Opening This Week

Everlasting Moments (PG) See review here.

The Class (PG-13) A French film about an idealistic teacher trying to educate and make a better life for immigrant students in some of France’s toughest (that is, most racially tense) schools. Think Dangerous Minds with English subtitles.

Expired (NR) A movie about Claire, a mild-mannered meter maid who lives with her sickly mother and who eventually meets a boy by the name of Jay. Jay and Claire are awkward and nervous about love, but they eventually start to make it work. And then, a fateful conflict arises. Stars Samantha Morton, Jason Patric, Teri Garr, Illeana Douglas, Joe Camareno.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine (PG-13) There probably isn’t a more macho pairing than Hugh Jackman as Wolverine with Liev Schreiber as Sabretooth in this tale about the beginnings of the X-Men franchise. Much to be loved by fans and hopefully by critics, but we’re not holding our breath. Also stars Ryan Reynolds and will.i.Am of the Black Eyed Peas.

Battle for Terra (PG) A space explorer tries to save his friends on a new planet from invaders from his own planet. This animated feature stars the voices of Evan Rachel Wood, Luke Wilson, and Justin Long.

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (PG-13) A new spin on The Christmas Carol starring Emma Stone, Jennifer Garner, and douche-bag Matthew McConaughey.

Critical Capsules

17 Again (PG-13) Seeing how the very first scene in 17 Again is Zac Efron shirtless and sweaty, and that the next scene is Efron dancing, it’s not difficult to see what purpose this movie is supposed to serve. Namely, it’s here to please his tween fans by parading around his heartthrobiness for 100 minutes while occasionally showing off his unique talents (and yes, being shirtless counts as talent in some corners). The movie is one of those family-friendly fantasies that crop up here and there, where an adult is transformed into a teen and sent off to learn important life lessons — think either version of Freaky Friday or pre-Christian Soldier Kirk Cameron and Arthur 2-era Dudley Moore in Like Father Like Son. In this case, it’s an exhausted looking Matthew Perry. This take offers nothing new, though a couple scenes are a little creepier than usual. It’s strictly for fans of Efron, who may actually be young enough to find it fresh. —Justin Souther

Adventureland (R) James Brennan (Jesse Eisenberg) is a college graduate whose Europe-trekking and Ivy League grad-school plans wind up in limbo after his dad loses his job. He’s forced to take summer work on the midway at the titular amusement park in his hometown of Pittsburgh, and quickly finds a kindred “why am I here?” spirit in Joel (Martin Starr). But his even-more-kindred spirit may be co-worker Em (Twilight‘s Kristen Stewart). Director Greg Mottola does a terrific job of establishing the milieu of the run-down Adventureland, with its carnival attempts to con the customers. He was also smart enough to cast Starr as the bitterly seething intellectual Joel, SNL’s Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig as the park’s managers, and a pleasantly restrained Ryan Reynolds as the park’s Lothario handyman. The script is full of the small touches that give a story a kick of specificity. Even the broader comedy proves enjoyable. But the real appeal comes from the romance, and particularly from Eisenberg. First, it seems as though Mottola is forcing him to channel Michael Cera, but his star eventually finds his own appealing take on sensitive, hyper-literate romanticism. There’s something perfectly pitched about James’ affected over-use of the expression per se, his embarrassment at being caught sporting wood at a pool party, and even about his willingness to indulge his immature “sack-whacking” high-school buddy. —Scott Renshaw

Crank: High Voltage (R) Chances are if you enjoyed the wild ride of the original Crank, you’re going to have a good time with this even more outrageous sequel. Truth to tell, what you really get here is the same movie all over again — only more of it. What it lacks in surprise, it makes up for in heightened absurdity, and even though it starts to feel like it’s running low on gas in the last few minutes, it generally succeeds. It’s a movie that revels in its own preposterousness, that delights in affronting the viewer with explosive bad taste, nudity, sex, violence, and gore. It’s a lot like a Guy Ritchie movie — if Guy Ritchie was a horny 14-year-old. The premise finds the presumably dead Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) not dead at all, but with his heart stolen by Asian gangsters, who’ve equipped him with an artificial one to keep him alive so they can farm out the rest of his organs. His shady pal Doc Miles (Dwight Yoakam) is “reasonably sure” he can put Chev’s heart back — assuming Chev can get it, something that’s complicated by the need to zap himself with electricity every little bit to keep the bogus heart going. Yes, it’s that preposterous and more — and if that appeals to you, you’re good to go. If it doesn’t, go elsewhere. —Ken Hanke

