First run 

Brideshead Revisited

2 1/2 Stars  (PG-13)
Matthew Goode, Emma Thompson

Remember the acclaimed 11-episode 1981 miniseries based on Evelyn Waugh’s celebrated novel? Here’s the 133-minute version and I doubt the words “acclaimed” or “celebrated” will get attached to it. Set in pre-WWII England, the story follows outsider Charles Ryder (Matthew Goode) as he gets involved with a deeply screwed-up upper-crust family, befriending one son (Ben Whitshaw), falling for his sister (Hayley Atwell) and pissing off their mother (Emma Thompson). Their mansion is very attractive. All the condensed passion, anger and guilt left me feeling like an anthropologist. 133 minutes. —EJO


Brick Lane

4 Stars
 Tannishtha Chatterjee
A Bangladeshi woman (Tannishtha Chatterjee), living in London with her arranged-marriage husband (Satish Kaushik), finds herself chafing at the restrictions of her life in this adaptation of the novel by Monica Ali. The pacing is unhurried, but those who are patient will be rewarded with a nuanced, quietly surprising, wonderfully acted drama with characters far more genuine than what you usually see in fiction. 102 minutes. At Landmark’s Keystone Art Cinema. —EJO


The Dark Knight

4 Stars (PG-13) Christian Bale, Heath Ledger
Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to Batman Begins is dark, disturbing and remarkably propulsive. The Dark Knight is a moralistic crime story packed with bold, stylish action and a powerful score. It is a grim tale oozing with depravity that pushes the limits of its PG-13 rating. By far, the film is the most slam-bang Batman movie to date. The ensemble cast is strong, but the stand-out is Heath Ledger, whose performance as The Joker is remarkably detailed and deliciously scary. Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman return, with Maggie Gyllenhaal and Aaron Eckhart joining the cast (full review at 152 minutes. —EJO


Encounters at the End of the World

4 Stars
Captivating documentary by Werner Herzog (Grizzly Man, Rescue Dawn), who travels to the Antarctic community of McMurdo to see why 1,100 people would spend October-February living in such an extreme setting. The quirky Herzog asks interesting questions and the answers are consistently engaging. Some of the otherworldly underwater visuals are simply amazing. 99 minutes. At Landmark’s Keystone Art Cinema. —EJO


Hellboy 2

2 1/2 Stars (PG-13)  Ron Perlman

The visuals are dazzling, but the story is weak in this comic book-based superhero sequel starring Ron Perlman as the surly, but lovable hero from Hell. Selma Blair returns, along with Doug Jones as the guy that looks like a fish, only this time the filmmakers don’t dub over his voice with an uncredited David Hyde Pierce. When you hear Abe Sapien speak, that’s Doug, damn it! Guillermo del Toro (Pan’s Labyrinth) directs. 115 minutes. — EJO


Journey to the Center of the Earth

3 Stars  (PG) Brendan Fraser
Jules Verne’s 1864 novel about a trip to a world within our own becomes a summer thrill ride. The most important thing to know about it is this: The movie is showing in 3D in some theaters and 2D in others. If you opt to see the film, see it in 3D. I cannot stress this enough. 3D = fun. 2D = bleh. To best enjoy the movie, you need to find the part of your brain that tries to make sense of what it sees and turn it off. Brendan Fraser, the go-to guy for half-baked adventure movies, carries the film. 92 minutes. —EJO


Mamma Mia

2 1/2 Stars (PG-13)  Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan

The big screen adaptation of the enormously popular ABBA musical suffers from bad camera work and choppy editing. It plays like the filmmakers weren’t sure what to do, so they told the camera people to just shoot from any old position and they’d edit it into a movie later. There is no sense of visual coherence, which saps the punch of the musical. The giddy appeal of the stage version survives, but you have to put up with a lot to enjoy it. Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, Stellan Skarsgard and Amanda Seyfried star. 98 minutes  — EJO


The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor

1 1/5 Stars (PG-13)
Brendan Fraser
Crappy sequel that plays like a direct-to-DVD flick. The special-effects-heavy action/adventure franchise shifts settings to Asia, with Brendan Fraser and sidekick John Hannah returning (why?) from the first two flicks to deal with a resurrected emperor (Jet Li, wasted here). Maria Bello replaces Rachel Weisz (good thinking, Rachel) as Fraser’s wife and Michelle Yeoh appears as a sorceress with a bad temper. Maybe she saw the movie. 114 minutes. —EJO


Pineapple Express

4 1/2 Stars
(R)  Seth Rogen, James Franco
The latest from the Judd Apatow crew is a stoner comedy combined with a violent action/chase story. It’s an odd mix. I laughed loud and often, but the more brutal parts of the film were a drag. Seth Rogen stars as a ganja-smoking process server who ends up on the run with his dealer (James Franco, stealing the film with a performance that radiates spacey good will) after witnessing a murder by a drug lord and a rogue cop (Gary Cole and Rosie Perez — wasted here). The center of the film is the odd couple friendship between Rogen and Franco’s characters. 112 minutes. —EJO


Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2

Amber Tamblyn
Three years after the events of the first film, the four young women are back. Despite the distance that divides them as they depart for college, the friends from Ann Brashare’s teen book series still stay connected. Amber Tamblyn, America Ferrera, Blake Lively and Alexis Bledel all return from the original. 117 minutes. —EJO


Step Brothers

2 stars  (R)
Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly
Ferrell and Reilly, who last teamed up in Talladega Nights, co-star as two 40-year-old unemployed guys still “living at home” who are forced to live in the same house when one man’s mother marries the other man’s father. If you’re in the mood to watch adults acting like addled, aggressive 12-year-olds, with lots of swearing and gross-out gags, you might have fun. I was sort of appalled, sort of amused. 90 minutes. — EJO



4 Stars (G)

The latest computer-animated feature from Pixar (Toy Story, Ratatouille) is a striking tale set in the future about a curious little robot named WALL*E (short for Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-Class) who falls for a sleek search robot named EVE. The film works as a love story, a comedy and a science fiction adventure. The nearly word-free first 40 minutes are the best, but the whole film is a doozy. One of the best movies of the year. 97 minutes. —EJO





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