Film » Film Capsules

Film Capsules

In theaters this week

Brave Princess Merida (voiced by Kelly Macdonald) has a problem with authority, especially her nagging mom, who just wants her to settle down with a nice boy from one of the neighboring clans in their medieval Scottish village. She's also a super-strong heroine who can show the guys a thing or two about charting their own paths, even when another one has been laid out for you. Plus, she totally kicks ass with a bow and arrow. Pixar's latest 3D extravaganza is filled with the studio's usual knockout CGI and attention to detail, but the animation studio's genre-busting storytelling stalls a bit in its most Disneyesque movie. Brave is pretty much an old-fashioned fairy tale spiked with some modern girl-power themes and few surprises. Even the witch from whom the free-thinking princess obtains a spell has been kicking around Disney movies since the 1940s. But redheaded Merida is a great character, strong enough to carry the film, even if her story isn't exactly a new one. (PG) (Michael Gallucci)

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (R) The concept is even more mind-blowingly awesome than Cowboys & Aliens': It turns out that before he became our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) was a kickass slayer of the undead. And these aren't just your average vampires out for some blood or whatever; they've been trying to take over the world since civilization began. Their latest plan includes tearing apart the United States with a Civil War. According to legend, or at least this movie (and the novel it's based on), Honest Abe was still a boy when his mother was killed by a man who turns out to be a vampire. Years later, Abe hooks up with a vampire hunter who sends him on a Buffy-like quest to rid the Midwest of the undead. Campy, geeky, and wrapped up in its own mythology, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter has a good time rewriting American history, even though it occasionally gets weighed down by its premise. And once you get that out of the way, you're left with not much more than a bunch of cool-looking vampire slayings and a movie that takes itself a little too seriously. Fun yes, but also a bit too much in the end. (Gallucci)

Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted (PG) — The third outing in this increasingly tiresome animated franchise gives the penguins — along with their lemur and monkey co-stars, all originally supporting characters — more screen time. The focus is still on the main quartet of animals (voiced by Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, and Jada Pinkett Smith), still trying to find their way home to America and now traipsing across Europe as part of a traveling circus. But the movie only comes to life when the action shifts away from them. The plot and gags are basically variations on those found in the other two movies, with European landmarks standing in for the African plains and New York City streets. The few moments of inspiration and absurdity are, as Alex the lion tells the circus animals, just going through the motions. (Gallucci)

Moonrise Kingdom (PG-13) Moonrise Kingdom is the quintessential Wes Anderson movie, falling together with an equal mix of the director's childlike charm and hipster coolness. It's 1965 New England, and 12-year-old orphan Sam (Jared Gilman) falls for 12-year-old Suzy (Kara Hayward), so they decide to run away from it all. All the grownups freak out, especially since a big storm is on the way. That's pretty much the plot. But as any Anderson fan will tell you, it all comes down to the details. Moonrise Kingdom moves quicker and more effortlessly than Anderson's past few movies — it's his liveliest film since The Royal Tenenbaums. And the excellent cast keeps up with the pace, with the young couple at the center of the movie following every step. (Gallucci)

Prometheus (R) — Set roughly a quarter-century before Ripley's fateful space run in the first Alien, Prometheus — a prequel of sorts to Alien — follows a crew of explorers (played by Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, and Charlize Theron, among others) in search of nothing less than the origin of mankind on Earth. What they discover is a monumental testament to grand set design and spectacular CGI ... and a planet oozing with monsters. Bigger issues loom — faith, creationism — but the movie is smart and savvy with its scares, even if it doesn't pack the visceral punch

of the first two terrific parts of the saga.(Gallucci)

Rock of Ages (PG-13) — The razor-thin story in this musical — about a fresh-off-the-bus bottle blonde (Julianne Hough) who lands a job at a club, falls for the musically confused busboy and, naturally, ends up a stripper — feels like a glossy approximation of the 1980s Sunset Strip era and attitude it's supposed to pay homage to. In other words, it's a jumbo-sized Glee. Besides Russell Brand, who plays an assistant to Alec Baldwin's mom-jeans-sporting club owner, every writhing body populating the joint looks like a professional pop dancer, especially Hough. And then there's Tom Cruise, who overstays his welcome as a booze-and-sex-obsessed rock god with the unbearably stupid name Stacee Jaxx. In the end, it's all just too goddamn much. (Justin Strout)

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (R) — Steve Carell takes your most awkward, embarrassing, and downright regrettable love stories and turns them into something funny, touching, and downright pathetic. In this dark comedy, he plays Dodge, who's suddenly on his own just as an asteroid is plummeting toward Earth. Being a typical Carell everyman, Dodge hits the road in search of his high-school sweetheart, with neighbor Keira Knightley along for the ride. Armageddon standbys collide with the jokes and the heaviness of the third act. But writer-director Lorene Scafaria pulls the best from Carell, who seems pretty comfortable with this whole end of the world business. (Michael Gallucci)

That's My Boy (R) - Andy Samberg plays the fruit of a raunchy student-teacher love affair, for which teen hooligan Donny Berger (Adam Sandler) provides the sperm. Decades later, tax evasion threatens to send Berger to the pen, forcing him to reconnect with the kid he royally fucked up. Neurotic Samberg has to cope with all of this while wedding his dream-girl-turned-incestuous-bitch (Leighton Meester). The plot aims for hilarity and totally misses. Despite one redeeming montage — a bachelor party culminating with Vanilla Ice pissing on himself — the humor otherwise pivots on racism and synonyms for dicks; Sandler's ability to deliver a crude laugh stops there. (Christina Sterbenz)

Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted (PG) — The third outing in this increasingly tiresome animated franchise gives the penguins — along with their lemur and monkey co-stars, all originally supporting characters — more screen time. The focus is still on the main quartet of animals (voiced by Ben Stiller, Chris Rock, David Schwimmer, and Jada Pinkett Smith), still trying to find their way home to America and now traipsing across Europe as part of a traveling circus. But the movie only comes to life when the action shifts away from them. The plot and gags are basically variations on those found in the other two movies, with European landmarks standing in for the African plains and New York City streets. The few moments of inspiration and absurdity are, as Alex the lion tells the circus animals, just going through the motions. (Gallucci)

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