Film » Film Capsules

Film Capsules

Bite-sized summaries, for when you just need a bite


Arthur (PG-13) — Russell Brand's drunken, druggy past served him well in Forgetting Sarah Marshall and Get Him to the Greek, where he basically played himself. So he was a natural choice for this remake of Dudley Moore's 1981 hit about a drunken libertine forced to change his lifestyle to avoid losing an inheritance. A surprising level of creativity has gone into this remodel. Rather than trying to recast John Gielgud's acerbic valet, this Arthur cleverly uses the excellent Helen Mirren as Arthur's tart but loyal nanny. The script is fairly nimble, with a good deal of Brand's characteristic wit, so it's easy to forgive the broad physical humor and the fact that, unlike the short and cuddly Dudley, Brand's angular dishevelment makes him a rather unlikely object of affection. (Pamela Zoslov)

Hanna (PG-13) — Secluded from mankind by design, teenager Hanna (Saoirse Ronan) has lived her entire life in the rigorous training program of her ex-CIA father (Eric Bana). She's fluent in many languages and has a Jason Bourne-like knowledge of martial arts. She's eager to leave home and take on her life's mission: to get revenge for the murder of her mother, apparently at the hands of a scheming research director (Cate Blanchett). Ronan is great, and Hanna's straitlaced, inventively visual style is always interesting, even if much of it is in service of a flimsy plot. (Justin Strout)

Hop (PG) — It's the story of two slackers with overbearing fathers. One (James Marsden) is a jobless human; the other (voiced by Russell Brand) is the future Easter Bunny, who'd rather play drums than deliver baskets. Their worlds collide when Fred the human hits E.B. the rabbit with his car and reluctantly agrees to take him in. This live-action/animation hybrid features a typically restless performance by Brand and a few clever visual gags. (Michael Gallucci)

Insidious (PG-13) — Josh and Renai move their two boys into a hulking old house. When the older son falls into a mysterious coma, Renai becomes convinced that something is horribly wrong. The family flees to a new house, only to discover it wasn't the house that's haunted. Genre nerds will have a blast with Insidious, trainspotting the various borrowed genre staples and lifts from specific classics (Poltergeist, Psycho, The Haunting). (Lee Gardner)

Madea's Big Happy Family (PG-13) — Tyler Perry is up to his old tricks: wearing women's clothes and teaching you a life lesson about one thing or another.

Rio (PG) — The latest 3D CGI talking-animal movie is about a rare and pampered pet macaw named Blu (voiced by Jesse Eisensberg) who goes to Rio to breed with Jewel (Anne Hathaway) and save his species. But he ends up separated from his owner. It's standard fish-out-of-water stuff, with sassy sidekicks (Jamie Foxx, George Lopez, and Tracy Morgan), an evil cockatoo (Jemaine Clement), and a major obstacle for the hero to overcome (Blu doesn't know how to fly). Rio's colorful animation looks great, especially the rainbow coalition of birds on display But the story is flimsy and the jokes aren't very smart. Like its main bird, the movie has a little trouble taking off. (Gallucci)

Scream 4 (R) — Director Wes Craven and writer Kevin Williamson swore that 2000's Scream 3 concluded the self-referential horror series but, surprise, here's another one. On the 10th anniversary of the original's massacre, Sidney (Neve Campbell) returns to her hometown as a bestselling memoirist. Horror-crazed local teens mount gore-movie fests and parties in tribute, and copycat knife murders terrorize the community. Smartass dialogue and plot twists once again rely on in-jokes, a movie-within-the-movie-within-the-movie, and a media-aware popscape of smartphones, remakes, and webcasts — everything but reality TV. Which they're doubtlessly saving for Scream 5. (Charles Cassady Jr.)

Soul Surfer (PG) — This biopic about surfing champion Bethany Hamilton, a teen who lost an arm in a shark attack, is a hard sell. For one thing, you know what's coming. And while the cast isn't filled with big names, they are reliable ones, and AnnaSophia Robb, who plays Bethany, steals every scene she's in. Biopics often border on sappy, but Soul Surfer earns its feel-good-movie status. (Justin Brenis)

Source Code (PG-13) — When we first meet Army helicopter pilot Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal), he's on a Chicago-bound commuter train, disoriented and confused. Moments later an explosion tears through the train, killing everyone on board. Suddenly Colter is alone in a capsule, being quizzed via monitor. He's told Find the bomb and you will find the bomber who will strike again. Suddenly, he's back on the train, replaying the scene we just saw with slight variations — like a more ominous version of Groundhog Day. (Gallucci)

Super (NR) — When his drug-addicted wife leaves him for dealer Jacque (Kevin Bacon), lifelong-loser Frank (Rainn Wilson of The Office) takes matters into his own hands: He makes an ill-fitting costume, calls himself the Crimson Bolt, and heads out to fight crime. There's plenty of dark comedy here, but Super goes deeper and plays with more emotions than other no-hero superhero movies like Kick-Ass. In the end, it's not as much fun because it's trying to juggle a more serious movie too, one that looks at the mortal man and twisted mind behind the cape. (Gallucci)

Water for Elephants (PG-13) — Reese Witherspoon and the dude from Twilight fall in love under a circus big top.

Your Highness (R) — This stoner comedy — about two medieval princes on a quest to rescue a beautiful princess — would utterly suck if Danny McBride and James Franco weren't so amiable and Zooey Deschanel didn't make such a fetching princess. Fabious and Thadeous battle traitorous knights, a five-headed beast, and topless female warriors to retrieve the stolen princess. Crass, bloody, obvious, and occasionally funny, Your Highness plays more like a series of in-jokes than an actual story. (Gallucci)

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