OPENING THIS WEEK
ALL ABOUT STEVE
A roving cable news cameraman ("The Hangover’s" Bradley Cooper) thinks he’s got a stalker on his trail — but it’s only a one-time blind date ("The Proposal’s" Sandra Bullock), a quirky crossword puzzle creator hoping to convince him they’re fated to be mated. "Sideways" Oscar nominee Thomas Haden Church and "The Hangover’s" Ken Jeong co-star in this road-trip romantic comedy. At multiple locations. (98 min.) PG-13; sexual content and innuendos.
"The Ugly Truth’s" mucho macho Gerard Butler returns in a futuristic thriller where life has become a multi-player game — and the players play to kill. John Leguizamo and busy Logan Lerman (whose "My One and Only" also opens here today) join "Dexter’s" Michael C. Hall, "Drag Me to Hell’s" Alison Lohman and "The Closer’s" Kyra Sedgwick in the co-starring cast. At multiple locations. (95 min.) R; strong brutal violence, sexual content, nudity, profanity.
THE GIRL FROM MONACO
A millionaire’s widow (Stephane Audran) on trial for murder hires a powerhouse lawyer (veteran comic actor Fabrice Luchini of Erich Rohmer’s 1970 classic "Claire’s Knee"), who becomes embroiled in far more than he bargained for. Newcomer Louise Bourgoin plays the title role, a TV weathercaster; Anne Fontaine (the upcoming "Coco Before Chanel") co-writes and directs. In French, Italian and Russian, with English subtitles. At Village Square. (95 min.) R; sexual content, profanity.
MY ONE AND ONLY
If you’ve ever wondered how George Hamilton turned out the way he did, this ’50s period comedy may provide the (fictionalized) answers. Renée Zellweger stars as George’s mercurial mother, who’s just left her philandering bandleader husband (Kevin Bacon) to search for a replacement mate, teenage sons George ("3:10 to Yuma’s" Logan Lerman) and Robbie (Mark Rendall) in tow. Troy Garity, David Koechner (who’s also in "Extract"), Eric McCormack and Chris Noth co-star. At Village Square. (108 min.) PG-13; sexual content, profanity.
WORLD’S GREATEST DAD
Back in Las Vegas following its closing-night slot at June’s CineVegas film festival, this edgy comedy from writer-director Bobcat Goldthwait stars Robin Williams as a wannabe writer who’s settled for teaching high school — until fate steps in and presents a life-altering opportunity. "Spy Kids’ " Daryl Sabara plays his obnoxious teenage son. Part of the CineVegas screening series at the Palms. (99 min.) R; profanity, crude and sexual content, drug use, disturbing images.
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.
(B-) A lonely New York engineer with Asperger’s Syndrome ("Confessions of a Shopaholic" charmer Hugh Dancy) finds unexpected friendship, and romance, with his upstairs neighbor ("Damages’ " radiant Rose Byrne) in a mostly poignant, occasionally strained comedy-drama from writer-director Max Mayer that deserves points for its sensitive yet restrained treatment of a mentally disabled character whose disability is, thankfully, only aspect of his cinematic personality. (99 min.) PG-13; thematic elements, sexual content, profanity. (C.C.)
ALIENS IN THE ATTIC
(C-) A children’s movie mix of live-action and animation, this family-friendly romp features a group of kids (led by "High School Musical" alumna Ashley Tisdale, parading around in a bikini for all the dads out there) battling extra-terrestrials invading their vacation home. This has a few positive messages, a few laughs and a few comic throw-downs (one involving "Everybody Loves Raymond’s" Doris Roberts going all "Crouching Tiger" on an alien-controlled frat boy), but it’s at least as stupid as it is funny. (86 min.) PG; action violence, suggestive humor, profanity.
(B) The new kid in town ("Chocolat’s" Gaelan Connell) teams up with a free spirit ("High School Musical’s" Vanessa Hudgens) to form a rock group destined to compete in a hometown battle of the bands. "Friday Night Lights" graduate Scott Porter and "Friends" veteran Lisa Kudrow co-star for "Camp" director Todd Graff in a charmer that exceeds current teen-flick standards to deliver a combination of good feeling and pretty solid music. (111 min.) PG; thematic elements, mild profanity.
