Opening This Week
Race to Witch Mountain (PG) Another misuse of Dwayne Johnson’s yet-to-be-revealed thespian genius. This time, the Rock plays a cabbie who teams up with a pair of kid-aliens to save the world.
The Last House on the Left (R) A gang of rapists finds itself taking shelter in a house owned by the parents of one of its victims. You can guess what happens next. Stars Tony Goldwyn, Monica Potter, and Sara Paxton.
Miss March (R) A guy falls into a coma only to awake, years later, to find his girlfriend has become a Playboy centerfold. Stars women more beautiful than anything you’ll find in the center of the magazine at the center of this cinema epic. Don’t expect it to stay long at the Terrace. Two weeks — tops.
Confessions of a Shopaholic (PG) Forget the bad reviews — especially the outraged ones that are aghast that a movie with a credit-crazed heroine would dare to show its face at this unfortunate time in history. P.J. Hogan’s Confessions of a Shopaholic is a triumph of style over lack of substance — one made human by Isla Fisher and made romantic by the pairing of Fisher and Hugh Dancy. Fisher plays Rebecca Bloomwood, a wanna-be fashion writer working for a dying gardening magazine, and buried under a mountain of credit card debt. When she accidentally gets a job writing a column for Dancy’s financial magazine, things change for her, since her financial advice — delivered in shopping terms — is immensely popular. The film is essentially a stock romantic comedy, but it’s done with such stylish direction that it feels fresher than it is. And there’s Isla Fisher — the type of comedienne we haven’t really seen since the great screwball comedies of the 1930s, a performer who can remain sexy and appealing even while taking a pratfall. Even if the movie weren’t as pleasant a diversion as it is, she’d make it worth seeing. —Ken Hanke
Coraline (PG) It shouldn’t scare away anyone who would revel in pure creative wonder. Neil Gaiman’s story follows young Coraline Jones (voiced by Dakota Fanning) as she and her parents move into an old house-turned-apartment building. Mom (Teri Hatcher) and Dad (John Hodgman) are busy writing their gardening books, leaving Coraline to explore her new residence and discover a mysterious small door. A passage inside leads to an alternate world identical to her own — except that her parents are more attentive and accommodating to her every desire. And if Other Mother and Other Father happen to have buttons for eyes … well, nobody’s perfect. What potential viewers will need to wrap their heads around is that while Coraline may be about childhood, it isn’t really for children. —Scott Renshaw
Fired Up! (PG-13) Fired Up! is nothing more than your run-of-the-mill teen-sex comedy, with its only notable feature being a scaled down amount of raunch. Beyond that, it’s the usual parade of full-grown adults playing high school kids. In this case, it’s 28-year-old Nicholas D’Agosto and 31-year-old Eric Christian Olsen as Shawn and Nick, two high school seniors and hotshot football players whose sole ambition in life is the sexual conquest of as many females as possible. This mindset leads to them to the grand epiphany that if they bamboozle their way on to the school’s cheerleading squad they can make their way to cheer camp and have their pick of the 300 girls in attendance. The results are exactly what that sounds like. —Justin Souther
He’s Just Not That Into You (PG-13) By the 20-minute mark of Ken Kwapis’ interminable He’s Just Not That Into You, I realized I wasn’t that into the movie or anything about it. It’s messy, cliché-ridden, filled with characters so inane that you marvel they made it to adulthood, predictable, and dull, dull, dull. I didn’t expect much, but I got even less than that. What you get for the investment of a whopping 129 minutes are several clumsily interconnected stories following the trials and tribulations of an oversized cast of characters who comport themselves with such calculated stupidity that it’s hard to care about them. Full of recognizable but hardly big box office names like Scarlett Johansson, Drew Barrymore, Ben Affleck, Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Connelly, and lesser names like Justin Long, Ginnifer Goodwin, Bradley Cooper, and Kevin Connolly, the film is overstuffed to say the least. And all for what? To parade a bunch of not very likable 30-somethings and their relationship angsts, while playing out every rom-com trope to the max and beyond. It plays and feels like a TV-movie knock-off of a Woody Allen picture with all the wit surgically removed. —Ken Hanke
The International (R) We join Clive Owen and Naomi Watts, as a New York City district attorney, as they try to nail the ominously monikered International Bank of Business and Credit for some very bad things that could, arguably, be deemed crimes against humanity. Owen’s agent is twitchy in his hindered authority: He’s ex-Scotland Yard, eager to do some real police work to bring down these banking bastards (he’s crossed swords with them before, of course), and doesn’t want to be limited to Interpol’s information-gathering mandate. Watts is his unruffled counterpart, sleekly professional and calmly competent. (Refreshingly, their investigation is not complicated by romance, though the two actors sizzle with creative chemistry together onscreen.) At one point, during the Guggenheim sequence, everything I thought I knew about what was going on took a 180 turn … and then moments later took another 180 turn that, were normal physics involved here, should have taken us back to where we started, but instead takes us into a whole new realm. It’s awe-inspiring. —MaryAnn Johanson
