Capsule Reviews of current and ongoing movies 

Opening this Week

Jonas Brothers: The 3-D Concert Experience (G) About as vapid as they come, the Jonas Brothers are now in 3-D. Stars children named Kevin, Joe, and Nick.

Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li (PG-13) More vapidity we must endure until the fuzzy afterglow of the Academy Awards has come and gone. A movie about people who can't get along: Kristin Kreuk, Neal McDonough, Michael Clarke Duncan.

Critical Capsules

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

Fired Up! (PG-13) If one would like a litmus test for the brand of comedy on display in Will Gluck's Fired Up!, go no further that the film's poster. In great big whopping orange letters are the initials of the movie's title, "F.U." Get it? Well, if you don't, first-time feature director Gluck and first-time screenwriter Freedom Jones make sure to bring the gag back for a protracted scene within the movie proper. If it wasn't bad enough that this little play on words soars to the pinnacle of utter lameness, it's also a joke that was used in last year's College, the movie that was my own personal choice for worst movie of 2008. 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

Friday the 13th (R) Apart from a slightly clever opening that manages to telescope the first couple films into a few minutes of screen time, there's nothing even slightly new here — apart from advances in cosmetic surgery where the topless female victims are concerned. Jason chases and murders various over-age meat-on-the-hoof teens — and that may be enough if you're one of the folks who has helped make this franchise keep going for 12 movies. Everyone else is warned. —Ken Hanke

He's Just Not That Into You (PG-13) 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) Surprisingly old-fashioned in its adherence to solid, unpretentious suspense, The International is perfectly exhilarating for its craftsmanship and low-key style, too. 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

Madea Goes to Jail (PG-13) Tyler Perry is a cultural icon, regardless of how you feel about his work. Similarly, Mr. Perry's admirers could not conceivably care less what I have to say about the man or his work or his latest film. They know what they're getting. They know that Perry is going to do his Madea drag act and that it will be in support of some worthy message. The bad guys will be very bad. The comedy will be extremely broad. Virtue will be rewarded, and God will be name-dropped. If that's what you're looking for, Madea Goes to Jail will not disappoint. 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

New in Town (PG-13) 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) 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 toward 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 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


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