Movie Clips-Zookeeper,Ironclad,Horrible Bosses -Opening Friday
CITY OF LIFE AND DEATH (NR) Chinese director Lu Chuan helms this epic account of the Japanese siege of the Chinese city of Nanking in Dec.1937.International film critics have acclaimed City of Life and Death’s black and white cinematography.
HORRIBLE BOSSES 3 stars (R ) Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis and Charlie Day play three long-time pals who consider killing their horrendous employers —respectively,a corporate back-stabber (Kevin Spacey),a sleazy cokehead (Colin Farrell) and an attractive dentist (Jennifer Aniston) bent on sexual harassment.
Horrible Bosses’ performance evaluation includes such knocks as lame car chases,flat characterization and poor follow-through on its wicked premise. Aniston and Farrell (in a hilariously lousy comb-over) give hilarious,comeback-worthy performances but go AWOL for long stretches. Nevertheless,the jokes achieve the baseline amount of laughs and Charlie Day of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” holds his own, like a hyper equivalent to Zach Galifianakis. — Holman
IRONCLAD (R ) Shortly after the signing of the Magna Carta, the forces of the evil King John (Paul Giamatti) lay siege to a band of rebels in Rochester Castle, lead by a Templar knight (“Rome’s” James Purefoy). From the director of a movie called Minotaur this medieval action film overlaps historically with that Russell Crowe Robin Hood movie.
THE LAST MOUNTAIN (NR) Bill Haney’s documentary depicts the efforts of environmental activists to prevent major coal corporations from continuing a criticized practice called “Mountain Top Removal.”
TRIGUN: BADLANDS RUMBLE 3 stars (NR) A flamboyant bankrobber, a vengeful beauty and a goofball pacifist gunslinger, among other bizarre characters, clash in a desert town. This Japanese anime based on a manga series draws on Hollywood Westerns, interplanetary science fiction and a little steampunk for a schizophrenic adventure that flirts with incoherence but delivers highly imaginative animated action scenes. — Holman
ZOOKEEPER 1 star Typically in a film featuring intelligent or talking animals there's some balance between the overall story and the amount of interaction held with humans. This is not the case in Zookeeper. In the film, Griffin Keyes (Kevin James) a senior zookeeper at the Franklin Park Zoo strikes out with his girlfriend, Stephanie (Leslie Bibb). He bumbles so miserably in trying to rekindle his relationship with her the animals of the zoo break their code of silence to help him win her affections. One of the many problems with Zookeeper is the animals simply run amuck. Director Frank Coraci depends too heavily on the adorable creatures and less on a convincing story. If kids are young - or you are stoned enough, you'll get a couple of chuckles from James' awkward tumbles and Sandler's, thumb and poop jokes. Overall, no matter how many adorable animals you add into Zookeeper's crazy mix, you're in for one very bad experience. — Edward Adams
AN AMERICAN WEREWOLF IN LONDON 3 stars (R ) Two young American tourists (James Naughton and Griffin Dunne) run afoul of a wild beast on the English countryside, and the survivor wonders if he’s actually a werewolf. John Landis’ off-beat horror film features charming performers (including Jenny Agutter as a nurse), funny set pieces and Rick Baker’s unforgettable werewolf make-up, but boy, does it fall apart at the end. Splatter Cinema. Tue., July 12, 9:30 p.m. $8. Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave. 404-873-1939. www.plazaatlanta.com.
CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF(1958) (PG-13) The birthday of a dying Southern patriarch (Burl Ives) turns into a family struggle while testing the marriage of a former athlete (Paul Newman) and his aggressive wife (Elizabeth Taylor). Richard Brooks directs an excellent adaptation of Tennessee Williams classic play, which provides a rare chance to see the late Liz Taylor in her prime and on the big screen. Tue., July 12, 7:30 p.m. Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St. www.foxtheatre.org
FOR A FEW DOLLARS MORE 4 stars (NR) Clint Eastwood’s gunslinging “Man With No Name” teams up with a bounty hunter (Lee Van Cleef) to pursue a ruthless fugitive gang (which includes Klaus Kinski in a small role). The second of Eastwood’s iconic spaghetti western collaborations with Sergio Leone. Sat., July 9, 3 and 7:30 p.m. $8. Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave. 404-873-1939. www.plazaatlanta.com.
