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NEW RELEASES

BEFORE THE RAINS

A British spice grower in India gets involved with a married woman from a local village and becomes the focus of tribal customs and laws. Linus Roache and Jennifer Ehle star in a drama directed by Santosh Sivan. 98 minutes. PG-13: Violent content, a scene of sexuality.

HANCOCK ***

Opens Wednesday. Two plots, either an excellent idea for a film but grafted together awkwardly. The first half shows the title character (Will Smith) to be an angry, alcoholic superhero who sleeps on the L.A. streets but can't stop saving people. When a PR man (Jason Bateman) decides to rehabilitate him, Hancock finds himself drawn to the man's wife (Charlize Theron). Then begins the second half, which is full of half-explained mythology and sometimes strained pathos. Smith, who keeps getting better, holds the piece together; and Theron is strong. 92 minutes. PG-13: Intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language.

KIT KITTREDGE: AN AMERICAN GIRL

Opens Wednesday. Abigail Breslin (“Nim's Island”) is a 10-year-old who wants to become a reporter and chases crime during The Depression. 101 minutes. G.

MONGOL *** 1/2

Director Sergei Bodrov follows Temudjin, as he was known before becoming a ruling “khan,” from the age of 10 to about 40. He and co-writer Arif Aliyev strike a satisfying balance between the warm family man and the warrior. They don't romanticize the adult Temudjin (Japanese actor-model-pop singer Tadanobu Asano), but they provide a corrective to the idea that he was a brutal bandit. The sweeping, bloody battles will make your eyes pop, and you'll reconsider this supposedly “uncivilized” man who unified quarrelsome Central Asian tribes to create one of the largest empires in history. 126 minutes. R: Sequences of bloody warfare.

THODA PYAAR THODA MAGIC

A Hindi movie about a loner Indian industrialist who's forced by a court verdict to look after four orphaned children. With Saif Ali Khan and Rani Mukherjee. 150 minutes. Unrated.

WALL-E *** 1/2

Rarely has any animator – especially in America, ESPECIALLY Pixar – been as tough-minded and daring about a dark vision as in this film, a potent environmental message wrapped up in an irresistibly cute romance between robots. It takes place in the 28th century, where the title character packs mountains of trash into stackable cubes. Mankind sailed away long ago and now sends probes to check Earth for plant life; a sleek number named Eve learns WALL-E has carefully preserved a seedling and returns to the mother ship, her friend in tow. The ship's computer, however, overrules the captain when he decides to head home. The film has one collective villain: heedless humanity, which turned the Earth into a garbage dump and sailed off into space. 97 minutes.

G.

WANTED ***

Terrifically exciting, visually dazzling nonsense about a fraternity of assassins that takes orders from the Loom of Destiny, which weaves the names of deserving victims into cloth patterns. When the most gifted killer turns renegade and attempts to slay the slayers, the master of the order (Morgan Freeman) seeks the one man who can stop him: office drone Wesley Gibson (James McAvoy), who doesn't realize his genetic makeup allows him to curve bullets around stationary objects. Director Timur Bekmambetov has a bloodlust that can be revolting when it's extreme, but he also has remarkable visual ideas and a fine sense of pacing; what he can do with cars will make your jaw drop. 110 minutes. R: Strong bloody violence throughout, pervasive language and some sexuality.

RECENT RELEASES

THE FOOT FIST WAY

A martial arts teacher in Concord, N.C., tries to recover from his wife's infidelities by traveling with some students to Texas, where he meets up with the man whose macho image has always inspired him. Danny McBride, Mary Jane Bostic and Ben Best star in this comedy, which was written and directed by Concord's Jody Hill. 85 minutes. R: Strong language and some sexual content.

GET SMART

Director Peter Segal, one of Adam Sandler's favorites (“50 First Dates,” “The Longest Yard”), helms this comedy about a bumbler (Steve Carell) and a competent sidekick (Anne Hathaway) who protect the free world from the terrorist organization KAOS. Terence Stamp, Dwayne Johnson and Alan Arkin star. 110 minutes. PG-13: Some rude humor, action violence and language.

THE HAPPENING * 1/2

A bland, unmemorable experience from writer-director M. Night Shyamalan, who (for good or ill) usually gets the blood running with his thrillers. This one begins with mass suicides in New York and Philadelphia, caused by a toxic airborne chemical. Shyamalan hits us with his improbable explanation a third of the way through the film; after that, we watch undeveloped characters amble around trying not to contract a suicidal urge, while the film plods through genre conventions down to the “uh-oh” coda. Mark Wahlberg and Zooey Deschanel never seem put out, so we remain indifferent to their fates. This earned Shyamalan's first (and gratuitous) R rating. 91 minutes.

R: Violent and disturbing images.

