OPENING THIS WEEK
A gifted scientist (Rajnikanth) constructs an equally gifted robot, designed to help humankind, that ventures into the wider world — with unexpected consequences — in this Indian sci-fi fantasy from writer-director S. Shankar. Bollywood queen Aishwarya Rai ("Bride and Prejudice") co-stars. In Hindi with English subtitles. At Sam’s Town. (150 min.) NR.
IT’S KIND OF A FUNNY STORY
A clinically depressed teen ("United States of Tara’s" Keir Gilchrist) checks himself into an adult psychiatric ward — and gets a new perspective on life — in this comedy-drama written and directed by Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden ("Sugar," "Half Nelson"). "The Hangover’s" Zack Galifianakis, Jim Gaffigan, Lauren Graham, Viola Davis and Emma Roberts round out the starring cast. At multiple locations. (101 min.) PG-13; mature themes, sexual content, drug material, profanity.
LIFE AS WE KNOW IT
Katherine Heigl and Josh Duhamel play mismatched singles forced together when their mutual best friends die in an accident — and name them guardians of their baby daughter — in a heart-tugging comedy-drama directed by TV veteran Greg Berlanti ("Brothers & Sisters," "No Ordinary Family"). At multiple locations. (113 min.) PG-13; sexual material, profanity, drug content.
MESRINE: KILLER INSTINCT
The first chapter in a two-part saga about French gangster Jacques Mesrine (Vincent Cassel of "Eastern Promises" and "Ocean’s Thirteen") explores how he became France’s most wanted man; "Mesrine: Public Enemy No. 1" is scheduled to open here next week. Gerard Depardieu and Ludivine Sagnier co-star for Jean-Francois Richet. In French, English, Arabic and Spanish, with English subtitles. At Suncoast. (113 min.) R; strong brutal violence, sexual content, profanity.)
MY SOUL TO TAKE
Director Wes Craven, the wonderful fiend who brought you "Scream" and "Nightmare on Elm Street," among other horror classics, goes 3-D with this chiller about a serial killer who returns to his hometown to stalk seven children born the night he supposedly died. At multiple locations. Max Thieriot ("Jumper"), Emily Meade ("Boardwalk Empire"), Frank Grillo ("The Gates") and Denzel Whitaker ("Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call — New Orleans") lead the cast. At multiple locations; in 3-D at select locations. (106 min.) R; strong bloody violence, sexual references, pervasive profanity.
NEVER LET ME GO
"Remains of the Day" author Kazuo Ishiguru’s acclaimed novel inspires this drama about three devoted boarding school classmates who discover their haunting shared destiny. Keira Knightley, Carey Mulligan ("Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps") and Andrew Garfield ("The Social Network") star for director Mark Romanek ("One Hour Photo"). Sally Hawkins and Charlotte Rampling co-star. At Green Valley, Village Square. (104 min.) R; sexual situations, nudity.
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.
ALPHA AND OMEGA
(C-) Two wolves at opposite ends of their pack’s social order (voiced by Justin Long and Hayden Panetierre), transferred to an Idaho park, must work together to find their way home to Canada in this animated adventure that boasts advanced 3-D — you’ve never seen dog drool this real — but a script that’s a let-down in the humor and heart department. A howl, but not in a good way. (88 min.) PG; rude humor, mild action.
(B) An assassin (George Clooney) hiding out in an Italian village, prepares for one last job in this quiet, haunting thriller from "Control" director Anton Corbijn. Irina Bjorklund leads the supporting cast of this beautifully shot but overly familiar (and deliberately paced) tale. It would be nice if Corbijn eased up on the mournful seriousness, but there’s no denying that "The American" is transfixing in its muted grace. (105 min.) R; violence, sexual content, nudity.
(A) A Melbourne 17-year-old (James Frecheville) tries to navigate the treacherous territory between his small-time crime family and the detective (Guy Pearce) who thinks he can save him in this award-winning Australian thriller. Watching this crime clan (played by, among others, the startling Jaki Weaver) unravel under the weight of their overconfidence is riveting as debut writer-director David Michold details their self-destruction. (113 min.) R; violence, drug content, pervasive profanity.
