"Angels and Demons"
Da Vinci Code director Ron Howard seems to have learned the error of his dull ways on his second adaptation of a Dan Brown bestseller.
Angels and Demons is rarely boring, but it's not much fun either, and its story of the Vatican hierarchy being threatened by the return of the Illuminati, a vial of anti-matter and possibly traitors in its midst is outlandishly preposterous. That would be more forgivable if the movie didn't take itself so damned seriously. Grade: C
"The Brothers Bloom"
There's a powerful sense of ambition in writer-director Rian Johnson's follow-up to Brick, as there often is in sophomore efforts. Fortunately, the filmmaker successfully pulls off his elaborate con of a movie.
Starring Adrien Brody and Mark Ruffalo as grifting brothers who for years have had only each other and their epic swindles, Bloom uses the one-last-job scenario as a setup for Johnson's clever, almost musical dialogue and a heartfelt rumination on how life stories are what we spin them into.
Except for a bit of clunkiness as it slides into the third act, the film creates a consistent air of enchantment with its intricacy, its world-traveler locales, its quirky costumes - its general, reveling movie-ness. And though the men in the film take the title, Johnson gives to Rinko Kikuchi a great comic supporting role, and allows Rachel Weisz to steal the movie as a rich, reclusive mark. Grade: B+
"Drag Me to Hell"
Sam Raimi's latest is a leaner, meaner piece of work than the lumbering Spider-Man 3 and a really entertaining reminder of the Evil Dead director's areas of expertise.
His return to horror, with good-girl loan officer Alison Lohman facing a deadly gypsy curse after turning down the wrong customer for an extension, has a near-perfect mix of comedy and shock via gobs of bodily fluids and some terrific shadow and sound effects. Basically, for most of the film, if you're not laughing you're feeling good and scared. Grade: A-
"Ghosts of Girlfriends Past"
In Mark Waters' romantic comedy, Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol comes together with Matthew McConaughey playing another charming rogue, and neither is done any favors. The script offers a predictable take on the source and a particularly unsavory version of the star's stock character. Grade: C-
"Is Anybody There?"
Its tale of life lessons passed from the elderly to the young is predictable. But this quiet British import about an unlikely friendship between a death-obsessed boy (Bill Milner) and an aging magician (Michael Caine) manages to be endearing, thanks to engaging performances from a surly Caine and the precocious Milner. Grade: B
"Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian"
Like its predecessor, the Night at the Museum sequel is all concept and no heart, but at least there's a little more fun involved this time.
By moving the action to not just a new location, but to the world's largest museum, director Shawn Levy can take advantage of fresh blood - cast highlights include Hank Azaria as Egyptian prince Kahmunrah and Amy Adams as Amelia Earhart - and offer up the delights of a Jeff Koons balloon dog and "American Gothic" coming to life.
But for these treats, you have to sit through a lot of predictability and some odious pop-culture pandering. Grade: C+
From its explosive start on the day of James T. Kirk's birth, J.J. Abrams' prequel to the evergreen sci-fi franchise is fine, absorbing entertainment. Within its smart script, tight pacing and strong emotional center is a respect for what's kept Star Trek fans devoted for so long. Grade: A-
McG's entry into the Terminator canon brings its time-traveling storyline full circle, with Christian Bale's John Connor fulfilling his destiny as head of the resistance against Skynet's human extinction plans.
While the director handles special effects and action sequences with finesse, it's almost as if he used up his sense of humor in the Charlie's Angels movies. This one evokes the gloomy nature of The Dark Knight, but has none of that film's thoughtfulness or its captivating performances. Grade: C
"X-Men Origins: Wolverine"
This superhero movie has plenty of talent behind it, including stars Hugh Jackman and Liev Schreiber. But it doesn't get your blood pumping much faster than the lackluster X-Men: The Last Stand. Blame too much convoluted exposition and too few scenes of Wolverine going berserker. Grade: C