Another Earth (Drama, PG-13, 92 minutes).
A new planet four times the size of the moon, appears in the sky of Earth. Searching for it out her car window, a young woman (Brit Marling) causes a car crash, killing a mother and child and sending the father (William Mapother) into a coma. After he emerges from the coma, she contrives to work as his housecleaner, and they develop a fragile relationship without him realizing who she is. The presence of Earth 2 in the sky suggests alternative lifelines we could have lived. Marling makes an impressive debut, and the film is thoughtprovoking. Rating: Three and a half stars.
Captain America (Comic book action, PG-13, 125 minutes). Chris Evans stars as Steve Rogers, a puny kid who is transformed into a muscular superhero and battles a Nazi uber-villain known as the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving). With Hayley Atwell as a sultry WAC, Tommy Lee Jones as an Army colonel, Stanley Tucci as a scientist and Dominic Cooper as Howard Stark, who will go on to develop Iron Man. Rating: Three stars.
The Change-Up (Comedy, R, 101 minutes).
One of the dirtiest-minded mainstream releases in history. It has a low opinion of men, a lower opinion of women, and the lowest opinion of the intelligence of its audience. Rating: One and a half stars.
Cowboys & Aliens (Sci-fi western, PG-13, 118 minutes). Without any doubt the most cockamamie plot I’ve witnessed in many a moon. Daniel Craig is a stagecoach robber with amnesia, Harrison Ford is a tyrannical rancher, Sam Rockwell is a saloon keeper, Olivia Wilde is a pretty lady who’s not from around these parts. The aliens are throwbacks to classic bug-eyed monsters. Rating: Three stars.
Crazy, Stupid, Love (Romantic comedy, PG- 13, 117 minutes). A sweet romantic comedy about good-hearted people. Imagine that. No snark. No raunch. Steve Carell and Julianne Moore balance on the edge of divorce, Emma Stone plays a sweetheart, Marisa Tomei steals scenes, and Analeigh Tipton and Jonah Bobo are cute as an impossible teenage couple. Oh, and Ryan Gosling plays a lounge lizard and lady-killer. Yes. Ryan Gosling. And very well, too. Rating: Three stars.
The Devil’s Double (Biographical drama, R, 109 minutes). Uday Hussein, the eldest son of Saddam Hussein, was a vile and deranged man. This film sees him through the eyes of Latif Yahia, an Iraqi soldier forced to act as his double. As Uday indulges in cocaine-fueled depravity, Latif resists him and dangerously begins an affair with his mistress (Ludivine Sagnier). Dominic Cooper does a virtuoso job in a dual role, and the movie is undeniably entertaining in the tradition of Al Pacino’s work in “Scarface.” But questions remain unexplored. Rating: Three stars.
Final Destination 5 (Horror, R, 92 minutes).
One of those rare movies where the title itself is a spoiler. Yes, everyone in the movie dies, except for Coroner Bludworth. But you knew that because of the previous four films. The increasingly challenging task of the filmmakers is to devise ever more horrible and gruesome methods for them to be slaughtered. They do. Rating: Two stars.
Friends With Benefits (Romantic comedy, R, 109 minutes). Follows romcom formulas as if directed by an autopilot, but that’s not to say it isn’t fun. Mila Kunis plays Jamie, an executive headhunter in New York City. Justin Timberlake plays Dylan, the hotshot behind a popular website. They agree to have sex without emotional attachment, and you know how well that works. But they’re both the real thing when it comes to light comedy. Not a great movie, but I enjoyed them in it. Rating: Three stars.
The Guard (Comedy, R, 95 minutes). Brendan Gleeson is wonderful as an Irish cop with shaky standards; he steals drugs from accident victims, parties with hookers and deals in graft. But he loves his mother. Partnered against his will on a big drug case with an FBI agent (Don Cheadle), he rises to the occasion, but not before much dialogue of sly wit. A rich human comedy with a gripping ending and much humor along the way. Rating: Three and a half stars.
Horrible Bosses (Comedy, R, 100 minutes).