(B) Aliens trapped in apartheid-like conditions on Earth discover an ally in a government agent (Sharlto Copley) who, exposed to their biotechnology, begins mutating from human to extra-terrestrial. This sci-fi sleeper from writer-director Neill Blomkamp and producer Peter Jackson ("Lord of the Rings") proves sci-fi thrillers don’t have to be star-studded or mega-budgeted to be visually compelling — and thoroughly entertaining. (112 min.) R; bloody violence, pervasive profanity.
THE FINAL DESTINATION
(D-) Start your engines for the fourth installment of this horror franchise (the first in 3-D), as yet another teen (Bobby Campo) tries to put the brakes on Death after his premonition of deadly disaster during a race car crash initially saves lives — lives the Grim Reaper intends to collect. A decade ago, this was a somewhat intriguing premise; three sequels later, it’s deader than this movie’s hapless victims. The only thing 3-D adds is perspective — to help you see how non-dimensional everything else is. (82 min.) R; strong violent/gruesome accidents, profanity, sexual content.
(500) DAYS OF SUMMER
(B+) Back in Las Vegas following its June debut at the CineVegas film festival, this romantic-comedy charmer focuses on a lovelorn L.A. guy ("G.I. Joe’s" Joseph Gordon-Levitt), an aspiring architect working at a greeting-card company, before and after he falls for a quirky new co-worker (Zooey Deschanel) who doesn’t quite believe in love, everlasting or otherwise. Marc Webb’s breezy debut gets a bit too gimmicky for its own good, yet ultimately overcomes its self-conscious cuteness to get to the heart of the matter. (95 min.) PG-13; sexual references, profanity. (C.C.)
(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 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 succeeds. (93 min.) PG; thematic material, disturbing images.
(C) A 40-something comic movie star (Adam Sandler, bravely lampooning his goofball image) develops a possibly fatal blood disease and takes an aspiring stand-up comedian (a genial Seth Rogen) under his wing. This maudlin, contrived and frustratingly self-indulgent comedy-drama from writer-director Judd Apatow ("Knocked Up," "The 40-Year-Old Virgin") strains to be serious, but by trying to cram three movies into one, "Funny People" suffers from a massive identity crisis — and a fatal case of the bloats. (145 min.) R; sexual situations and references, nudity, profanity. (C.C.)
(C) Specially trained animal spies (including those voiced by Tracy Morgan, Sam Rockwell and Oscar-winners Nicolas Cage and Penélope Cruz) battle a diabolical billionaire (Bill Nighy) in a humdrum, kid-friendly hybrid of "Mission: Impossible" and "The Wind in the Willows" that’s an inane perpetual-motion machine of car chases (and motorized exercise ball chases), projectile kitchen appliances, and, yes, a towering "Transformers"-like robot run amok. Good thing the 9-inch-tall furball action heroes are actually computer-animated, because real rodents would never make it through the opening minutes. Grown-ups in the audience may not either. (88 min.) PG; mild action, rude humor.
G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA
(D) Forget those fighting soldiers you collected as a kid; this G.I. Joe is an elite fighting force, assigned to take on a notorious arms dealer (Christopher Eccleston) and his evil organization. Channing Tatum, Marlon Wayans, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Sienna Miller and Dennis Quaid lead the starring cast, but the original Hasbro action figures probably would have given livelier performances. Director Stephen Sommers ("The Mummy" franchise) isn’t interested in them anyway, saving his overkill for the computerized effects — and the audience members who become collateral damage. (118 min.) PG-13; strong action violence and mayhem.
THE GOODS: LIVE HARD. SELL HARD.
(C-) No cash for this clunker, a strained comedy about an under-the-gun car dealer (James Brolin) so desperate he calls in an ace liquidator (Jeremy Piven) who specializes in bringing dead car lots back to life. Despite a timely premise and a game cast (including Ving Rhames, David Koechner and "The Hangover’s" Ed Helms), this wannabe satire’s down-and-dirty ‘tude turns out to be a ruse, because in its heart of hearts it’s nothing but mush. All of which makes "The Goods" far from good. (90 min.) R; sexual content, nudity, pervasive profanity, drug material. (C.C.)
(C) Rocker-turned-horror-auteur Rob Zombie follows his 2007 revamp of the venerable horror franchise with this blunt-force sequel, in which pesky Michael Myers (Tyler Mane) returns to his Illinois hometown to make life even more miserable for sister Laurie (Scout Taylor-Compton). Zombie’s a terrific stylist, but he seems bored with this material — and even Michael behaves as though he’d rather be somewhere else. Which is not scary — and that’s no way to celebrate "Halloween." (101 min.) R; strong brutal bloody violence, terror, disturbing graphic images, profanity, crude sexual content, nudity.
