The umpteenth take on the tale of someone being magically made young or old has been digested and regurgitated with Zac Efron playing the less negative, teenaged version of Matthew Perry, who's sent back in age to get closer to his kids after his high-school-sweetheart wife (a wasted Leslie Mann) files for divorce.
Efforts to generate laughter are strained, and though tween girls may thrill at another 90 minutes of Efron, they'll have more fun renting 13 Going on 30. Grade: D
"Battle for Terra"
Touching on topics ranging from the environment to the nature of humanity - and touched by its share of violence - this independently produced sci-fi feature isn't the most kid-friendly animation out there. And its story of the friendship that develops between a Terran native (voiced by Evan Rachel Wood) and an invading human (Luke Wilson) isn't without its narrative snags, but its lush visuals make it a joy for adult animation fans and a stark, refreshing change from big-budget cartoons. Grade: B-
"Beauty in Trouble"
At the center of Czech filmmaker Jan Hrebejk's story is Marcela (Ana Geislerova), a young, vivacious mother of two who leaves her loutish husband despite their white-hot sexual chemistry. When he's arrested for theft and she catches the eye of the incredibly kind older man he stole from, Marcela's faced with a clear-cut romantic choice between one man who's almost all wrong for her and another who's almost too good to be true.
Each supporting character is painted in fairly broad strokes, but Marcela is a mass of interesting contradictions, and there's a distinctive pleasure in watching Hrebejk play these qualities through to the very last shot. Grade: B
Culled from the exhaustive BBC documentary series Planet Earth, the first movie to be released by Disney's new nature film imprint presents a round-the-world, family-friendly view of migration, mating, hunting and nurturing.
James Earl Jones fills in details on the animals' struggles and our complicity in their changing habitat with a narration that's occasionally grating (clearly, the movie's meant for kids), but it's not hard to push his voice to the back of your head when confronted with the stunning sight of thousands of cranes flying over the Himalayas. Grade: B
"Ghosts of Girlfriends Past"
In Mark Waters' romantic comedy, Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol comes together with Matthew McConaughey playing another in a series of charming rogues, and neither is done any favors.
Moving the action from the holidays to the wedding of the brother of McConaughey's callous star photographer, the script offers a different but still predictable take on the source and a particularly unsavory, misogynistic version of the star's stock character. Grade: C-
Ripped from the pages of Fatal Attraction, Steve Shill's thriller follows seemingly perfect couple Idris Elba and Beyonce Knowles as their relationship is tested by an insane office temp (Ali Larter) who puts the faithful, stand-up husband and new father "in her crosshairs."
Its trashiness can be good and laughable at times, but between the movie's awkward soft-pedaling of erotic tension between mixed races and its regressive gender politics, it manages to be less steamy than expected and still make you feel like you need a shower afterward. Grade: D+
For his first American production, British director Joe Wright (Atonement) chooses the truth-based story of the difficult friendship that develops between L.A. Times writer Steve Lopez (Robert Downey Jr.) and homeless, mentally ill cellist Nathaniel Ayers (Jamie Foxx).
While the movie wins points for trying to keep things real regarding Ayers' illness, it loses some for a contrived subplot involving the writer's ex-wife. Downey's sardonic quality is perfect for reducing the threat of overwrought sentimentality, however, and the scenes between him and Foxx are the film's strongest. Grade: B-
"State of Play"
The latest drama from The Last King of Scotland's Kevin Macdonald is smart, mostly solid entertainment. Tracking Russell Crowe's old-school print journalist as he's forced to work with blogger Rachel McAdams on a story tying a double murder to a Congressional scandal, the film unleashes a healthy dose of plot twists and some timely points about the crumbling of the Fourth Estate. Grade: B
"X-Men Origins: Wolverine"
Helmed by South African Oscar winner Gavin Hood (Tsotsi), this superhero movie proclaims itself a class act from the stylish opening credit sequence placing Hugh Jackman's titular mutant in every American conflict since the Civil War.
But while talent is plentiful between Hood, Jackman, co-stars Liev Schreiber and Danny Huston and co-writer David Benioff (25th Hour), this franchise entry doesn't get your blood pumping much faster than the lackluster X-Men: The Last Stand. Blame too much convoluted exposition and separation of Jackman and Schreiber, too few scenes of Wolverine going berserker. Grade: C
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