Monday, August 30, 2010

“3-MINUTE MOVIE GUIDE: Capsule reviews & video - The Daily News Online” plus 3 more

“3-MINUTE MOVIE GUIDE: Capsule reviews & video - The Daily News Online” plus 3 more


3-MINUTE MOVIE GUIDE: Capsule reviews & video - The Daily News Online

Posted: 19 Aug 2010 10:10 PM PDT

Posted: Friday, August 20, 2010 1:00 am | Updated: 10:39 am, Fri Aug 20, 2010.

Capsule reviews of films playing in area movie theaters (click links for full reviews):

Opening today

Lottery Ticket

The odds of winning the lottery are what, like, 1 in 175 million? The laughs aren't quite so hard to come by here, but they're not a safe bet, either. The feature debut from longtime music video director Erik White, which he co-wrote with Abdul Williams, starts out amiably enough, with a shaggy, shambling vibe. But it eventually devolves into a weirdly violent streak, followed by some seriously heavy-handed sentimentality. Still, the ensemble cast manages to keep things sporadically enjoyable. Rapper-actor Bow Wow is all grown up here as Kevin, a recent high school graduate who's stuck working at Foot Locker but dreams of creating his own shoe line. "Lottery Ticket" is at its strongest off the top, as Kevin tries to make his way to work at the mall one morning but keeps getting delayed by the random neighbors in his Atlanta housing project. Brandon T. Jackson has a loose, easy energy about him and gets many of the best lines. But when Kevin plays the lottery and wins the $370 million jackpot, everything changes, with people cozying up to him or trying to kill him because he's now a rich man. And because he wins over the extended July 4 weekend, he must wait three days to cash in. Loretta Devine, Naturi Naughton and Ice Cube co-star.

PG-13 for sexual content, language including a drug reference, some violence and brief underage drinking. 95 minutes.

Two stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

Nanny McPhee Returns

The Nanny McPhee movies may be principally for kids, but make no mistake about it: They are, quite literally, a parent's dream. Overwhelmed single parents with unruly kids are rescued by a magical nanny (Emma Thompson) who seemingly appears out of nowhere. And at no cost! For some older moviegoers escorting little ones, this premise might be impossibly alluring. And they said fans of "Avatar" were depressed when they left the theater. This sequel to 2005's "Nanny McPhee" (both penned by Thompson, adapting Christianna Brand's Nurse Matilda books) largely keeps the original's formula. McPhee, a witch-looking fairy godmother of tough love, comes to the aid of a parent trying to manage a litter of kids alone (Maggie Gyllenhaal, filling Colin Firth's shoes). McPhee obviously owes much to P.L. Travers' Mary Poppins, but there's still a warm, British naturalism to the film and an old-fashioned cheerfulness uncommon to most of today's kids movies. With Rhys Ifans as a brother-in-law scoundrel, and Maggie Smith as a ditzy shopkeeper.

PG for rude humor, some language and mild thematic elements. 109 minutes.

Two and a half stars out of four.

— Jake Coyle, AP Entertainment Writer

Piranha 3D

Mere words cannot describe how awesomely gnarly this is, how hugely entertaining, and how urgently you must get yourself to the theater to see it. This is not a joke, by the way. This movie is a complete blast. To borrow a phrase from the kind of B-horror flicks to which "Piranha 3D" is such an effective homage: Run, don't walk. Like "Snakes on a Plane," which came out in the dead of summer four years ago, "Piranha 3D" knows exactly what it is and does exactly what it should do. It's about piranhas ... in 3-D. It's cleverly knowing without collapsing into parody. It makes great use of its extremely random cast, including Elisabeth Shue in an unusually bad-ass role as a sheriff, Ving Rhames as her deputy and Jerry O'Connell as a Joe Francis type. Christopher Lloyd has one great scene in full-on, crazed Christopher Lloyd mode as the resident fish expert. The second you see Eli Roth — playing the emcee at a wet T-shirt contest, no less — you know some hideous fate will befall him. And then there's Richard Dreyfuss, who makes a very cute cameo off the top. That's all we'll say. But the whole point of this kind of movie is the gore, and French director Alexandre Aja finds hilarious and creative ways to kill off his characters — drunk, horny college kids who've descended on a lake for spring break.