Dragonball: Evolution (PG) I can’t really sort out all the various permutations of Dragonball with its Dragonball, Dragonball Z, and Dragonball GT incarnations. I did see a few episodes of Dragonball Z about eight years ago, and it very nearly put me off anime for life. The fact that this laughable, silly, borderline incoherent live-action version hasn’t had a similar effect on me for movies in general suggests that it’s at least better than that. That, however, is damning the film with faint praise if you couldn’t tell. It’s not good; it’s just less bad than the series. Beyond that, its value is that it’s too dumb to actively hate. And dumb this tale of a mysteriously Caucasian Asian named Goku (Justin Chatwin) and his search for the seven dragonballs in order to prevent the destruction of the world by an ill-tempered green gent called Piccolo (James Marsters) certainly is. Apart from some incidentals — including a side-trip to a bargain basement Mordor and Ernie Hudson (yes, Ernie Hudson, but with Uncle Remus eyebrows) as the end-all-be-all martial arts master — this is pretty much all there is. For anyone over the age of six or seven, it’s probably not enough, unless you also find a piece of string good for hours of fun. —Ken Hanke

Duplicity (PG-13) With its fractured narrative and its myriad convolutions, Tony Gilroy’s Duplicity still isn’t as clever and sophisticated as it’s obviously meant to be, but I’m not sure it matters very much. It’s a stylish, entertaining movie with pretty people in pretty clothes (or in very few clothes, which is OK as long it’s pretty people) in pretty locations saying witty things. At this point in the moviegoing year, it’s probably foolish to ask for more. This is a movie for movie people — with a bottle of Dom Perignon at the end. Stylish direction, a script that “thinks,” Clive Owen, Julia Roberts, and champagne. It’s late March and that ain’t bad. The story is basically a reworking of a Cold War spy flick with rival corporations rather than superpowers, and Owen and Roberts as former secret agents out to use their skills to con and defraud the corporations in question for personal gain. Gilroy, however, isn’t content with that alone and has created a “golden age”-style, battle-of-the-sexes romance for his stars, making them unable to trust each other and having that be part and parcel of the very reason they find each other irresistable. It’s the kind of film bona fide movie stars were made for. —Ken Hanke

Earth (G) It’s fitting that Earth — the first release from Disney’s newest imprint, Disneynature — was released to coincide with Earth Day, since everyone involved is very active in recycling. The footage for Earth is taken from the 2006 BBC documentary series Planet Earth, narrated by Sir Richard Attenborough and released stateside on the Discovery Channel with Sigourney Weaver’s omnipresence overseeing all. In 2007, the footage was pared down to feature length in the UK — with narration by Patrick Stewart — to create Earth, which has finally made its way here, with the voice of James Earl Jones calling the action this time. Shot in HD, the film is often striking and majestic on the big screen. But this doesn’t keep it from carrying around a sense of been there, done that. Maybe it’s the fact that the film’s been so cut down from its original form, but nothing about it seems terribly fresh or informative, coming across more as an especially spectacular episode of Wild Kingdom than anything else. —Justin Souther

Fast & Furious (PG-13) On the plus side, at least some of the action scenes are put together in a coherent manner (an increasingly rare phenomenon). Also, Paul Walker no longer looks like he’s waiting for the director to tell him what to do next. What else can be said? Well, it’s not nearly as funny as Vin Diesel’s last picture, Babylon A.D., but whether that’s in the movie’s favor is as personal a call as deciding whether Mr. Diesel’s second chin is really getting that obvious, or if director Justin Lin just shoots him in profile way too often. As a mindless — verging on incompehensible — action flick, Fast & Furious probably scales the heights of adequacy. That’s to say people drive fast, perform improbable stunts, things blow up, and the leads glare at each other a lot. Neither the plot nor individual set-pieces, however, survive even cursory scrutiny. All you need to know — not that there’s much more to know — is that Diesel and Walker are out to bring down a Mexican drug lord, who was responsible for the death of Diesel’s girlfriend (Michelle Rodriguez). If that — and watching people drive fast — appeals to you, so might the movie. —Ken Hanke

