the best of the rest

August 29, 2008|By Capsules by Michael Sragow

Capsules by Michael Sragow. Full reviews are at baltimoresun.com/movies.

American Teen: **** This documentary about a handful of high school seniors in Warsaw, Ind., shows how even teens who superficially fit the labels of jock and geek have inner lives and outer ambitions that break up any stereotypes. The movie has the sureness and nuance of a tiptop novel. PG-13 95 minutes

Elegy: *** An aging critic and academic (Ben Kingsley) sees an intoxicatingly beautiful student (Penelope Cruz) as his last chance for ecstasy; Kingsley is miscast, but Cruz and the supporting players (Patricia Clarkson, Peter Sarsgaard and Dennis Hopper) are superb. R 107 minutes

Hamlet 2 : *** 1/2 The drama coach at a Tucson high school tries to save his program by mounting the wildly ambitious Hamlet 2 - like The Godfather Part II, both a sequel and a prequel to a work of genius. Ace British comic actor Steve Coogan gets his best chance so far to strut his smart-silly stuff in an American movie, and he nails it; he creates a character whose exuberance knows no limits. Neither does his bad taste. R 92 minutes

Hellboy II: The Golden Army : *** Guillermo del Toro designs this follow-up to his 2004 Hellboy as a battle between the magical and fearsome creatures who roamed J.R.R. Tolkien's Middle Earth and C.S. Lewis' Narnia and a handful of agents from the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense, including the burly red demon Hellboy (Ron Perlman). Del Toro stuffs the film with wit and wonderments. Yet, it often plays like a lovingly crafted synthesis of the superhero and fantasy sagas we've been seeing all decade, and especially this summer. PG-13 120 minutes

Man on Wire: **** This documentary pays tribute to the high-wire walker Philippe Petit, who in 1974 plotted and executed a plan to walk between the tops of the World Trade Center's twin towers. Thanks to the suspenseful, sensuous direction of James Marsh, Petit's accomplishment registers, in its own balletic way, as potently as King Kong climbing to the top of the Empire State Building - and Petit doesn't fall off. PG-13 90 minutes

Tell No One : **** On the eighth anniversary of his wife's abduction and apparent murder, a Paris-based pediatrician (Francois Cluzet) receives an e-mail containing a link to a video Web site where he thinks he spots her alive. The e-mail comes with the warning "tell no one," because people will be watching. The movie, like its hero, is shrewd about the small lies and mini-corruptions that can lead to major crimes. Unrated 125 minutes

Traitor: ** 1/2 Don Cheadle stars as Samir Horn, a righteous Muslim connected to Islamic extremists who are plotting to blow up scores of buses across America simultaneously. Guy Pearce plays an FBI counterterrorist agent who starts tracking Samir after he lands in a Yemeni prison for selling detonators to an Islamic militant cell. Although earnest and intelligent, this film is like an elaboration of that old hair-dye commercial, "does she or doesn't she?" only this time it's "does he or doesn't he harbor a secret anti-terrorist agenda?" PG-13 110 minutes

Vicky Cristina Barcelona: **** In seductive Barcelona, romantic complications swirl around an artist (Scarlett Johansson), a grad student (Rebecca Hall), a painter with a past and a reputation (Javier Bardem) and the painter's ex-wife (Penelope Cruz). Woody Allen's affectionate, enlightening and, best of all, blissfully entertaining movie shows how much residue sexual desire or experience leaves in the brain and gut and heart. It's a summery idyll: his most entertaining picture since Bullets Over Broadway or maybe Sweet and Lowdown. PG-13 97 minutes

WALL-E: **** It's the first dystopian parable that's actually ecstatic fun. The hero is a beeping, whirring Waste Allocation Load Lifter, Earth class, or WALL-E. He's the sole survivor of a mammoth cleanup operation, and he's lonely - until a sleek female robot named EVE comes looking for signs of organic life. G 90 minutes

no screenings

All of this week's new releases - Babylon A.D., College and Disaster Movie - were not screened for critics.

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