R for sequences of strong bloody horror, violence and gore, graphic nudity, sexual content, language, and some drug use. 82 minutes.

Three and a half stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

The Switch

Not a single moment rings true in "The Switch," which is unfortunate because it's actually about a situation in which a lot of women find themselves. Jennifer Aniston's character, Kassie, is a single, 40-year-old New York TV producer who wants to have a baby but doesn't want to wait around for a man — or worse yet, the wrong man — to make that happen. So she turns to a sperm donor, only to have her longtime best friend, the uptight stock trader Wally (Jason Bateman), switch the specimens in a drunken stupor. Why, you may be wondering, does Wally even have access to the cup that contains the makings of Kassie's future child? Because the whole deal is going down at an insemination party thrown by the movie's obligatory wacky best friend (Juliette Lewis), complete with jokey turkey basters. Like most situations — and like the similarly hokey "The Back-up Plan" from earlier this year, starring Jennifer Lopez — this one is played in broad, sitcommy fashion, utterly divorced from the way people behave in real life.

PG-13 for mature thematic content, sexual material including dialogue, some nudity, drug use and language. 100 minutes.

One star out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

Check out this trailer for "The Switch," starring Jason Bateman and Jennifer Aniston:

 

Vampires Suck

A spoof of vampire-themed movies, where teenager Becca (Jenn Proske) finds herself torn between two boys. As she and her friends wrestle with a number of different dramas, everything comes to a head at their prom. With Matt Lanter and Chris Riggi.

PG-13 for crude sexual content, comic violence, language and teen partying. 80 minutes. NOT REVIEWED.


Also Playing

Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore

Dogs and cats, living together ... mass hysteria? Maybe not. While these animals were resourceful and well-equipped enemies in the original "Cats & Dogs" from 2001, now they must band together to fight a common foe. As you can tell from the name, this is a spy send-up, specifically of James Bond movies -- the opening titles alone are super clever, an indication of the kind of eye for detail that's in store throughout -- and from there, the jokes fly fast and furious along with the fur. Surprisingly, most of them work. But as directed by Brad Peyton, the 3-D sequel is a mix of live action, puppetry and computer animation, and the jumbled look is its chief weakness: The animals are cute, but the visual effects that suggest they're talking too often look jumpy and fake. You want your talking-animal movies to be realistic, don't you? Still, it's a delightful idea that cats and dogs not only enjoy a rich interior life while humans are away, but also function as highly trained super spies, complete with elaborate gadgetry. Bette Midler is deliciously over-the-top as the voice of the diabolical Kitty Galore, with James Marsden, Christina Applegate and Nick Nolte among the vocal cast.

PG for animal action and humor. 87 minutes.

Three stars out of four.

-- Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

Here's a clip from "Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore":

Dinner for Schmucks

There's a lot less bite at this meal than there was in the classic French farce that was its inspiration. Whereas "The Dinner Game" was a tight, sharp satire of societal pretension, this remake seems more interested in broad slapstick. That's unsurprising coming from Jay Roach, director of the "Austin Powers" movies, "Meet the Parents" and "Meet the Fockers." Still, Roach takes time getting to the big, wacky evening at the film's climax. "Dinner for Schmucks" is 34 minutes longer than its predecessor, and feels like it. As Steve Carell and Paul Rudd get to know each other during a series of mishaps, the pacing drags and the script takes them through some serious detours. But Carell, being the smart, sensitive comic actor that he is, infuses what might have been an insufferably obnoxious character with some real humanity. The same can't be said for Rudd's straight-man character because he's drawn so plainly, it's hard to care whether he suffers or succeeds. Rudd plays a financial analyst on the verge of a promotion. But first, he must impress his boss at a secret monthly dinner where the company elite compete to see who can bring the biggest idiot as their guest. When he meets Carell as a kindhearted IRS employee and amateur taxidermist, he knows he's found his schmuck.

PG-13 for sequences of crude and sexual content, some partial nudity and language. 114 minutes.

Two stars out of four.

-- Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

Here's a trailer for "Dinner for Schmucks":

Despicable Me

Despite some clever moments and colorful characters, this could have been called "Forgettable Me" instead. It has a pleasingly off-kilter look about it — the work of a French animation house — a strong voice cast led by Steve Carell as the bumbling bad guy Gru and a delightfully cruel sense of humor. It's actually darker and odder than most family-friendly animated fare, and that's a good thing — until it goes predictably soft and gooey at the end, that is. But what's mainly missing from this first animated 3-D offering from Universal is story. There's just nothing to "Despicable Me," and that becomes glaringly obvious when you compare it to this summer's "Toy Story 3" in particular and Pixar movies in general, where story is paramount. Here, the look of the film is what makes it stand out amid the glut of summer cartoons. The characters are cute in their weirdness, down to Gru's shaggy, growling dog. Even the trio of spunky orphans crucial to Gru's diabolical plan to steal the moon are adorable in an unusual way. The scene-stealers, though, are the Minions: tiny, yellow, pill-shaped creatures with one eye and sometimes two who carry out Gru's evil deeds. At least, they try. Jason Segel, Russell Brand and Julie Andrews are among the supporting cast.

PG for rude humor and mild action. In 2-D and 3-D. 95 minutes.

Two and a half stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

Here's a clip from "Despicable Me":

Eat Pray Love

This does exactly what it should to satisfy its core audience: It provides a gorgeous escape, exquisitely photographed and full of female wish fulfillment. Yet it also offers sufficient emotional heft and self-discovery that it'll make people feel as if they've actually learned something and, perhaps, emerged as better people solely through osmosis. It's easy to see why Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir became an international phenomenon, even without help from Oprah. Everyone's looking for something — for answers, for their true and higher purpose — and Gilbert had the fortitude (and the wherewithal) to take off alone on a journey around the world to find herself after her divorce. Having Julia Roberts star as Liz Gilbert in the film version of the best-seller, in theory, only makes it more appealing to an even wider audience. Roberts is radiant as ever, and director and co-writer Ryan Murphy's adaptation allows her to show off her full range with plenty of hardcore hanky moments. It's overlong and it wraps up with the kind of romantic comedy cliches that, for the most part, were absent from the first two-thirds. Regardless of how you feel about the movie, though, it'll make you want to head out for wine and pasta with your girlfriends afterward. Javier Bardem, Billy Crudup and James Franco star as the various loves of her life.

PG-13 for brief strong language, some sexual references and male rear nudity. 133 minutes.

Three stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

The Expendables

An exercise in nostalgia for the bygone era of muscly, macho action films, "The Expendables" is willfully out of date, like an aged hair band that can't pack away the spandex. Sylvester Stallone, the director, co-writer and star, has summoned a who's who of the remaining defenders of high body count, testosterone-fueled action: Jason Statham, Jet Li, Steve Austin, Randy Couture, Terry Crews and Dolph Lundgren, who collectively make up a band of beefy, tattooed mercenaries. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Bruce Willis make cameos, too: It's a reunion. Mickey Rourke comes along as a grizzled former warrior. The crew is hired to overthrow a corrupt general (David Zayas) and a villainous, rogue CIA agent (Eric Roberts) on the fictional island of Vilena. But the world of "The Expendables" has shockingly little connection to anything like the real world, and the military compound that will be the setting for much of the film could be that from any "Rambo" movie: cargo boxes, sand bags and watch towers, all ripe for explosions. The film is a time warp to a time before irony, to a low production value movieland where it's still OK to fade to a close-up of a full moon. But it's exactly the movie Stallone wanted to make; he loves this stuff.

R for strong action and bloody violence throughout, and for some language. 103 minutes.

One and a half stars out of four.

— Jake Coyle, AP Entertainment Writer

Here's a trailer from "The Expendables," starring action superstars Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li and Bruce Willis:

 

 

The Girl Who Played With Fire

The Girl Who Played with Fire — This sequel feels like a hasty knockoff compared to the adaptation of the first book in Swedish novelist Stieg Larsson's best-selling trilogy, "The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo." The story falls back heavily on action from the far-superior first film, and the secrets revealed about its heroine's dark and violent past are not exactly earthshaking. Yet it's hard to go wrong with a psycho-genius such as Lisbeth Salander, again played with pitiless, unbridled courage and savagery by Noomi Rapace. This is a woman who will not back down from the harshest of obstacles or the most frightening of adversaries. So she's not going to let a little thing like a weak followup story completely spoil the party. While uneven, repetitive and occasionally nonsensical, the movie still offers a fair dose of suspense and action for those who can stomach its brutal violence. The story casts Lisbeth as prime suspect in several murders and sheds light on some nasty mystery men from her past. Michael Nyqvist reprises his role as Lisbeth's journalist ally.