HEARTBEATS (NR) In this Canadian film, two friends (Monia Chokri and Niels Schneider) develop feelings for the same man (writer/director Xavier Dolan). July 5-17. Cinefest Film Theatre, Georgia State University, 66 Courtland St., Suite 240. 404-413-1798. www2.gsu.edu/~wwwcft.
13 ASSASSINS 4 stars (R ) A retired samurai (commanding Koji Yakusho) enlists other warriors to help him assassinate the Shogun’s depraved half-brother (Gorô Inagaki) lest he tear feudal Japan apart. Prolific, hyper-violent Japanese filmmaker Takashi Miike brings 21st century stunts and gore effects to his remake of a 1963 samurai film and delivers one of the most accomplished and breathtaking action films since John Woo’s heyday in Hong Kong. The movie’s front end slowly builds to a stunning, 40-minute sequence in which the title characters ambush 200 bad guys in a booby-trapped “town of death.” Don’t miss it. — Holman
THE 5TH QUARTER (PG-13) Dressed in his deceased brother's #5 jersey, Jon Abbate leads the Wake Forest Demon Deacons through their most successful basketball season yet and earns them a trip to the Orange Bowl. This film is based on a true story.
THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU 2 stars (PG-13) A bad-boy congressman (Matt Damon) falls in love with a free-spirited dancer, only to discover that the supernatural “adjustment bureau” of sinister guys in fedoras wants to keep them apart. In this adaptation of a short story by Philip K. Dick, debut filmmaker George Nolfi struggles to give the film a steady tone and alternates awkwardly between Murphy’s Law comedy, star-crossed love story and the surreal paranoia of an Inception knock-off. The zany energy of the finale, which features magic hats and teleportation-based race across New York, doesn’t keep the fates from conspiring against the film. — Holman
AFRICAN CATS (G) The makers of the Earth documentary narrow their focus on young lions and cheetahs. Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, who probably never says “I’m sick of these m.f. cats on this m.f. continent!”
L’AMOUR FOU (NR)
The half-century partnership between two men is revealed in this documentary directed by Pierre Thoretton. Yves Saint-Laurent left behind not only a legacy, an incredible art collection, but also a lover. Through interviews, archival footage and more, Thoretton begins to reveal the bits and pieces of art, fashion and love that make up a life story.
BAD TEACHER (R ) Elizabeth Halsey (Cameron Diaz) is the embodiment of everything a high school teacher should not be. She drinks, she gets high and she uses inappropriate language. But all that is about to change after she gets dumped by her rich fiancé (the one-way ticket out of her current situation). So the unmotivated badass becomes a highly motivated teacher striving for students' good grades as well as a colleague's heart.
BATTLE: LOS ANGELES 3 stars (PG-13) Aaron Eckhart plays a Marine staff sergeant who leads his platoon against space invaders in this gritty sci-fi action film that aims more for Black Hawk Down than Independence Day. With lots of firepower but little character development, Battle: Los Angeles plays like a very expensive, two-hour U.S. Marines recruiting film, but it approach to the tactical perspective of troops on the ground keeps the jingoism in check. — Holman
THE BEAVER 2 stars (PG-13) Troubled movie star Mel Gibson delivers a fascinating performance as a suburban family man who finds relief from his depression through a grubby beaver puppet with a cockney accent. The Beaver starts with a premise ideal for satirizing suburban malaise and corporate conformity, but director Jodie Foster (who also plays Gibson’s wife) treats it as a near-humorless teachable moment about mental illness. Despite Gibson’s hard work, The Beaver dams up too many potential jokes and deep emotions. — Holman
BEGINNERS 4 stars (R ) After the death of his wife, septuagenarian Hal (Christopher Plummer) comes out as gay and reveals that he has terminal cancer. Director/designer Mike Mills presents the charming, heavily-autobiographical tale from the point of view of Hal’s son Oliver, who ruminates on grief and the nature of his parents’ marriage while falling in love with a pretty actress (Mélanie Laurent). This warm, well-observed film avoids twee self-consciousness, give or take the odd scene on roller skates. — Holman
One of the most expensive Dutch-language productions offers a unique perspective on emigration to New Zealand. Inspired by the true story of a 1953 aircraft carrying mostly young women on their way to join their fiancés, the plot revolves around four friends and their paths to love, trouble and self-discovery.
