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Reviews

Short Takes

Special screenings

Casper

Christina Ricci, Bill Pullman, Eric Idle. Directed by Brad Silberling. 100 minutes. Rated PG.

A paranormal expert and his daughter bunk in an abandoned house populated by three mischievous ghosts and one friendly one. The District at Green Valley Ranch, 2300 Paseo Verde Parkway, Henderson, 564-8595. 10/31, 5 and 6:45 pm, free.

Danse Macabre Halloween Film Festival

Screenings of Donnie Darko, Bubba Ho-tep, Mirrormask. Enterprise Library, 25 E. Shelbourne Ave., 507-3761. 10/29, 1-8 pm, free.

Ghostbusters

Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis. Directed by Ivan Reitman. 105 minutes. Rated PG.

Three unemployed parapsychology professors set up shop as a unique ghost-removal service. The District at Green Valley Ranch, 2300 Paseo Verde Parkway, Henderson, 564-8595. 10/27, 7 pm, free.

Halloween Double Feature

Screenings of Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers, plus featurettes on the Halloween series. Regal Cinemas Colonnade, Village Square, Red Rock, 221-2283. 10/30, 7:30 pm, $10. Info: www.fathomevents.com.

Halloween Spooktacular

Eight spooky short films presented by the Dam Short Film Society. For ages 18 and over. Art Institute of Las Vegas, 2350 Corporate Circle, Henderson, 293-4848. 10/30, 8 pm, $5. Info: www.damshortfilm.org.

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson. Directed by Mike Newell. 157 minutes. Rated PG-13.

The fourth film in the Potter series finds the boy wizard competing in a magic tournament. The District at Green Valley Ranch, 2300 Paseo Verde Parkway, Henderson, 564-8595. 10/26, 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.

Le Petit Lieutenant

Nathalie Baye, Jalil Lespert, Roschdy Zem. Directed by Xavier Beauvois. 110 minutes. Not rated. In French with English subtitles.

A rookie policeman from provincial Le Havre volunteers for the high-pressure Parisian homicide bureau and is assigned to work with a middle-aged female detective. Clark County Library, 1401 E. Flamingo Road, 507-3400. 10/30, 7 pm, free.

Native Voices: Documentary Films From a Native Perspective

Feature and short documentaries about indigenous peoples. 11/1, Silent Messengers, Smudge; 11/8, The Return of Navajo Boy, Navajo Talking Picture; 11/15, Mohawk Girls, First Stories Vol. 1. Clark County Library, 1401 E. Flamingo Road, 507-3400. Thursdays, 7 p.m., free.

On Golden Pond

Katharine Hepburn, Henry Fonda, Jane Fonda. Directed by Mark Rydell. 109 minutes. Rated PG.

A retired couple reconnects with their estranged daughter during a summer at their country cottage. Whitney Library, 5175 E. Tropicana Ave., 507-4010. 10/28, 11:30 am, free.

Pal Joey

Rita Hayworth, Frank Sinatra, Kim Novak. Directed by George Sidney. 111 minutes. Not rated.

Sinatra is a womanizing nightclub singer caught between his attraction to chorus girl Novak and rich socialite Hayworth in this classic musical. Clark County Library, 1401 E. Flamingo Road, 507-3400. 10/30, 1 pm, free.

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.

Your World Film Festival

Screenings of An Inconvenient Truth, Murderball, Hotel Rwanda. West Las Vegas Library, 951 W. Lake Mead Blvd., 507-3989. 10/28, 10:30 am, free.

New this week

Bella *1/2

Eduardo Verastegui, Tammy Blanchard, Manny Perez. Directed by Alejandro Gomez Monteverde. 91 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Dan in Real Life *

Steve Carell, Juliette Binoche, Dane Cook. Directed by Peter Hedges. 95 minutes. Rated PG-13.

The Darjeeling Limited **

Owen Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, Adrien Brody. Directed by Wes Anderson. 91 minutes. Rated R.

Desert Bayou **

Directed by Alex LeMay. 90 minutes. Not rated.

