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Reviews

Short Takes

SPECIAL SCREENINGS

The Addams Family

Raul Julia, Anjelica Huston, Christopher Lloyd. Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld. 99 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Con artists plan to fleece an eccentric family using an accomplice who claims to be their long-lost Uncle Fester. The District at Green Valley Ranch, 2300 Paseo Verde Parkway, Henderson, 564-8595. 10/20, 7 pm, free.

Anime Academy for Adults

Watch favorite anime titles and new releases, followed by discussion. For adults only. Screenings of Hellsing, Trinity Blood, Moon Phase. Clark County Library, 1401 E. Flamingo Road, 507-3400. 10/20, 2 pm, free.

Empire of the Wolves

Jean Reno, Arly Jover, Jocelyn Quivrin. Directed by Chris Nahon. 128 minutes. Rated R. In French with English subtitles.

Jover is a chocolate-shop employee who experiences strange hallucinations and distressing gaps in her short-term memory. As she becomes convinced that her face and psyche have been “reconstructed,” it becomes clear that she somehow fits into a serial-murder investigation happening concomitantly in Paris. Clark County Library, 1401 E. Flamingo Road, 507-3400. 10/23, 7 pm, free.

IMAX Theatre

Deep Sea 3D, Fighter Pilot, Mystery of the Nile, Dinosaurs 3D: Giants of Patagonia, Lions 3D: Roar of the Kalahari

Call for showtimes. $11.99 each show.

Luxor, 3900 Las Vegas Blvd. S., 262-4629.

My Name is Nobody

Terence Hill, Henry Fonda, Jean Martin. Directed by Tonino Valerii. 111 minutes. Rated PG.

Young, ambitious gunman Nobody (Hill) sets his eye on his idol, gunslinger Jack Beauregard (Fonda), who’s intent on sailing off into retirement. Whitney Library, 5175 E. Tropicana Ave., 507-4010. 10/21, 11:30 am, free.

Two Minutes Later plays October 18 at the Onyx theater as part of NeonFest.

NeonFest

Gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender film festival, with screenings of features and shorts, plus opening reception, critics brunch. Onyx Theater inside The Rack in Commercial Center, 953 E. Sahara Ave., #101. 10/18-10/21, various times, all screenings free. Critics brunch 10/21, 11 am, Las Palmas restaurant in Commercial Center, $20. Info: www.neonfest.com.

The Rocky Horror Picture Show

Susan Sarandon, Barry Bostwick, Tim Curry. Directed by Jim Sharman. 100 minutes. Rated R.

The perennial 1975 cult classic is a mix of horror, comedy and musical, featuring sex, transvestites and the Time Warp. Augmented by a live cast and audience participation. Onyx Theater inside The Rack in Commercial Center, 953 E. Sahara Ave., #101. First & third Sat of month, 11:30 pm, $7. Info: 953-0682 or www.divinedecadence.org.

Spookley the Square Pumpkin

Directed by Bernie Denk. 45 minutes. Rated G.

A square pumpkin is treated as an outcast until a storm offers him a chance to save the day. Galaxy Cannery, 2121 E. Craig Road, 639-9779. Thru 10/31, noon, $3.

Tim Burton’s Corpse Bride

Voices of Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Emily Watson. Directed by Tim Burton and Mike Johnson. 76 minutes. Rated PG.

When a shy groom practices his wedding vows in the inadvertent presence of a deceased young woman, she rises from the grave assuming he has married her. The District at Green Valley Ranch, 2300 Paseo Verde Parkway, Henderson, 564-8595. 10/19, 7 pm, free.

You Were Never Lovelier

Rita Hayworth, Fred Astaire, Adolphe Menjou. Directed by William A. Seiter. 97 minutes. Not rated.

Astaire plays a down-on-his-luck American dancer who begins to fall for Hayworth, the reluctant-to-marry daughter of a wealthy Argentinean club owner. Clark County Library, 1401 E. Flamingo Road, 507-3400. 10/23, 1 pm, free.