(D+) A social worker (Renee Zellweger) fights to save a girl ("Twilight Saga: Eclipse’s" Jodelle Ferland) from her abusive parents, only to discover that the situation is more dangerous than she ever expected, in a long-delayed chiller featuring Bradley Cooper and Ian McShane. This ineffective horror movie, full of cheap jolts and ho-hum effects, is Zellweger’s first horror movie in 16 years; the scariest thing about it is how far the Oscar-winning actress’ career has deteriorated. (109 min.) R; violence and terror, disturbing images.
(B+) Hreturn ooked: Filmmakers Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost follow Ariel’s brother Nev, a New York photographer, and Abby, an 8-year-old Michigan girl who contacted Nev via Facebook, requesting permission to make a painting from one of his photographs. The result is a movie that moves from comedy to romance to places beyond that we shouldn’t mention. Is it true? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. Either way, "Catfish" remains well worth catching. (94 min.) PG-13; some sexual references.
(B) Assisted by a legion of jabbering, goggle-eyed Minions, the villainous Gru (voiced by Steve Carell) plots to outwit a nerdy rival (voiced by Jason Segal) by committing the world’s most dastardly crime — until a trio of adorable orphan girls changes his focus from bad to dad. This cheeky computer-animated tale combines deftly detailed animation, impish slapstick humor and expert use of 3-D, entertaining kids and their parents with equal flair. (95 min.) PG; rude humor, mild action. (C.C.)
(C) M. Night Shyamalan indulges his preachy, messianic side as creator and producer (but not screenwriter or director) of this quasi-religious supernatural thriller, a tidy tale about Satan himself picking off folks (Geoffrey Arend, Bojana Novakovic, Bokeem Woodbine, Jenny O’Hara, Logan Marshall-Green) trapped in an elevator in a Philadelphia high-rise while cops and security guards (Chris Messina, Jacob Vargas, Matt Craven) look on in horror via closed-circuit TV. The sort of story Rod Serling would have taken for a "Twilight Zone" spin back in the day, "Devil" delivers chills in a compact, efficient package. (80 min.) PG-13; violence and disturbing images, thematic material, profanity, sexual references.
DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS
(C) Not much bite: "Anchorman" and "40 Year-Old Virgin" castmates Steve Carell and Paul Rudd reunite for an undercooked remake of the 1998 French farce "The Dinner Game," about a monthly competition where the guest who impresses is the one who brings the biggest buffoon to the party. Rudd’s a financial analyst up for promotion; Carell’s a nerdy IRS agent (and amateur taxidermist) who might be his ticket to the top. Both work hard to bring some heart to the proceedings, but "The Dinner Game’s" sharp satire of pretension has become a draggy exercise in strained slapstick. (114 min.) PG-13; crude and sexual content, partial nudity, profanity. (C.C.)
(B) A sarcastic, witty teen ("Zombieland’s" winning Emma Stone) uses her high school’s rumor mill to enhance her bad-girl reputation when word gets around that she’s no longer a virgin. This smart, sassy teen comedy (featuring Amanda Bynes, "Hellcats’ Aly Michalka and "Gossip Girl’s" Penn Badgley) hearkens back to those golden ’80s days of John Hughes — right down to scene-stealing adult performances from the likes of Thomas Haden Church, Patricia Clarkson, Stanley Tucci and Lisa Kudrow. (93 min.) PG-13; mature thematic elements involving teen sexuality, profanity, drug material. (C.C.)
EAT PRAY LOVE
(C) When she discovers that she’s not as happily married as she thought, a writer (a decorative, if hardly deep, Julia Roberts) embarks on an international quest to find herself. Along the way, she finds a few others — including scene-stealers Javier Bardem and Richard Jenkins — in a slick adaptation of Elizabeth Gilbert’s best-selling memoir from writer-director Ryan Murphy ("Glee"). A picturesque but far from profound, this asks us to accompany a privileged protagonist who’s too wrapped up in herself to appreciate her blessings — or make us feel her pain. (133 min.) PG-13; brief profanity, sexual references, male rear nudity. (C.C.)