Very funny and very dirty, in about that order. Involves three horrible bosses and three employees who vow to murder them. The movie works because of how truly horrible the bosses are, what pathetic victims the employees are, and how bad the employees are at killing. Kevin Spacey and Jennifer Aniston stand out in a strong cast including Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Colin Farrell, Jamie Foxx and Charlie Day. Rating: Three and a half stars.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (Sci-fi action, PG-13, 105 minutes). James Franco stars as a scientist who tests an anti-Alzheimer’s drug on chimpanzees and finds it dramatically increases their intelligence. After the experiment is called off, he brings a baby chimp home, and Caesar (a motion-capture performance by Andy Serkis) flourishes until he rebels after being sent to an unkind primate shelter. With Freida Pinto as a beautiful primatologist, John Lithgow as an Alzheimer’s victim. The movie has its pleasures, although the chimps seem smarter than the humans. Rating: Three stars.
Road to Nowhere (Thriller, R, 121 minutes).
The first film in 21 years by the cult legend Monte Hellman, whose “Two-Lane Blacktop” (1971) is celebrated. Imagine a jigsaw puzzle where you assemble as many pieces as seem to fit, but have pieces left over and gaps left in the puzzle. Shannyn Sossamon stars as an actress in a film within a film, Tygh Runyan is her director, and Dominique Swain is the blogger whose work may have inspired both the inner and outer films. Scenes in search of a movie. Rating: Two stars.
The Whistleblower (Thriller, R, 112 minutes).
A film to fill you with rage, based on the true story of Kathryn Bolkovac, a police officer from Lincoln, Neb., who took a job with the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Bosnia. She found direct evidence that underage girls were being held captive and bought and sold in a sex-trafficking operation. Her evidence was ignored by a male conspiracy. Rachel Weisz in one of her best performances. Co-starring David Strathairn, Monica Bellucci, Vanessa Redgrave. Rating: Three and a half stars.New on DVD:
SOURCE CODE (Sc-fi thriller, PG-13, 93 m., 2011).
Jake Gyllenhaal plays a character who finds himself inside the mind of a man aboard a commuter train that will be blown up by a terrorist in eight minutes. By reliving those minutes, can he uncover the secret of a plot even larger and more cruel? Rating: Three and a half stars.
PAUL (Sci-fi comedy, R, 104 m., 2011). Two middleaged Brit fanboys (Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) travel to San Diego for Comic-Con and then rent an RV for a tour of America’s UFO sites. They strike gold when they encounter Paul (Seth Rogen), an actual alien, who comes along for the ride. The movie starts well but loses its way, perhaps because Paul is too much comic relief and not alien enough. Rating: Two and a half stars.
YOUR HIGHNESS (Comedy, R, 102 m., 2011).
A juvenile excrescence that feels like the work of 11year-old boys in love with dungeons, dragons, warrior women, pot, boobs and four-letter words. A promising cast (James Franco, Natalie Portman, Danny McBride, Zooey Deschanel) in one of the worst films of the year. Rating: One star.
JANE EYRE (Gothic romance, PG-13, 118 m., 2011).
A voluptuous adaptation of the 1847 novel that remains enormously popular, expressing a forbidden attraction between a powerless young woman and her fierce and distant employer. Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender embody Jane and Rochester with a firm sense of who they are; neither is unattractive, although the novel says they are, but then this is the movies. Directed by Cary Joji Fukunaga, a rising star whose “Sin Nombre” was one of the best films of 2009. Rating: Three and a half stars.
SOMETHING BORROWED (Comedy drama, PG-13, 112 m., 2011). Kate Hudson plays Darcy, the lifelong best friend of the heroine, Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin). Blond, rich and headstrong, Darcy’s about to be married to Dex (Colin Egglesfield), whom Rachel has had a crush on since law school. No good can come of this. Also involved are party animal Marcus (Steve Howey) and Rachel’s confidant, Ethan (John Krasinski). The movie is about how none of these people seem able to express their true feelings, and finally we can’t admire them enough to like them as we should. Two stars.