"(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. Deschanel plays her part with grace, while Gordon-Levitt nails the humor in heartbreak in a way that would make John Cusack proud. Still, if you found Garden State overly adorable, this one may send your eyes rolling to the back of your head. Grade: A-
Sacha Baron Cohen's antics as a gay Austrian fashion journalist seeking American celebrity-hood inevitably loses some novelty after Borat - and it begs questions about what's staged and what's real in the supposed guerilla documentary - but it's still intensely funny at times.
His plunge into the depths of what can make people famous works especially well; less so, Cohen's efforts to make straight men uncomfortable around his character's sexual preference - mesh T-shirts, frontal nudity and all. These gags are more straight than satirical, and therefore a little more troubling. Grade: B
"CAPA Summer Movie Series"
Heading into the mid-point of this summer's schedule of classic films from CAPA, Friday, Aug. 7, brings a series premiere geared toward a girls' night out: the 1987 coming-of-age tale and Patrick Swayze showcase Dirty Dancing. That'll give way Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 8-9, to the more traditional song and dance of The King and I, Walter Lang's 1956 adaptation of the hit Rodgers and Hammerstein musical. And a local connection comes up Wednesday, Aug. 12, with The Male Animal, the screen version of James Thurber's play about love triangles and academic censure at a school that sounds a lot like Ohio State, starring Henry Fonda and Olivia de Havilland. -Melissa Starker
Director Robert Kenner explores the ways in which our food supply is produced and processed and finds a toxic stew of massive slaughterhouses controlled by a handful of companies, systematic worker and animal abuse, and profit-driven corporate infiltration of government regulatory agencies.
There's a powerful urgency to his work, but even when it's harrowing it has a certain style, and it's obviously got right on its side. As a result, the film has Inconvenient Truth-like potential to reframe the issue of food safety. Don't miss it. Grade: A
Todd Phillips' latest mines the comedic possibilities of being blackout drunk, marking a return to form for the Frat Pack director (Old School). It helps that he's assembled an ideal cast - Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis - to play the three groomsmen who take a buddy to Vegas for a bachelor party they'll never remember. Grade: B
"Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince"
With its latest addition, the Harry Potter series of films stands on the cusp of a maturity that's quite refreshing for a summer blockbuster. It's among the best of the Potter screen adaptations - solid and smart, visually striking without being showy and as adept at handling the pains of young love as any movie dedicated to the premise. Grade: B+
"The Hurt Locker"
Kathryn Bigelow's action film about an elite team that defuses roadside bombs in Iraq succeeds where other movies made about the conflict haven't, by putting you in the boots of the personnel on the streets of Baghdad. Certain story elements - a tour of duty with only a month to go, a new sergeant (Jeremy Renner) who might be loose-cannon enough to get his team blown up - are pretty standard, but they suck you into a masterful balance of tight pacing, genuine performances and remarkably intense atmosphere.
If you're just up for action this will more than satisfy, but there are also questions raised about heroes in our culture, should you choose to consider them - once your heart stops pounding. Grade: A
As a confirmed Hollywood rebel who oozes cool, Johnny Depp is the perfect actor to evoke John Dillinger and Depression-era America's romance with its common-law criminals.
That cool permeates Michael Mann's portrait of the last year of Dillinger's life, and though he creates delicious moments of tension, the director doesn't elicit a needed sense of desperation. Thankfully, Marion Cotillard brings it on as Dillinger's loyal love interest, revealing in just a few scenes the resigned deprivation of the era, the atmosphere that would propel a guy like Dillinger to the status of folk hero. Grade: B
"Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen"
Michael Bay, the director known for the most brainless of big-budget action flicks, has cranked the dial to obnoxious levels for his Transformers sequel. Those hoping for the silly exhilaration of the first movie will be eye-humped by a disjointed barrage of effects-driven spectacle, half-baked wisecracks, "don't die on me" moments and a brutal two-and-a-half-hour running time. It's a mess even the fanboys can skip. Grade: C-
"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 cable-access Neanderthal man (Gerard Butler) brought in to boost her ratings offers little more than good-looking stars, the stalest cliches and just enough naughty sex talk to get juices flowing.
Audiences deserve better, but at least they get a little love from seasoned co-stars John Michael Higgins and Cheryl Hines. Grade: C-
The latest from Pixar tells of an elderly widower (voiced by Ed Asner) who uproots his home with a bunch of balloons and heads for South America with a young scout as an unwelcome companion. It's an odd, mature and sometimes dark adventure, but it's a memorable one, filled with genuine heart as well as great gags. Grade: A