(D+) Mucho macho: Veteran tough guys Sylvester Stallone (who also co-writes and directs), Jason Statham, Jet Li, Mickey Rourke, Dolph Lundgren (alias Sly’s "Rocky IV" opponent Ivan Drago), Randy Couture and "Stone Cold" Steve Austin flex their muscles as mercenaries heading South American way on a mission to overthrow a corrupt general (David Zayas) and a rogue CIA agent (Eric Roberts). An exercise in nostalgia for a bygone era, "The Expendables" is willfully out of date, like an aged hair band that can’t pack away the spandex. (103 min.) R; strong action and bloody violence, profanity.
(B+) In 1930s Tennessee, a backwoods hermit (a perfectly cast, peak-form Robert Duvall) abruptly ends 40 years of seclusion to arrange a "living funeral" — so he can hear what folks have to say about him while he’s still around. Sissy Spacek, Bill Murray, Lucas Black and Bill Cobbs provide terrific support in this old-fashioned, fact-based comedy-drama, which builds considerable charm through its characters, performances and rich period feel. In all, a promising feature debut for cinematographer-turned-director Aaron Schneider, already an Oscar-winner for the live-action short "Two Soldiers." (103 min.) PG-13; thematic material, brief violence. (C.C.)
(B) Pretzel logic: "Dark Knight" writer-director Christopher Nolan’s intriguingly twisty sci-fi thriller focuses on a team of dream raiders, led by heartbreak-haunted Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio), who must test their expertise when they’re hired to plant an idea in the mind of a dying industrialist’s heir (Cillian Murphy). Slyly witty Joseph Gordon-Levitt, whip-smart Ellen Page and femme fatale Marion Cotillard provide invaluable support, but it’s Nolan’s mind-bending visions — from dazzling dreamscapes to knockout action sequences — that dominate this three-dimensional puzzle of a movie. (148 min.) PG-13; violence, action. (C.C.)
JACK GOES BOATING
(B) A sad-sack limo driver ("Capote" Oscar-winner Philip Seymour Hoffman) and a funeral home employee ("Gone Baby Gone’s" Amy Ryan) pursue a relationship while the couple who introduced them (John Ortiz, Daphne Rubin-Vega) confront unresolved issues in their marriage. Hoffman, Ortiz and Rubin-Vega reprise their stage roles — and Hoffman makes an auspicious directorial debut — in Bob Glaudini’s adaptation of his acclaimed play, a refreshingly down-to-earth drama that moves to the awkward beat of life. (89 min.) R; some sexual content, drug use and profanity.
THE LAST EXORCISM
(B) An evangelical preacher (Patrick Fabian) who’s been performing exorcisms for 25 years, knowing all the while that they’re a sham, agrees to let a camera crew expose his tricks as he "performs" one last exorcism on a rural teen (Ashley Bell, extraordinary) — until his final close encounter with demonic possession turns terrifyingly real. This faux documentary is one of the scariest movies to come along in awhile, until it falls apart in its last five minutes. (87 min.) PG-13; disturbing violent content and terror, sexual references, thematic material.
(B+) In this award-winning Israeli drama — inspired by writer-director Samuel Maoz’s experiences during the 1982 Lebanon war — a lone tank dispatched to search a hostile town finds its simple mission turning into a nightmare. It may sound like "Das Boot" in a tank, but "Lebanon" gives us viscerally violent, intensely distressing glimpses into war’s annihilation of people, places, and communities, as Moaz and his camera crew keep us remarkably involved, visually navigating the close quarters with ingenuity and, inevitably, heartbreak. In Hebrew, Arabic, French and English, with English subtitles. (93 min.) R; disturbing bloody war violence, profanity, sexual references, nudity.
