Report Card

staff critics' take on the top movies

October 23, 2008|By staff critics'

Beverly Hills Chihuahua

What it's about: A spoiled Chihuahua named Chloe (voice of Drew Barrymore) gets dognapped and taken to Mexico City, where some newfound friends (including a German shepherd named Delgado) try to help her and her million-dollar Harry Winston collar get home.

Rated: PG

The scoop: Lots of talking dogs, little of anything else.

Grade : * 1/2 ( 1 1/2 STARS)

Body of Lies

What it's about: Leonardo DiCaprio's (above) deceptively rugged CIA agent masterminds the capture of a new world-class terrorist (Alon Abutbul) despite the bungling and interference of his Langley, Va.-based boss (Russell Crowe).

Rated: R

The scoop: DiCaprio's Roger Ferris is an existential juggler throwing a fistful of knives up in midair - and DiCaprio doesn't drop a single blade. The movie is emotionally as well as intellectually gripping because most of the time we can read every impulse that races through his mind.

Grade: *** ( 3 STARS)

Eagle Eye

What it's about : A mysterious woman who seems able to control any electronic device coerces an aimless slacker (Shia LaBeouf) and a single mother (Michelle Monaghan, above) into implementing a plot that may bring down the U.S. as we know it.

Rated: PG-13

The scoop : It's moderately gripping, but, too often, watching this movie is like seeing someone else crack a jigsaw puzzle.

Grade * * 1/2 ( 2 1/2 STARS)

Max Payne

What it's about : Max Payne (Mark Wahlberg, above), a once high-powered New York lawman, now the chief librarian of his precinct's cold-case files, chases the most frigid case of all: the murder of his wife and infant child, and runs into dead and mutilated bodies, shadowy hallucinations and a mysterious blue serum.

Rated : PG-13

The scoop : You can forgive the slow-mo bullet effects since by now they're endemic to the genre. What kills Max Payne is that the characters think and feel in slow motion. Half the time, mentally, they're just running in place.

Grade : * 1/2 ( 1 1/2 STARS)

Nick & Norah's Infinite Playlist

What it's about : Two high school seniors (Michael Cera and Kat Dennings, above), who are meant for each other but don't know it, spend a long night searching for a cult band and stumbling into romance.

Rated: PG-13

The scoop : It contains some intelligent humor and high-SAT comedy as well as high jinks so crude they're really low jinks; the movie's attitude veers between hipper- and more-sensitive-than-thou.

Grade: ** 1/2 ( 2 1/2 STARS)

Religulous

What it's about : Bill Maher (above) brings his disarmingly direct humor to the topic of religion in this bracing and funny documentary.

Rated: R

The scoop : Maher's central subject is religion as it is practiced in the suburbs, the country and the streets. Until the heavy-handed ending, he manages to debunk blind faith with a twinkle in his eye.

Grade: *** 1/2 ( 3 1/2 STARS)

W.

What it's about : The film portrays the greatest flops of George W. Bush (Josh Brolin, above), a washout as a student and a president but brilliant as a frat boy.

Rated : PG-13

The scoop : The movie plays like a dunk-the-clown game at a carnival. Through intent or ineptitude, director Oliver Stone sets up the Bush family and administrations as caricatures.

Grade: * 1/2 ( 1 1/2 STARS)

What Just Happened

What it's about : A Hollywood producer (Robert De Niro, above) tries to stay on top of a couple of potentially catastrophic projects while learning how to divorce gracefully from his still-beloved second wife (Robin Wright Penn) in this original and engaging rat-race comedy.

Rated : R

The scoop : De Niro has never been more sneakily inventive, and the director, Barry Levinson, brings off almost each charged incident lightly, not frivolously. By the end, you know you've seen a smartly structured vision of contemporary adult life.

Grade: **** ( 4 STARS)

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