BRIDESMAIDS 3 Stars (R) BFFs Annie (Kristen Wiig) and Lillian’s (Maya Rudolph) lifelong sisterly bond is put to the test when Lillian gets engaged and asks Annie to be her maid of honor. The down-and-out thirtysomething Annie’s patience is put to the test when she tries to wrangle Lillian’s hare-brained band of bridesmaids. Wiig can do no wrong, except in her overly earnest, “you don’t know me” scenes with her Irish cop love interest (Chris O'Dowd). Bridesmaids is as funny as you’d hope a film co-written by Wiig and executive produced by Judd Apatow would be, and even more honest. — Debbie Michaud
BIG MOMMAS: LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON (PG-13) Keeping in line with the title, this father son duo, Malcom Turner and Trent, go undercover at an all-girls performing arts school after son, Trent, witnesses a murder. Posing at Big Momma, they must find the murdered before he finds them in this kill or be killed comedy.
BUCK 3 stars (G) This documentary profiles Buck Brannaman, a former child rodeo star turned equine trainer and inspiration for The Horse Whisperer. As Buck travels to America’s small towns and ranches giving horse training clinics, he emerges as an emblem of positive American masculinity, while an extended sequence with a difficult horse near the end has nearly the suspense of the bomb-disposal scenes of The Hurt Locker. — Holman
CARS 2 stars (G) While racecar Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) competes in the World Grand Prix, Finn McMissile (Michael Caine) and other British spymobiles mistake Mater the tow truck (Larry the Cable Guy) for an American secret agent. Pixar crafts some clever James Bond spy gadgetry and elaborate cityscapes in the service of the most disposable, insubstantial story they’ve ever offered. An amusing subplot mocks Gremlins, Pintos and other automotive lemons, but Cars 2 rolls out as the Edsel of the Pixar line. — Holman
CIRCO (NR) This documentary from Mexico follows a family that struggles to maintain a traditional traveling circus despite mounting debt, dwindling audiences and simmering domestic conflicts.
CONAN O’BRIEN CAN’T STOP 3 stars (R ) This tour film follows the late night talk show host from the conception of his 2010 “Legally Prohibited From Being Funny on Television Tour” through its final performance in Atlanta. Despite O’Brien’s image as the nicest, most self-deprecating man in showbiz, the film finds him at a low ebb, enraged over his treatment by NBC, exhausted by nonstop touring and surprisingly snippy with his staff. As an examination of the compulsive nature of performance, O’Brien comes across as a junkie who scarcely gets back what he puts in. — Holman
THE CONSPIRATOR (PG-13) A Robert Redford flashback to the Lincoln era. In the trial for President Abraham Lincoln's assassination, Mary Surrat is charged for being a co-conspirator. She bears the brunt for the nation's hostility—the North hates her and the government wants her hanged. Her attorney is the only one who seems to have her back.
DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: RODRICK RULES (PG) In this sequel to last year’s surprise hit, Greg Hefley begins the seventh grade and struggles with the prankish behavior of his bullying older brother, Rodrick
THE DOUBLE HOUR (NR) This blend of melancholy romance and psychological thriller follows a penniless maid and an ex-cop in Turin, Italy, who meet at a speed-dating event but find their blossoming attraction sidelined by a shocking incident.
EVERYTHING MUST GO 4 stars (R) An alcoholic sales executive (Will Ferrell) lives on his front lawn after his never-seen wife kicks out him and their stuff and changes the locks. Ferrell mutes his flailing comedic style with remarkable effectiveness in this fine adaptation of a quiet Raymond Carver short story. Despite the outlandish premise and slapstick moments, Everything Must Go uses alcoholism to represent a more pervasive sorrow in contemporary America. — Holman
FAST FIVE (PG-13) Vin Diesel, Paul Walker and Tyrese Gibson reunite for this fifth entry in the Fast & the Furious franchise, with Atlanta and Puerto Rico substituting for Rio de Janeiro. Will the next one be called Speedy Six?
FORKS OVER KNIVES (PG) This documentary examines how to change American eating habits to enjoy the health benefits plant-based diets as opposed to meat lovers’ meals.
GNOMEO & JULIET (G) Star-crossed lovers on the wrong side of the fence, two garden gnomes fall in love. Caught in a feud between their red and blue hatted friends, the couple struggles to find happiness.
