"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
"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+
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+
With some big musical numbers and a complicated romance, Paris 36 is made to appeal to fans of Frenchy confections like Moulin Rouge and Amelie, but too much else is crammed into Christophe Barratier's period piece.
Amid the antics of a struggling music hall producer is an undercurrent of political unrest, a murder mystery that's abandoned about halfway through the movie and a squandered appearance by luminous newcomer Nora Arnezeder. Barratier should've just stuck with the love story. Grade: C
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-
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-
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. And 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, 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