Film Capsule Reviews 

Opening This Week

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (PG) See review here.

Young@Heart (PG) See review here.

First Blood (R) NCM Fathom, Regal's special programming arm, presents a high-definition screening of the first Rambo movie at the Regal Charles Towne Square 18 in North Charleston on Thurs. May 15 at 7:30 p.m. It's for one night only. The broadcast includes an alternate ending in which Rambo dies and an interview with Sylvester Stallone about the making of First Blood and the new Rambo movie.

Death Note (NR) Regal also presents the movie adaptation of the 2006 action-mystery manga. It follows the story of Light Yagami, a student who finds the Death Note, a notebook dropped by a rogue god. If your name is in there, forget it. You're dead. Light wants to use Death Note to banish evil. Then a lot other stuff happens to thicken the plot. The high-def broadcast runs for two nights only at the Regal Charles Towne Square 18 in North Charleston on Tues. May 20 and Wed. May 21.

Critical Capsules

88 Minutes (R) The mystery is over. It's now very clear why Jon Avnet's 88 Minutes gathered dust on a shelf for nearly two years. It only remains for someone to explain why it came out at all. Al Pacino — sporting what appears to be Frank Langella's hair from the 1979 Dracula — stars as a "forensic psychologist" whose testimony almost single-handedly puts a man (Neal McDonough) on death row as a serial killer. Nine years later — on the very eve of that man's execution — an idential murder (one of those showy, easy-to-spot murders) occurs, casting doubt on the man's guilt, and even implicates Pacino. Al's day gets worse when he receives a phone call telling him he has 88 minutes to live. Then the movie gets really silly. Pacino overacts with both fists, everyone gets his or her turn in the red herring barrel, and none of it makes any sense at all. —Ken Hanke

Baby Mama (PG-13) In the wake of Knocked Up and Juno comes Baby Mama, another film centered on psychologically-fraught reproduction. Baby Mama stars Tina Fey and Amy Poehler as two women on opposite ends of the socioeconomic spectrum who decide to make a baby together. A delicious dichotomy, Tina Fey's comic charm lies in her mix of prissiness and enough familiarity with the gutter-mouthed side of life to keep things interesting. In Baby Mama the priss is in the house, with Fey playing one half of a classic odd couple. A driven Philadelphia executive desperate to have a child, Kate Holbrook (Fey) is deep in the throes of baby lust: She sees babies everywhere, babies that taunt her with her own infertility. The film's über-corny poster art with the title spelled out in baby blocks may be an early indication of the middle-of-the-road yuks to come. While Poehler sucks on a Big Gulp, Fey looks on sheepishly, and the effect is of a cartoonish poster for one of Schwarzenegger's fish-out-of-water films like Junior or Kindergarten Cop and all of the conventionalized hilarity that implies. —Felicia Feaster

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (PG) Ben Stein and junk science meet even junkier filmmaking in Nathan Frankowski's Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed — as shameless, stupid, and loathesome a piece of propaganda as ever skulked its way into a theater. Frankowski really should have chosen a different subtitle for the film (my vote is for Win Ben Stein's Brain Cell) since he seems to have succumbed to the "no intelligence allowed" credo in attempting to make his point. Facts are little in evidence, while half-truths, misrepresentations, and bizarre leaps in logic run riot: associating, for instance, evolutionists with Nazis and communism (according to the movie, Darwin fathered both). The film also shoots itself in the foot by claiming intelligent design has nothing to do with religion for half its length and then spending the rest of the film railing against atheists and the lack of God. —Ken Hanke

The Forbidden Kingdom (PG-13) The first ever teaming of martial arts film stars Jet Li and Jackie Chan, The Forbidden Kingdom is a perfectly fine piece of entertainment for what it is, but never does anything more than scale the heights of adequacy. The film follows a South Boston teen who's transported to an ancient, mystical kingdom where he must return an ancient weapon with the help of a monk and a drunken master in order to defeat a despotic warlord. This leads to a lot of the requisite fighting of numerous anonymous henchmen, though none of it — aside from the mid-film showdown between Li and Chan — is memorable, while the film itself is sufficiently slick and paced quickly enough that it's able to overcome its predictable, worn-out plot. —Justin Souther

Forgetting Sarah Marshall (R) Where many movie comedies clock in at around 90 minutes, those from Judd Apatow and his pals stretch out over a couple of hours of gag-filled dialogue. Even in his funniest films, like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Apatow has shown himself to be less interested in storytelling than in creating situations in which his actors can do funny — often extremely funny — things. Forgetting Sarah Marshall, directed by Apatow's one-time Undeclared collaborator Nicholas Stoller and written by his Freaks & Geeks co-star Jason Segel, simply goes the extra mile. It's a sketch-comedy movie in which the standard plot-development questions — Will the guy get the girl? Will someone change for the better? — prove almost laughably irrelevant. —Scott Renshaw

Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay (R) The original Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle came as a pleasant surprise, because no one expected it to be good. The inherent problem with that kind of success is that it only works once. For the second round, people actually have expectations to be met, and, with any luck, exceeded. Unfortunately, Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay does neither, though it's not for want of trying — and that might just be the problem. Our heroes — played by John Cho and Kal Penn — are the same genial stoners, and Neil Patrick Harris returns as the same (hopefully) alternative reality version of himself. The humor is — if anything — more pointed and rude. It's certainly more subversive in its take of on post-9/11 paranoia, but it all feels kind of desperate this time around, more forced, and the freshness is gone. Some laughs, but not enough. —Ken Hanke