THE INCREDIBLE HULK ***

Universal has attempted to get as far as possible from the political/Oedipal complexities of the 2003 “Hulk,” an interesting but talky failure that didn't have enough “Hulk smash!” moments to satisfy Marvel Comics fans. French action director Louis Leterrier (the “Transporter” movies) is better suited than Ang Lee to give them what they want in an origin story: a sentimental mixture of thwarted romance, military conniving and brute-on-brute action. If the movie's nowhere near as ambitious as the last “Hulk,” that's probably to the good. Edward Norton is a more compelling Bruce Banner than Eric Bana. 114 minutes. PG-13: Sequences of intense action violence, some frightening sci-fi images, and brief suggestive content.

KUNG FU PANDA *** 1/2

Roly-poly Po (voiced by Jack Black) realizes he's the Dragon Warrior who can save the Valley of Peace from a marauding panther (voiced by Ian McShane) in this charming, frantic and funny parable from Dreamworks' animators. Directors Mark Osborne and John Stevenson and writers Jonathan Aibel and Glenn Berger borrow material from many sources: the master-student relationship of “The Karate Kid,” the color scheme of “Hero,” the fight atop bamboo poles of “Iron Monkey,” a prison break from “Kung Fu Hustle,” and scads of flying imagery from “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” to show how hard work and fortitude help you achieve dreams. 91 minutes.

PG: Martial arts action.

THE LOVE GURU

Mike Myers co-wrote and stars as an American who was raised by Indian gurus and comes back to his homeland to spread wisdom – especially to a hockey player who has just lost his wife to another athlete and the owner of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Justin Timberlake, Jessica Alba and Verne Troyer star. 88 minutes. PG-13: Crude and sexual content throughout, language, some comic violence and drug references.

PRICELESS ***

A cinematic soufflé, prepared as only the French know how. A penniless fool (Gad Elmaleh) pursues a golddigger (Audrey Tautou) with the idea that she'll love him if he's sufficiently devoted. When she dumps him, he becomes a gigolo; they enter a good-natured, informal competition, realizing that their attraction to each other may queer their mutual deals with rich third parties. Director Pierre Salvadori (who wrote the script with Benoît Graffin) gives us an ending we can read as we like. 104 minutes. PG-13: Sexual content, including nudity.

THE PROMOTION

Seann William Scott and John C. Reilly play assistant managers of a corporate grocery store vying for a job in this comedy. 85 minutes. R: Language including sexual references, and some drug use.

THEN SHE FOUND ME ***

Helen Hunt directed this romantic comedy-drama and was one of three writers, so it's no surprise that it reflects her screen personality: a friendly, slightly anxious, smarter than average woman who's a bit afraid of age and loneliness and tries to approach them with humor. She plays April Epner, whose life is in turmoil: Her adoptive mother has died, she's dumped by her new-minted husband (Matthew Broderick), and her birth mother (Bette Midler) drops back into April's life. Meanwhile, an author (Colin Firth) with his own troubling ex-spouse enters the picture romantically. 100 minutes. R: Language and some sexual content.

THE VISITOR ***1/2

Thomas McCarthy (“The Station Agent”) has written and directed another feature about a lonely man who gets forced into unwanted relationships through chance encounters, then blossoms as he becomes part of an adopted “family.” Richard Jenkins plays the widowed college professor who returns to his New York apartment to find squatters; he befriends them and gets caught up in their attempts to stay in the United States, especially after he meets a mother (Israeli Arab actress Hiam Abbass) who's trying to keep her son from being deported. Powerful, intelligent and honest. 108 minutes. PG-13: Brief strong language.

YOU DON'T MESS WITH

THE ZOHAN * 1/2

Believe me, I'd rather not. This is yet another Adam Sandler movie featuring an adult adolescent obsessed with his private parts, “homo” jokes and a clunky message about tolerance. The title character is a Mossad master spy who's tired of his old life, fakes his death and comes to America. He gets a job in a run-down hair salon managed by a Palestinian named Dalia (Emmanuelle Chiriqui) and attracts a vast clientele of older woman by rinsing, styling, then schtupping them. Zohan and Dalia's love is complicated by Israeli-Arab hatreds, which boil over when a Palestinian cab driver (Rob Schneider) tries to kill Zohan. 112 minutes. PG-13: Crude and sexual content throughout, language and nudity.

LONG RUNS

BABY MAMA (PG-13) ***

THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN (PG) ** 1/2

FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL (R) ***

INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (PG-13) ***

IRON MAN (PG-13) ***

MADE OF HONOR (PG-13)

SEX AND THE CITY (R) * 1/2

THE FALL (R) **

THE STRANGERS (R) *

THE VISITOR (PG-13) ***1/2

WHAT HAPPENS IN VEGAS (PG-13)

YOUNG AT HEART (PG) *** 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.

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