LEGENDS OF THE GUARDIANS: THE OWLS OF GA’HOOLE
(C+) Director Zack Snyder ("300," "Watchmen") switches from live-action to animation with this adventure (based on the first three books in a 15-volume series by children’s author Kathryn Lasky) about a kidnapped owlet (voiced by Jim Sturgess) caught up in an epic battle between the noble Guardian owls and the evil Pure Ones. A derivative script and sequences too scary for little kids undermine the classy vocal cast (Helen Mirren, Geoffrey Rush, Sam Neill, Hugo Weaving and Anthony LaPaglia lend their voices) and stunning visuals (especially spectacular landscapes and thrilling flying sequences) that look even more stunning in 3-D and IMAX 3D. (90 min.) PG; scary action.
LET ME IN
(B) A bullied boy ("The Road’s" Kodi Smit-McPhee) befriends a young vampire girl ("Kick-Ass’ " Chloe Moretz), living in secrecy with her enigmatic guardian (Richard Jenkins), in this English-language revamp of 2008’s acclaimed Swedish vampire tale "Let the Right One In." Director Matt Reeves ("Cloverfield") amps up the explicit violence, unnecessarily, but otherwise retains the original’s intensity, stillness and strange sweetness, as two lonely misfits strengthen each other, despite the sad realization that their friendship can’t possibly last. (115 min.) R; strong bloody horror violence, profanity, brief sexual situations.
(C) A recent high school grad (all-grown-up Bow Wow), dreaming of creating his own shoe line but still working at Foot Locker, tries to keep a secret from his nosy neighbors: he’s holding a lottery ticket that entitles him to a $370-million jackpot. The feature debut from longtime music video director Erik White, this starts out amiably enough but eventually develops a weirdly violent streak. At the ensemble cast (Ice Cube, Keith David, Loretta Devine, Naturi Naughton, Brandon T. Jackson and Mike Epps) keeps things sporadically enjoyable. (99 min.) PG-13; sexual content, profanity, drug references, violence, brief underage drinking.
(C+) In the first movie (so far) spawned by those hilarious "Grindhouse" trailers, Danny Trejo plays the Texas-based title character, a former Mexican cop on a vengeful rampage against drug dealers, brutal politicians and other assorted baddies. Co-directors Robert Rodriguez and Ethan Maniquis (who edited "Planet Terror," Rodriguez’s half of "Grindhouse") maintain a fair amount of the wicked humor and every bit of the savage bloodshed promised in the make-believe trailer, but (like most of Rodriguez’s’ movies), this one’s never as fun — or funny — as he thinks it is. (105 min.) R; strong bloody violence, profanity, sexual content, nudity.
MAO’S LAST DANCER
(C+) A Chinese peasant boy trains at the prestigious Beijing Dance Academy, goes to the U.S. on a cultural exchange — and defects to the U.S. during a cultural exchange when he falls in love with an American — in a fact-based drama featuring Chi Cao, Bruce Greenwood, Kyle MacLachlan and Joan Chen. Director Bruce Beresford ("Driving Miss Daisy," "Tender Mercies") overplays the movie’s hokey script at every turn, pirouette and plie; this tale of artistic aspirations and international politics comes packed with more corn than an Iowa silo. (117 min.) PG; brief violent image, sexual references, profanity, incidental smoking.
NANNY MCPHEE RETURNS
(C+) The magical title nanny (Emma Thompson, who also scripted) returns to rescue harried mom Maggie Gyllenhaal, trying to run the family farm while her husband (Ewan McGregor) is off fighting in World War II. Rhys Ifans (as a scoundrelly brother-in-law), Maggie Smith (as a ditzy shopkeeper) and Ralph Fiennes co-star in this sequel to the family-friendly 2005 fantasy, which obviously owes much to P.L. Travers’ Mary Poppins displays a warm naturalism and an old-fashioned cheerfulness uncommon to most of today’s kids movies. (109 min.) PG; rude humor, profanity, mild thematic elements.
THE OTHER GUYS
(B-) Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg make an amusingly arresting team as mismatched New York City detectives — one a by-the-book desk jockey, the other a street guy itching for action — who labor in the shadow of flashy supercop colleagues (Samuel L. Jackson, Dwayne Johnson) until they stumble onto Wall Street chicanery. Not the bust-a-gut buddy-cop spoof it wants to be — it careens between action and comedy too much for that — but even when spinning its wheels, its intermittent goofiness makes it easy enough to go along for the ride. (107 min.) PG-13; crude and sexual content, profanity, violence, drug material. (C.C.)