NEW THIS WEEK

30 Days of Night *** 1/2

Josh Hartnett, Melissa George, Danny Huston. Directed by David Slade. 113 minutes. Rated R.

See review.

The Comebacks (Not reviewed)

David Koechner, Carl Weathers, Melora Hardin. Directed by Tom Brady. 84 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Koechner stars as an underdog coach in this spoof of inspirational sports movies.

Gone Baby Gone *** 1/2

Casey Affleck, Michelle Monaghan, Ed Harris. Directed by Ben Affleck. 114 minutes. Rated R.

See review.

Into the Wild *** 1/2

Emile Hirsch, Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt. Directed by Sean Penn. 147 minutes. Rated R.

See review.

The Nightmare Before Christmas 3D (Not reviewed)

Voices of Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara, William Hickey. Directed by Henry Selick. 76 minutes. Rated PG.

3D re-release of the stop-motion film about the king of Halloweentown taking over Christmas.

Rendition *** 1/2

Reese Witherspoon, Jake Gyllenhaal, Meryl Streep. Directed by Gavin Hood. 120 minutes. Rated R.

See review.

Sarah Landon and the Paranormal Hour (Not reviewed)

Rissa Walters, Brian Comrie, Dan Comrie. Directed by Lisa Comrie. 88 minutes. Rated PG.

Seventeen-year-old Sarah Landon (Walters) is in over her head. Far away from home and staying in a haunted guest house, she has just uncovered a small town’s dark secret.

The Ten Commandments (Not reviewed)

Voices of Ben Kingsley, Christian Slater, Alfred Molina. Directed by Bill Boyce and John Stronach. 88 minutes. Rated PG.

The Old Testament tale of Moses comes to life in this animated feature.

Things We Lost in the Fire ** 1/2

Halle Berry, Benicio Del Toro, David Duchovny. Directed by Susanne Bier. 119 minutes. Rated R.

See review.

NOW PLAYING

3:10 to Yuma *** 1/2

Christian Bale, Russell Crowe, Logan Lerman. Directed by James Mangold. 117 minutes. Rated R.

Crowe plays bandit Ben Wade as an alluring commander of men. His “pack of dogs” follow him anywhere, but at the same time, he looks about ready to retire. When Wade is captured, the debt-ridden farmer Dan Evans (Bale) agrees—for a substantial reward—to escort him to the train bound for Yuma Prison, with Wade’s men hot on their trail. Mangold directs with a B-movie energy and a minimum of fuss. The characters, far from white-hatted good guys and mustached bad guys, dwell in uncomfortable gray areas, constantly asking themselves complex moral questions. –JMA

Across the Universe ***

Evan Rachel Wood, Jim Sturgess, Joe Anderson. Directed by Julie Taymor. 131 minutes. Rated PG-13.

A psychedelic take on the stage trend of the “jukebox musical,” Universe uses more than 30 Beatles songs in service of the rather bland story of young lovers Jude (Sturgess) and Lucy (Wood), set against the turmoil of the 1960s. Just as often silly as it is clever, Universe is the work of a filmmaker whose large and wonderful visions feel cramped inside a trite and forgettable little fable. –JB

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford *****

Brad Pitt, Casey Affleck, Sam Rockwell. Directed by Andrew Dominik. 160 minutes. Rated R.

Pitt stars—and deserves Oscar consideration—as Jesse James at the tail end of the bandit’s illustrious career. He pulls his last job, robbing a train, with the help of his older brother and a band of hired goons and half-wits. One of the goons is Charley Ford (Rockwell), brother of Robert Ford (Affleck), who is one of the biggest fans James ever had. Assassination is a surprising near-masterpiece, certainly one of the year’s best films, and the best Western to come across the range since Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven and Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man. –JMA

