OPENING THIS WEEK
CLOUDY WITH A CHANCE OF MEATBALLS
Following in the monster footsteps of "Monsters vs. Aliens" and "Up," this 3-D animated romp focuses on a wacky inventor (voiced by Bill Hader) whose latest creation triggers a downpour — of giant food. At multiple locations; at select locations in 3-D and IMAX 3-D. (90 min.) PG; brief mild profanity.
IT MIGHT GET LOUD
This rock documentary explores the electric guitar from the perspectives of three notable practitioners: Jimmy Page, The Edge and Jack White. Davis Guggenheim ("An Inconvenient Truth") directs. At Village Square. (97 min.) PG; mild thematic elements, brief profanity, smoking.
"Transformers" fox Megan Fox headlines this chiller about a cheerleader who turns deadly — by slaughtering male classmates. "Mamma Mia’s" Amanda Seyfried and "The O.C.’s" Adam Brody co-star for "Girlfight" director Karyn Kusama; "Juno" Oscar-winner Diablo Cody contributes the script. At multiple locations. (102 min.) R; sexuality, bloody violence, profanity, brief drug use.
Belgium’s filmmaking brothers Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardennes ("The Promise," "The Child") return with another Cannes award-winner, this one about an Albanian immigrant (Arta Dobroshi) embroiled in a sham marriage engineered by a murderous mobster. In French and Albanian with English subtitles. At the Suncoast. (105 min.) R; brief sexuality/nudity, profanity.
A widowed self-help guru (Aaron Eckhart) falls for a seminar attendee (Jennifer Aniston), only to discover he might not be ready for romance, in this drama featuring Dan Fogler, Martin Sheen and Judy Greer. At multiple locations. (109 min.) PG-13, profanity, sexual references.
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 more, with his upstairs neighbor ("Damages’ " radiant Rose Byrne) in a mostly poignant, occasionally strained comedy-drama that deserves points for its sensitive yet restrained treatment of a mentally disabled character. (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) battling extra-terrestrials invading their vacation home. This has a few positive messages, a few laughs and a few comic throw-downs, but it’s at least as stupid as it is funny. (86 min.) PG; action violence, suggestive humor, profanity.
ALL ABOUT STEVE
(F) All about bad: 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 a grating misfire that’s unfunny, stupefyingly inane and a depressing waste of money, energy and time — yours included. (98 min.) PG-13; sexual content and innuendos.
(C+) All dressed up with nowhere to go: Michelle Pfeiffer (luminous as ever) reunites with her "Dangerous Liaisons" director, Stephen Frears for a 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. Always lovely to look at, but the sharp wit and creeping melancholy of the source material (two Colette novels) never quite materialize. (100 min.) R; sexual content, brief drug use.
(D-) A financially strapped ex-con (Josh Stuart) plots a heist at his new employer’s country home, not realizing that another crook has already rigged it with deadly traps. Seen "Saw," anyone? Screenwriters Patrick Melton and Marcus Dunstan have, because they also co-wrote the fourth, fifth and sixth "Saw" sequels — and are in development on the seventh. Here, they start their very own horror series, but it’s the same old slice and dice. (88 min.) R; pervasive sadistic bloody violence, profanity, sexual situations, nudity.
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 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.
(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.
(C) The owner of a small flavor extract company (nicely hapless Jason Bateman) finds his business — and personal life — going down the tubes, prompting him to take increasingly desperate action. This fitfully amusing but off-target satire (from "Office Space" writer-director Mike Judge) never finds its comedic momentum, despite such nimble players as Ben Affleck, Mila Kunis, J.K. Simmons, Clifton Collins Jr., David Koechner and Kristin Wiig. "Extract" works hard, but never creates characters worth caring about, which makes it tough to laugh at them — to say nothing of laughing with them. (92 min.) R; sexual references, drug use. (C.C.)
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+) This romantic-comedy charmer follows 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.)
(C) A 40-something comic movie star (Adam Sandler, lampooning his goofball image) develops a possibly fatal blood disease and takes an aspiring stand-up comedian (a genial Seth Rogen) under his wing. Maudlin and contrived, this frustratingly self-indulgent comedy-drama from writer-director Judd Apatow ("Knocked Up," "The 40-Year-Old Virgin") strains to be serious, but suffers from a fatal case of the bloats. (145 min.) R; sexual situations and references, nudity, profanity. (C.C.)
(D) "The Ugly Truth’s" mucho macho Gerard Butler puts his game face on for this futuristic thriller, playing a convict trapped in a "real life" video game where players shoot to kill — or be killed. This was never going to be much, but it could (and should) have been more than this letdown from "Crank" creators Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, who substitute drippy sentiment for goofy mayhem, leaving such talented types as Butler and Kyra Sedgwick stranded, along with hapless audience members. (95 min.) R; strong brutal violence, sexual content, nudity, profanity.
(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; real rodents would never make it. (88 min.) PG; mild action, rude humor.
