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DEATH RACE * 1/2
The year is 2012, with prisons privately run for profit and the warden of Terminal Island (Joan Allen) holding fatal auto races for 70 million TV viewers. Stone-faced Jason Statham plays an unjustly imprisoned man forced to drive; Tyrese Gibson is his deadly opponent. Writer-director Paul W.S. Anderson smashes things into one another and, when that gets boring, rams some minor character's head onto a metal spike. The action is joltingly exciting in a mindless way, and Ian McShane makes a droll pit boss. Everyone else seems comatose, and Allen gives perhaps the worst performance in film history by a slumming great actress. 89 minutes. R: Strong violence and language.
HAMLET 2 **
A high school drama teacher at the end of his rope stages a naughty musical to raise money to save his program, becoming a national cause célèbre in the process. Steve Coogan, so funny in British films, continues his string of half-baked American comedies. Director Andrew Fleming followed the same template in “Dick” and his remake of “The In-Laws”: He starts with a zany idea, carried out with energy and mild anarchy; but then the film loses steam and settles for a conventional ending that doesn't give us a payoff. 92 minutes. R: Language including sexual references, brief nudity and some drug content.
THE HOUSE BUNNY
Anna Faris plays a Playboy bunny who's tossed from Hugh Hefner's mansion and falls in with clueless sorority women. 97 minutes. PG-13: Sex-related humor, partial nudity and brief strong language.
THE LAST MISTRESS
Catherine Breillat directed this film about love/sex among 19th-century French aristocracy. Asia Argento, Roxanne Mesquia and Fu'ad Ait Aattou star.104 minutes. Unrated.
THE LONGSHOTS ***
Gastonia native Fred Durst, the once-growling rocker from Limp Bizkit, and Ice Cube, the once-scowling rapper, show their softer sides with this inspirational movie about a middle schooler (played well by Keke Palmer) who becomes the first female quarterback to reach the national championships in Pop Warner football. Director Durst and Ice Cube, who plays the unemployed uncle who coaches his niece's team, break no new emotional ground; they just give us an unforced, sweet-natured tale of people who find ways to touch each other and rediscover the good in themselves. 94 minutes. PG: Some thematic elements, mild language and brief rude humor.
TELL NO ONE *** 1/2
French director Guillaume Canet has adapted New Jersey writer Harlan Coben's novel, moving the setting to his own country. A pediatrician (François Cluzet) gets e-mails that appear to come from the wife (Marie-Josée Croze) who reportedly died eight years ago. Now he seems likely to be unjustly arrested by the police for two fresh murders or killed by the people who have actually committed them. The plotting gets too tricky in places, but we always empathize with the baffled doctor. Canet dose a good job of conveying the atmosphere of fear, rage, bewilderment and helplessness in the face of danger that have always been staples of film noir. 125 minutes. Unrated.
BACHNA AE HASEENO
155 minutes. Not rated.
BIGGER, STRONGER, FASTER
Director Christopher Bell condemns America's win-at-all-cost culture in this documentary, examining how he and his two brothers became members of the steroid subculture in an effort to achieve their dreams. 105 minutes. PG-13: Thematic material involving drugs, language, some sexual content and violent images.
This feature is based on a true story from 1976, in which a California wine of no famous vintage defeated the greats of France in a blind taste test. With Bill Pullman, Chris Pine, Alan Rickman and Rachael Taylor. 110 minutes. PG-13: Brief strong language, some sexual content and a scene of drug use.
A young Bangladeshi woman arrives in 1980s London, leaving behind her beloved sister and home, for an arranged but loveless marriage and a new life. She feels trapped in East London but meets a man who wants to turn her life around. 102 minutes. PG-13: Some sexuality and brief strong language.
BRIDESHEAD REVISITED ***
Matthew Goode, Hayley Atwell and the terrific Ben Whishaw form the love triangle at the heart of this story about an Oxford student who takes an interest in a classmate and the man's sister between the two world wars. Significant deviations from Evelyn Waugh's novel don't keep the film from getting at psychological truths about a society that straitjackets its members by class, one where religion is taken so seriously that a clash in views imperils marriages and “the love that dare not speak its name” drives a promising young man to alcoholism. 135 minutes. PG-13: Some sexual content.
ENCOUNTERS AT THE END
OF THE WORLD
Director Werner Herzog shot this documentary about Antarctica, studying nature and men who live there, shooting both aboveground and underwater. 99 minutes. G.
Rainn Wilson plays a drummer who's kicked out of a 1980s hair band and has a second chance 20 years later, when his nephew's high school band grabs him. With Christina Applegate. 102 minutes. PG-13: Drug and sexual references, nudity and language.
THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS 2
Alexis Bledel, America Ferrera, Blake Lively and Amber Tamblyn return as four friends discussing love affairs and school. 117 minutes. PG-13: Mature material and sensuality.
THE CLONE WARS **
The plot involves Jedi knights and Count Dooku trying to return Jabba the Hutt's kidnapped baby in order to gain his support in a galactic conflict. This pilot-style movie for the animated TV series might prove indispensible to diehard fans but inconsequential for the rest of us, who already know what's going to happen to Anakin, Obi-Wan, Padme and the rest. 98 minutes. PG: Sci-fi action violence throughout, brief language and momentary smoking.
SWING VOTE ***
A Capra-esque comedy (and gentle political satire) about Bud, an unemployed alcoholic who (by a ridiculous turn of events) will elect the next U.S. president with his vote. Kevin Costner is always good when he's playing an amiable rogue, and Madeline Carroll has appealing dignity as the daughter who's trying to straighten him out. Kelsey Grammer and Dennis Hopper play the presidential candidates, who adjust party platforms to suit Bud's whims and offhand remarks. The filmmakers want to inspire rather than depress us, and they do. 100 minutes. PG-13: Language.
TROPIC THUNDER *** 1/2
Pampered actors shooting a Vietnam War movie in an Asian jungle find themselves under real fire when they meet heroin distributors in this action comedy. The leads are Ben Stiller, Jack Black, Nick Nolte and Robert Downey Jr., who's hilarious as a method actor so obsessive he dyes his skin black to play Sgt. Lincoln Osiris. This satire doesn't bite the Hollywood hands that feed it quite hard enough, but it's consistently funny in spoofing the vanity and bad taste of actors and producers. 107 minutes. R: Pervasive language including sexual references, violent content and drug material.
VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA * 1/2
Two young American women, a failed filmmaker and a graduate student who's not in touch with her feelings (Scarlett Johansson and Rebecca Hall), have summer flings with a bohemian painter in Spain (Javier Bardem). Penélope Cruz plays his ex-wife, a jealous Latina spitfire, who's as clichéd as everyone else here. 96 minutes. PG-13: Mature thematic material involving sexuality, and smoking.
THE DARK KNIGHT (PG-13) ****
HANCOCK (PG-13) ***
HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY (PG-13) ** 1/2
INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (PG-13) ***
JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH (PG)
KIT KITTREDGE: AN AMERICAN GIRL (G) **1/2
KUNG FU PANDA (PG) *** 1/2
MAMMA MIA! (PG-13) *** 1/2
MEET DAVE (PG)
THE MUMMY; TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR (PG-13) * 1/2
PINEAPPLE EXPRESS (R) ** 1/2
SEX AND THE CITY (R) * 1/2
SPACE CHIMPS (G)
STEP BROTHERS (R)
THE VISITOR (PG-13) *** 1/2
WALL-E (G) *** 1/2
Film capsules are written by Lawrence Toppman. If there's no star rating, he hasn't seen the movie.
Grades: **** = excellent, *** = good, ** = fair,
* = poor.