Entertainment

New & recent releases

NEW RELEASES

STEP BROTHERS

Two 40-year-olds (John C. Reilly and Will Ferrell), both spoiled wastrels living at home, square off when their respective parents (Mary Steenburgen and Richard Jenkins) get married and expect then to grow up. R: Crude and sexual content, and pervasive language.

WAR, INC.

A hit man (John Cusack) works in mythical Turaqistan, a country occupied by an American private corporation run by a former U.S. vice president (Dan Aykroyd). The hit man has to kill a local minister of oil, organize the high-profile wedding of a pop star (Hilary Duff) and fend off a left-wing reporter (Marisa Tomei). 107 minutes. R: Violence, language and brief sexual material.

WHEN DID YOU LAST SEE YOUR FATHER?

A son (Colin Firth) has conflicting memories of his dying dad (Jim Broadbent), as they both loved and irritated each other. Juliet Stevenson and Gina McKee are also in the all-British cast. 92 minutes. PG-13: Sexual content, thematic material and brief strong language.

THE X FILES: I WANT TO BELIEVE * 1/2

In what, though? Surely not this drab movie, which comes 10 years after the first “X-Files” film and proves director Chris Carter (who produced and wrote the script with Frank Spotnitz) has nothing left to share. Mulder and Scully (David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson) help the FBI investigate the disappearance of an agent; the plot is a mash-up of a procedural police thriller, a B-grade mad scientist movie of the 1950s and mumbo-jumbo about God's influence. It hasn't one real shock or surprise, though Anderson tries to elevate the material.104 minutes. PG-13: Violent and disturbing content and thematic material.

RECENT RELEASES

THE CHILDREN

OF HUANG SHI

A British journalist (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) and an Australian nurse (Radha Mitchell) save orphaned children in China during the Japanese occupation of 1937. With Chow Yun-Fat and Michelle Yeoh. 114 minutes. R: Some disturbing and violent content.

THE DARK KNIGHT ****

The adjective is the right one: The film is psychologically and physically dark, from Christian Bale's unrelentingly grim Batman to Heath Ledger's psychotically anarchistic Joker. Director Christopher Nolan has made a parable about terrorism in which the good guys have to break laws and spy on all of Gotham city in order to kill the madman who simply wants to see the world burn. The cast has been improved by the addition of Maggie Gyllenhaal as assistant district attorney Rachel Dawes (Katie Holmes chose not to return), and Aaron Eckhart adds fire as district attorney Harvey Dent. Nolan's storytelling skills never fail him, despite 2 and 1/2 hours of complex plotting. 145 minutes. PG-13: Intense sequences of violence and some menace.

GONZO: THE LIFE AND WORK OF DR. HUNTER S. THOMPSON ** 1/2

Did we need a two-hour documentary about the three-hit wonder who cast away his career halfway through life and coasted on celebrity status for 30 years, most famously becoming a running joke in “Doonesbury” cartoons? Writer-director Alex Gibney, who deserved his Oscar for last year's “Taxi to the Dark Side,” found an apt narrator in Johnny Depp, who played Thompson in “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas,” and has done his usual thorough job of research. But the movie repeats itself almost as often as the alcoholic, drug-addled writer did in his brief prime. 119 minutes. R: Drug and sexual content, language and some nudity.

HANCOCK ***

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; Theron is strong. 92 minutes. PG-13: Intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, language.

HELLBOY II:

THE GOLDEN ARMY ** 1/2

The Big Red One (Ron Perlman) and his cohorts battle elves and goblins who want to dig up a metal army to destroy humans despoiling the Earth. The film dazzles visually, as writer-director Guillermo Del Toro dreams up another array of fabulous creatures. Yet the parade of effects, crashes, fires and swordfights has no emotional weight, even in the prospect of Hellboy's death or his potential separation from pyromaniac Liz (the excruciating Selma Blair). 110 minutes. PG-13: Sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and some language.

JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH 3-D ** 1/2

That rating is for the 3-D version, available locally at Northlake and Stonecrest. (What the 2-D version is like, I can't say.) The science in this adaptation is ludicrous, but Brendan Fraser, Josh Hutcherson and Anita Briem are good company while exploring a subterranean world with giant mushrooms, vast lakes and (of course) a T-Rex. I had a good time watching people point yo-yos and tape measures at the camera, and the three spitting jokes were childishly entertaining when the water seemed about to cascade over us. But in a “flat” version, the 3-D effects I enjoyed may not come off. Unfortunately, the filmmakers pay virtually no attention to details. 92 minutes. PG: Intense adventure action and some scary moments.

KISMAT KONNECTION

Hindu-language romantic comedy about a Canadian architect looking for love. 155 minutes. Unrated.

KIT KITTREDGE:

AN AMERICAN GIRL ** 1/2

The film has its heart in the right place and its head shoved well down into a box of clichés, treating its target audience of preteen girls as though they're not just inexperienced but unintelligent. It begins as a serious story about The Depression and degenerates into broad comedy about bumbling, harmless thieves. The title character (Abigail Breslin) wants to write for The Cincinnati Register in 1934. A rash of thefts around the city have been attributed to hoboes. But when the Kittredges' mortgage money vanishes, Kit realizes one of the boarders may have had a hand in this and the other robberies, so she investigates with her pals. Breslin's terrific, the other actors mostly adequate. 101 minutes. G.

MAMMA MIA! *** 1/2

This canny musical adapts ABBA songs to fit a two-tiered story about a mother and daughter awakening to romance on a Greek island. What might sound sappy is never less than fresh and vital, and Meryl Streep and Amanda Seyfried make ideal leading ladies. Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgård and Colin Firth are good sports as three of mom's old suitors, whom the daughter has invited to her wedding in hopes of finding out which is really her dad. (If only Brosnan could sing!) The movie's set in a refreshing world full of people who are homely and handsome and happy and glum and fit and overweight-- in short, something like reality. 108 minutes. PG-13: Some sex-related comments.

MEET DAVE

A crew of miniature aliens operates a spaceship with a humanoid form (Eddie Murphy). They come to Earth to save their planet, but the “ship” falls for a human woman (Elizabeth Banks). 90 minutes. PG: Bawdy and suggestive humor, action and some language.

ROMAN DE GARE ***

A traveling man (Dominique Pinon) picks up a jilted woman (Audrey Dana) en route to the south of France. Is he a serial killer who has escaped from prison? Is he the suburban teacher who abandoned his family ? Is he (as he once claims) the ghostwriter for Judith Ralitzer (Fanny Ardant) and the man behind the novel recently acclaimed as her masterpiece? The film's not really a whodunit or even a whoizzit; it becomes truly French in its attitudes toward thwarted ambition and emotion, right down to an ending that may strike you as melodramatic. 103 minutes. R: Brief language and sexual references.

SAVAGE GRACE **

Reality TV has raised the bar for shamelessness so high that a film has a hard time competing: It must be much more lurid and/or laden with psychological complexities a TV show won't explore. “Savage Grace” scores on the first count but not the second in depicting the Baekeland family, where inherited wealth made everyone a wastrel or a pervert. Director Tom Kalin, making his second feature after 1992's “Swoon,” cast Julianne Moore, Stephen Dillane and Eddie Redmayne. 97 minutes. Unrated: Sex, nudity, profanity, drug use, brief violence .

SPACE CHIMPS

Andy Samberg, Cheryl Hines and Patrick Warburton supply the animated voices of chimpanzee astronauts in this comedy, which wasn't screened for critics anywhere. 81 minutes. G.

WANTED ***

Exciting, visually dazzling nonsense about assassins who take orders from the Loom of Destiny, which weaves the names of deserving victims into cloth patterns. When a killer turns renegade and attempts to slay the slayers, the master of the order (Morgan Freeman) seeks the one man who can stop him: 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, remarkable visual ideas and a fine sense of pacing. 110 minutes.

R: Strong bloody violence throughout, pervasive language, some sexuality.

LONG RUNS

GET SMART (PG-13)

THE INCREDIBLE HULK (PG-13) ***

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

IRON MAN (PG-13) ***

KUNG FU PANDA (PG)

*** 1/2

SEX AND THE CITY (R) * 1/2

THEN SHE FOUND ME (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.

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