GREEN LANTERN 2 stars (PG-13) A dying alien’s super-powered ring chooses cocky test pilot Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) to join an intergalactic police force called the Green Lantern Corps. This big-screen version of the DC Comics character contains enough material for two movies, including elaborate CGI scenes on alien planets, lite romance with Blake Lively and Peter Sarsgaard cheerfully hamming it up as evil psychic Hector Hammond. With wildly inconsistent effects, muddled plotting and an inconsistent tone, this Lantern provides scant illumination. — Holman
THE HANGOVER 2 2 stars (R ) Just before his Thailand wedding, dentist Stu Price (Ed Helms) awakens in a squalid Bangkok hotel room with his pals (Bradley Cooper and Zach Galifianakis) but no memory of the previous night’s debauchery. Director Todd Phillips’ follow-up to the hit comedy plays less like a remake than a sequel, given how closely it follows the first script’s template. Helms and Galifianakis remain hilarious in their respective roles, so you may have a good time, but you’ll hate yourself in the morning. — Holman
HANNA 3 stars (PG-13) Saorise Ronan plays a teenage girl raised in seclusion by a fugitive intelligence agent (Eric Bana) to be a super-assassin. Atonement director Joe Wright helms this eccentric espionage tale that plays like a Snow White or Sleeping Beauty fairy tale with the trappings of a Bourne Identity thriller. With Cate Blanchett’s conniving spymaster serving as the wicked stepmother, Hanna includes some heavy-handed symbolism and decidedly unmenacing bad buys, but Ronan’s stranger-in-a-strange-land performance keeps the film from spinning out of control. - Holman
HESHER (R) TJ's life is torn apart when his mother dies in a car accident. Living with his elderly grandmother and a father who solves his problems with pills, TJ's situation could not get more strange. That's when Hesher comes in. This tattooed young man with long greasy hair takes up residence in the family garage uninvited and brings his sense of anarchy along. Natalie Portman plays the opposing role of caring young grocery clerk who steps in to become TJ's protector.
HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN (R ) Rutger Hauer stars as a homeless badass who turns urban vigilante when he drifts into a lawless city. The film originated as a fan-made, fake exploitation movie trailer that won a contest sponsored by the film Grindhouse.
HOP (PG) Everyone dreams. In this animated comedy, E.B. (Russell Brand) heads to Hollywood in hopes of becoming a drummer in a big time rock 'n' roll band instead of taking over his father's role as the Easter Bunny.
I AM NUMBER FOUR (PG-13) Teen angst in high gear. John Smith is on the run from enemies sent to destroy him. On the run, with his guardian Henri to help him, he changes his identity several times but can't outrun regularities of the young adult life: his first true love and incredible friendships.
INCENDIES (NR) Two siblings attempt to unravel the mystery of their mother’s life in this Canadian nominee for Best Foreign Language Film set against the backdrop of the conflict in the Middle East.
INSIDIOUS (PG-13) Some of the creative team behind the Saw and Paranormal Activity movies collaborated for this praised haunted-house drama about a family whose young son slips into a coma shortly after they move into their new home.
JUDY MOODY AND THE NOT BUMMER SUMMER (PG)
Just when it looks like Judy Moody's summer is doomed to boredom, a dose of fun comes into play. With the help of Aunt Opal (Heather Graham), who is anything but boring, Judy Moody invents her own adventures.
JUMPING THE BROOM (PG-13) Angela Bassett stars in this light-hearted-looking wedding film about a groom (Laz Alonso) from downtown, a bride (Paula Patton) from uptown, and how their families collide over a long weekend on Martha’s Vineyard.
JUSTIN BIEBER: NEVER SAY NEVER (G) Because some wishes come true. This real life fairytale documentary traces the roots of Bieber Fever to Stratford, Ontario and ends in 3D with a sold out performance at Madison Square Garden. Cue the shameless screams and applause now.
KUNG FU PANDA 2 3 stars (PG) Jack Black reprises his vocal role as Po, the unlikely “Dragon Warrior,” who discovers a link between his fuzzy childhood memories and a vengeful peacock (voiced by Gary Oldman) bent on conquering Ancient China. The screenplay doesn’t live up to its entertaining predecessor and relies on repetitive jokes and a perfunctory theme about seeking “inner peace.” It builds to some unquestionably cool CGI action set pieces, though, and is the rare film that’s enhanced by 3-D presentation, not diminished. — Holman
LARRY CROWNE(PG-13) Tom Hanks plays the title character, a downsized worker at a Wal-Mart-style big box store who enrolls in the local community college to get his degree and encounters a cynical English professor (Julia Roberts). For his second film as a director since his charming That Thing You Do!, Hanks co-wrote the script with My Big Fat Greek Wedding’s Nia Vardalos.
