OPENING THIS WEEK
AWAY WE GO
Young married 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. Jeff Daniels, Catherine O’Hara, Allison Janney and Maggie Gyllenhaal co-star in this comedy from Oscar-winning "American Beauty" director Sam Mendes, who probably needed a change of pace after last year’s anguished "Revolutionary Road." At Village Square. (98 min.) R; profanity, sexual content.
MY SISTER’S KEEPER
TRANSFORMERS: REVENGE OF THE FALLEN
Those nasty Decepticons are back, kidnapping hero Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) and setting the stage for another epic battle with the 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. At multiple locations. (147 min.) PG-13; intense sci-fi action violence, profanity, crude and sexual material, brief drug material.
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.)
BEAUTY IN TROUBLE
(B) This award-winning Czech comedy-drama from director Jan Hrebejk ("Up and Down") focuses on the title wife and mother (Ana Geislerova), whose car thief husband is sent to prison — after they’ve lost everything in the 2002 Prague flood — leaving her vulnerable to the attentions of the stolen car’s owner (Josef Abrham), who runs a vineyard in Italy. This has no particular insights, no truth to convey, yet it achieves one simple yet difficult thing: it pleases you. While watching it, you’ll feel you have chosen wisely and not wasted your time. And you’ll smile a lot. In Czech with English subtitles. (110 min.) NR; sexual images, nudity.
THE BROTHERS BLOOM
(C) Two con-artist siblings (Adrien Brody, Mark Ruffalo) take an eccentric heiress (Rachel Weisz) on a romantic around-the-world escapade. Like the hats the brothers wear (a porkpie and a bowler suggesting their slapstick allegiance with Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton), there’s something arch about these hornswogglers — to say nothing of the movie they’re in. "Brick" director Rian Johnson’s film is a scam wrapped in a sham, a stylish caper so concerned with its look that it winds up having precious little to say. (113 min.) PG-13 for violence, sexual references, brief profanity.
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.
(B) In 1920s Britain, a young scion of the upper crust ("Prince Caspian’s" Ben Barnes) marries a glamorous American race car driver (Jessica Biel) and brings her home to meet — and shake up — his stuffy parents (Colin Firth, Kristin Scott Thomas) in a deliciously cheeky adaptation of Noel Coward’s play, from director Stephan Elliott ("The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert") that will charm your pants off. (93 min.) PG-13; sexual content, brief partial nudity, smoking.
FAST & FURIOUS
(C) The fourth installment in the "Fast & Furious" franchise reteams original stars Paul Walker and Vin Diesel, who try to take down a local drug lord (John Ortiz) eager to add the twosome to his elite driving team. Original co-stars Jordana Brewster and Michelle Rodriguez are along for the ride, but the real stars are the loud racing sequences that look like the video games inspired by these movies. In short, a tough guy fantasy about cars, girls — and other tough guys. (107 min.) PG-13; intense sequences of violence and action, sexual content, profanity, drug references.
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.)
I LOVE YOU, MAN
(B-) A fine bromance: A newly engaged yet curiously friendless guy (Paul Rudd) launches a search for a best man that bears unexpected fruit when his instant bond with a fun-loving lug (Jason Segal) threatens his relationship with his understanding fiancée (Rashida Jones). Rudd’s wry warmth balances Segal’s fearlessly funny portrait of permanently arrested adolescence, while writer-director John Hamburg ("Along Came Polly") proves that he’s got more on his mind than a snickering celebration of testosterone gone wild. (104 min.) R; pervasive profanity, including crude and sexual references. (C.C.)
(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.
IS ANYBODY THERE?
(B) Michael Caine continues a remarkable late-career renaissance with another standout portrayal, this time playing a curmudgeonly magician who finds an unlikely friend in a precocious, death-obsessed 10-year-old ("Son of Rambow’s" endearing Bill Milner) whose parents have transformed the family residence into an old-folks home. Caine’s far from the only attraction, thanks to a sensitive script and direction, but he once again proves that he needs no tricks to conjure a magical character. (95 min.) PG-13; profanity, sexual references, disturbing images. (C.C.)
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.)
MY LIFE IN RUINS
(C-) "My Big Fat Greek Wedding’s" Nia Vardalos (still Greek, still charming) returns in this comedy about an unemployed academic turned tour guide, who’s trying to rediscover romance — in her Greek homeland. Alas, this trip’s hardly a pleasure cruise, it may be summery and scenic, dispensing diversion and wisdom in the "Mamma Mia!" vein, but it’s so brash and trashy it makes "My Big Fat Greek Wedding’s" sitcom humor seem positively restrained. (98 min.) PG-13; sexual content.
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-) 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.)
(D+) "Fatal Attraction" meets "The Temp" when a wacko new office worker (Ali Larter) makes life miserable for a happily married asset manager ("The Wire’s" Idris Elba) — and his hands-off-my-man wife (Beyoncé Knowles). The three leads may be easy on the eyes, but the dialogue they’re forced to spout is pretty harsh on the ears. One doesn’t expect this type of movie to be plausible, but this one stretches the plausibility factor past the snapping point — to the unintentional-laughter point. (100 min.) PG-13; sexual material including suggestive dialogue, violence, mature themes.
RUDO Y CURSI
(B) The dynamic "Y Tu Mama Tambien" duo of Gabriel Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna reunites in this engaging rags-to-riches sports fantasy about country-bumpkin brothers who play soccer for their village team — until a slick agent (Guillermo Francella) recruits them to play professionally in Mexico City. Writer-director Carlos Cuaron (brother of "Y Tu Mama’s" Alfonso) makes an auspicious feature debut, skewering everything from Mexico’s soccer hooliganism to the sorry exploitation of its work force. In Spanish with English subtitles. (102 min.) R; pervasive profanity, sexual content, brief drug use.
(B-) Teenthrob Zac Efron graduates from "High School Musical" — but not from high school — as the adolescent incarnation of an embittered family man (Matthew Perry) who magically gets a chance to live things all over again. It’s not as clever as "Freaky Friday" or even "13 Going on 30," but, as a teen with the brain of a father, Efron ably carries this featherweight farce — especially for its target tween audience. (102 min.) PG-13; profanity, sexual material, teen partying.
(B-) Looking for a story, a Los Angeles Times columnist (Robert Downey Jr.) finds something more — an unexpected friendship — when he encounters a homeless, Juilliard-trained musician (Jamie Foxx) on the Skid Row streets. Based on columnist Steve Lopez’s best-selling book, this is an undeniably touching tale. But, rather than simply presenting it, the movie keeps trying to tell us how we feel — despite the fact that it doesn’t always know how it feels about things either. (109 min.) PG-13; mature themes, drug use, 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.)
STATE OF PLAY
(B) Stop the presses: A veteran Washington reporter (the commanding Russell Crowe) and a neophyte blogger (feisty Rachel McAdams) investigate the mysterious death of a congressional staffer — employed (and then some) by a rising political star (a slick Ben Affleck), the reporter’s college roommate. Based on an acclaimed British miniseries, this streamlined, Americanized version loses a bit in translation, but director Kevin Macdonald ("Last King of Scotland") builds taut-wire tension without flashy camera tricks or computerized effects. (127 min.) PG-13; violence, profanity, sexual references, brief drug 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.
(A-) Another winner from the wonderful 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.)
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, Michael Cera) embark on an epic journey across the ancient world where they encounter Old Testament characters in biblical settings — including Cain and Abel, and Abraham and Isaac — and visit the city of Sodom where they must rescue members of their village from slavery. (100 min.) PG-13; crude and sexual content, brief profanity, comic violence.