The Bourne Ultimatum *** 1/2

Matt Damon, David Strathairn, Joan Allen, Julia Stiles. Directed by Paul Greengrass. 115 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Everything that Jason Bourne (Damon) does is in pursuit of his single goal: to discover who he was and how he became the ruthless government super-agent he no longer wishes to be. In the last movie, Bourne’s girlfriend was killed, and he was framed for the murder of two U.S. agents; after extracting a confession for those crimes from a high-ranking CIA official at the end of The Bourne Supremacy, Bourne is still on the run from the U.S. government, determined to track down the people responsible for his training. Ultimatum is a smart, exciting and stylish mix of 1970s conspiracy thrillers, modern over-the-top action movies and new-world-order espionage like TV’s 24. –JB

The Brave One ***

Jodie Foster, Terrence Howard, Naveen Andrews. Directed by Neil Jordan. 119 minutes. Rated R.

Erica Bain (Foster) is victimized as she walks, blissfully happy, through Central Park with her perfect dog and her perfect fiancé (Andrews). A gang of thugs appears at the dark end of a tunnel, steals the dog and beats both lovers senseless. Erica wakes up in the hospital, but her husband-to-be is gone. She buys a gun and begins to exact her own revenge. Lucky for her, wherever she goes, violence rears its ugly head, and she is able to use her new weapon to punish it. The highly skilled Jordan relies on two very strong performances and their interesting chemistry, as well as a feel for the big city. He presents the material with intelligence. –JMA

Dragon Wars (Not reviewed)

Jason Behr, Robert Forster, Amanda Brooks. Directed by Shim Hyung Rae. 107 minutes. Rated PG-13.

A reporter and a girl stricken with a mysterious illness team to stop the return of ancient evil monsters.

Eastern Promises ***

Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts, Vincent Cassel. Directed by David Cronenberg. 100 minutes. Rated R.

Nikolai (Mortensen), a chauffeur and prodigiously tattooed enforcer for the Russian mafia, crosses paths with an English midwife of Russian descent, Anna (Watts), when she begins to investigate the paternity of a baby girl she delivered. The director’s sedate, meticulous aestheticism keeps the story’s inflammatory subject matter—the global sex trade—from tipping over into unpleasant exploitation, while the screenplay’s conscience-driven specificity gives Cronenberg something new with which to work (and helps rein in his more outre impulses). –MH

Elizabeth: The Golden Age *

Cate Blanchett, Clive Owen, Geoffrey Rush. Directed by Shekhar Kapur. 114 minutes. Rated PG-13.

For about 20 minutes of Kapur’s new sequel, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Blanchett in her lead role captures the radiant brilliance that excited so many people in the 1998 predecessor, Elizabeth. She lords over her court, bolt rigid, but allowing for a subtle wink or smile for those who please her. But when she meets the dashing explorer Sir Walter Raleigh (Owen), she begins emoting all over the place, dropping all of her control and essentially showing her hand. As the film rolls on toward the final battle, Kapur’s direction and the amateurish editing totally crumble. –JMA

Feast of Love ***

Morgan Freeman, Greg Kinnear, Radha Mitchell, Billy Burke. Directed by Robert Benton. 102 minutes. Rated R.

All the characters are connected, and each coupling represents another facet of that crazy fool thing the French call l’amour. Adapted from the novel by Charles Baxter, Benton’s latest effort is a 10-course meal that most viewers will quickly come to wish had been served up smorgasbord-style, allowing them to grab the fresh, tasty items and leave the spoiled, rancid ones behind. I can’t remember when I last saw a movie so maddeningly inconsistent, with incisive observations and credible behavior pressed right up next to material so stupid it practically drools. –MD

Feel the Noise (Not reviewed)

Omarion Grandberry, Giancarlo Esposito, Victor Rasuk. Directed by Alejandro Chomski. 86 minutes. Rated PG-13.

After a run-in with local thugs, aspiring Harlem rapper Rob (Grandberry) flees to a place and father (Esposito) he never knew, and finds his salvation in reggaeton music. Puerto Rico, the spiritual home of reggaeton, inspires Rob and his half-brother Javi (Rasuk) to pursue their dream of becoming reggaeton stars.

