HAPPY-GO-LUCKY *** 1/2
An optimistic schoolteacher (wonderful Sally Hawkins) becomes aware that happiness may be impossible for some people when she takes driving lessons from an instructor who's emotionally crippled (Eddie Marsan, also fine). 118 minutes.
A psychopathic killer traps two couples in a house of horrors. 101 minutes. R: Some violence and terror.
MADAGASCAR: ESCAPE 2 AFRICA
Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith, David Schwimmer and Sacha Baron Cohen lend their voices to this sequel. In the first “Madagascar,” zoo animals washed ashore in Africa and had to learn how to fit in. This time, their plane crashes in Africa, and they have to learn how to fit in. 89 minutes. PG: Some mild crude humor.
Documentary about 15 young sailors trying to be chosen to crew a sailboat in the TransPac race. 97 minutes. R: Some language.
RACHEL GETTING MARRIED ** 1/2
Director Jonathan Demme and writer Jenny Lumet wanted to give the impression of a family movie: handheld camera, scenes that swerve from sudden drama to irrelevant small talk, tension that flares up and dissipates slowly. They hit their target, but many segments end abruptly or go slack. Dramatic moments do make an impact, though, with Anne Hathaway in top form as an angry, needy daughter leaving rehab to attend the wedding of her sister (Rosemarie DeWitt). 113 minutes. R: Language and brief sexuality.
ROLE MODELS ***
Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott play a cynical, burned-out guy and a cheerful horndog – no surprises there – assigned to community service, where they become unwilling mentors to a role-playing nerd (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) and a sewer-mouthed 10-year-old (Bobb'e J. Thompson). They bicker and bond in the usual way, but the movie has a lot of heart to compensate for its foul mouth. The message about “finding your flock,” as schoolteachers tell unusual kids to do, comes through clearly. 99 minutes. R: Crude and sexual content, strong language and nudity.
Two estranged singers (Samuel L. Jackson and Bernie Mac) agree to participate in a reunion performance at the Apollo Theater to honor their recently deceased band leader. Malcolm D. Lee (“Welcome Home, Roscoe Jenkins”) directed. 103 minutes. R: Pervasive language, and sexual content including nudity.
TROUBLE THE WATER
This documentary includes up-close footage of life in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina hit; it's about an aspiring rap artist and her streetwise husband, who walked around with a video camera to show how people survived (or didn't) when trapped by floodwaters.
WHAT JUST HAPPENED **
What just happened to Robert De Niro's career? He has mired himself in movies that don't exploit his skills, and this is no exception. He plays heavyweight film producer Ben, who has left a trail of broken marriages, broken promises and brokered deals gone bad. The small self-awareness Ben gains doesn't seem like much of a payoff for him or us. Compared to “Tropic Thunder,” this satire of Hollywood is crueler, perhaps more honest but nowhere near as funny. 104 minutes. R: Language, some violent images, sexual content and some drug material.
AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL ***
The main narrative in this documentary follows would-be model Gerren Taylor, who was briefly a sensation and then tried to live up to designers' unreasonable demands. Writer-director Darryl Roberts broadens his theme from there to consider the ways we abuse ourselves to reach unattainable ideals: eating disorders, potentially unhealthy cosmetics, possibly dangerous surgery and more. A lot of this ground has been covered before, but he ties his themes together in interesting ways. R: Some language, including sexual references.
BODY OF LIES ** 1/2
A CIA employee in the Middle East (Leonardo DiCaprio) becomes dissatisfied with the heartless policies of his boss (Russell Crowe) and attempts to keep humanity and sanity intact while pursuing a terrorist leader. He has a not very credible romance with a Jordanian nurse, but the picture is mostly about America's attempt to police the world while retaining its respect. The movie's on fuzzy ground there, and not as complex as it ought to be. With Mark Strong as a suave, shrewd Jordanian anti-terrorist operative. 128 minutes. R: Strong violence including some torture, and for language throughout.
