Capsule Reviews of current and ongoing movies 

Opening This Week

The International (R) See review here.

Confessions of a Shopaholic (PG) On the heels of He's Just Not That Into You, this one keeps you in the deep end of the pool of chick lit. Stars Isla Fisher.

Friday the 13th (R) A bunch of kids learn that life isn't so rosy after a trip to Camp Crystal Lake and its lone resident, Jason Voorhees.

Who Does She Think She Is? (NR) A documentary that explores the struggle among women to balance motherhood and their art.

Critical Capsules

Coraline (PG) In contemporary Hollywood, there's only one paradigm for selling any kind of feature animation, and that's selling it to families. But this grim fairy tale — based on an award-winning book by Neil Gaiman (Sandman) — is far more disturbing than it is charming, funny, or otherwise kid-friendly. The textures of its stop-motion world make it feel even more physically threatening, especially in 3-D. It may be fair to say that this — far more so than director Henry Selick's breakthrough feature, The Nightmare Before Christmas — is the first true horror film that will play to theaters full of grade-schoolers. Perhaps that should scare away impressionable youngsters, but it shouldn't scare away anyone who would revel in pure creative wonder. 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

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 (not in any interesting way), 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

Let the Right One In (R) Chief among the strengths of Let the Right One In is that special, subtle way it has of making rarity seem like commonality. Let the Right One In is set in Sweden and is transcendently good — without even a single false note. Oskar (Kåre Hedebrant), a chalky-featured, forlorn, and morbidly curious 12-year-old, passes the suburban Stockholm winter by being bullied at school, slipping into wounded isolation, and edging toward psychopathy. But he has a strangely alluring, dark-eyed new neighbor, Eli (Lina Leandersson), "more or less" his own age and more or less a girl, who insists they can't be friends but seems to want to, and also seems to have her own unique burdens of outsiderhood to bear. Most significantly: She's an immortal being who feasts on human blood. They will come to understand the yearnings they have in common. Oskar's first stirrings of desire, way out of proportion to his self-awareness, and Eli's evident weariness of eternal life, compounded by a strange kind of survivor guilt, collide in an improbably moving combination of transgressive fantasy and lonely resignation. —Jonathan Kiefer

New in Town (PG-13) Before I sat through Jonas Elmer's New in Town on Sunday afternoon, I'd have said that putting J.K. Simmons and a T. Rex song in a movie could only help. Now I know better. Neither the usually reliable Mr. Simmons nor Marc Bolan's "20th Century Boy" do a blessed thing to help thaw this icebound exercise in romantic comedy at its most primitive. You've seen everything offered here before. You've seen it done better, too. It's that old wheeze about the tough-minded career gal (Renee Zelwegger) from the big city who gets sent to make changes at a dinky manufacturing plant in the sticks that's been taken over by a large corporation. The natives are strange creatures for her — and us — to gawk at, make fun of, and feel superior to for two-thirds of the movie. Then she — and we — see the error of our ways, realize that these are the real people who've "got it right." Of course, it doesn't hurt matters any that our tough-minded career gal finds romance in the form of a champion-of-the-little-man union boss (Harry Connick Jr.). The clichés are thicker than ice on the frozen lakes that crop up in the movie, and the writing is transparent beyond belief. It's also neither funny nor romantic. —Ken Hanke

The Pink Panther 2 (PG) Sitting down to screen Harald Zwart's Pink Panther 2, I was a bit surprised — and maybe a teensy bit worried — when about 10 minutes into the film I thought to myself, "This isn't so bad." The only problem is the movie isn't 10 minutes long; it's 92. And instead of stopping while it's ahead, it just continues to snowball into a relentless Steve Martin-created avalanche of obnoxious idiocy. The set-up is simple, with some long missing international super-thief simply named The Tornado suddenly reappearing and snatching priceless artifacts from around the eastern hemisphere, including, eventually, the Pink Panther diamond. A "Dream Team" of investigators from England, Italy, and Japan all brought in to track down the items, with the bumbling Inspector Clouseau (Martin) leading the way. The movie then turns into a series of set pieces where Clouseau bungles and blunders his way towards embarrassment with the kind of exhausted slapstick that would make Mr. Bean groan, before making it all right in the final act. It's just one unimaginative gag after unoriginal pratfall, with the minutia occasionally broken up by Clouseau's cheesy French accent. —Justin Souther