(B+) When an underwater tremor frees the title prehistoric man-eaters during spring break, tourists and residents alike try to keep themselves from becoming fish food in this killer chiller filmed at Arizona’s Lake Havasu by "Hills Have Eyes" director Alexandre Aja. Cleverly knowing without collapsing into parody, this makes great use of its extremely random cast, which includes Elisabeth Shue as a bad-ass sheriff, Ving Rhames as her deputy, Jerry O’Connell as a "Girls Gone Wild"-style sleaze peddler and crazed Christopher Lloyd as the resident fish expert — plus Richard Dreyfuss, who makes a very cute cameo off the top. In short, a complete blast. (89 min.) R; strong bloody horror violence and gore, graphic nudity, sexual content, profanity, drug use.
RESIDENT EVIL: AFTERLIFE
(D) With the world ravaged by a viral infection that transforms its victims into the Undead, Alice (Milla Jovovich, more decently clothed this time around) continues her quest to find survivors and lead them to safety — and her battle with the Umbrella Corp. Ali Larter, Kim Coates, Shawn Roberts, Boris Kodjoe, Wentworth Miller co-star for director Paul W.S. Anderson (Jovovich’s husband), a serious contender for worst filmmaker in the biz, in the fourth installment of the "Resident Evil" franchise — the first to go 3-D. Which, alas, doesn’t help improve this witless workout full of morphing zombies, phoned-in performances and trite dialogue. (90 min.) R; strong violence, profanity.
(C+) Who is Salt? Who cares? When a defector accuses her of being a Russian spy, CIA agent Evelyn Salt (Angelina Jolie, in a role originally written for Tom Cruise) goes on the run. This hyperkinetic thriller shows off Jolie’s action chops — and those of director Philip Noyce ("Clear and Present Danger"), who delivers a muscular, gritty and propulsive action tale that’s also utterly ludicrous and lacking the slighted shred of humanity. As a result, "Salt" makes the supposedly engrossing ridiculously predictable, stranding such stalwart actors as Liev Schreiber and Chiwetel Ejiofor in the process. (100 min.) PG-13; intense sequences of violence and action. (C.C.)
THE SOCIAL NETWORK
(A) This contentious birth of Facebook in a Harvard dorm, as inventive but socially inept Mark Zuckerberg (a beautifully unlikable Jesse Eisenberg) comes up with a revolutionary way for others to connect online — alienating and/or betraying his own friends in the process. Justin Timberlake and Andrew Garfield ("Never Let Me Go") anchor a standout supporting cast, while director David Fincher demonstrates his mastery of fluid visual storytelling and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin delivers his trademark biting dialogue. In short, it’s a sharp, funny, tense movie that pulsates with the thrill of discovery. No wonder it’s one of the year’s best. (120 min.) PG-13; sexual content, drug and alcohol use, profanity.
THE SORCERER’S APPRENTICE
(C+) No "Treasure": Nicolas Cage reteams with "National Treasure" director Jon Turteltaub (and uber-producer Jerry Bruckheimer) for a live-action adventure inspired by the animated "Fantasia" sequence featuring Mickey Mouse in the title role. This time around, the apprentice is everyday guy Jay Baruchel (the voice of "How to Train Your Dragon’s" Hiccup), who’s recruited by sorcerer Balthazar Blake (Cage) to assist him in his battle against dapper nemesis Maxim Horvath (Alfred Molina,"Spider-Man 2’s" Doc Ock). Doesn’t exactly conjure bedazzling magic, but it’s a pleasant-enough mix of effects, action and comedy that should send parents and kids home happy. (121 min.) PG; violence, frightening scenes.
(C) Lifestyles of the rich and lawless: When smooth criminals (Idris Elba, Hayden Christensen, Paul Walker, Michael Ealy and Chris Brown) pull off a Los Angeles bank heist, a dogged detective (Matt Dillon) gives chase in a movie that recycles the usual cops-and-robbers claptrap to little effect. In great heist movies, the characters are as complex as the caper; in good heist movies, it’s usually one out of two. But "Takers" goes 0-for-2, emerging as a routine workout that’s not exactly redeemed by its attractive cast or rock-’em, sock-’em action sequences. (107 min.) PG-13; intense violence and action, sexual situations, partial nudity, profanity, drug references. (C.C.)