CHANGELING * 1/2
Clint Eastwood has become a less and less subtle director in recent years, and this is a ham-handed effort. Miscast Angelina Jolie plays a mother in 1928 Los Angeles whose son disappears; the cops say they've found him and chuck her into a loony bin for saying they haven't. Meanwhile, one detective thinks the boy may have gone to a ranch owned by a giggling, eye-rolling serial killer. Could this be a tribute to B-grade horror movies of half a century ago? 141 minutes. R: Some violent and disturbing content, and language.
A GIRL CUT IN TWO
Claude Chabrol's comedy about a French TV weathercaster (Ludivine Sagnier) choosing between suitors of different ages and financial classes. 115 minutes. Unrated.
Bollywood drama. 132 minutes. Unrated.
THE HAUNTING OF MOLLY HARTLEY
A high school girl has a terrible secret. Unscreened across the known universe. 87 minutes. PG-13: Strong thematic material, violence and terror, brief language, teen drinking.
HIGH SCHOOL MUSICAL 3: SENIOR YEAR ***
A joyful if vanilla-flavored look at romance and drama among the East High Wildcats of Albuquerque, N.M. As before, strutting egotist Sharpay (Ashley Tisdale) has designs on hunky basketball star/thespian Troy (Zac Efron), but he has eyes only for intellectual dramatics queen Gabriella (Vanessa Hudgens). Director/choreographer Kenny Ortega handles the musical numbers with flash. 112 minutes. G.
MAX PAYNE * 1/2
Part revenge fantasy, part government conspiracy drama, part incoherent video game action, part demonic fantasy and all gibberish. 100 minutes. PG-13: Violence including intense shooting sequences, drug content, some sexuality and brief strong language.
PRIDE AND GLORY
Corruption inside the New York City Police Department touches a cop (Colin Farrell), his brother-in-law (Edward Norton), his sister (Jennifer Ehle), the patriarch of the family (Jon Voight) and many others, forcing them all to choose sides. Gavin O'Connor (“Tumbleweeds,” “Miracle”) directed. 125 minutes. R: Strong violence, pervasive language and brief drug content.
The usual quirky gangster film from writer-director Guy Ritchie: a cast full of hard cases threatening each other in slang or accents we can barely understand, monstrous and unstoppable assassins, a plot too complicated to recount in its entirety without publishing a special section, women who are decorative tarts or cold-hearted manipulators. Tom Wilkinson, Gerard Butler, Thandie Newton and Toby Kebbell star. 114 minutes. R: Pervasive language, violence, drug use and brief sexuality.
THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES ***
An abused white teenager (Dakota Fanning) runs away from her father (Paul Bettany), and she and their housekeeper (Jennifer Hudson) find sanctuary with beekeeping sisters in small-town South Carolina in 1964 (Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys and Sophie Okonedo). Events may be implausible, but writer-director Gina Prince-Bythewood has adapted Sue Monk Kidd's novel with love, and it shines through everywhere. 110 minutes. PG-13: Thematic material and some violence.
W. *** 1/2
You might expect a Bush-bashing mockery from Oliver Stone, but the noted lefty has given us something more compelling. He and writer Stanley Weiser examine the conditions that put the president where he is now and made him the political animal he is. Josh Brolin leads with his chin as stubborn W, and the supporting cast acts well and/or gives killer impersonations. Richard Dreyfuss' gleefully scummy Dick Cheney is a dead ringer visually and believable as the power behind the throne. 130 minutes.
PG-13: Language including sexual references, some alcohol abuse, smoking and brief disturbing war images.
ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO
Kevin Smith wrote and directed this comedy about friends (Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks) who make an X-rated film to raise cash and fall in love while doing so. 101 minutes. R: Strong crude sexual content including dialogue, graphic nudity and pervasive language.
APPALOOSA (R) ***
BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA (PG) **
BURN AFTER READING (R) ***
THE DARK KNIGHT (PG-13) ****
THE DUCHESS (PG-13) ***
EAGLE EYE (PG-13) ***
THE FAMILY THAT PREYS (PG-13)
LAKEVIEW TERRACE (PG-13)
NIGHTS IN RODANTHE (PG-13) ***
SAW V (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.