Movie review capsules
"Away We Go"
Director Sam Mendes does an about-face from the doomed marrieds of Revolutionary Road with this charming, genuine and funny tale of a couple (John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph) with a child on the way that's looking for a new place to call home.
Married screenwriters Dave Eggers and Vendela Vida pander to a hipster audience with some cartoonish supporting characters, but at the heart of their exploration of modern parenting is a unique view of stable romantic partnership, rare enough to catch a person off guard. Grade: B+
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"
CAPA's classics program continues Aug. 1 with the annual Saturday morning "Cartoon Capers" program, including classic shorts such as the "Rabbit Season! Duck Season!" favorite Rabbit Fire and Duck Amuck (see "Things We Love"). That evening, the original and still mighty impressive King Kong from 1933 begins a two-night run.
Wednesday and Thursday, Aug. 5-6, brings Alfred Hitchcock's first American film, the dark and slightly perverse Rebecca, starring Joan Fontaine as the young newlywed who suspects her husband (Laurence Olivier) is hiding something nasty in the guest house. Click to capa.com/columbus for more info. -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 feature debut of director Duncan Jones is a nice reminder that sci-fi doesn't have to be big, loud and expensive. With limited means and a phenomenal performance from Sam Rockwell, Jones creates a smart, thoughtful work about a man in the final days of three solitary years of work on the dark side of the moon, with some interesting parallels to 2001. Except this time, it's not computers we have to worry about. Grade: B
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
For Melissa Starker's opening-day review of Judd Apatow's new comedy "Funny People," click to the Bad and the Beautiful blog