Opening This Week
Definitely, Maybe (PG-13) A 30-something dad explains to his 10-year-old daughter how he met her mother, fell in love, and ultimately, divorced her.
Step Up 2 the Streets (PG-13) Affluent kids from the Maryland School for the Arts learn how to street dance from the neighborhood toughs.
The Spiderwick Chronicles (PG) A family moves from the city to a country house holding a magical secret. Stars Freddie Highmore, Mary-Louise Parker, Nick Nolte.
Jumper (PG-13) Hayden Christensen is a jumper, someone able to teleport himself across time. He’s not alone. There are others like him. War ensues.
27 Dresses (PG-13) It’s not the kind of movie I’d see of my own volition. Lots of women, I imagine, reject the notion that human validity for women comes only through heterosexual marriage. And marriage is what 27 Dresses offers us as the ultimate fulfillment of female life. The movie gives us two options of adult womanhood: You can either be a mousy, insecure, wedding-obsessed workaholic or a trampy, irresponsible liar/drunk (who’s only that way to cover up how sad she is because she doesn’t have a man). —Conseula Francis
Atonement (R) Joe Wright’s adaptation of Atonement works — and doesn’t work. As a piece of film craft, it’s undeniably impressive, the kind of movie that gathers Oscar nominations by the score. At times, though, it presents itself as though auditioning for its own Cliff’s Notes: an ambitious, thoughtful, and literary story that practically dares you not to recognize that it is Art. —Scott Renshaw
Cloverfield (PG-13) The dialogue sucks and the character development is next to nil. Think about the day-to-day conversations you have with your loved ones or your friends. Penned by Aaron Sorkin it’s not. Even worse, our personal dramas are pedestrian; they lack pizzazz. We’re lame. We’re petty. We’re boring. And because Cloverfield focuses on us as we appear in daily lives and not as we appear up on the big screen, the film feels as insubstantial as a text message, or even worse, an episode of Laguna Beach. 🙁 —Chris Haire
The Eye (PG-13) The only vestige of horror to be found in the tepid supernatural thriller The Eye is the display of Jessica Alba’s rudimentary acting skills — not to mention her attempts at appearing to play the violin. Even by the dictates of the PG-13 rated horror flick, this is lame stuff — worse, it’s lame stuff you’ve seen many times before. Ms. Alba plays Sydney Wells, a blind violinist who regains her sight through a cornea transplant. (Since she gets two eyes, shouldn’t this be called The Eyes?) Of course, there’s a downside — she sees dead folks and the nasty specters that escort dead folks to wherever dead folks go. —Ken Hanke
First Sunday (PG-13) David E. Talbert comes with his very own set of flaws, namely a complete inability to create a coherent film. Despite a pleasant cast and a workable premise involving a plan to rob a church that, it turns out, has already been robbed, the film is simply a mess of loose ends and meandering plotlines. Worse, for a comedy, it’s conspicuously laugh-free. —Justin Souther
Fool’s Gold (PG-13) Fool’s Gold works on the premise that watching pretty people in pretty locations is somehow sufficient entertainment all by itself. For those content merely to gaze upon Matthew McConaughey’s toplessness and Kate Hudson’s bikininess, that may be true. Whether it constitutes two solid hours of amusement is another matter. The storyline is an ungainly combination of screwball comedic romance and barely serviceable adventure yarn. Toss in three supporting players (Donald Sutherland, Ewen Bremner, Ray Winstone) doing “funny” accents and a not-very-menacing bad guy gangsta rapper named Big Bunny and you have a clue about the level of humor. There might have been an OK 80-minute movie buried in all this, but the additional 40 minues more than took care of that. —Ken Hanke
Hannah Montana (G) Calling this peculiar, pre-fab phenomenon a movie is a bit of a stretch. It’s really nothing more than a cut-down version of Disney Channel pop diva Hannah Montana (aka Miley Cyrus, daughter of country singer Billy Ray Cyrus, who also appears) in concert with occasional backstage glimpses. For anyone not jazzed about Cyrus — meaning, pretty much anyone who isn’t a four to 12-year-old girl — the whole thing is apt to feel like the Barbie’s Playhouse version of Madonna’s Truth or Dare — only in 3D and marketed as an “event” at an inflated price. It hardly matters what anyone says, though. Its target audience will adore it. —Ken Hanke
How She Move (PG-13) The story of a teenager forced to join a step-dancing crew to win money she needs to pay her tuition at a private school, How She Move fancies itself a grittier version of Stomp the Yard. And while there are some strong performances from its cast of unknowns and attempts at making likable, sympathetic characters, the film ultimately becomes too steeped in melodrama and lackluster direction to completely work. —Justin Souther
Juno (PG-13) It’s a familiar tale: Juno MacGuff, high schooler (Ellen Page), finds herself preggers after some sexual experimentation with her best friend, Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera). Right from the get-go, and on through the whole film, there’s a refreshingly nonpanicky approach to the whole situation: Yes, having a baby can dramatically affect the rest of a young woman’s life, but it’s not the end of the world. —MaryAnn Johanson