MONTE CARLO (PG) Three young friends (Selena Gomez, Leighton Meester, Katie Cassidy) go on a whirlwind vacation to Monte Carlo when one is mistaken for a British heiress.
LIMITLESS (PG-13) The Hangover’s Bradley Cooper plays a lazy would-be writer who takes an intellect-enhancing drug that makes him a celebrity financial genius — and a target for bad guys who want the drug for themselves.
THE LINCOLN LAWYER (R) Apparently this Lincoln is a comeback vehicle for Matthew McConaughey, who’s getting his best reviews in years as an ambulance-chasing attorney who works out of his car and must reconsider his values when he defends a sleazy rich kid (Ryan Phillippe). Don’t let the title mislead you into thinking that it’s a period piece about Honest Abe’s law practice.
Tyler Perry's MADEA’S BIG HAPPY FAMILY (PG-13) Based on the musical play of the same name, Madea’s Big Happy Family depicts a dysfunctional family brought together by their mother’s illness, who needs the tough love of Madea (Tyler Perry) to knock some sense into them. Bow Wow (formerly “Lil Bow Bow”) stars with Perry, David Mann, Loretta Devine and “Old Spice Guy” Isaiah Mustafa.
MARS NEEDS MOMS (PG) A nine-year old boy (Seth Green) learns to appreciate his mom (Joan Cusack) after she’s abducted by aliens and he has to leave the planet to save her. This 3-D, CGI family feature was based on a children’s book by “Bloom County” creator Berke Breathed, and produced by the people who brought you The Polar Express.
MIDNIGHT IN PARIS 4 stars (PG-13) A frustrated screenwriter (Owen Wilson) with an unsupportive fiancée (Rachel McAdams) vacations in Paris and discovers that, at the stroke of midnight, he can travel in time to hobnob with the likes of Ernest Hemingway and Gertrude Stein. Woody Allen’s most joyous and satisfying film since the early 1990s finds big laughs in its whimsical premise, gently satirizing the Lost Generation as much as it venerates them. Plus, Allen carries the film’s ideas into wiser areas than you might expect. Hey, this guy’s pretty smart. — Holman
MR. POPPER’S PENGUINS
A divorced and career driven father (Jim Carrey) learns to appreciate the important things in life with the unexpected arrival of penguins in his polished New York apartment. This family comedy shows that loving creatures can not only transform an apartment (in this case into an ice kingdom), but also touch people's hearts.
PAGE ONE: INSIDE THE NEW YORK TIMES 3 STARS (R ) This documentary presents a tumultuous being in the journalism business from the point of view of the reporters and editors on the Times’ Media desk, who cover some of the very stories they live through. Former crack addict turned columnist David Carr makes an engagingly curmudgeonly supporting player and Old Media’s staunchest defender in the face of on-line start-ups eager to write the Times’ obituary. The film covers the rise of WikiLeaks and the iPad as well as the agony of layoffs, and the scattershot approach emulates the perspective of reporters, who file a story and then move onto the next. — Holman
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: ON STRANGER TIDES 2 stars (PG-13) Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) leads a race to the Fountain of Youth between his old nemesis Barbosa (Geoffrey Rush), swashbuckling hottie Angelica (Penelope Cruz), fearsome, magical Blackbeard (Ian McShane) and some random Spanish guys. Chicago director Rob Marshall takes the helm for another loud, wearying romp on the high seas. McShane makes a reliably entertaining bad guy, but On Stranger Tides struggles to establish Penelope Cruz as Jack’s abiding love interest, but they don’t seem to particularly like or trust each other. The franchise should drop anchor now before the Tides get any lower.
PRIEST (PG-13) Paul Bettany stars in this apocalyptic thriller about a Warrior Priest who defends the last remnants of humanity against encroaching vampires. It’s based on a Korean comic book reportedly inspired by a video game, and is in 3-D. It clearly represents all of the best trends in today’s Hollywood, if this were Opposite Day.
PROM (PG) This Disney high school movie depicts all the troubles of teenage love and life. As prom approaches the good girl and the bad boy solve their differences.
QUEEN TO PLAY (NR) Oscar-winner Kevin Kline stars in this French film about a chambermaid (Sandrine Bonnaire) who unexpectedly discovers a passion for chess and seeks lessons from a reclusive American doctor (Kline). Based on Bertina Henrichs’ acclaimed novel La Joueuse d’echec (The Chess Player).
