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 strait-jackets 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.
MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN
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Bradley Cooper and Vinnie Jones star in this horror film about a photographer hunting a serial killer on a New York subway. 100 minutes. R: Sequences of strong bloody gruesome violence, grisly images involving nudity, sexual content and language.
THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR *
Brendan Fraser and Maria Bello (embarrassingly made up to look and sound like Rachel Weisz, who wouldn't come back) phone in their performances in this tale of a cursed, 2000-year-old emperor who comes alive in the China of 1947. The drab actors, laughable computer-generated effects, threadbare plot, continuity lapses and one-liners that repeatedly fall flat might make this the worst sequel ever to follow a good action film. 112 minutes. PG-13: Adventure action and violence.
THE PINEAPPLE EXPRESS ** 1/2
Judd Apatow has produced and/or written six movies released in the last nine months, and the formulas are wearing thin. Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg (who wrote “Superbad”) scripted a first-draft comedy about a process server (Rogen) who sees a drug dealer and a crooked cop whack a member of an Asian gang; the process server goes on the run with a stoned dealer (James Franco, very funny). David Gordon Green directed, and the film – a crazy quilt of pot jokes, sarcastic putdowns and pop culture references both obvious and obscure – turns violently ugly in the last 20 minutes. 111 minutes. Opens Wednesday. R: Pervasive language, drug use, sexual references and violence.
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. Opens Wednesday. PG-13: Mature material and sensuality.
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.
THE WACKNESS * 1/2
Another fake-edgy Sundance favorite bites the dust. High school drug dealer Luke Shapiro (Josh Peck) has a loyal client in his psychiatrist, Jeff Squires (Ben Kingsley), who fires up bongs during skull sessions and encourages depressed Luke to solve his problems with sex – as long as it doesn't involve Stephanie (Olivia Thirlby), his promiscuous stepdaughter. 95 minutes. R: Pervasive drug use, language and some sexuality.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Andy Samberg, Cheryl Hines and Patrick Warburton supply the animated voices of chimpanzee astronauts in this comedy about a mission that doesn't go as planned. 81 minutes. G.
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.
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.
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.
GET SMART (PG-13)
HANCOCK (PG-13) ***
INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL (PG-13) ***
KIT KITTREDGE: AN AMERICAN GIRL (G) **1/2
KUNG FU PANDA (PG)
THE RAPE OF EUROPA
SEX AND THE CITY (R) * 1/2
THEN SHE FOUND ME (R)
THE VISITOR (PG-13)
WALL-E (G) *** 1/2
WANTED (R) ***
Film capsules are written by Lawrence Toppman. If there's no star rating, he hasn't seen the movie.
Grades: **** = excellent, *** = good, ** = fair,
* = poor.