The Final Season (Not reviewed)

Sean Astin, Powers Boothe, Rachael Leigh Cook. Directed by David M. Evans. 114 minutes. Rated PG.

Kent Stock (Astin) disrupts his life to become coach of the Norway High School baseball team and try to lead them to victory.

Freshman Orientation (Not reviewed)

Sam Huntington, Marla Sokoloff, Mike Erwin. Directed by Ryan Shiraki. 92 minutes. Rated R.

A college freshman pretends to be gay in order to win the heart of the girl he longs to be close to.

The Game Plan *

Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Madison Pettis, Roselyn Sanchez, Kyra Sedgwick. Directed by Andy Fickman. 110 minutes. Rated PG.

Johnson (slowly phasing out his pro-wrestling nickname) gets stuck in the Disney production The Game Plan, doing his best to smile his way through the story of star football player Joe Kingman, who is suddenly saddled with a daughter he never knew he had. Everything that follows is right out of the proverbial playbook, as the two antagonize each other at first and then of course form a strong bond, while both becoming better people. Director Fickman and the three screenwriters drag this inevitability out for close to two hours, with a tiresome back-and-forth of conflicts and reconciliations. –JB

Good Luck Chuck (Not reviewed)

Dane Cook, Jessica Alba, Dan Fogler. Directed by Mark Helfrich. 96 minutes. Rated R.

In order to keep the woman of his dreams (Alba) from falling for another guy, Charlie Logan (Cook) has to break the curse that has made him wildly popular with single women: Sleep with Charlie once, and the next man you meet will be your true love.

Halloween ** 1/2

Scout Taylor-Compton, Tyler Mane, Malcolm McDowell. Directed by Rob Zombie. 109 minutes. Rated R.

The primary difference, plot-wise, between Zombie’s new remake of the horror classic Halloween and John Carpenter’s 1978 original is that while Carpenter’s film was a story about suburban babysitter Laurie Strode, Zombie’s film is a story about serial killer Michael Myers. Unfortunately, what makes Michael tick doesn’t turn out to be all that interesting, even though Zombie devotes fully half of his film to teasing it out (Laurie doesn’t show up until almost an hour into the movie). By the time we cut to 15 years later and get introduced to high-schooler Laurie (Taylor-Compton), Michael’s forthcoming actions have been explained so thoroughly that they almost seem beside the point. –JB

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix ***

Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint. Directed by David Yates. 138 minutes. Rated PG-13.

There are at least a few significant things going on in Phoenix, which once again finds Harry (Radcliffe) at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, facing the imminent threat of Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). When you have a film series that’s seven installments long, eventually you are going to get to the placeholder chapter, and that’s where the Harry Potter series has ended up with its fifth big-screen outing. Longtime Potter fans will probably be eager to forgive Phoenix’s flaws, and even casual viewers will still find plenty to like, but the feeling of marking time, of nothing especially momentous going on in the latest incremental step toward Harry’s final showdown with evil wizard Voldemort, is fairly hard to shake. –JB

The Heartbreak Kid ** 1/2

Ben Stiller, Michelle Monaghan, Malin Akerman. Directed by Peter Farrelly and Bobby Farrelly. 115 minutes. Rated R.

When Eddie (Stiller) finally makes a bold decision and marries Lila (Akerman), a woman he’s known for only six weeks, he at first feels good about trusting his instincts for once. That good feeling doesn’t last very long, though, as Lila turns out to be an unstable, controlling shrew, and by the time the two get to their honeymoon destination in Mexico, Eddie is ready to bolt. How convenient then that he meets Miranda (Monaghan), vacationing with her family and just coming off a break-up. Heartbreak easily turns into your typical romantic comedy, with the meant-for-each-other couple kept apart by outside forces and contrived misunderstandings. –JB

In the Shadow of the Moon (Not reviewed)

Directed by David Sington. 100 minutes. Rated PG.

The surviving crew members from NASA’s Apollo missions tell their story in their own words.

