con brother (Jake Gyllenhaal) steps in to comfort his sister-in-law (Natalie Portman) and her young daughters in this remake of the 2004 Danish standout from director Jim Sheridan ("In America," "My Left Foot"). It packs a definite wallop, but it’s not quite the knockout it could (and should) have been. (110 min.) R; profanity, disturbing violent content. (C.C.)
A CHRISTMAS CAROL
(C) Humbug: Charles Dickens’ holiday classic gets writer-director Robert Zemeckis’ motion-capture animation treatment in a visually impressive adaptation that’s utterly uninterested in its characters (led by Jim Carrey’s Ebenezer Scrooge and Gary Oldman’s Bob Cratchit) as anything more than decorative figures populating a pageant of in-your-face special effects. (Which are especially in-your-face if you see this in 3-D or IMAX 3-D.) It’s a cruel trick, transforming a heaping helping of holiday cheer into a coldly efficient cinematic thrill ride. (96 min.) PG; scary sequences and images. (C.C.)
CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS
(B) A wacky inventor (voiced by Bill Hader) discovers a way to create storms of food in a 3-D animated romp (inspired by a beloved children’s book) that’s clever and zippy, with a terrific vocal cast (including Anna Faris, James Caan, Bruce Campbell, Mr. T, Neil Patrick Harris and Andy Samberg) and some actual nutritional value hidden among the fun. (90 min.) PG; brief mild profanity.
(C) Trouble in paradise: Four couples (played by, among others, Vince Vaughn, Jason Bateman, Kristin Davis, Malin Akerman and Jon Favreau) try to sort out their relationship problems amid Bora Bora’s tropical splendor in a tepid marriage-renewal comedy that has a decent cast and a few good ideas — but no clear grasp of what to do with them. (107 min.) PG-13; sexual content, profanity.
DID YOU HEAR ABOUT THE MORGANS?
(D+) You don’t want to hear: After witnessing a murder, unhappily married Manhattanites (the usually effervescent, sadly flat Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker) find themselves in the witness protection program — and exiled to small-town Wyoming — in a mirth-free comedy that will make you wish you had enrolled in a witless protection program. (103 min.) PG-13; sexual references, momentary violence.
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.
(A) Head of the class: This smashing coming-of-age drama (set in early-’60s Britain) focuses on a bright, college-bound teen (Carey Mulligan, delivering an Oscar-caliber, star-is-born performance) who becomes involved with a smooth-talking sophisticate (Peter Sarsgaard) almost twice her age. Author Nick Hornby ("High Fidelity," "About a Boy") adapts British journalist Lynn Barber’s memoir; he and director Lone Scherfig capture the endless, timeless conflict between book learning and the school of heartbreak with witty, rueful power. (95 min.) PG-13; mature thematic material involving sexual content, smoking. (C.C.)
(C+) Sentimental journey: When his grown children cancel on a family reunion, a gruff blue-collar widower (Robert De Niro) hits the road to make surprise visits to each of them: an advertising executive (Kate Beckinsale), a musician (Sam Rockwell) and a Las Vegas dancer (Drew Barrymore). Despite the impressive cast, this comedy-drama (based on a 1990 Italian original starring Marcello Mastroianni) seldom strays from its mechanical, manipulative course; it’s only when it stops trying to be cute and concentrates on being honest that it generates genuine emotional impact. (100 min.) PG-13; thematic elements, brief profanity. (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," "James and the Giant Peach"), which proves an ideal vehicle for Anderson’s trademark playful whimsy. (87 min.) PG; action, smoking, slang humor. (C.C.)
THE FOURTH KIND
(C) After 40 years of mysterious disappearances in an Alaska town, a psychologist (Milla Jovovich) begins videotaping sessions with traumatized patients — and discovers disturbing evidence of alien abductions, and a possible federal cover-up. This fact-based, flat-lining thriller serves up a close encounter that buries an interesting idea under a barrage of gimmicky hokum. (98 min.) PG-13; violent/disturbing images, some terror, thematic elements, brief sexuality.
(B-) In post-apartheid South Africa, president Nelson Mandela (Morgan Freeman) enlists the captain of the country’s white-dominated rugby squad (Matt Damon) to help unite the divided nation as the team competes for the 1995 world championship. Clint Eastwood’s fact-based drama blends elements of the great-man movie and the underdog-sports movie — elements that sometimes work against each other. But it’s unapologetically rousing, despite its earnest ambitions and stately, schmaltzy conventionality. (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, never mind what the script says. (118 min.) R; drug content, sexual situations, brief nudity. (C.C.)
