OPENING THIS WEEK
A squad of guinea pig spies (voiced by Steve Buscemi, Tracy Morgan, Jon Favreau, Sam Rockwell and Oscar-winners Nicolas Cage and Penélope Cruz) battles a diabolical billionaire with world domination on his mind in this kid-friendly adventure from “Pirates of the Caribbean” producer Jerry Bruckheimer. Leading the human cast: “Hangover’s” Zach Galifianakis, Bill Nighy and Will Arnett. At multiple locations; in 3-D at select locations. (88 min.) PG; mild action, rude humor.
THE HURT LOCKER
Reviewed on Page 28.
After the recent loss of their baby, John and Kate Coleman (Peter Sarsgaard, Vera Farmiga) adopt 9-year-old Esther (Isabelle Fuhrman), who’s not really as sweet and innocent as she seems, in this horror thriller from “House of Wax” director Jaume Collet-Serra. At multiple locations. (123 min.) R; disturbing violent content, sexual situations, profanity.
THE UGLY TRUTH
In this comedy, a romantically challenged producer for a morning news show (Katherine Heigl of “Grey’s Anatomy”) clashes with a sexist correspondent (“300’s” mucho macho Gerard Butler), who embroils her in a series of outrageous tests to prove his relationship theories. Robert Luketic (“Legally Blonde,” “21”) directs. At multiple locations. (101 min.) R; sexual content, profanity.
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.
ANGELS & DEMONS
(C+) Yes, it’s better than “The Da Vinci Code.” But that doesn’t make director Ron Howard’s bid for cinematic absolution good. Tom Hanks (shorn of his distracting “Da Vinci” tresses, but, thankfully, not his sense of humor) returns as Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon, who’s called to the Vatican to stop a clandestine sect’s deadly terrorist plot before all Rome goes kablooey. Unlike the too-talky “Da Vinci,” this sequel does nothing but run and gun, yet far too many sequences that should keep you on the edge of your seat elicit a been-there, seen-that shrug. (138 min.) PG-13; violence, disturbing images, mature themes. (C.C.)
AWAY WE GO
(B) A young couple expecting their first child (“The Office’s” John Krasinski, “Saturday Night Live” alumna Maya Rudolph) hit the road to connect with friends and family — and find the perfect place to start their own family — in an amiably oddball odyssey that winds from Arizona to Wisconsin to Florida — and Canada. It’s a (welcome) change of pace for Oscar-winning “American Beauty” director Sam Mendes (who probably needed one after last year’s anguished “Revolutionary Road”); Krasinski’s and Rudolph’s unassuming performances help make this the first Mendes movie that feels lived-in rather than staged. (98 min.) R; profanity, sexual content.
BLOOD: THE LAST VAMPIRE
(D) No bite: In this adaptation of a Japanese animé, a vampire (Gianna Jun) who’s part of a clandestine government agency hunts down demons in post-World War II Japan. This tedious, amateurish outing loses all charm in the transition to live action; French director Chris Nahon strains to connect low budget and high ambition, but his talent for atmosphere is repeatedly undermined by Chris Chow’s incoherent script. (91 min.) R; strong bloody stylized violence.
(B-) “Borat’s” Sacha Baron Cohen returns as another outrageous character: the title Austrian fashionista, who’s “schwartzlisted” at home, prompting an international odyssey, from Hollywood to the heartland, in search of fabulousness and fame. Once again, the deadpan Baron Cohen proves an equal opportunity offender, using his comic assaults to puncture the pretensions — and the prejudices — of those he encounters. Not quite the satirical thunderbolt “Borat” was, “Brüno” has an inescapable been-there, seen-that undercurrent, yet it’s still another defiantly un-PC — and frequently hilarious — exercise in excess. (83 min.) R; pervasive strong and crude sexual content, graphic nudity, profanity. (C.C.)
(C+) All dressed up with nowhere to go: Michelle Pfeiffer (luminous as ever) reunites with her “Dangerous Liaisons” director, Stephen Frears for this surprisingly flat period tale, set in belle epoque Paris, about an aging courtesan who educates a colleague’s son (Rupert Friend) in the ways of love. It’s always lovely to look at, but the sharp wit and creeping melancholy of the source material (two Colette novels) never quite materialize on screen. (100 min.) R; sexual content, brief drug use.
DINOSAURS 3D: GIANTS OF PATAGONIA
(B) If you like dinosaurs (and who doesn’t?), you’ll love this 3-D documentary, which follows paleontologist Rodolfo Coria as he tramps the rugged wilds of Patagonia (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.