In the Valley of Elah ** 1/2

Tommy Lee Jones, Charlize Theron, Susan Sarandon. Directed by Paul Haggis. 121 minutes. Rated R.

A career military man, Hank Deerfield (Jones), gets a call that his soldier son has returned to the U.S. from Iraq but has disappeared. Hank decides to conduct his own investigation, with the help of a lowly but spunky young police detective, Emily Sanders (Theron). The mystery itself is not particularly inspired; it suffers from too many false conclusions. The beautiful cinematography makes the film look professional, but it doesn’t disguise the fact that Haggis isn’t a particularly inspired or visual director. –JMA

The Jane Austen Book Club ***

Maria Bello, Emily Blunt, Kathy Baker, Amy Brenneman. Directed by Robin Swicord. 105 minutes. Rated PG-13.

The structure, which finds the club of five women and one man reading all six of Austen’s novels over a six-month period, and concurrently experiencing romantic travails that parallel the books’ plot elements, is a little too schematic and cutesy to be wholly satisfying, and the movie is sometimes achingly cheesy and predictable. But Swicord keeps things low-key, never striking the big, loud notes of mainstream romantic comedy, and her cast is utterly charming. –JB

The Kingdom *** 1/2

Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper, Jason Bateman, Ashraf Barhoum. Directed by Peter Berg. 110 minutes. Rated R.

The movie focuses on the aftermath of the bombing of a compound for American workers in Riyadh. Although it takes place in such a volatile area and does address the issue of the American presence in the Middle East, this is not an issue film nearly as much as it is a thriller. Director Berg approaches the events more like something out of a Jack Ryan movie than a sober drama, and rather than seeming annoyingly glib, this technique immediately draws you into the story, putting you right in the shoes of the characters who are left to pick up the pieces. –JB

King of California ***

Michael Douglas, Evan Rachel Wood, Willis Burks II. Directed by Mike Cahill. 93 minutes. Rated PG-13.

At first, King of California shows mental illness as the burden that it most assuredly is, but inevitably, the psychotic delusions of Charlie (Douglas) cross the line to become charming flights of fancy. Charlie’s daughter Miranda (Wood) is inured to the madness she grew up with, which forced her to age far beyond her 15 years. Her father is released from an institution convinced that there are Spanish gold doubloons buried in the nearby California suburbs. Douglas looks to be having the time of his life in a role that requires lots of ranting and little subtlety. And Wood brings together Douglas’ wild mannerisms and the absurd plot by creating a character so world-weary that we can understand why she longs for the escape of Charlie’s loony misadventure. –MSH

Manda Bala *** 1/2

Directed by Jason Kohn. 85 minutes. Not rated.

Shot on film, edited artfully and scored with vibrant music from Brazil, Kohn’s examination of rampant crime and political corruption (and frog farming) in the South American country sometimes seems to value aesthetics a little too highly, coming too close to trivializing its very serious subject matter. The exciting, almost giddy visual sense draws viewers in to that serious subject matter, though, and the entertaining tone can lull you into a false sense of security that makes disturbing revelations all the more powerful. –JB

Michael Clayton *** 1/2

George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton. Directed by Tony Gilroy. 119 minutes. Rated R.

Michael Clayton (Clooney) works at a high-powered Manhattan law firm where he is the in-house “fixer,” the man who makes nasty problems go away. The film finds Clayton trying to clean up the mess caused by his friend and mentor, Arthur Edens (Wilkinson), after Edens suffers a nervous breakdown in the middle of a deposition for a multibillion-dollar lawsuit. The movie proceeds so smoothly and efficiently that at times it seems almost mechanical, and the sequences that fill in Clayton’s back story feel a bit incomplete. But Clooney fills in the emotional blanks with his alternately steely and haggard performance, making Clayton more than just a piece in a puzzle. –JB

Mr. Bean’s Holiday (Not reviewed)

Rowan Atkinson, Emma de Caunes, Max Baldry. Directed by Steve Bendelack. 90 minutes. Rated PG.