RANGO 4 stars (PG) Through dumb luck and tall tales, a chameleon known as Rango (Johnny Depp) convinces the desperate denizens of Dirt that he’s a hero capable of solving their water shortage, even though he’s just a former house pet with delusions of being an actor. It’s slow to start and kids probably won’t get the jokes about Western clichés, vision quests and pretentious actor behavior. Where Gore Verbinski’s Pirates of the Caribbean films let Johnny Depp improvise on rock stars and pirate lore, Rango riffs on master thespians and spaghetti westerns with brilliant animation and thoroughly entertaining set pieces. — Holman
REJOICE AND SHOUT 2 stars (PG) Don McGlyn’s digest of more than a century of Gospel music contains all the raw material you’d find in a Ken Burns documentary, but without the shape or narrative drive. The film authoritatively spans from its roots in plantation music to contemporary Christian hip-hop and explains the evolution of the sound. The film’s academic ambitions cover too much ground, but at its best, the film serves as kind of jukebox of great performance clips, from national treasure Mahalia Jackson to lesser-knowns like Sister Rosetta Tharpe, who sings “Down By the Riverside,” then segues into a guitar solo worthy of Chuck Berry. — Holman
RIO A love bird and her Minnesota-bred macaw. Jewel and Blu meet in Rio and head out on adventures together.
THE ROBBER 3 stars (NR) The lusciously-named Andreas Lust plays a champion Austrian marathon-runner who also happens to be a bank robber in this slow-burning, character-based crime drama.
SCREAM 4 (R) The Ghostface Killer — the slasher, not the rapper — returns to stalk intrepid survivor Sidney Prescott on the 15th anniversary of the original “Scream” murders. Director Wes Craven reunites with writer Kevin Williamson and actors Campbell, David Arquette and Courtney Cox for the fourth installment of the Scream franchise, which supposedly tweaks the Youtube generation and the tropes for 21st century horror films.
SOMETHING BORROWED 2 stars (PG-13) More like Something blew. Insecure, dowdy Rachel (“Big Love’s” Ginnifer Goodwin) wrestles with guilt when she has an affair with Dex (Colin Egglesfield), the fiancée of her overbearingly free-spirited best friend, Darcy (Kate Hudson). As a wisecracking pal, “The Office’s” Jon Krasinski is the only cast member allowed to be funny, so this laugh-deficient comedy mostly consists of Hudson behaving like a jerky narcissist and Goodwin and Egglesfield blandly mooning over each other. — Holman
SOUL SURFER (PG) When sharks attack, teenage surfer Bethany Hamilton (AnnaSophia Robb) loses her left arm. Unwilling to give up her love for the water, she learns to surf with one arm and eventually becomes a pro surfer.
SOURCE CODE 3 stars (PG-13) Helicopter pilot Colter Stephens (Jake Gyllenhaal) experiences multiple cases of déjà vu when mysterious government forces repeatedly send him into the body of a commuter onboard a train due to explode in eight minutes. Moon director Duncan Jones takes a premise worthy of second-hand Philip K. Dick and crafts a surprisingly compelling time-loop thriller, grounded by Gyllenhaal’s terrific performance as an ordinary soldier trying to process his increasingly complicated predicament. With Michele Monaghan as a comely train passenger and Vera Farmiga as Colter’s enigmatic military controller. — Holman
SUBMARINE 3 stars (R ) In mid-1980s Wales, young Oliver Tate (Craig Roberts) schemes to woo a sharp-tongued teen (Yasmin Paige) and prevent his morose parents (Sally Hawkins and Noah Taylor) from splitting up. Based on a coming-of-age novel by Joe Dunthorne, Submarine acknowledges teenagers’ unflattering self-absorption as Oliver assumes that he’s far more clever and sensitive than he turns out to be. Submarine delivers the stylishness but not the snap of early Wes Anderson, but features good performances and droll humor. — Holman
SUPER 8 3 stars (PG-13) In the summer of ’79, a group of middle-schoolers making a horror movie on Super 8 film accidentally record a train crash that unleashes something very, very dangerous on a small Ohio town. Director J.J. Abrams makes Super 8 as a slavish homage to the early blockbusters of Stephen Spielberg (who executive-produced), and clearly loves his scruffy young heroes and spectacular, overblown set pieces. The more grown-up plots involving military cover-ups, grief and forgiveness feel far more perfunctory, although it’s an entertaining movie overall. Super 8? More like Perfectly Good 8. — Holman