Mad Money (PG-13) Despite the combined talents of Diane Keaton, Queen Latifah, and director Callie Khouri, the lightweight comedy Mad Money is at best an exercise in painless mediocrity. I sat through it without squirming. I chuckled a couple times. I admired the stylishness of a handful of scenes, no one actually disgraced themselves, and I all but forgot the film in the space of about 24 hours. It’s a low-concept caper comedy in which the caper is just too darn simple to be entertaining. —Ken Hanke
Meet the Spartans (PG-13) The approach to this flick is as simple as it is simple-minded: throw as many pop-culture references (even if the pop in the culture long ago went flat) at the viewer and make him or her laugh on sheer recognition value. It has nothing to do with parody — just recognition. Tasteless, tactless, and pretty much laugh-free, it’s little more than a parade of homosexual panic jokes mixed with a juvenile passion for gags involving bodily fluids. It also looks like it was made for a buck and a quarter on left over sets from the original Star Trek TV series. Absolutely awful. —Ken Hanke
No Country for Old Men (R) Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem) is Evil itself. Bardem performs with such casual mastery that it feels as though he has originated the concept of a sociopathic killer. In a film full of exceptional performances, his stands out not because his role is flashy, but because he makes it precisely the opposite of flashy. He is the bad thing that happens indiscriminately to the sinner or to the saint, its own logic oblivious to constructed human morality. —Scott Renshaw
National Treasure: Book of Secrets (R) It’s impossible to feel very strongly one way or the other about this one. It’s not great. It’s not terrible. It’s just sort of there. I never felt like I was wasting my time, but it’s doubtful I will remember much about it a year from now. —Ken Hanke
Over Her Dead Body (PG-13) Think Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit after a lobotomy and you’re in the ballpark as concerns this charmless and cheap supernatural romantic comedy. Desperate Housewives star Eva Longoria Parker plays a thoroughly unlikable woman who’s crushed to death by an ice sculpture on her wedding day. We’re then supposed to believe that her fiance (Paul Rudd) is still mourning the loss of a woman any sane person would pay to have stand on the business end of a shooting gallery a full year later. Concerned sister (Lindsay Sloane) takes him to a psychic (Lake Bell) with the idea of getting a message from the other side telling him to move on. Romance ensues — much to the displeasure of the spirit of the late fiancée. It’s neither funny, nor romantic, and there’s zero chemistry between any of the actors. —Ken Hanke
Rambo (R) This time, instead of being pushed to his limits by a maverick sheriff, John Rambo finds an opportunity to put the past behind him by helping a group of missionaries stop a genocide in Burma. Stallone admirably avoids the pitfalls of action genre cliché and instead opts for real characters who understand the profound consequences of extreme violence. —John Stoehr
Strange Wilderness (R) Produced by Adam Sandler, this is one of those movies designed to give gainful employment to those hangers-on you’ve never seen in anything that doesn’t bear Sandler’s name. But this one is so bad that even Rob Schneider wouldn’t tag along. (Think about that for a moment.) —Justin Souther
There Will Be Blood (R) Based on Upton Sinclair’s novel Oil!, There Will Be Blood is very much a fictional story that runs on the rules of fiction. But director Paul Thomas Anderson just makes you forget that. That’s how real Blood feels. It’s as effortless as it is resolutely uneasy from the harsh discordancy of its weirdly urgent soundtrack by Radiohead’s Jonny Greenwood to the oddly stilted yet deeply, coldly expressive performance by Daniel Day-Lewis as Daniel Plainview, a turn-of-the-century oilman who comes into a small California desert town and pumps out its oil. It’s a mythology of oil, a fairy tale for the industrial age. —MaryAnn Johanson
Untraceable (R) This movie undercuts itself by attempting to condemn us for finding its admittedly well-produced action-with-deadly-stakes enthralling, if only momentarily, while also, you know, making its admittedly well-produced action-with-deadly-stakes enthralling, if only momentarily. It’s frustrating. —MaryAnn Johanson
Vince Vaughn’s Wild West Comedy Show (R) The unwieldy title promises us something “wild,” but the movie doesn’t quite deliver that. I guess Mildly Amusing West Comedy Show didn’t test so well. The premise has Vince Vaughn play fairy godfather to four struggling comics by showcasing them in a 30 day tour of 30 cities (with a good bit of time out for Vaughn to perform his own routines, of course). Presenting it as a documentary is interesting, but it does the performers no favors. What we see of their acts suggests less unsung brilliance than moderate talent of the Stand-up 101 variety — with non-stop f-bombs. It’s not bad, but you can see as good or better comics on Comedy Central for free. —Ken Hanke
Welcome Home Roscoe Jenkins (PG-13) Martin Lawrence tries to straddle the worlds of raunchy and family-friendly. The results resemble nothing so much as a mix of the worst of Tyler Perry “old-fashioned values” preachiness with the leering crudity of the standard Martin Lawrence vehicle. The combination is, if anything, broader, more dubious, and far more mean-spirited than either alone. Lawrence plays an obnoxious talk-show host who goes home to the Deep South and his outrageous family where he learns that his trophy fiancée is a golddigger, family comes first, etc. It’s all loud, crass, vulgar, and boasts at least four gags predicated on the hilarity of a Pomeranian having sex with a Labrador retriever. One doggie sex joke is one too many. Four should warrant jail time. —Ken Hanke