Film » Film Capsules

Film Capsules

For when you only need a summary


Bad Teacher (R)

Bad Teacher's one joke is right there in the title. Cameron Diaz plays Elizabeth Halsey, quite possibly the sluttiest woman to ever lead a seventh-grade classroom. After her fiancé dumps her, Elizabeth tries to snag the nerdy new substitute teacher (Justin Timberlake), who happens to be an heir to a wristwatch fortune. She's also trying to scrounge up enough money to buy a new pair of boobs. But instead of doing her job, Elizabeth gets high in the school parking lot, constantly shows movies in class, and organizes a car wash straight out of a Playboy fantasy. Rude, crude, and stuffed with dick jokes, Bad Teacher tries hard to offend — too hard at times. But there are some funny scenes. As Elizabeth buckles down and softens up, the movie loses some of its bite. Still, Diaz plays it broad and bitchy throughout. It's her movie — the good and the bad. (Michael Gallucci)

The Art of Getting By (PG-13) — This coming-of-age tale looks like dozens of other coming-of-age tales: Freddie Highmore (from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) plays a smart-ass slacker who's dangerously close to no diploma. Bumbling along his senior year, he has no friends, a negligent father, an overbearing mother, a pompous stepfather, and a girl (Emma Roberts) who seems to have all the answers to his tortured-artist issues. First-time writer and director Gavin Wiesin does a capable job of stretching out the thin material, but for a movie about finding your way in the world, it gets lost in a conventional story. (Courtney Kerrigan)

Beginners (R) — Seventy-five-year-old Hal (Christopher Plummer) tells his son Oliver (Ewan McGregor) that he's gay. But the story — which director Mike Mills based on his dad's life — is as much Oliver's as Hal's. The parallels between their lives become evident when Oliver meets actress Anna (Mélanie Laurent). As their relationship develops, Hal's post-coming-out tale unspools in flashback. Beginners tells the stories of two men: their similarities, their differences, their shutting down of emotions. Still, the movie doesn't quite connect as it should. (Gallucci)

Cars 2 (G) — This sequel to one of Pixar's most popular outings doesn't feature the studio's usual topnotch storytelling, but there's so much going on that it should keep little ones happy. Picking up where he left off in the original, Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) is now a global celebrity. He returns home to spend time with his best friend Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) and his girlfriend. But his R&R is cut short when he accepts a challenge from cocky race car Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro), which leads him to a series of races in Japan, Italy, and England. Mater tags along and gets mistaken for a spy, a subplot that turns Cars 2 into a James Bond-style action movie at times. The story may be too complex for younger children, but the lightning-fast pace, humor, and camaraderie are typical Pixar magic. (Ben Gifford)

Conan O'Brien Can't Stop (R) — It's easy to forget that a little more than a year ago, late-night TV viewers were picking sides in what became the feud of 2010. In this documentary chronicling that period, a bearded Conan O'Brien sprints through a shotgun 32-city tour following his termination from The Tonight Show. Shot during a period when he was contractually prohibited from appearing on TV, Conan O'Brien Can't Stop takes an intimate look at the comedian during a point in his life where he's frustrated, confused, and decidedly unfunny. (Lydia Munnell)

Green Lantern (PG-13) — This is exactly the type of empty summer blowout they warn you about. Ryan Reynolds plays Hal Jordan, a hotshot test pilot who reluctantly becomes part of an intergalactic corps of peacekeepers after he inherits a glowing green ring that turns him into the titular hero. The movie can be harmless fun whenever Hal suits up. Unfortunately, most of Green Lantern is bogged down with Hal's boring backstory, his relationship with an ex-turned-boss (Blake Lively), and a subplot involving a scientist (Peter Sarsgaard) who comes in contact with an alien. It doesn't help that Reynolds plays Hal like an extreme-asshole version of Tony Stark. (Gallucci)

The Hangover Part II (R) — Like in the first Hangover, the raunchier sequel starts with most of the damage already done. This time it's Stu (Ed Helms) who's getting married, and the "wolf pack" (Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, and Justin Bartha) heads to Thailand for the wedding. Then comes one crazy night in Bangkok that nobody can recall. This is pretty much the first movie with a new setting. (Gallucci)

Midnight in Paris (PG-13) — Woody Allen returns to the rain-soaked blue notes and nervous, bourgeois babble found in his best films. Owen Wilson plays Woody stand-in Gil, who's on a pre-wedding trip to Paris with his high-maintenance fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her parents. Gil falls in love with all the nostalgic charm of the city and, lost one night, ends up at a party with Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Cole Porter. Soon he's fumbling his way into the artistic elite and falling for a flapper played by Marion Cotillard. Allen's reimagining of 1920s Paris is beautiful, laden with the soft light of warmth and age, and a love for things past. (Munnell)

Mr. Popper's Penguins (PG) — Jim Carrey plays Tommy Popper, a successful real-estate developer whose winning streak comes to a screeching halt after he inherits a penguin from his late explorer father. After a misunderstanding, he acquires five more and faces a whole mess of problems that come with having flightless aquatic birds in a fancy N.Y.C. apartment. You at least have to hand it to Mr. Popper's Penguins for taking such an old-school approach — complete with penguin farts and a high-society party-crashing — to summer family comedy. And there are some sweet scenes; it's a minor achievement for a movie filled with pooping penguins. (Gallucci)

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (PG-13) — After the marathon running time and overstuffed plots of 2007's At World's End, you might wonder what's left to cram into the fourth movie of this swashbuckling franchise. How about mermaids, zombies, 3-D, and Penélope Cruz? The story this time has to do with the Fountain of Youth and all the pirates looking for it. Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush return, but Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley are gone. So is director Gore Verbinski, replaced by Chicago's Rob Marshall, who steers the movie into darker and calmer waters than its predecessor. (Gallucci)

Super 8 (PG-13) — J.J. Abrams' nostalgic monster movie sticks close to producer Steven Spielberg's playbook: kids vs. skeptical adults, shady military personnel, a young protagonist raised by a single parent, and a deliberate build-up to the big reveal. In 1979, a group of kids from suburban Ohio are making a zombie movie when they witness a spectacular train accident. Soon, strange things are happening around town: missing dogs, stolen appliances, power outages, and a shadowy creature snatching up folks. Super 8 fondly recalls a time when Famous Monsters of Filmland still mattered to middle-school boys. These old-school shadings — as opposed to blood, guts, and severed limbs — are the movie's centerpiece. (Gallucci)

X-Men: First Class (PG-13) — The X-Men finally get their backstory in this terrific prequel/reboot. And it's just what the series needed: a smart, fun, and thrilling movie that gets to know the humans inside the mutants. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender play Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr before they become Professor X and Magneto. They battle arrogance, anger, their still-untested superpowers, and eventually each other. It all leads to First Class' best scenes, but the movie's soul is in its origin story — the start of something great. (Gallucci)

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