R for brutal violence including a rape, some strong sexual content, nudity and language. 129 minutes.

Two and a half stars out of four.

— David Germain, AP Movie Writer

Grown Ups

Shockingly inept even by the standards we've come to expect from a Happy Madison production, this feels as if it were made without considering whether an audience would ever actually see it. It assaults us with an awkward mix of humor (which is rarely funny) and heart (which is never touching), but even more amateurishly, it features copious cutaways to characters laughing at each others' jokes. For long stretches of time, Adam Sandler and Co. sit around a New England lake house goofing on each other, telling stories and reminiscing about old times. Given that these other characters are played by Kevin James, Chris Rock, David Spade and Rob Schneider, you would hope that some of the lines would work (from James and Rock, at least). One gets the distinct impression that these guys, four out of five of whom are "Saturday Night Live" alumni, improvised most of their insults and one-liners, and there just happened to be a camera or two rolling. The plot, which is essentially "The Big Chill" with jokes about flatulence and bunions, finds these five childhood friends reuniting for the funeral of the basketball coach who led them to a championship in 1978.

PG-13 for crude material including suggestive references, language and some male rear nudity. 98 min.

One star out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

Inception

We're happy to report, with great relief, that all the hype is justified. Writer-director Christopher Nolan's first film since "The Dark Knight" is a stunningly gorgeous, technically flawless symphony of images and ideas. "Memento," the mystery-in-reverse that put Nolan on the map a decade ago, looks almost quaint by comparison. In its sheer enormity, it's every inch a blockbuster, but in the good sense of the word: with awesomeness, ambition and scope. The cinematography, production design, effects, editing, score, everything down the line — all superb. But unlike so many summer movies assigned that tag, "Inception" is no mindless thrill ride. It'll make you work, but that's part of what's so thrilling about it. With its complicated concepts about dreams within dreams, layers of consciousness and methods of manipulation, "Inception" might make you want to stop a few times just to get your bearings. The juggernaut of Nolan's storytelling momentum, however, keeps pounding away. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as dream thief Dom Cobb, an "extractor" who enters the mind while a person is dreaming to steal their secrets; Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays his detail-oriented right-hand man. Ken Watanabe, as the powerful businessman Saito, hires Dom and his team for a different kind of crime: sneak into the subconscious of a competitor (Cillian Murphy) and implant an idea that will ruin his empire. Tom Hardy, Ellen Page and Dileep Rao are all excellent as members of Dom's crew. One of the year's best films, and it'll surely get even better upon repeated viewings.

PG-13 for sequences of violence and action throughout. 147 min.

Four stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

Here's a clip from "Inception," featuring Leonardo DiCaprio and Joseph Gordon-Levitt:

 

Here's another clip, featuring Leonardo DiCaprio and Ellen Page:

I Am Love

Words like "lush" and "gorgeous" don't even begin to scratch the surface in describing Italian director Luca Guadagnino's retro-styled melodrama. It's more like the most sumptuous design porn, lingering over every detail in the palatial home of a Milanese industrialist and his family, allowing plenty of time for us to ooh and ahh over the impeccably tasteful clothes, the rich furnishings, the exquisite meals. (Don't see this movie hungry.) From the sweeping, old-fashioned opening titles, "I Am Love" signals that we're in for a long, luxurious ride. This is a visual medium, after all, and in the tradition of Visconti and Sirk, Guadagnino expertly throws in everything he's got. But despite these aesthetic trappings, an even more compelling factor is the most fundamental: the tour-de-force performance from its star, Tilda Swinton, speaking fluent Italian and even a little Russian in a couple of scenes. Swinton's transformation from perfect, moneyed wife and mother to ... well, we don't want to give too much away, but we'll just say her character becomes a purer form of herself when she finds true love. She becomes free. The camera has always loved her striking, porcelain features: those formidable cheekbones and wide-set blue eyes. She's ravishing as Emma Recchi, flawlessly turned out for all occasions. But it's the subtle changes within her that drive the film, and allow the staggeringly versatile Swinton to prove there's more to her than we ever could have imagined.