(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, 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.
THE HURT LOCKER
(A-) Three members of an Army bomb-defusing squad –a cocky sergeant (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, one of the year’s best movies, director Kathryn Bigelow ("Point Break," "K-19: The Widowmaker") demonstrates her mastery of action (and psychology), exploring how dehumanizing — and how addictive — combat can be. (131 min.) R; war violence, profanity. (C.C.)
IN THE LOOP
(B+) "Wag the Dog" meets "The West Wing" in this wonderfully nasty political satire, which follows government officials on both sides of the Atlantic — from a dovish U.S. general ("The Sopranos’ " James Gandolfini) to an expletive-undeleting British press secretary ("Local Hero’s" Peter Capaldi) — as their governments prepare for an invasion of an unidentified Middle Eastern country. (We all know which one it turned out to be.) Tom Hollander, David Rasche, Steve Coogan and Mimi Kennedy also turn up in Brit wit Armando Iannucci’s hilarious skewering of a very serious subject. (106 min.) NR; extreme profanity, brief sexual content.
(C+) Nothing exceeds like excess in writer-director Quentin Tarantino’s epic World War II "Dirty Dozen"-meets-"The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" spoof/homage, set "somewhere in Nazi-occupied France," about a smilingly relentless SS colonel (irresistibly smug Christoph Waltz), Jewish GIs (led by a cartoonishly macho Brad Pitt) collecting Nazi scalps and a young survivor of a Nazi massacre (Mélanie Laurent) running a Paris movie house — and plotting revenge. All the Tarantino trademarks are here, from tangy dialogue to gleeful violence, but he’s so busy trying to convince us of his brilliance he can’t be bothered to make a movie that might prove it. (153 min.) R; strong graphic violence, profanity, brief sexual situations. (C.C.)
JULIE & JULIA
(B-) In post-World War II Paris, Julia Child (Meryl Streep) discovers the wonders of French cuisine, while in post-Sept. 11 New York, frustrated writer Julie Powell (Amy Adams) decides to cook her way through Child’s "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." This genial two-in-one account from writer-director Nora Ephron ("Sleepless in Seattle") strains to equate its two protagonists’ far from equal journeys, yet the contrived concept works better than it has any right to, thanks in part to deft performances — and Ephron’s light, almost sitcom-style approach. Even so, this recipe would be a lot better with more Julia and less Julie. (123 min.) PG-13; brief profanity, sexual references. (C.C.)
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.
(B) After losing yet another baby, John and Kate Coleman (top-shelf actors Peter Sarsgaard and Vera Farmiga) decide to adopt 9-year-old Esther (the terrifically creepy Isabelle Fuhrman), who’s hardly a bundle of joy. This thoroughly enjoyable addition to the venerable, mostly forgotten devil-spawn genre (think 1956’s "The Bad Seed" and 1972’s "The Other") proves there’s plenty of life in the old demon-seed plotline. (123 min.) R; disturbing violent content, sexual situations, profanity.
(B) This mock documentary follows comic/performance artist Charlyne Yi ("Knocked Up") on a cross-country quest to find, and figure out, love — and journey that, inevitably, includes a stop at a Las Vegas wedding chapel where an imitation Elvis presides over rockin’ nuptials. Michael Cera co-stars, in the demanding role of Michael Cera, while Jake M. Johnson co-stars — as writer-director Nicholas Jasenovec. Slight, silly, sweet and, yes, quirky, "Paper Heart" doesn’t really have a whole lot to say, but it says it in a unique and inventive way. (88 min.) PG-13; profanity.
A PERFECT GETAWAY
(B-) Cheap thrills: two vacationing couples (Steve Zahn and Milla Jovovich, Timothy Olyphant and Kiele Sanchez) vacationing in Hawaii discover that murderous psychos are sharing their romantic Hawaiian idyll in a pulpy chiller (from "Chronicles of Riddick" writer-director David Twohy) that plays dumb to outsmart its audience. Up to a point, it works; this is one B-movie that not only knows where it’s going but knows how to get there. (97 min.) R; graphic violence, profanity, sexual references, drug use.
