"(500) Days of Summer"
If director Marc Webb's snapshot view of the tumultuous romance between greeting card writer Joseph Gordon-Levitt and co-worker Zooey Deschanel isn't high art, it's at least a perfectly crafted pop song that'll have you humming with the chorus the second time through.
It's warm without being cutesy, familiar without being formulaic and hilarious without being gag-driven. Grade: A-
A tween-friendly cousin to Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist, Bandslam might make a convincing indie if it didn't star two Disney alums - High School Musical's Vanessa Hudgens and Aly Michalka from Aly & AJ. Before the story becomes predictable - they plan to win a tri-state high school band competition! - it actually manages to be cute and clever. Grade: B
CAPA Summer Movie Series
Friday's screening of Gold Diggers of 1933, Busby Berkeley's Oscar-nominated spectacle of lavishly designed musical numbers, kicks off a handful of attractions at the Ohio Theatre over the next week.
Sam Raimi's seminal 1987 horror comedy Evil Dead II unspools late night on Friday, followed Saturday morning by another collection of Cartoon Capers.
If you're into kick-ass chariot races or Charlton Heston doing some serious emoting, check out 1959's Ben-Hur, screening Saturday and Sunday evening.
On Wednesday and Thursday night, Bob Hope and Bing Crosby once again hightail it with favorite traveling companion Dorothy Lamour in 1952's Road to Bali, one of seven "Road pictures" the trio did together.
Click to capa.com for info. -Melissa Starker
A few key differences set South African director Neill Blomkamp's feature debut apart from its blockbuster peers. Backed by executive producer Peter Jackson, Blomkamp works cheap and smart, giving the old story of Earthlings messing up their first encounter with aliens a thoughtful, contemporary spin.
Using an effectively intense documentary format, he serves up some ultra-violence, but also unique detail from creature design to satirical sound bites, and one of the most unlikely action heroes of the season. Grade: B+
Director Robert Kenner explores the ways in which our food supply is produced and finds a toxic stew of massive slaughterhouses, worker and animal abuse, and profit-driven corporate infiltration of government regulatory agencies. The film has Inconvenient Truth-like potential to reframe the issue of food safety. Don't miss it. Grade: A
Judd Apatow's latest delivers on its title, with central parts filled by Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill and Leslie Mann, along with a plethora of cameos ranging from Ray Romano to Sarah Silverman.
And though its tale of friendship, competition and near-death experiences within the stand-up comedy community makes room for some hilariously nasty riffs, there's just too much going on here. Grade: B
"The Hurt Locker"
Kathryn Bigelow's action film about an elite team that defuses roadside bombs in Iraq succeeds where other movies haven't, by putting you in the boots of the personnel on the streets of Baghdad.
Certain story elements are pretty standard, but they suck you into a masterful balance of tight pacing, genuine performances and remarkably intense atmosphere. Grade: A
"In the Loop"
Armando Iannucci's satire following a bumbling British bureaucrat and his eager underling in the run-up to war with an unnamed Middle Eastern country is almost certainly the funniest movie inspired by Iraq you'll see this year - maybe the funniest movie you'll see, period.
It's like what you'd get if you crossed Dr. Strangelove with the British Office and the mockumentaries of Christopher Guest. Grade: A-
"Julie and Julia"
Writer-director Nora Ephron both fails and succeeds with a movie divided between two true stories of women and food.
On one side is ever-reliable Amy Adams as a frustrated government worker who devotes a year to blogging her way through Julia Child's French cookbook. But her tale can be cutesy and contrived, and it can't hold a candle to a more interesting story: Child's. Meryl Streep is an absolute delight as the groundbreaking chef, and her scenes with co-star Stanley Tucci are just delicious. Grade: B
The latest from Japanese animator Hayao Miyazaki, a sort of pre-K take on The Little Mermaid, is receiving a full-tilt release in the U.S. complete with an all-star voice cast. And they bring more than name recognition, particularly Liam Neeson, Tina Fey and Miley's little sister Noah, who gives the eponymous underwater dweller an unabashed enthusiasm.
But Miyazaki's storytelling method - working on the level of his very young protagonists - may be too elementary for kids with a few years of grade school behind them. Grade: B+
"The Ugly Truth"
The latest romantic comedy from Legally Blonde's Robert Luketic invites charges of misogyny, until you realize it has enough hate to go around.
The tale of an uptight TV producer (Katherine Heigl) who takes relationship advice from the Neanderthal man (Gerard Butler) brought in to boost her ratings offers little more than good-looking stars, stale cliches and just enough naughty sex talk to get juices flowing. Grade: C-