Fighting (PG-13) If ever a movie deserved the largely meaningless assessment of “it is what it is,” Dito Montiel’s Fighting is that movie. It is exactly what you think it is — a fairly dumb fight drama of the sort that Hollywood’s been knocking out since Kid Galahad in 1937. In fact, this pretty much is an uncredited rehash of Kid Galahad with a slight modern varnish job. It’s still the story of a promoter spotting raw fighting talent in a kid and helping to turn him into a star fighter. That it’s on some vaguely defined underground bare-knuckle circuit changes very little, nor does it make it any less hokey. The point is that’s what Fighting offers you, and if that appeals to you, so might the movie. Unfortunately, Montiel thinks he’s in deeper territory than the B-movie realm the film actually inhabits — and he tries to make that point by throwing more and more cliches into the mix, which only gooses the kitsch quotient and pads the running time. Strictly for viewers who want to see shirtless Channing Tatum.Ken Hanke

Hannah Montana: The Movie (G) Adults are clearly not the audience for this big-screen version of the apparently popular TV show, so it hardly matters what anyone says about it. It’s hard to imagine people who read movie reviews are even considering this concoction — unless under pressure from a small girl. The idea of the film revolves around the bizarre notion that the fictional Hannah Montana character is actually the fictional Miley Stewart character (something a blonde wig keeps the whole world from noticing), who, of course, is Miley Cyrus in real life. Somewhere in that conceit there is almost certainly something deeply philosophical, but I’m too worn out by the film’s frantic need to be frantic to poke around for it. The plot finds Miley losing touch with her roots, owing to her celebrity status as pop star Hannah. Things reach crisis level when Hannah gets into a shoestore fight where she tries to skewer Tyra Banks with a stiletto heel. Civilized people might well consider this a laudable attempt, but Dad Robby Ray Stewart (real-life Miley dad Billy Ray Cyrus) takes a dim view of it, and whisks his cash-cow daughter off to Tennessee for a deprogramming dose of appallingly idealized “real life” — a reality envisioned by folks whose idea of such was obviously cobbled together from the more backward examples of 1950s sitcoms. It’s all pretty frightening. —Ken Hanke

I Love You, Man (R) I Love You, Man is only the latest in a long line of movies called the “bro-mantic comedy” or perhaps the “dick flick.” And it may have much to teach us about ourselves, my brothers — as we are, as we wish we could be, and as we want to make it excruciatingly clear to everyone that we’re not. It’s kind of depressing watching I Love You, Man look so insecure when attempting to prove its protagonists’ heterosexuality. On the surface, it seems very gay-friendly to have Peter’s (Paul Rudd) out-and-proud brother serving as one of his mentors in wooing male companionship. But one of the big early guffaw moments involves a misunderstanding on one of Peter’s “man-dates,” ending with a vigorous tongue-kissing. Neither director John Hamburg nor Rudd overplays the panic of the moment, but it becomes clear that the gay characters here exist primarily to prove by contrast what Peter and Sydney are not. It’s a shame, really, that I Love You, Man isn’t funnier, and that it feels as uncomfortable in its own skin as its hero. We’re getting closer to learning something interesting about what guys need from other guys, but the sociologists won’t be gleaning more from this effort than a few chuckles. There’s more bro-vado here than bro-mance. —Scott Renshaw

Madea 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

Monsters vs. Aliens (PG) There’s something sweetly nostalgic about the idea that the government has had all these out-of-date monsters locked away for about 50 years. The voice casting is surprisingly good, especially Rainn Wilson as the evil Gallaxhar. The results of all this, though, are rarely more than pleasant. The individual components suggest it should be better. It’s less a case of anything being actually wrong than it simply being no more than OK. The idea basically finds the earth invaded by aliens and calls on their stash of homegrown monsters to save the day. Apart from the personal stories used to flesh this out, that’s the plot and it works fine for what it is. At bottom, I liked it well enough. I found it consistently clever and that it maintained a pleasantly giddy sense of fun. In a year, I’ll have only the vaguest sense of ever having seen it. —Ken Hanke

Observe and Report (R) Yes, this willfully ugly Seth Rogen “comedy” is exactly what it looks like — an R-rated version of Paul Blart: Mall Cop. Its existence almost makes one think that Paul Blart was a pretty good movie. That should tell you all you need to know about Observe and Report. Rogen plays a sociopathic mall-security officer with an alcoholic mom (loads of laughs there) and a crush on a thoroughly reprehensible cosmetics counter worker (Anna Faris in the most thankless role of her career, if such a notion can be believed). He sees his big chance when the mall is beset by a flasher and a series of robberies. Things don’t go exactly as planned, which is supposed to lead to big laughs, but these rarely materialize. The big problem is that the film is so concerned with being hip and edgy that it manages to make its racist, homophobic, self-centered, and smarmy hero thoroughly unlikable. That it also constantly confuses the merely repellent with edgy is another drawback. A couple of cold laughs may result, but the whole affair is too unpleasant to like. —Ken Hanke