DRAG ME TO HELL
(B) “Spider-Man” director Sam Raimi returns to his horror roots in this tale of a perky bank loan officer (a game Alison Lohman), ordered to evict an old woman (Lorna Raver) from her home, who falls victim to a supernatural curse. Justin Long and David Paymer co-star in this Raimi-esque mix of gross-out madness and sick laughs, which turns out to be a hell of a lot of fun — in a sick and twisted way, of course. (99 min.) PG-13; horror violence, terror, disturbing images, profanity.
EVERY LITTLE STEP
(B) Real-life dancers audition for a Broadway revival of “A Chorus Line” — which, of course, is all about dancers auditioning for a Broadway show. But what a show: this exuberant documentary also explores the singular sensation that the original production became, through archival footage and interviews with (among others) composer Marvin Hamlisch, dancer Donna McKechnie and late great director/choreographer Michael Bennett. Even if you’ve never seen “A Chorus Line,” this companion piece to one of America’s most beloved musicals taps universal longings that make it accessible to anyone who needs a job, needs to dance, needs to dream. (96 min.) PG-13, profanity, sexual references.
(B+) It’s not a pretty picture, but this documentary presents an essential one, exploring American agribusiness and its impact on our food supply. From high fructose corn syrup to E coli, director Robert Kenner (PBS’ “The American Experience”) presents a blistering indictment of giant food conglomerates; it’s about a subtle as a watermelon in a bowl of Cheerios, but Kenner’s not trying to be objective. He’s out to scare people — parents with young children, low-income families who depend on fast foods to get by, politicians, food safety officials, all of us — and he succeeds. (93 min.) PG; thematic material, disturbing images.
GHOSTS OF GIRLFRIENDS PAST
(B-) At his brother’s wedding, a bachelor playboy (Matthew McConaughey) finds himself confronted by memories of his past girlfriends — and his role model, his Uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas) — in this romantic comedy co-starring a wise, wistful Jennifer Garner as the one who got away. As a romantic comedy, it’s average — but as Matthew McConaughey McComedies go, this one’s above average. If you’re a low-expectations moviegoer, it qualifies as a mildly pleasant surprise. (115 min.) PG-13; sexual content, profanity, drug references.
(C) A wild Caesars Palace bachelor bash spells trouble for four pals (Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, Justin Bartha) who party so hard they can’t remember anything from the night before — including where they left the groom. “Old School” director Todd Phillips’ rude, crude ‘n’ lewd romp provides a perfect excuse for anyone who wants to laugh his (or her) ass off; if you’d rather laugh your head off, however, you’ll have to find another movie, because this one’s pretty much brainless, and proudly so. (99 min.) R; pervasive profanity, sexual content, nudity, drug material. (C.C.)
HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE
(B) Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) enters his sixth year of training in wizardry — and discovers an old book that helps him delve into the dark past of the villainous Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). Slower and talkier than the five Potters that came before — but not necessarily in a bad way — this is a bubbling cauldron of adolescent angst, rife with romance and heartbreak, jealousy and longing. If it weren’t for all the bearded wizards and whooshing Death Eater vapor trails, this could be just another modern-day high school melodrama. (153 min.) PG; scary images, violence, profanity, mild sensuality.
ICE AGE: DAWN OF THE DINOSAURS
(C) Yawn of the dinosaurs: The third prehysteric adventure in the “Ice Age” franchise is definitely not the charm, as computer-animated pals Manny, Ellie, Diego and Sid (alias Ray Romano, Queen Latifah, Denis Leary and John Leguizamo — or at least their voices) have definitely overstayed their welcome, despite a move to Jurassic-like surroundings. Despite the imaginative imagery (and effective 3-D), the depth of these effects make the flatness of the story (and the indifferent voicework) all the more obvious. (94 min.) PG; mild rude humor and peril.
I LOVE YOU, BETH COOPER
(D+) After a nerdy valedictorian (Paul Rust) proclaims his love for the title high school hottie (“Hero’s” Hayden Panetierre) during his graduation speech, she shows up at his door, determined to make his grad night one to remember. Alas, this insipid-yet-raunchy wannabe farce never gets close to unmasking its high school stereotypes — and the charmlessness of the central characters make it all the more difficult to endure. In other words, we hate you, “Beth Cooper.” (102 min.) PG-13; crude and sexual content, profanity, teen drinking, drug references, brief violence.
(B-) An investment banker (Eddie Murphy) caught in a downward career spiral alters his prospects — by entering an imaginary world dreamed up by his daughter (Yara Shahidi), where the princesses make winning stock predictions. Murphy’s often deliriously misguided output tends to obscure what a naturally gifted (and conscientiously virtuosic) comedian he is, but through pure comic timing, he rescues what’s wrong in a movie in which very much is right. Sure, it’s uneven, but at least it takes a major step toward reasserting Murphy’s place as the comic heir to not only Richard Pryor but Groucho Marx. (107 min.) PG; mild profanity, brief questionable behavior.