The bumbling Mr. Bean wins a trip to Cannes where he unwittingly separates a young boy from his father and must help the two come back together.

Mr. Woodcock (Not reviewed)

Billy Bob Thornton, Seann William Scott, Susan Sarandon. Directed by Craig Gillespie. 87 minutes. Rated PG-13.

John Farley (Scott), author of a best-selling self-help book about letting go of the past, learns to his horror that his widowed mother (Sarandon) is engaged to be married to none other than Mr. Woodcock (Thornton), the gym teacher whose sadistic exploits were the bane of John’s youth.

Ratatouille ***

Voices of Patton Oswalt, Lou Romano, Brad Garrett, Janeane Garofalo. Directed by Brad Bird. 110 minutes. Rated G.

It’s a cute and well-animated movie about a Parisian rat named Remy (Oswalt) who has a taste for gourmet food and idolizes a rotund celebrity restaurateur named Gusteau (Garrett). Gusteau’s gone to the great kitchen in the sky, and his eponymous eatery has been taken over by his money-grubbing sous-chef. When Remy finds himself by chance in the restaurant’s kitchen, he inadvertently helps busboy Alfredo Linguini (Romano) create a marvelous dish and becomes a sort of culinary Cyrano de Bergerac to the nervous young man. The plot moves along familiar beats, setting up its conflicts simply and resolving them the same way. –JB

Resident Evil: Extinction (Not reviewed)

Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Oded Fehr. Directed by Russell Mulcahy. 95 minutes. Rated R.

Alice (Jovovich), now in hiding in the Nevada desert, once again joins forces with Carlos Olivera and L.J., along with new survivors Claire, K-Mart and Nurse Betty, to try to eliminate the deadly virus that threatens to make every human being undead.

Return With Honor: A Missionary Homecoming (Not reviewed)

Javen Tanner, Joey Jalalian, Tracy Garner. Directed by Michael Amundsen. 105 minutes. Rated PG.

A returning Mormon missionary (Tanner) anxious to reunite with his long time sweetheart (Jalalian), awakens from a near-fatal accident with the new priority of saving his wayward mother.

Rush Hour 3 *

Chris Tucker, Jackie Chan, Yvan Attal. Directed by Brett Ratner. 91 minutes. Rated PG-13.

At the start of this inept, brain-dead new sequel, Tucker’s detective James Carter has been understandably demoted to directing traffic, while Chief Inspector Lee (Chan) has been assigned to protect a Chinese ambassador, who in turn is assigned to bring down the Triads. Of course, the ambassador is murdered, and Carter and Lee find themselves flying to Paris to find a secret list that contains the names of the top 13 Triad leaders. If you can’t make the connection between an assassinated Chinese ambassador and Paris, neither can writer Jeff Nathanson, who leaves plot holes big enough for the Eiffel Tower to pass through. Nathanson and director Ratner’s biggest crime, however, is their inability to combine comedy and action, to say nothing of their ineptitude at each element by itself. –JMA

The Seeker: The Dark Is Rising (Not reviewed)

Alexander Ludwig, Ian McShane, Frances Conroy. Directed by David L. Cunningham. 94 minutes. Rated PG.

An 11-year-old boy (Ludwig) learns that he is the last of a group of immortal warriors who have defended the Earth from evil forces throughout history.

Shoot ’Em Up * 1/2

Clive Owen, Paul Giamatti, Monica Bellucci. Directed by Michael Davis. 80 minutes. Rated R.

Less than five minutes into Shoot ’Em Up, Owen’s uber-badass hero without a name kills a guy by jamming a carrot through the back of his skull, and then quips, “Eat your vegetables.” If you think that sounds like the awesomest thing ever, then you’ll probably love Shoot ’Em Up, a vulgar, smug and willfully stupid movie that’s both a lazy pseudo-parody of action films and a particularly egregious example of the genre itself. –JB

The Simpsons Movie ***

Voices of Dan Castellaneta, Julie Kavner, Nancy Cartwright, Yeardley Smith. Directed by David Silverman. 87 minutes. Rated PG-13.