THOR 3 stars (PG-13) Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the Norse god of thunder, faces exile on Earth as a powerless (but still cut) human as part of the evil scheme of his resentful brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston). Superfluous 3-D effects and too many characters clutter the latest film in the Marvel Comics “Universe,” but Shakespearean director Kenneth Branagh still gives the film the derring-do of an Old Hollywood swashbuckler, with help from Hemsworth’s performance as a god who grows up. Other scene-stealers include Natalie Portman’s astrophysicist, Idris Elba’s celestial sentry and a marauding suit of armor called The Destroyer. — Holman
TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON 2 stars (PG-13) Big-rig robot Optimus Prime (the voice of Peter Cullen) and the righteous Autobots discover that the 1969 moon landing secretly discovered a spacecraft from the robots’ home planet, which could hold the means for the evil Decepticons to conquer the Earth. Meanwhile, Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) whines about the challenge of finding a job out of college. Director Michael Bay’s third giant robot film is sexist, bigoted and homophobic some of the time, along with being garish and vulgar all of the time. But Dark of the Moon also features breathtakingly intricate and destructive action sequences that look awesome in 3-D, so give the devil his due. — Holman
TREE OF LIFE 3 stars (PG-13) Famously enigmatic director Terrence Malick meditates on childhood and God’s relationship to humanity in his alternately breathtaking and stultifying coming-of-age film. Loosely autobiographical, Tree of Life primarily follows young Jack (Hunter McCracken) growing up in 1950s Waco, Texas, to a stern Dad and nurturing mom (Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain, both excellent), with interludes of Jack as an angsty adult (Sean Penn) as well as scenes of the evolution of life on Earth, complete with dinosaurs. At well over two hours Tree of Life’s whispery voice-overs and lack of conventional narrative puts your patience to the test, but as a beautifully-photographed tone poem, it’s undeniably impressive. Winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival. — Holman
THE TRIP (R ) The Trip reunites British funnyman Steve Coogan with his 24 Hour Party People director Michael Winterbottom. Playing another fictionalized version of himself, The Trip presents Coogan taking an TV assignment to visit restaurants, reluctantly paired up with his old frenemy Richard Brydon. Based on a British sitcom, The Trip's primarily selling point has been Coogan and Brydon's testy, semi-improvised arguments and celebrity impressions, such as this exchange over who does the best Michael Caine. — Holman
TROLL HUNTER 3 stars (NR) In Norway, three film students apparently majoring in Blair Witch studies trail an alleged bear poacher (Otto Jesperson) to the Scandinavian wilderness, only to discover that he hunts bigger, deadlier game than they ever imagined. The horror film doesn’t break much new ground and the monster effects look pretty phoney, but Troll Hunter builds an atmosphere of menace, showcases Jesperson’s gruff, Ron Pearlman-esque charisma and builds a monstrous mythology around creatures that, thankfully, are not vampires, werewolves or zombies. — Holman
TRUE LEGEND(NR) Famed martial arts choreographer Yuen Woo-ping (The Matrix, Kill Bill) helms this period piece fight spectacle in which good and evil brothers engage in mortal combat with brawling styles like the Five Venom Fists.
WATER FOR ELEPHANTS (PG-13) Not the sequel to Like Water for Chocolate, this adaptation of the popular novel stars Twilight’s Robert Pattinson as a Depression-era veterinary student who takes a job with a traveling circus and falls for one of the performers (Reese Witherspoon). Filmed in Georgia.
WINTER IN WARTIME
In Nazi-occupied Holland 14-year-old Michiel comes face to face with the harsh reality of war. Michiel's involvement with the Resistance thrusts him into adulthood without warning as he struggles to distinguish between good and evil.
X-MEN: FIRST CLASS 4 stars (PG-13) Mutation researcher Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and vengeful Holocaust survivor Eric Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender) unite to find other super-powered individuals and thwart the scheming Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon) from provoking the Cuban Missile Crisis. McAvoy, Fassbender and Jennifer Lawrence (as shape-shifting Mystique) ground the angst and racism metaphors in credible, affecting relationships. Director Matthew Vaughn revitalizes the X-Men franchise by flashing back to the “Mad Men”-era 1960s, so for much of its running time, it feels more like a fast-paced, retro spy flick than yet another superhero movie. — Holman
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