R for sexuality and nudity. 120 min.

Three and a half stars.

-- Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

The Kids Are All Right

The two kids of the film -- teen siblings getting to know their biological dad -- are great -- smart, mature, high-minded, well-adjusted. The three adults, played with fierce heart and a genuine sense of well-meaning inadequacy by Annette Bening, Julianne Moore and Mark Ruffalo, are a mess. Writer-director Lisa Cholodenko's scenario is a bit forced -- repressed lesbian parents forced into contact with the carefree sperm donor who fathered their children. The mayhem that ensues strains credibility here and there. Yet Cholodenko ("High Art," "Laurel Canyon") and her cast turn what could have been an utterly artificial story into a warm, funny, sharp-tongued and broiling examination of the volatility underlying even the happiest of families. Bening and Moore play a cozy couple whose 18-year-old (Mia Wasikowska) and 15-year-old (Josh Hutcherson) turn the household upside-down after they contact the anonymous donor (Ruffalo) their moms chose to sire them. The performances, particularly Bening's, deserve a close look from awards voters come Oscar season. R for strong sexual content, nudity, language and some teen drug and alcohol use. 104 minutes. Three stars out of four.

-- David Germain, AP Movie Writer

Madamoiselle Chambon

Jean (Vincent Lindon), his loving wife and son live a simple, happy life in a tranquil southern French hamlet. At the request of his son's homeroom teacher Madamoiselle Veronique Chambon (Sandrine Kiberlain), he volunteers as substitute teacher and starts to fall for her delicate and elegant charm. His ordinary life between family and work starts to falter as he and his son's teacher senses the other's attraction.

Not rated. 101 minutes. NOT REVIEWED.

The Other Guys

If the mismatched-buddy cop movie seems egregiously overdone, the idea of a parody of that genre would seem especially needless — which is what makes this such a wonderful surprise. On paper, this could have been painfully lame. Will Ferrell is doing a variation on his tried-and-true film persona: the overly earnest guy who's totally confident and oblivious to his buffoonery. Mark Wahlberg, meanwhile, is playing with his screen image as a tough guy and a hothead, doing a version of his Oscar-nominated role in "The Departed." It all could have been too familiar, too cute. But there are just enough tweaks to these characters and this formula — and a refreshingly weird, kinky streak throughout — that make "The Other Guys" an unexpected kick. Director and co-writer Adam McKay's film runs out of steam in the third act and probably could have been tightened a bit. And we didn't need the Powerpoint-style presentation over the closing credits preaching to us about corporate greed. But the majority of it works. A big reason for the film's success is that the action sequences are played totally straight. The comedy similarly has a deadpan tone; it's self-aware but not tongue-in-cheek.

PG-13 for crude and sexual content, language, violence and some drug material. 101 minutes.

Three stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

Here's a clip from "The Other Guys":

Check out this clip from the action comedy The Other Guys, featuring Eva Mendes, Will Ferrell and Mark Wahlberg.

 

Restrepo

The great war-on-terror films mostly have been documentaries. Directors Tim Hetherington and Sebastian Junger continue that track record with this intimate portrait of a platoon's tour of duty that's disturbing, rattling and heartbreaking in its immediacy. Hetherington and Junger dug in with a U.S. Army platoon during much of its 15-month deployment in Afghanistan's Korengal Valley, which the filmmakers describe as one of the most dangerous military postings. Their film unfolds with an objective yet impassioned voice, the soldiers' actions, words, loyalty, even their horseplay combining for an unforgettable chronicle of fraternity under fire. In conversations during the deployment and interviews after returning to their base in Italy, platoon members plaintively recall fallen comrades and ponder if any good came out of their sacrifice. None of them has any answers, but their recollections reveal one certainty: Whatever nations might fight for, these men are fighting for one another.

R for language throughout including some descriptions of violence. 94 min.

Three and a half stars out of four.

— David Germain, AP Movie Writer

Here's a trailer for "Restrepo":