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
"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
"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. 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-
"Is Anybody There?"
Its tale of life lessons passed from the elderly to the young is predictable and populated with some annoyingly eccentric oldsters. But this quiet British import about an unlikely friendship between a death-obsessed boy (Bill Milner) and the aging magician (Michael Caine) who's the newest resident of his parents' retirement home manages to be endearing, thanks to engaging performances from a surly Caine and the precocious Milner. Grade: B
"Next Day Air"
It's one thing to make a movie for stoners, another to make one that feels like everyone behind the scenes was constantly on the chronic. There's a strong whiff of that in director Benny Boom's feature debut, an ensemble comedy about drug deals and package deliveries gone wrong.
Boom aims for Guy Ritchie's kinetic style and his balance of funny and grisly, but twists are few, energy saps quickly and gallows humor falls flat. Even Mos Def is wasted shamefully. The whole thing is just half-assed. Grade: D+
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 husband "in her crosshairs." Its trashiness can be good and laughable at times, but the movie is less steamy than expected and yet it 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. Grade: B-
Look out, Wolverine. This summer, the new Star Trek is the origins story to beat. 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. Primarily, that would be the crew, which has been perfectly recast to maintain a hint of previous character incarnations without leaning on mimicry - except when it's good for a well-timed laugh. Grade: A-
"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
The second feature from the writer-directors of Half Nelson follows a talented Dominican pitcher on an odyssey through the American farm system. Focusing on the young player's culture shock and his fear of too easily being replaced, Sugar doesn't play like other baseball movies, but it expresses a deep love of the game and dares you not to keep rooting for its sweet, winning protagonist. Grade: A-
"X-Men Origins: Wolverine"
This superhero movie has plenty of talent behind it, between Oscar-winning director Gavin Hood (Tsotsi), star Hugh Jackman and co-stars Liev Schreiber and Danny Huston. Yet 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
Read Melissa Starker's opening day review of "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" in the Bad and the Beautiful blog at ColumbusAlive.com
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