There are plenty of laughs in the beginning of the film, which in typical Simpsons fashion takes a circuitous route to the actual plot, and the movie showcases many of the show’s best features, including clever voice cameos (Green Day, Tom Hanks), incisive political satire and hilariously oddball references to obscure bits of culture. Things slow a little as soon as the story kicks into gear, with Simpson patriarch Homer inadvertently sparking an environmental disaster that causes the government to lower a giant dome over Springfield. This feature-length version of the TV show has some snazzier animation but otherwise amounts to a decent oversized episode. –JB

Superbad ***

Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Christopher Mintz-Plasse. Directed by Greg Mottola. 114 minutes. Rated R.

It’s a major coup when high-school losers Seth (Hill) and Evan (Cera), scant days before graduation, score an invitation to a honest-to-goodness party—the kind with cute girls. Except that Seth, desperate to impress, has volunteered to supply the booze, and neither he nor Evan has ever bothered to secure a fake ID. Enter Fogell (Mintz-Plasse), the school überdork, who’s just secured a driver’s license that proclaims him to be of drinking age. While there are a few deliberately outrageous set pieces, Superbad has a shambling, discursive sensibility that closely approximates the semistructured world of the fumbling adolescent. And the comedy isn’t cheap, even when it’s crass. –MD

Sydney White (Not reviewed)

Amanda Bynes, Sara Paxton, Matt Long. Directed by Joe Nussbaum. 90 minutes. Rated PG-13.

College freshman Sydney White (Bynes) is determined to pledge her late mother’s sorority. Unfortunately, she finds that the sisterhood has changed since her parent’s day. Banished to a condemned house, Sydney joins forces with seven outcasts to take over the student government and win equal rights for nerd and noted alike.

Transformers **

Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Jon Voight, Josh Duhamel. Directed by Michael Bay. 140 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Giant robots that beat each other up are inherently exciting, so it’s frustrating to see the filmmakers behind this behemoth actually turn such a premise into something tedious and boring, stretched out to nearly two-and-a-half hours and saddled with a tone too somber for camp and too silly to be taken seriously. Basically, there’s this thing that’s really important, and both the good guys and the bad guys are after it. Given the relative simplicity of the story and fans’ desire to see as much hot robot-on-robot action as possible, it’s baffling that Bay and his writers pace the movie so slowly, with numerous diversions and dull sidetracks delaying the inevitable Autobot/Decepticon showdown. –JB

Tyler Perry’s Why Did I Get Married? (Not reviewed)

Tyler Perry, Janet Jackson, Jill Scott, Sharon Leal. Directed by Tyler Perry. 118 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Eight married friends take their annual reunion vacation in the Colorado mountains. Revelations of infidelity involving one pair shatter the mood, forcing the remaining friends to take a hard look at the strength of their own marriages.

We Own the Night ***

Mark Wahlberg, Joaquin Phoenix, Robert Duvall. Directed by James Gray. 117 minutes. Rated R.

Night stars Wahlberg and Phoenix as brothers on opposite sides of the law: Wahlberg’s stolid, forthright Joe has followed their hardass police-chief father (Duvall) into blue, while Phoenix’s laid-back, fun-loving Bobby runs a Brooklyn nightclub that’s become the hot spot for scary Russian mobsters. When Joe is gunned down by one of them, Bobby reluctantly agrees to go undercover. Not a bad idea, except that Gray has an unfortunate tendency to spell everything out in clunky capital letters. The film’s dialogue is almost painfully literal, stating ideas and themes as starkly as a Cliff’s Notes chapter summary. And while Phoenix and Wahlberg can be superb actors, they’re both superb in a modern, anti-iconic way that works against the grain of Gray’s conception. –MD

JMA Jeffrey M. Anderson; JB Josh Bell; MD Mike D’Angelo; MH Mark Holcomb; MSH Matthew Scott Hunter

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