G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA
(D) The elite G.I. Joe fighting force takes 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") 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.
(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, 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 pals (Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms) who party so hard they can’t remember anything from the night before — including where they left the groom (Justin Bartha). "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 wizard training — and discovers an old book that helps him delve into the dark past of the villainous Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). Slower and talkier than its predecessors (but not necessarily in a bad way), this is a bubbling cauldron of adolescent angst, rife with romance and heartbreak, jealousy and longing. It could be just another high school melodrama — if it weren’t for all the bearded wizards and whooshing Death Eater vapor trails. (153 min.) PG; scary images, violence, profanity, mild sensuality.
(B+) Writer-director Lynn Shelton’s award-winning indie (back in Las Vegas following its June CineVegas debut) serves up a droll, insightful inquiry into the limits of male bonding as two reunited college pals — one (Mark Duplass) settled and married, the other (Joshua Leonard) a wandering bachelor artist — collaborate on a film project in which they plan to take their "bromance" to the next level. Serious — and seriously funny. (93 min.) R; strong sexual content, pervasive profanity, drug use. (C.C.)
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.)
I CAN DO BAD ALL BY MYSELF
(B) Pistol-packin’ granny Madea returns (along with the guy who plays her, writer-director Tyler Perry) in an endearing adaptation of Perry’s melo-comedic stage production, in which Madea tries to reform a hard-drinking nightclub singer (spitfire Taraji P. Henson) reluctant to assume guardianship of her late sister’s children. A double shot of Saturday-night lowdown, chased by a cheery chug of Sunday-morning uplift. (153 min.) PG-13; mature thematic material involving a sexual assault on a minor, violence, drug references, smoking.
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 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.
(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. 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 ONE AND ONLY
(B-) If you’ve ever wondered how a fellow like George Hamilton became a fellow like George Hamilton, this breezy period comedy answers the question by looking, fondly, at his primary caregiver: his mercurial mother (Renée Zellweger), a fading Southern belle dumps her philandering bandleader husband (Kevin Bacon) to search for a replacement mate, teenage sons George (Logan Lerman) and Robbie (Mark Rendall) in tow. A wistfully jaunty, refreshingly old-fashioned road trip through an America that’s definitely gone with the wind. (108 min.) PG-13; sexual content, profanity.
(B-) Not to be confused with the Broadway musical "Nine" (coming later this year), this animated apocalyptic sci-fi blast, expanded from director Shane Acker’s award-winning short, follows the title rag doll (voiced by Elijah Wood) as he takes refuge from a vicious machine. The thin story can’t quite measure up to the stylishly haunting visuals, but Acker’s definitely a talent to watch. (79 min.) PG-13; violence, scary images.
(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 (terrifically creepy Isabelle Fuhrman), who’s hardly a bundle of joy. A thoroughly enjoyable addition to the venerable, mostly forgotten devil-spawn genre (think 1956’s "The Bad Seed" and 1972’s "The Other") that proves there’s plenty of life in the old tale yet. (123 min.) R; disturbing violent content, sexual situations, 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 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 how to get there. (97 min.) R; graphic violence, profanity, sexual references, drug use.
(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.
(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 rugged Alaska. A genial, if utterly predictable and eminently forgettable romantic comedy, but the 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.)
(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 wonderfully offbeat kids’ movie 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.
(C-) The 1983 horror fave "House on Sorority Row" gets a remake (and a title trim), but the premise remains the same, as a serial killer goes after a group of sorority sisters (Rumer Willis, Briana Evigan and Audrina Patridge among them) trying to cover up the deadly consequences of a prank gone horribly wrong. Given its spunky, sexy, funny, spirited and bitchy heroines, this could (and should) have been a lot sharper and a lot more fun. (101 min.) R; strong bloody violence, profanity, sexuality, nudity, partying.
(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.)
(B-) Your own private Woodstock: Oscar-winning "Brokeback Mountain" director Ang Lee lightens up with a 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, this is a powerfully dumb package of non-stop action. (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 (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 substance, depth or character development; it’s told with undeniable tenderness, 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 (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, proving that more is definitely less. (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 Katherine Heigl) clashes with her show’s misogynistic new correspondent (macho motormouth 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.)
(A-) Another winner from the folks at Pixar, 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 treat for kids of all ages. (96 min.) PG; action and peril. (C.C.)
(C-) Pale imitation: A U.S. marshal (Kate Beckinsale), scheduled to depart Antarctica, is called back to duty to find a murderer — before six months of winter sets in. This ham-handed journey to the bottom of the earth jettisons the comic book original’s few twists for a hollow "Hollywood version" that provides zero suspense, despite the movie’s sub-zero setting. (101 min.) R; violence, grisly images, brief profanity, nudity.
(D+) Banished from their primitive village, two lazy hunter-gatherers (Jack Black and Michael Cera) embark on an odyssey across the ancient world. 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.