Lars and the Real Girl **1/2

Ryan Gosling, Emily Mortimer, Paul Schneider. Directed by Craig Gillespie. 106 minutes. Rated PG-13.

Lust, Caution ***1/2

Tony Leung, Tang Wei, Joan Chen. Directed by Ang Lee. 157 minutes. Rated NC-17. In Mandarin with English subtitles.

Saw IV (Not reviewed)

Tobin Bell, Costas Mandylor, Scott Patterson, Lyriq Bent. Directed by Darren Lynn Bousman. 108 minutes. Rated R.

Sadistic killer Jigsaw subjects more people to elaborate torture devices.

Now playing

30 Days of Night ***1/2

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

In 30 Days of Night, the sense of helplessness, of being cut off from any aid the outside world could offer, is intensified and used to great effect, making the small town of Barrow, Alaska, feel like a terrifying prison for the movie’s main characters. That’s because they’re being stalked and killed by vampires, drawn by Barrow’s titular month of darkness. Night sometimes stretches to make its story fit to feature length, adding numerous secondary characters who serve mostly as fodder for the vampires. But director Slade effectively builds suspense throughout most of the film, giving those minor characters enough personality that you care whether they live or die. –JB

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

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.

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

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

Gone Baby Gone ***1/2

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

Longtime residents of Boston’s working-class Dorchester neighborhood, private-dick couple Patrick Kenzie (Affleck) and Angie Gennaro (Monaghan) are hired to investigate the kidnapping of a 4-year-old girl, ostensibly because potential witnesses are more likely to talk to them than to the cops, represented here by officious Chief Jack Doyle (Morgan Freeman) and brutally cynical Detective Remy Bressant (Harris). The deeper they look, however, the murkier things get—and even when the case is “solved” (sooner than you expect), uneasy questions linger, as does the film’s all-enveloping sense of moral turpitude. Quietly morose rather than operatically overheated, Affleck’s film won’t likely win any major Oscars, despite featuring the single best performance I’ve seen all year. But it should earn its director something more valuable still: respect. –MD

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 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

Into the Wild ***1/2

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

Christopher McCandless was a young Emory grad who donated his life savings to Oxfam International, broke off all contact with his family and spent two years as a wandering nomad, eventually starving to death alone in an abandoned bus outside Alaska’s Denali National Park. Penn opens Into the Wild with Chris’ trek into the Alaskan wilderness, and after a quick flashback to his college graduation, the film alternates between his final, fatal weeks in Alaska and the various pit stops he made during the nearly two years it took him to get there. However insufferable one may find Chris’ general attitude, it’s impossible not to be charmed by the open, welcoming relationships he forms with practically everyone he encounters. The film isn’t so much a character study as it is a genial portrait of self-marginalized America as seen through the eyes of its newest and most eager member. –MD

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

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. 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.

 

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.

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

Rendition ***1/2

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

Rendition tells the story of Anwar El-Ibrahimi (Omar Metwally), an Egyptian-born man living in the U.S. who’s abducted by the CIA on suspicion of terrorist ties. Without due process or even informing his American family, CIA official Corrine Whitman (Streep) orders “extraordinary rendition,” and Anwar is flown to the Middle East for interrogation. I loved every gut-wrenching, frustrating moment of this film, but that’s one of Rendition’s weaknesses. It plays like partisan radio, preaching to the choir. –MSH

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.

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

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 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

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

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.

The movie begins just prior to the funeral of Steven (Duchovny), who never gave up on his childhood friend-turned-drug addict, Jerry (Del Toro), even though Steven’s hotheaded wife, Audrey (Berry), disapproved of the continued friendship. Through a series of contrivances, Jerry winds up living in Audrey’s garage, freshly rebuilt after a fire that claimed several irreplaceable family heirlooms. Together, they help each other through their respective withdrawals and relapses, with one always seeming to find strength as the other weakens. And that’s the problem. It’s all just a little too pat, and that makes the storyline predictable. You can feel the next plot beat coming. –MSH

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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