LAND OF THE LOST
(C-) Wasteland of the lost: A crackpot scientist (Will Ferrell), believing time travel can solve the world’s fossil fuel shortage, zaps himself back in time in a (very) loose adaptation of the ’70s kid TV favorite that wastes Ferrell’s comedic talents and exemplifies the current Hollywood formula: big over small, special effects over story and excess, excess, excess. Some movies are good stupid; this one’s just plain stupid, and that’s not good. (93 min.) PG-13; crude and sexual content, profanity, drug references.
MONSTERS VS. ALIENS
(B) Creature feature: A mysterious space ray transforms a lovely bride (voiced by Reese Witherspoon) into a 50-foot Bridezilla — who becomes the latest member of a mutant monster team battling invading aliens. This computer-animated sci-fi romp is machine-tooled to provide something-for-everyone fun — goofy slapstick for the kids, movie spoofs for the grown-ups — anchored by a top-chop vocal cast (led by Seth Rogen and Hugh Laurie). A definite kick, it not exactly a classic. (94 min.) PG; sci-fi action, crude humor, mild profanity. (C.C.)
(B) Back in Las Vegas following its debut at June’s CineVegas film festival, this deceptively simple study of alienation, paranoia, and loneliness focuses on Sam (a virtuoso Sam Rockwell), an astronaut nearing the end of a three-year lunar stint. In his feature debut, director Duncan Jones (son of Mr. “Space Oddity” himself, David Bowie) conjures a hauntingly ominous tone, building a strange empathy — conspiratorial, tinged with dread — in the dialogues between Sam and his computer, voiced by the appropriately named Kevin Spacey. (97 min.) R; profanity.
MY SISTER’S KEEPER
(C) A young girl (“Little Miss Sunshine’s” Abigail Breslin) conceived as a genetic match for her cancer-stricken sister (Sofia Vassilieva) rebels against her parents (Cameron Diaz, Jason Patric). The “Notebook” team of director Nick Cassavetes and co-writer Jeremy Leven reunites for this moving yet slick adaptation of Jodi Picoult’s book, which captures the profound sorrow and grim realities of a dying child — but also strikes the prettified tone of a sympathy card. (106 min.) PG-13; mature themes, disturbing images, sexual references, profanity, brief teen drinking.
NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM: BATTLE OF THE SMITHSONIAN
(B-) History repeats itself, in more ways than one, in this sequel to the 2006 hit. This time, former night guard turned gadget guru Larry Daley (Ben Stiller) discovers that the friends who came to life after hours at New York’s Museum of Natural History are destined for mothballs at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., setting the stage for a rescue mission that finds spunky pilot Amelia Earhart (Amy Adams) helping battle power-crazed pharaoh Kahmunrah (the sublimely silly Hank Azaria). Not much movie magic beyond the computer-generated effects, but it’s still an occasionally clever, frequently funny and generally lively adventure. (105 min.) PG; mild action, brief profanity. (C.C.)
(B) Deadpan delight: The retirement of placid, pipe-puffing railroad conductor Odd Horten (B?rd Owe) throws his life utterly off track in a bittersweet comedy from Norwegian writer-director Bent Hamer (“Factotum,” “Kitchen Stories”). Not quite the absurdist gem “Kitchen Stories” turned out to be, but this sweet reverie about old age, solitude, companionship, and adventure has a lot in common, thematically and visually, with Pixar’s “Up” — which makes it well worth catching. (90 min.) PG-13; brief nudity.
(B-) A bitch-on-wheels book editor (Sandra Bullock) who’s about to be deported drafts her browbeaten assistant (Ryan Reynolds) as her instant fiancé, only to get her fish-out-of-water comeuppance when they visit his folks in Alaska. This genial romantic comedy may utterly predictable and eminently forgettable, but the charmingly deft cast — including Betty White as a go-for-the-gusto grandma — proves such good company you might not care. (108 min.) PG-13; sexual content, nudity, profanity. (C.C.)
(C+) Motion, not emotion: Johnny Depp goes gangster, playing dapper Depression-era hood John Dillinger to “Dark Knight” Christian Bale’s straight-arrow G-man Melvin Purvis in director Michael Mann’s rat-a-tat action workout. Too bad it’s so overstuffed with bank jobs and shootouts there’s little room for character development, let alone reflection. But at least it looks great, and a few supporting players strike sparks, especially “La Vie en Rose” Oscar-winner Marion Cotillard as Dillinger moll Billie Frechette and Mann’s “Crime Story” co-star Stephen Lang as a gun-totin’ lawman who knows how to get the job done. (140 min.) R; gangster violence, profanity. (C.C.)