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

Taken (PG-13) In Taken, Liam Neeson kicks so much ass. How much? Well, imagine the exact amount of ass-kicking you think is enough, plus even more. Now double it. And he takes names, sometimes, but only to find out which asses he'll kick next. Many of them don't even have names. They're dead, instead. That's right: In addition to, and often as a result of kicking ass, Neeson — or, well, his character, ex-spy Bryan Mills — also does a whole lot o' killin'. The reason is that his teen daughter, while vacationing in Paris with a girlfriend, has been kidnapped by sex traffickers. It's Bryan's worst nightmare. Or maybe his secret hope? Actually, the reason is that he's highly trained, by Uncle Sam no less, in the arts of kicking ass and killin'. He even explains this to the kidnapper on the phone, at considerable length, in a riveting, parody-ripe little monologue evidently much cherished by screenwriters Luc Besson and Robert Mark Kamen, director Pierre Morel and not least Neeson himself. ­—Jonathan Kiefer

Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (R) It mostly comes down to the vampires enslaving and abusing the werewolves to the point where one of their number, the most civilized of his breed, Lucian (Michael Sheen) leads his brother lycanthropes in revolt against their masters. This Spartacus plot isn't sufficient in itself, so we also have a forbidden romance between Lucian and the vampire Sonja (Rhona Mitra), daughter of the big cheese of vampiredom Viktor (Bill Nighy). This, of course, is intended to foreshadow his romance with Selene (Kate Beckinsale) in the first film. There is also much court intrigue and, of course, it's all bathed in that dull monochromatic blue-color scheme that defines the look of the series. Nothing happens to surprise the viewer, and the cartoonish CGI werewolves prevent the movie from ever being remotely scary. Fans of the series may be satisfied, but it's unlikely to create any converts. —Ken Hanke

The Uninvited (PG-13) The story's all about a girl (Emily Browning) fresh out of the laughing academy — from a stint there following the traumatic death of her invalid mother in a fire — and the spooky shenanigans she finds at home. Visions of charred mom clue her in on the idea that Mom's nurse (Elizabeth Banks), who is now Dad's (David Strathairn) fiancée, is responsible for the fire and other murderous doings as well. Dad is so sex-struck that he will hear nothing against the woman, of course. All of this is leading to one of those convenient absences for Dad, a somewhat surprisingly sanguinary (for the PG-13 rating) climax and a twist ending that would make M. Night Shyamalan blush with shame. —Ken Hanke

The Wrestler (R) It's an uncommon tale of old age and dwindling opportunities. Who can't at some point in their lives relate to the idea that the best days may be in the past? Randy's emotional impact and lovability owe much to Mickey Rourke, 56, who has often hinted at a tragic sensitivity beneath his pretty boys and tough guys. Rourke's bashed and rearranged face, twisted by his own hard living and plastic surgery, has left him with a kind of sad humanoid mask, a fighter's exterior that occasionally crumbles with disappointment and pain. His poignant, brilliantly nuanced Randy has a hard body and a soft heart, playing Nintendo with the kids in his trailer park, fumbling to reconnect with his grown daughter Stephanie, and exhibiting an affection for people that extends from the wrestling locker room to the deli counter where he works. He's a crowd pleaser, a man anxious to sacrifice a little of himself in the interest of showing others a good time. A consummate showman, he's given the fans his best, but he's the one who looks shocked when his superhero facade falls apart. —Felicia Feaster


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