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Critical Capsules

Capsule reviews of current movies

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Opening This Week

The Fall (R) A stunt man finds his body and heart broken after a horrible accident and later befriends a 5-year-old girl in the hospital. Opens July 2 at the Terrace.

Hancock (PG-13) Will Smith is a reluctant superhero disguised as a bum. OK, it's not a disguise. Also stars Charlize Theron and Jason Bateman. Opens July 2.

Kitt Kittredge: An American Girl (G) Abigail Breslin is an aspiring whitebread reporter who saves the day. Also stars Wallace Shawn, Joan Cusack, and Chris O'Donnell. Opens July 2.

Critical Capsules

Before the Rains (PG-13) In Santosh Sivan's Before the Rains, British planter Henry Moores (Linus Roache) is introduced, smacking his lips over a bounty of cinnamon and tea in 1937 Kerala, India. Accompanied by his faithful, obsequious manservant T.K. (Rahul Bose), Moores schemes to cut a spice road through the unexploited jungle. But the lands belong to his lovely housemaid Sajani (Nadita Das). In the kind of painful symbolism that circles the film's neck like a concrete noose, Moores and Sajani sneak away to the local "forbidden place" for their lovemaking. Any slasher movie fan knows that sex in taboo locales will not go unpunished. When someone later mentions the coming monsoon season, it doesn't take a licensed meteorologist to predict that this forbidden romance will result in an emotional catastrophe. Sajani is trapped in an arranged marriage to the village ogre, a man so foul he makes Moores' silk ascot and blank expression almost enticing. The illicit love affair thus threatens the centuries-old social mores of the village. Add brewing anti-Brit sentiment in the village and the chances are high for a potential derailing of Moores' plot to carve a road through the land. And did we mention the monsoons are coming? —Felicia Feaster

Get Smart (PG-13) When he was created in 1965 by Buck Henry and Mel Brooks, Agent 86, a.k.a. Maxwell Smart, was just a television bumbler who spoofed the smooth-as-butter spy movie hero and commented upon Cold War insecurity. But in 2008, a spy who speaks into his shoe dwells in a more complicated comic landscape, one where America's domestic and international bungling have become a larger slice of the comic pie. Get Smart's globe-trotting plot is as forgettable as the wrapper you shuck to get to the candy bar. However, Get Smart manages to escape from its mediocre, second-generation comedy conventions in the moments of demented slapstick which rely more on the contrast of Carell's stoic woodenness and manic pratfalls than on writer Tom Astle and Matt Ember's wan riffs on the old television show. —Felicia Feaster

The Happening (R) The trailer was awful. The rumors concerning the storyline were worse. The attempt to tantalize the viewer with the fact that this was Shyamalan's "first R-rated movie" smacked of desperation. The movie itself lives up to the pre-release indications and then some. The best thing I can say about M. Night Shyamalan's The Happening is that it's not The Village. This is Shyamalan's attempt at ecological horror, and you'll quickly realize why secrecy surrounded the plot — not because there's a clever twist, but because this is a dumb movie with dumb dialogue, dumb ideas, and dumber characters. Don't blame the actors. No one could go best two falls out of three with Shyamalan's dialogue and win. —Ken Hanke

The Incredible Hulk (PG-13) The climactic showdown between the Abomination and the Hulk in the streets of Harlem is a truly punishing, visceral battle, full of thunderous punches and pavement-crunching falls. So if you're coming to The Incredible Hulk primarily to see the jade giant make with the mayhem, you may very well walk away happy. While plenty of recent superhero movies, including Iron Man, have provided compelling storytelling between the showpiece battles, The Incredible Hulk just kind of sits there for long stretches until the editors check their watches and realize it's time for a transformation. —Scott Renshaw

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (PG-13) There's little point speculating what kind of response Kingdom of the Crystal Skull might have inspired were it not carrying the expectations of a beloved franchise. It's a contraption built almost entirely out of its own legacy, even more pointedly self-referential than Last Crusade. Action sequences clip along at a familiar pace — their preposterousness pushed to the edge of a cliff both figuratively and literally — and we get the requisite sequence involving massive quantities of some kind of creepy-crawly critter. But while the fight choreography occasionally rises to the occasion, Kingdom of the Crystal Skull too rarely pops with genuine energy. —Scott Renshaw

Iron Man (PG-13) The first big blockbuster film of the year is upon us, and it's pretty darn good — for what it is. Let's face facts, comic books aren't Faulkner in four-color-process. Here we're talking about a guy who dresses up in a flying metal suit to blast, bomb, and bludgeon his way through a variety of terrorists and a traditional super bad guy in an even bigger flying metal suit. There's precious little wiggle-room for subtlety in a framework like that. But the beauty of Iron Man lies in the fact that the film realizes this and behaves accordingly. The secret weapon is Robert Downey, Jr. in the title role as a wisecracking, womanizing hedonist who's made a fortune as an arms manufacturer. He sees the error of his ways, yes, but he never gets morbid about it: He continues to make smart remarks, and he actually enjoys his superhero status. Good chemistry between Downey and leading lady Gwyneth Paltrow helps to make the film a refreshing change. —Ken Hanke