(B) A blast from the past (and a blast, period), this relaunch of the venerable Starship Enterprise delivers, saluting Gene Roddenberry’s original without embalming its best qualities. Actionmeister J.J. Abrams (“Lost”) breaks no new ground, but shakes the mission free of numbing nostalgia, while a near-perfect cast (Chris Pine as hot-headed, hot-blooded James T. Kirk, “Heroes’ ” Zachary Quinto as young Spock, Karl Urban as Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy, Simon Pegg as Scotty — and, inevitably, Leonard Nimoy as time-warped Spock Prime) does the rest. (126 min.) PG-13; sci-fi action and violence, brief sexual content. (C.C.)
THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123
(C+) Money train: A regular-guy dispatcher (Denzel Washington) matches wits with a criminal mastermind (John Travolta) who hijacks a New York subway car and promises to start slaughtering the trapped passengers if $10 million isn’t delivered within the hour. Travolta and Washington have a blast as the cat-and-mouse adversaries, but this remake of a 1974 thriller isn’t quite as much fun as they are, in part because director Tony Scott’s overheated, perpetual-motion visual style often distracts, and detracts, from the suspense he’s trying (too) hard to create. (106 min.) R; violence, profanity. (C.C.)
(C+) No salvation: Last year’s box-office king, Christian Bale, trades in the cape, but not the crusade, as all-grown-up John Connor, who leads the charge against an army of Terminators trying to destroy what’s left of humanity following a nuclear holocaust. Unlike its groundbreaking, thought-provoking predecessors “Terminator” and “T2,” this is a powerfully dumb package of non-stop action. But at least it’s undeniably exciting on a visceral level; for many that will be enough. (115 min.) PG-13; intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, profanity.
TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN
(C) Those nasty Decepticons are back, kidnapping hero Sam Witwicky (charismatic Shia LaBeouf) and setting the stage for another epic, duel-to-the-death battle with the good-guy Autobots to determine Earth’s fate. Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, Tyrese Gibson and John Turturro reprise their roles in this follow-up to the 2007 smash, which is bigger, longer and louder than its predecessor. In this case, more is definitely less, making this installment long on boom-boom-pow and short on boom-boom-wow! (147 min.) PG-13; intense sci-fi action violence, profanity, crude and sexual material, brief drug material.
(A-) Another winner from the folks at Pixar Animation, who make a whimsical leap to 3-D with this buoyant tale of an elderly widower (voiced by Ed Asner) and a stowaway kid (Jordan Nagai) who take to the skies — in a house buoyed by balloons — to explore exotic climes. Director Pete Docter (“Monsters, Inc.”) directs with a sure-handed mixture of sentiment and slapstick, tapping into the magical connection between young and old — and making this an ideal summer moviegoing treat for kids of all ages. (96 min.) PG; action and peril. (C.C.)
(B+) Writer-director Woody Allen returns home to New York for this light, but far from slight, comedy about the unlikely romance between a misanthropic physicist (“Curb Your Enthusiasm’s” Larry David, a kvetchy hoot) and a Mississippi runaway (deadpan Evan Rachel Wood), whose departure soon brings her mother (sensationally sly Patricia Clarkson) to the Big Apple. Allen once again shows off his trademark wit and his insightful view of human nature as he shifts between the seriously and the silly, creating yet another profound — and profoundly funny — exploration of what fools we mortals be. (92 min.) PG-13; sexual situations and references, brief nude images, mature themes. (C.C.)
X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE
(C+) Hugh Jackman returns as Marvel Comics’ angry, adamantium-clawed title character in a prequel that explores how he’s driven to join the for-mutants-only Weapons X program — by the murderous back-stabbing of his lifelong brother-in-arms, Sabretooth (a smilingly sinister Liev Schreiber). The mega-buff Jackman gives it his all, but his appealing humanity can’t overcome the overwrought tedium. (107 min.) PG-13; intense action and violence, partial nudity. (C.C.)
(D+) Banished from their primitive village, two lazy hunter-gatherers (Jack Black and Michael Cera) embark on an odyssey across the ancient world, where they encounter Old Testament characters and visit Sodom, where they must rescue members of their village from slavery. Despite the reliable names in front of and behind the camera (including director Harold Ramis and producer Judd Apatow), this is a dud of near-epic proportions. (100 min.) PG-13; crude and sexual content, brief profanity, comic violence.