Iron Man (PG-13) The first big blockbuster film of the year is upon us and it's pretty darn good — for what it is. Let's face facts, comic books aren't Faulkner in four-color-process. Here we're talking about a guy who dresses up in a flying metal suit to blast, bomb, and bludgeon his way through a variety of terrorists and a traditional super bad guy in an even bigger flying metal suit. There's precious little wiggle-room for subtlety in a framework like that. But the beauty of Iron Man lies in the fact that the film realizes this and behaves accordingly. The secret weapon is Robert Downey, Jr. in the title role as a wisecracking, womanizing hedonist who's made a fortune as an arms manufacturer. He sees the error of his ways, yes, but he never gets morbid about it: He continues to make smart remarks, and he actually enjoys his superhero status. Good chemistry between Downey and leading lady Gwyneth Paltrow helps to make the film a refreshing change. —Ken Hanke

Made of Honor (PG-13) The story of a wealthy playboy who inconveniently finds out his female best friend is getting married at the exact same moment he's finally realized he's in love with her. So instead of talking to her, he decides to accept her offer to be Maid of Honor in order to stop her wedding and steal her away. Starring Patrick Dempsey in yet another attempt to transform him from a TV heartthrob into a full-fledged movie star, the film is generic rom-com formula. It doesn't help matters that the movie's never funny, or that Dempsey's character is too misogynistic, sleazy, and selfish to ever root for. —Justin Souther

Nim's Island (PG) Nim's Island is a poorly paced, anti-climactic family film full of shoddy direction and loose ends. It will be fine for the younger set, but it's lacking for adults. With a screenplay by a whopping four screenwriters (and then directed by two of them) with credits like Wimbledon and one episode of Growing Pains, the movie is a case of not just too many fingers in the pie, but too many fingers that belong to people who really have no reason making a pie in the first place. —Justin Souther

Prom Night (PG-13) They say it's not a remake of the 1980 opus. Well, it has a psychotic killer offing meat-on-the-hoof teens at a high school prom, but the storyline is different — like that matters to its teen demographic. They're primarily there for the splatter of bright red Karo syrup blood — and the off-chance of airborn viscera. But since this is PG-13, the aerodynamic properties of intestines are not explored and there's very little blood. The results are about on par with having sex through a blanket. It's just a lot of low-wattage slashing, silly scripting (kids do the darndest things to get themselves killed) and police ineptitude as mad killer Johnathon Schaech pursues the object of his obsession, Brittany Snow, to a predictable conclusion. —Ken Hanke

Speed Racer (PG) The Wachowski Brothers' PG-rated adaptation of a vintage Japanimation TV series is a mishmash of styles. Is this to be a throwback live-action translation of a kiddie cartoon? Is it a densely structured tale of corruption, employing flashbacks-within-flashbacks? Is it lowbrow pandering to contemporary kids? And can it possibly work if it's trying to be all of those things at the same time? The Wachowskis stage wild pursuits on Moebius strip courses full of vertiginous turns, jumps, and loops. Neon colors streak the track and fill the grandstands. Whenever Speed is trying to win a race — employing an array of gadgetry including jacks that catapult his car, the Mach 5, into the air like high-performance kangaroo — it's dizzying fun. But periodically the checkered flag needs to wave, and it's during this down time that the Wachowskis don't seem to know what to do with themselves. —Scott Renshaw

Smart People (R) Lawrence Wetherhold (Dennis Quaid) is an archetypal movie academic, a middle-aged sadsack in a corduroy blazer with a soft, sagging middle who harbors a profound disdain for the students he teaches. His meetings with fellow academics resemble a quorum of undertakers more than anything: a group of pasty, joyless scolds who rail about "the subjugation of women" and seethe with professional jealousy. But there is no spark of life to these scenes in the academy; nothing to suggest these are real people with real problems. Intelligence is a liability in Smart People, because it keeps these people locked in their heads unable to experience joy. Screenwriter Mark Poirier overcooks his story with a tendency to throw in every plot twist and bit of slapstick he can get his hands on, turning the proceedings into a gooey mess. —Felicia Feaster

The Visitor (PG-13) Sixty-two-year-old Walter Vale (Richard Jenkins) is a very sad shell of a man for whom life has lost its luster. His wife died years ago, and his job as an economics professor at a Connecticut college comes with an unbearable procession of classes, procedure, and students. Walter is clearly phoning it in, going through the paces but not the spirit of living. But Walter has a reawakening when he travels to his New York apartment for a conference. He discovers a young couple, illegal immigrants who have been duped into renting the apartment. Richard Jenkins is a mesmerizing presence in the film. He's a painfully ordinary-looking, invisible man who finds himself reconnecting to life in a radical way. His performance is what pulls all of the disparate pieces of The Visitor together. It is a testament to the power of his acting that in the end, to have seen even a trace of happiness creep back into Walter's life is an intensely pleasurable, if fleeting, experience. —Felicia Feaster

What Happens in Vegas . . . (PG-13) The story of a pair of strangers — Cameron Diaz and Ashton Kutcher — drunkenly marry in Vegas, but — before they can get an annulment — win a $3 million slot machine jackpot and are forced to remain married for six months before the money is split up between them. What Happens in Vegas is exactly what you expect: a 100 percent by-the-book romantic comedy short on laughs and originality. The movie is a laundry list of romantic comedy conventions, with the couple gradually falling for one other only to be foiled by superficial complications that are then romantically resolved. Just watch the trailer; it crams 99 minutes of plot into two and a half minutes, and is infinitely cheaper. —Justin Souther


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