First Run films for week of 4/30/08 


3 stars (PG-13) Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth

Flashy tale of a group of ace college students that use card counting at blackjack to take on the Las Vegas casinos, based very loosely on Ben Mezrich’s non-fiction book “Bringing Down the House.” Kevin Spacey is fun as the snarky professor leading the group. Silly stuff, but still fun. Jim Sturgess and Laurence Fishburne costar. 122 minutes.

Baby Mama
2.5 stars (PG-13)

Serviceable, but formulaic Odd Couple-style comedy starring “30 Rock's” Tina Fey as a businesswoman unable to bear a child who hires slob Amy Poehler (“SNL”) to carry it for her. The two end up living together, natch, and there are some solid laughs, but any episode of “30 Rock” is 10 times funnier than this. Sigourney Weaver, Steve Martin, Greg Kinnear and Dax Shephard costar. 99 minutes.

The Counterfeiters
4 stars (R) Karl Markovics, August Diehl

Based-on-fact story about concentration camp prisoners forced to create counterfeit money as part of a grand scheme by the Nazis to ruin the economies of enemy nations by flooding them with bogus cash. The performances are excellent, the details of the operation are fascinating and the moral quandary of the prisoners will leave you with something to discuss after the closing credits roll. Highly recommended. Academy Award winner for Best Foreign Language Film. Starring Karl Markovics, August Diehl and Devid Striesow. 99 minutes.

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed
2 stars (PG)

Ben Stein narrates and stars in a sorta-documentary that pretends to be an examination of whether the academic and scientific worlds are mistreating those who entertain the possibility of intelligent design. It soon turns into a screed against Darwinism, linking it to atheism and tying it to everything from the Nazis to Planned Parenthood. What a shame Stein and company settled for being inflammatory instead of thoughtful. 90 minutes.

The Forbidden Kingdom
3 stars (PG-13) Jackie Chan, Jet Li

Chan and Li costar for the first time in this action/adventure. Michael Angarano (“Snow Angels”) plays an American teenage Hong Kong cinema fan who gets magically thrown back to ancient China, where everyone fights fancifully while the plot convolutes. Glossy fun. 105 minutes.

Forgetting Sarah Marshall
4 stars (R) Jason Segel

The latest from producer Judd Apatow and his team mixes crude humor with a sweet relationship story, just as they did in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Knocked Up.” The result is as charming as it is funny. Leading man Jason Segel wrote the screenplay, a basic boy loses girl (Kristen Bell), boy goes on vacation to lick his wounds, girl turns up at vacation spot with new boyfriend (scene-stealer Russell Brand) story. The world Segel presents is full of blunt sexuality and traumatic moments, but it is ultimately a benign place where people are kind more often than not. 112 minutes.

Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay
2.5 stars (R)

Follow-up to 2004's “Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle,” with the likable buddies (Kal Penn and John Cho) getting busted when someone on a plane mistakes Kumar's bong for a bomb. Their stint in prison last for about five extremely vulgar minutes, then they get chased a lot. Like the first movie, this mixes gross, obvious gags with enough clever stuff to keep you watching. Happily, Neil Patrick Harris pops up again as a bad-boy version of himself. 102 minutes.

Horton Hears a Who
3 stars (G) Jim Carrey, Steve Carrell

Animated adaptation of the Dr. Seuss book about an elephant (Jim Carrey) that hears a Who (Steve Carrell) on a speck of dust. This version of Seuss is almost free of pop culture references (though it includes complete time wasters like a Japanese animated scene and a group sing-along), but this movie is more in the spirit of the book than previous, obnoxious adaptations like “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” and “The Cat in the Hat.” 88 minutes. —Matthew Socey

2 and a half stars (PG-13) George Clooney, Renee Zellweger

George Clooney directs and costars with Renee Zellweger and “The Office’s” John Krasinski in a screwball comedy (mostly) about the early days of professional football. The film looks great and Randy Newman’s score scores, but the screenplay is uneven and unconvincing, struggling to be genuine, but coming off as an awkward homage with too many stodgy moments. “Leatherheads” is entertaining, but given the talent involved, it should have been entertaining and memorable. 113 minutes.

Shine a Light
4 stars (PG)

Martin Scorsese and the Rolling Stones teamed up for this semi-documentary concert film, produced at New York City’s Beacon Theatre in 2006. Are the Stones — rock’s old devils — still relevant? As long as they love what they’re doing as much as they seem to here, the question is moot. At one point, Scorsese suggests he wants to stop just short of actually setting Mick Jagger on fire; he teeters on the brink. Scorsese’s hyper editing and the giant IMAX screen create an effect akin to being seated on stage and fed a tab of acid. Buddy Guy’s appearance on “Champagne and Reefer” is a major grin. With cameos by Jack White and Christina Aguliera. 120 minutes. —David Hoppe

Smart People
2 stars (R) Dennis Quaid, Sarah Jessica Parker

Dour comedy about a sourpuss professor and his dysfunctional family, aimed, I think, at the “Little Miss Sunshine” crowd. The cast — Dennis Quaid, Sarah Jessica Parker, Thomas Haden Church and Ellen Page — is impressive and there are some good moments, but most of the characters are stiff, the dialogue is stilted and unconvincing and the whole thing is slathered in coffee commercial soft rock. Who needs that? 95 minutes.

Street Kings
(R) Keanu Reeves, Forest Whitaker

Mean-streets action from the director of “Training Day” with a script by James Ellroy. Keanu Reeves plays an LAPD cop trying to discover who killed his partner, with help from a fellow detective (“Fantastic Four’s” Chris Evans). Forest Whitaker plays his supervisor, who tries to keep the officer’s quest legal, so that the head of Internal Affairs (“House” star Hugh Laurie) doesn’t come calling. 109 minutes.

Under the Same Moon
(PG-13) Kate del Castillo

Story of a mother and son living on opposite sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, connected by an enduring love. When the death of his grandmother leaves 9-year-old Carlos (Adrian Alonso) alone, he heads north across the border to find his mother (Kate del Castillo), who is working illegally in Los Angeles to send money home. 109 minutes.

Where in the World is Osama bin Laden?
2 and a half stars (PG-13)

“Supersize Me” filmmaker Morgan Spurlock ostensibly sets out to find the world’s most-wanted man. In fact, he visits Egypt, Morocco, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Pakistan, chatting with people along the way about current events. Thematically, Spurlock covers familiar turf and his attempts at humor range from weak to embarrassing, but many of the people he meets are interesting and some of the encounters pack a punch. 93 minutes.

ALSO PLAYING: Ewan McGregor and Hugh Jackman are wasted in the lame R-rated thriller “Deception,” Angela Bassett visits the family in the PG-13 “Tyler Perry's Meet the Browns,” Brittany Snow scrambles for cover in the PG-13 slasher flick “Prom Night,” young Abigail Breslin gets an assist from Jodie Foster and Gerard Butler in the children's adventure fantasy “Nim's Island,” vacationers get slaughtered in the R-rated “The Ruins” and Spider-Man gets sent-up in the lame PG-13 comedy “Superhero Movie.”


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