(B) In an arresting crime thriller co-written, directed by and starring Ben Affleck, two wild cards threaten the continuing success of a blue-collar Boston heist crew: a hard-charging FBI agent ("Mad Men’s" Jon Hamm) and the fact that the crew leader (Affleck) is falling for a witness (memorably vulnerable Rebecca Hall) who could put them all in jail. "Hurt Locker’s" electrifyingly intense Jeremy Renner winds up stealing the movie from actor Affleck, but it’s a mark of honor that director Affleck lets him get away with it. (125 min.) R; strong violence, pervasive profanity, sexual situations, drug use. (C.C.)
TOY STORY 3
(A) The Pixar dream team rides again with this more-than-equal second sequel, a delightful kids-of-all-ages animated adventure in which Andy heads off to college and his beloved toys — led by cowboy Woody and space ranger Buzz — find a new life at a deceptively sunny day-care center. Voiced by all-star returnees Tom Hanks, Tim Allen and Joan Cusack (among others), plus such standout newcomers as Ned Beatty, Michael Keaton and Timothy Dalton, these cartoon characters have vastly more humor, personality, heart — and substance — than most of their live-action counterparts. (103 min.) G; all ages. (C.C.)
(D) What’s in a name? An all-too-accurate description of the movie when it’s "Vampires Suck," a scene-by-scene vamp of the Stephenie Meyer "Twilight" movies — with the odd "True Blood," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Gossip Girl," Kardashian and Lady Gaga gag tossed in — from the folks who brought you "Disaster Movie," "Date Movie," "Meet the Spartans" and a lot of other lame parodies. Even by the standards of these things, which rely on an onslaught of jokey references to float, "Suck" s(t)inks. (88 min.) R; crude sexual content, comic violence, profanity, teen partying.
WALL STREET: MONEY NEVER SLEEPS
(B) Greed is still good: Michael Douglas reprises his Oscar-winning role of Gordon Gekko in Oliver Stone’s timely sequel to 1987’s "Wall Street." But this time it’s a supporting role — Gekko’s just out of prison and trying to reconcile with his estranged daughter ("An Education’s" Carey Mulligan), who’s involved with a young Wall Street whiz (Shia LaBeouf) trying to negotiate shark-infested investment waters. Frank Langella and Josh Brolin (Stone’s "W." star) deliver sterling support as Wall Street titans old and new in an overstuffed tale that’s still surprisingly entertaining, despite its topical-depression subject matter. (133 min.) PG-13; brief profanity, thematic elements. (C.C.)
A WOMAN, A GUN AND A NOODLE SHOP
(B) A Chinese noodle shop owner (Ni Dahong) bribes a patrol officer to kill his wife (Ni Yan) and the employee (Xiao Shen-Yang) with whom she’s having an affair, but the plan goes awry. If the plot sounds familiar, it should; for some reason, China’s greatest living director, Zhang Yimou ("House of Flying Daggers," "Raise the Red Lantern") has remade Joel and Ethan Coen’s 1984 Texas noir" Blood Simple," but this is more of a rethink than a remake, a round robin of double-, triple- and quadruple-crosses that’s a minor work in the Yimou canon — but a major visual treat. In Chinese (Mandarin) with English subtitles. (95 min.) R; some violence.
(C-) When bad movies happen to good people: Despite a top-chop cast led by Sigourney Weaver, Jamie Lee Curtis and Kristin Bell, this strained comedy — about former high-school frenemies whose daughters are destined to clash at a family wedding — traps its talented cast members in a mechanical, predictable romp that arranges the inevitable complications like dominoes carefully designed to fall on cue. Not even the presence of Betty White, as hot-to-(fox)trot Grandma Bunny, can help. (105 min.) PG; brief profanity, rude behavior. (C.C.)