Jonas Brothers: The 3D Concert Experience (G) Those who had the misfortune of sitting through last year’s Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour in 3-D know what’s in store with this already failed (we’re talking Lusitania level tanking here) attempt to do the same thing with yet another Disney Channel pre-fab tweener “rock” act. What you get here is pretty much the same thing — 76 minutes of squeaky clean processed cheese food product “rock” music interspersed with spurious “documentary” footage, all aimed at pubescent girls and parents who are anxious about “wholesomeness” in entertainment. The only difference is that this brazen appeal to early sexuality is actually worse. The songs are even more generic and undistinguished, and the Jonas Brothers — especially tween heart-throb Joe (the one with the straightened hair) — lack even the illusion of not being very impressed with themselves. The attempt to present them as some kind of Beatles-like group by stealing ideas from A Hard Day’s Night is just pathetic. The Beatles? Please. These boys aren’t even the Cowsills. —Ken Hanke
Medea Goes to Jail (PG-13) What we have is a ridiculous melodrama about an assistant district attorney (Derek Luke), who’s all set to marry another assistant district attorney (Ion Overman), until he runs into an old friend (Keshia Knight Pulliam in an ill-fitting red wig) who’s been arrested for prostitution. The meeting provokes a crise de conscience on his part (there’s much talk about “what happened that night”) that causes him to want to help her — much to the distaste of his upscale (and patently no good) fiancée. True feelings emerge and duplicity ensues. While all this is going on, there’s an unrelated plot involving Madea, her dope-smoking brother Joe (Perry in the usual high school drama department old-age make-up), the Browns (David and Tamela J. Mann), and lawyer Brian (Perry), who tries to keep Madea from a well-deserved stint in the big house. After more than an hour of this, we finally get to Madea — and, of course, the wrongfully railroaded prostitute — in jail. Predictability follows. —Ken Hanke
Push (PG-13) Call it a case of diminished expectations, but going into Paul McGuigan’s Push, I expected the worst. Part of this had to do with the goofy trailer that looked a bit too much like last year’s dreadful Jumper. Push is not the train wreck I expected, but a perfectly adequate action movie. It isn’t exactly what I’d call a good movie. Sure, the movie’s slick enough, but it’s never as clever as its twisting, turning plot thinks it is, or half as cool as it tries to be. In a plot that would be more at home in a comic book, the movie centers around Nick (Chris Evans), a guy who’s hiding out in the slums of Hong Kong from a U.S. government agency called Division. It seems Nick, like his father before him, is a “Mover,” meaning he has telekinetic powers that allow him to move objects with his mind. Naturally, this devolves into one of those evil government conspiracy affairs with an array of colorful villains to fill it out. It doesn’t hold up to scrutiny, but it’s vaguely entertaining. It’s just not a movie to get too excited over. —Justin Souther
The Reader (R) Admirers of director Stephen Daldry and writer David Hare should find much to please them in The Reader. It’s clear why this material would appeal, but The Hours, their previous project, was very much in the “women’s picture” mode. It could be taken as an art-house soap opera. The Reader comes from a darker place altogether. It concerns an affair that begins in 1958 between a woman (Kate Winslet) in her 30s and a 15-year-old boy (David Kross), but that’s not the crux off the film, which deals with their later lives, her guilt as a guard at Auschwitz, his own mirrored guilt in not speaking up when he should have, and the price both ultimately pay. Beautifully made, splendidly acted, and of greater substance than most movies, The Reader poses some very difficult questions. Which means it’s a somewhat uncomfortable film. It’s smart enough, however, to know it need not answer them, and so leaves it up to the viewer. Demanding? Yes. But that’s also why it’s such a worthwhile accomplishment. —Ken Hanke
Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (PG-13) Not only is this a strong early contender for worst film of the year, it could well be a candidate for the worst film ever made. Quite simply, this is nothing short of a triumph of bad writing, bad directing, and bad acting. It survives for a while on unintentional hilarity, but even its value on that score ends long before its 96 minutes are up. What we get is the story of a little, very Asian-looking girl whose father, Xiang (Edmund Chen), is kidnapped by an inexplicable bad guy named Bison (Neal McDonough) with the aid a bunch of inexplicable Asian martial arts types and an even less explicable bulky black guy, Balrog (Michael Clarke Duncan). The event so traumatizes her that she gets progressively less Asian-looking as she ages into other actresses. (She ends up being played by Kristin Kreuk, who is half Chinese.) Then her mom dies of movie cancer. It’s bad news all around. Things change when she receives a really badly mounted Chinese scroll that somehow leads her to go live on the streets of Bangkok so that some martial arts master named Gen (Robin Shou) will find her. He does and proceeds to teach her how to keep from landing face-first on a table saw. All this is going to allow her to revenge herself on Bison. Apart from Chris Klein giving perhaps the worst performance in the history of movies as an Interpol agent, there can be no reason to sit through this. —Ken Hanke