Kung Fu Panda (PG) It's the story of Po (Jack Black), a portly panda who works in his dad's (James Hong) noodle shop in China. Po dreams (literally, and hilariously) about being a great martial arts hero like his idols the Furious Five, but doesn't think there's any way his lumbering body can become a feared weapon of awesomeness. That's before he stumbles into a tournament at the legendary Jade Palace to determine the great Dragon Warrior and finds the old master Oogway (Randall Duk Kim) giving Po that high honor. Predictable complications ensue. A vicious villain looms on the horizon, and there's no way this fuzzy, cuddly lump of a would-be Dragon Warrior could ever rise to the challenge. Right? Wrong. It's the journey toward that perhaps-inevitable resolution that provides so much simple satisfaction. —Scott Renshaw

The Love Guru (PG-13) The early word on Mike Myers' The Love Guru had been that it's the early frontrunner for worst film of the year, so imagine my dismay when I actually watch the movie and find out it isn't cripplingly terrible. That doesn't mean this tiresome vanity project is any good, it's just not as bad as it's been made out to be. It's an obvious attempt to create another Austin Powers franchise, but it plays like the work of a comedian who has started losing touch with his audience. Worse, nearly every gag is followed with Myers grinning or winking at the camera, showing that the man doesn't trust his audience to realize there's a punch line being delivered. —Justin Souther

Sex and the City (R) Sex and the City: The Movie is all about Carrie, and whether she will marry Big (Chris Noth), and all the wedding porn that surrounds that. Not marriage porn: It's not about fantasizing about being married to some particular man that you're crazy about. It's about the wedding, the fairy-tale event that every woman is supposed to want, never mind whom a gal is marrying. And, to be fair, Sex and the City: The Movie doesn't ignore that irony, either. In getting there, it seems to miss the point that a women who is 40 years old might have realized this at some point sooner. Maybe it's a blow for gender equality that women are now allowed to extend adolescence into the years once considered "middle-aged." Carrie's cell phone is covered in pink glitter, after all. —MaryAnn Johanson

WALL-E (G) For 700 years, WALL-E — a Waste Allocation Load Lifter robot, Earth-class — has been doing the job he was programmed to do. Left behind on an Earth no longer inhabitable by humans, the solar-powered WALL-E gathers and compacts garbage, stacking the cubes in skyscraper-sized towers, over and over, all day long. Because writer/director Andrew Stanton and his Pixar cohorts are such extraordinary storytellers, there has been plenty of metaphorical content strewn throughout the computer-animation pioneers' consistently delightful features: a critique of radical egalitarianism in The Incredibles, Cars' paean to the roadkill left on the superhighway to "progress." In WALL-E, Stanton recognizes his little robot has developed a soul because of what he does that's not part of his mundane routine. Being human, he reminds us, is about the ability to recognize beauty — the kind of beauty you find in a work of art like this breathtaking little miracle of a movie. —Scott Renshaw

Wanted (R) Timur Bekmambetov's Wanted is a film that would be something like a masterpiece if it was even a third as cool as it thinks it is. That's not to say that this visually stylish exercise in comic book violence isn't without a degree of cool, it's just that it tries too hard. The story of the film — based on a comic book by Mark Millar and J.G. Jones — is at bottom a rethinking of The Matrix with a liberal sprinkling of angst-driven echoes of Fight Club. If that makes it sound like there's not much original about Wanted, the truth is that there isn't. James McAvoy stars as a much put-upon office drudge who finds empowerment when he's recruited by a society of assassins headed up by Morgan Freeman and Angelina Jolie. As a wild adrenalin rush, it's hard to fault. The action set-pieces are truly amazing and the effects work is first-rate, but the film is so relentlessly — even lovingly — violent that it's finally more off-putting than fun. —Ken Hanke

You Don't Mess with the Zohan (PG-13) It's your standard issue Adam Sandler picture. Very little that happens in this story of a super Mossad agent who wants to be a hairdresser is all that funny. There must be 20 or so gags involving hummus, and these must have had Sandler and the boys in stitches, but the audience I saw it with laughed once. There are several interesting aspects to the movie in terms of its theme and Sandler foisting uncomfortable ideas (pro-gay attitudes and scenes involving sex with elderly women) on his fanbase, but they're all housed in a pretty crummy movie. —Ken Hanke

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