PLAY THE GAME
(C) A grieving widower (Andy Griffith) gets dating do’s-and-don’ts advice from his playboy grandson (Paul Campbell). The good news: Griffith , the seemingly perennial TV fixture, is still funny and sharp and folksy. The bad news: He lost the bet, or whatever it was that got him into writer-director Marc Fienberg’s smarmy, lackluster comedy, which measures its comedic maturity in jokes about hemorrhoids, constipation, and erectile dysfunction. Opie, I don’t think we’re in Mayberry anymore. (105 min.) PG-13; sexual content, profanity.
(B+) Master animator Hayao Miyazaki ("Spirited Away," "Princess Mononoke") returns with another fanciful fable, this one about a magical goldfish who longs to discover what life beyond the sea is like — and gets her chance when she’s washed ashore and picked up by a 5-year-old boy. Cate Blanchett, Liam Neeson, Matt Damon and Tina Fey lead the vocal cast of this English-language version (scripted by "E.T.’s" Melissa Mathison). You watch a Miyazaki film with the pie-eyed, gape-mouthed awe of a child being read the most fantastic story and suddenly transported to places previously beyond the limits of imagination. As always, it’s quite a trip. (101 min.) G; all ages.
(C-) In this lame, tame comedy, a chronically unemployed college graduate (former "Gilmore Girl" Alexis Bledel) is forced to move back home with her wacky parents (Michael Keaton, Jane Lynch) and her wackier grandma (Carol Burnett) while she looks for the perfect job — and the perfect guy. Its recession-era setting may be timely, but the movie’s typically Hollywood, typically sexist message is timeless: If you’re a woman, your dreams and plans are meaningless without a man. (89 min.) PG-13; sexual situations, brief profanity.
(B) A weird Texas town gets even weirder when the local kids find a magical rock — and the local grown-ups compete to control it — in a funny, fast-as-lightning fantasy from writer-director Robert Rodriguez (in prime "Spy Kids" mode). This may be a kids’ movie — and a wonderfully offbeat one at that — but it has enough smarts for parents too. Kat Dennings, Jon Cryer, Leslie Mann, William H. Macy and James Spader lead the able cast. (89 min.) PG; mild action, rude humor.
(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 STONING OF SORAYA M.
(B) This riveting account of oppression, injustice and defiance dramatizes the true story of an Iranian wife and mother put to death under fundamentalist religious law in 1986. What keeps us watching is the path — from outrage, to fear, to resigned martyrdom — of Mozhan Marno, who plays the blameless victim, and the speak-truth-to-power courage of Shoreh Aghdashloo (an Oscar nominee for "House of Sand and Fog") as her tireless advocate, desperately looking for justice. In English and Persian with English subtitles. (116 min.) R; disturbing sequence of cruel and brutal violence, brief profanity.
(B-) Your own private Woodstock: Oscar-winning "Brokeback Mountain" director Ang Lee lightens up with this fact-based comedy about dutiful Elliot Teichberg (comedian Demetri Martin), whose quest to help his parents (Imelda Staunton, Henry Goodman) save their crumbling Catskills motel picks up steam when he agrees to help a displaced rock festival find a new home — on neighbor Max Yasgur’s dairy farm. If you’re looking for the music, check out the Oscar-winning 1970 documentary "Woodstock," because this genial, meandering human mosaic operates on the fringes of the festival, exploring timeless themes that never go out of style. (120 min.) R; graphic nudity, sexual content, drug use, 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.
THE TIME TRAVELER’S WIFE
(C) "The Notebook’s" Rachel McAdams returns to the star-crossed romance genre with this adaptation of Audrey Niffenegger’s novel about a Chicago librarian (the well-cast Eric Bana) with a genetic glitch that triggers involuntary time-tripping. Scripted by "Ghost" Oscar-winner Bruce Joel Rubin, the movie’s time-travel gimmick supersedes any sort of substance, depth or character development. It’s told with a tenderness that’s unusual in a major motion picture, but that tenderness, alas, leads mostly to dullness. But (107 min.) PG-13; thematic elements, brief disturbing images, nudity, sexuality.
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.
THE UGLY TRUTH
(D+) Ugly is as "Ugly" does: A romantically challenged producer for a morning news show (in-a-rut charmer Katherine Heigl) clashes with her show’s misogynistic new correspondent ("300’s" mucho macho Gerard Butler), who tests his relationship theories on her. Crude yet cloying, this aptly titled battle-of-the-sexes comedy turns out to be a cynical, clumsy attempt to mate a chick flick with a male-oriented gross-out comedy; both sexes should sue for defamation of character. (101 min.) R; sexual content, profanity. (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.