"(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 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. Grade: B
CAPA Summer Movie Series
The dog days bring the first-ever Best Picture Oscar winner, the silent aviation saga Wings featuring original "It" girl Clara Bow, to the Ohio Theatre this Thursday and Friday.
The adventure continues into the Nazi era with the still-thrilling start of the Indiana Jones chronicles, Raiders of the Lost Ark, screening Saturday and Sunday.
It's followed Wednesday and Thursday by psychiatrist Ingrid Bergman prodding the repressed memories of amnesiac and murder suspect Gregory Peck, and dredging up one wild, Salvador Dali-designed dream, in Alfred Hitchcock's Spellbound. Click to capa.com for info. -Melissa Starker
Director Robert Kenner explores the ways in which our food supply is produced and finds a toxic stew of massive slaughterhouses, worker and animal abuse, and profit-driven corporate infiltration of government regulatory agencies. There's a powerful urgency to his work, and the film has Inconvenient Truth-like potential to reframe the issue of food safety. Don't miss it. Grade: A
Judd Apatow's latest delivers on its title, with central parts filled by Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Jonah Hill and Leslie Mann, along with a plethora of cameos ranging from Ray Romano to Sarah Silverman.
And though its tale of friendship, competition and near-death experiences within the stand-up comedy community makes room for some hilariously nasty riffs between performers, there's just too much going on here. As its long running time winds down, Apatow's ambitions seem less inspired and more indulgent. 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 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
"In the Loop"
Armando Iannucci's satire following a bumbling British bureaucrat and his eager underling in the run-up to war with an unnamed Middle Eastern country is almost certainly the funniest movie inspired by Iraq you'll see this year - maybe the funniest movie you'll see, period.
It's like what you'd get if you crossed Dr. Strangelove with the British Office and the mockumentaries of Christopher Guest. The laugh-out-loud dialogue fires so rapidly, you're sure to miss some brilliant lines, many of them from Peter Capaldi's acid-tongued, profanely poetic communications director. Grade: A-
"Julie and Julia"
Writer-director Nora Ephron both fails and succeeds with a movie divided between two true stories of women and food.
On one side is ever-reliable Amy Adams as a frustrated government worker who devotes a year to blogging her way through Julia Child's French cookbook. But her tale can be cutesy and contrived, and it can't hold a candle to a more interesting story: Child's. Meryl Streep is an absolute delight as the groundbreaking chef, and her scenes with co-star Stanley Tucci are just delicious. Grade: B
As a confirmed Hollywood rebel who oozes cool, Johnny Depp is the perfect actor to evoke John Dillinger. He's joined by Marion Cotillard as Dillinger's loyal love interest; in just a few scenes she reveals the resigned deprivation of the Depression and the atmosphere that would propel a gangster 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 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 and a brutal two-and-a-half-hour running time. 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 Neanderthal man (Gerard Butler) brought in to boost her ratings offers little more than good-looking stars, stale cliches and just enough naughty sex talk to get juices flowing. Grade: C-