Movie review capsules

Staff Writer
Columbus Alive

"17 Again"

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


Don't let the bland romantic-comedy wrapper fool you: Duplicity is one of the year's best surprises, a whip-smart and entertaining mashup of His Girl Friday banter and the intricate, big-business thrills of director Tony Gilroy's first flick, Michael Clayton.

Clive Owen and Julia Roberts have the ideal skill set and old-school charms for their roles as corporate spies who share a romantic past, and they get scene-stealing support from Paul Giamatti and Tom Wilkinson. Grade: B+


Culled from the exhaustive BBC documentary series Planet Earth, the first movie to be released by Disney's new nature film imprint presents a round-the-world, family-friendly view of migration, mating, hunting and nurturing.

James Earl Jones fills in details on the animals' struggles and our complicity in their changing habitat with a narration that's occasionally grating (clearly, the movie's meant for kids), but it's not hard to push his voice to the back of your head when confronted with the stunning sight of thousands of cranes flying over the Himalayas. Grade: B

"I Love You, Man"

Writer-director John Hamburg takes the male bonding of 40-Year-Old Virgin and Superbad to its next logical step, building a comedy around a mousy, friend-challenged real-estate broker (Paul Rudd) who embarks on a bromance with Jason Segel's crude but lovable slacker. Grade: B-

"Monsters vs. Aliens"

The new wave of 3-D has so far worked best with animation, and the latest from Dreamworks is no exception. It's a visual feast that's sure to look as good to parents as to kids. Unfortunately, the accompanying story about imprisoned monsters let loose to protect the planet during an alien invasion is a mess of B-grade sci-fi cliches and "jokes." Grade: C

"The Soloist"

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. Downey's sardonic quality is perfect for reducing the threat of overwrought sentimentality, however, and the scenes between him and Foxx are the film's strongest. Grade: B-

"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

"Sunshine Cleaning"

In Christine Jeffs' remarkably contrived indie dramedy, Amy Adams' self-esteem-challenged maid-for-hire decides to follow the advice of her married lover (Steve Zahn) and go into the lucrative field of crime-scene cleanup with her ne'er-do-well sister (Emily Blunt). The talented cast almost brings life to the story, but in the end they seem more stuck than their characters. Grade: C+

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This Friday in the Bad and the Beautiful blog at, Melissa Starker reviews "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" and the art house romantic drama "Beauty in Trouble."