Obsessed (PG-13) I don’t mind that TV director Steve Shill’s theatrical film debut Obsessed is mindless, overheated, undercooked trash. I mind that it’s boring mindless, overheated, undercooked trash. That’s the one thing trash can’t withstand. Unfortunately, it’s also the one thing Obsessed has in abundance. Oh, it has other things — awful dialogue, hysterically obvious set-ups (the more forgiving among us may call this “foreshadowing”), laughably bad performances, a mentally defective storyline — but it’s the boredom quotient that cooks the goose. The movie has about two minutes worth of plot — psycho blonde temp worker (Ali Larter) stalks and fantasizes a romance with her boss (Idris Elba), causing him no end of trouble and understandably earning the ire of his wife (Beyonce Knowles). It keeps going only because every character in the film behaves like an idiot. Yes, you’ll finally get to the big Beyonce-Ali Larter catfight, but it’s not that big and not that good. Ken Hanke

The Soloist (PG-13) Now that Joe Wright’s failed Oscar-bait, The Soloist, has also fared poorly at the box office, maybe Mr. Wright will get back to the business of making the movies his 2005 debut feature Pride and Prejudice suggested he had in him. This isn’t to say that The Soloist is a bad movie, but the best that can be said of it is that it qualifies as an honorable failure. Finally seeing the film, there’s no longer much mystery as to why the studio pulled it from awards season. Despite worthy performances from Robert Downey Jr. as LA Times columnist Steve Lopez and Jamie Foxx as the schizophrenic homeless man who was once a musical prodigy and whom Lopez befriends, the movie’s mostly a mess with bizarre extraneous scenes filling up the gaps left by a narrative arc that doesn’t exist. Strangely, the film itself recognizes this very problem when Lopez says he doesn’t want to turn his articles on his friend into a book, because there’s no ending. The film can’t find one either, so it merely stops at a certain point with a bit of simplistic moralizing and a tepid stab at a “feel good” wrap-up. —Ken Hanke

State of Play (PG-13) Little think-bombs punctuate State of Play — the original BBC version was more about the touchy gray areas between friendship and business, but this one, starring Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck, and Rachel McAdams, is more about whether real journalism can be done when profit is all and the internet will scoop whatever story a boots-on-the-ground grunt of a writer can scrape up on the streets when he has to deal with sources and, you know, ethics and stuff. Yeah, this is still Hollywood. There’s a Hollywood action sequence that’s not exactly out of place, except when you compare it to the original, which was all silently exchanged glances speaking volumes and quiet moments about character that made you ache for them even when you had to acknowledge that the characters were huge assholes. But I cannot bitch about this new State of Play, much as I was prepared to. It’s exciting and urgent. It’s a beautiful and sad fantasy about the last gasp of investigative journalism, which has already passed. —MaryAnn Johanson

Sunshine Cleaning (R) Amy Adams’ Rose Lorkowski is struggling to raise a child on her own, with the occasional help of her unreliable sister, Norah (Emily Blunt), and their slightly wacky dad, Joe (Alan Arkin). She’s in love with a totally inappropriate man, Mac (Steve Zahn), once her high-school sweetheart and now married to someone else. She’s a mess, but not a walking disaster area. She’s coping, but she’s frustrated, and she’s just one misfortune away from a meltdown. Which comes, of course, when her son, Oscar (Jason Spevack), gets kicked out his elementary school. He’s a nuisance, but of the creative, imaginative, won’t-be-corralled type. The school wants to Ritalin him into submission, but Rose won’t have it — she’ll figure out a way to pay for the private school that will give Oscar the attention he deserves. So Rose gets a job cleaning up crime scenes and it turns out mopping up blood and brains actually gets some respect. Sunshine Cleaning is tidy as a film, thanks to spiffy direction by Christine Jeffs and a lovely script by Megan Holley. Perhaps the very best moment of the movie comes when Rose explains why she loves this new job, and how useful it makes her feel. —MaryAnn Johanson