LAW ABIDING CITIZEN
(D+) A victim of miscarried justice (Gerard Butler) vows to wreak revenge after a plea bargain sets his family’s killers free. His No. 1 target: the prosecutor (Jamie Foxx) who engineered the deal. This hapless crime drama provides the sad spectacle of a movie far less intelligent than the one its filmmakers thought they were making. But it’s nothing a new script, a new director and a couple of committed actors couldn’t fix. (107 min.) R; strong bloody brutal violence and torture, including a scene of rape, pervasive profanity.
ME AND ORSON WELLES
(B-) In this coming-of-age tale crossed with a portrait of a genius, a starstruck teen ("High School Musical’s" Zac Efron) bluffs who his way into the Mercury Theater’s 1937 Broadway production of "Julius Caesar," produced by theatrical wunderkind Orson Welles (the brilliantly exhilarating Christian McKay). Claire Danes and Ben Chaplin co-star in director Richard Linklater’s deft, affectionate reimagining of Welles’ early creative days. (114 min.) PG-13; sexual references, smoking.
(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. (118 min.) PG-13; sexual situations, smoking. (C.C.)
(D+) A young ninja (Asian pop star Rain, one of "Speed Racer’s" rivals) turns his back on the orphanage where he was raised, triggering a martial arts showdown. Thanks (or no thanks) to the dire script, flat performances and slick, tricked-out fight scenes, it gets increasingly hard to care about what goes on, even on those rare occasions when the action’s visible without the use of night-vision goggles. (99 min.) R; strong bloody stylized violence, profanity.
(D-) It wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without a turkey, and in "Old Dogs,” we have the season’s blue-ribbon gobbler, about friends and business partners (Robin Williams, John Travolta) forced to play daddy to 7-year-old twins. Yes, it’s supposed to be a comedy — but unless you think it’s fun to watch elderly canines urinate, middle-aged movie stars overact or Seth Green get hit in the groin by a golf ball, be prepared to sit and squirm at this witless, mean-spirited farce. (88 min.) PG; mild rude humor.
(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. "Shrek’s" Joe Stillman scripts, but this is no "Shrek." 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’ acclaimed drama focuses on Claireece "Precious" Jones (Gabourey Sidibe), a black teen 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. Harrowing and marked by heroic performances (especially from Sidibe and Mo’Nique), "Precious" looks squarely in the wounded eyes of its title character and sees a girl with poetry in her. (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 of smart storytelling, spectacular visual set pieces and a memorable Randy Newman score; the result is the best traditionally animated Disney feature since 1991’s instant classic "Beauty and the Beast." (97 min.) G; all ages. (C.C.)
(B-) A father (a heroically restrained Viggo Mortensen) and his young son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) wander a bleak post-apocalyptic landscape, trying to survive — with their humanity intact. This grueling, occasionally haunting adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel from director John Hillcoat ("The Proposition") misses the resonant power of McCarthy’s stark prose, but remains a memorable (if memorable dismal) exploration of the endless battle for decency in the midst of depravity, of love in the face of death. (111 min.) R; violence, disturbing images, profanity. (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. (128 min.) PG-13; intense sequences of violence and action, startling images, suggestive material. (C.C.)
(B) Two friends (R. Madhavan, Sharman Joshi) search for a lost friend — and, along the way, encounter a long-forgotten bet, a wedding they must crash and an out-of-control funeral — in a Bollywood "bromance" that also focuses on their missing friend Rancho (Aamir Khan), an irrepressible free spirit who romances the equally spirited Pia (Kareena Kapoor) and clashes with an oppressive mentor (Boman Irani). Things veer from laugh-out-loud funny to tear-jerking melodrama in this surprisingly charming comedy-drama. In Hindi with English subtitles. (170 min., including intermission.) NR.
(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 mavericky Everyman John Cusack and Noble Scientist Chiwetel Ejiofor) who prove humanity’s resilience while faceless billions perish. If high-tech digital effects are your thing, you’ll adore the destructo-derby spectacle, but for those who care about a credible storyline and sympathetic characters, abandon hope all ye who enter here. (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.. (130 min.) PG-13; violence and action. (C.C.)
UP IN THE AIR
(B+) Flying high: A cynical corporate terminator (a perfectly cast George Clooney), whose job is telling other people they’ve lost theirs, struggles to make connections — between flights and between people. Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick and Jason Bateman lead the top-chop supporting cast of 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. (109 min.) R; profanity, sexual content, brief nudity. (C.C.)
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 good 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. (100 min.) PG; mild sexual references, brief violence, brief profanity, smoking.