recommended viewing

November 21, 2008|By Capsules by Michael Sragow unless noted

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

Body of Lies: *** ( 3 STARS) This spy vs. spy thriller is smart, tense and rippling with topicality. Leonardo DiCaprio's 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). DiCaprio creates an existential juggler throwing a fistful of knives in midair - and he doesn't drop a single blade. R 128 minutes

Eagle Eye: ** 1/2 ( 2 1/2) A mysterious woman who seems able to control any electronic device coerces a slacker (Shia LaBeouf) and a single mother (Michelle Monaghan) into implementing a plot that may bring down the U.S. as we know it. The movie is moderately gripping but too gimmicky; by the end, watching it is like seeing someone else crack a jigsaw puzzle. PG-13 118 minutes

Happy-Go-Lucky: **** ( 4 STARS) A London teacher, Poppy (Sally Hawkins), puts together a jolly life with an existential do-it-yourself kit. It proves sturdy enough to withstand the assaults of the emotionally blighted and the humorless. Everything about this movie is primary in a good way, including the bold, bright colors and the values of imagination and creativity that Poppy fosters in her primary school. R 118 minutes

I.O.U.S.A.: *** ( 3 STARS) Documentary-maker Patrick Creadon and his producer wife, Christine O'Malley, use all the graphic dexterity and wit they mustered to make crossword puzzles enthralling in Wordplay to scare American audiences into fiscal responsibility. Like the Indiana Jones series, this improbably sprightly if doom-laden analysis of our fiscal woes revives old-fashioned visual tools like maps filled with moving arrows to rouse viewers out of ignorance and complacency. PG 90 minutes Let the Right One In : *** 1/2 Consider it the thinking person's Twilight, and maybe the feeling person's, too. This Swedish horror movie cum coming-of-age film honors its thriller roots while telling the heartbreaking story of a lonely boy (Kare Hedebrant) and the girl next door (Lina Leandersson), who is also his best friend - and a vampire. R 114 minutes.

My Name is Bruce: *** ( 3 STARS) Renowned B-horror film hero Bruce Campbell directs and plays himself in this send-up of both the genre and the parts he's played in it for so many years. The town of Gold Lick, Ore., tries to save itself from a scythe-wielding demon, but what's surprising is the number of honest laughs it contains. Of course, it's even better if you've memorized every line of the Evil Dead films and Bubba Ho-Tep. R 84 minutes (Chris Kaltenbach)

Nick and Nora's Infinite Playlist: ** 1/2 ( 2 1/2 STARS) This teen romance is designed to make gentle hearts soar beneath neo-grunge exteriors. It's a mixture of high-SAT humor and high jinks so crude they're really low jinks. But high school audiences hungry for a hint of intelligent romance in movies targeted for their demographic may find it a relief from cheery musicals or overblown after-school specials. Michael Cera is skillful in the role of Nick, and Kat Dennings becomes a star as Norah, a knockout who doesn't know it. PG-13 90 minutes

Pride and Glory : *** 1/2 ( 3 1/2 STARS) No film boasts a more passionate male ensemble than this terrific tale of corruption in the NYPD. Edward Norton has a soulfulness and grit that magnify his sensitivity when he plays hard guys like Ray Tierney, a cop investigating a shootout that killed four officers. Colin Farrell, Noah Emmerich and Jon Voight match him as the other members of a family that have been bred to the blue. They all capture the richness and the insularity of police work when it's done as a family business, as well as its horrifying potential for sadism. R 129 minutes

Rocknrolla: ** 1/2 ( 2 1/2 STARS) Gerard Butler and Idris Elba star as low-life pals who attempt to better themselves through London real estate and wind up in debt to the self-described criminal headmaster of everything Old School (Tom Wilkinson). Guy Ritchie returns to the scene of his early criminal successes (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Snitch) with mixed results. It's like being compelled to pay attention to a rock station you normally use as background noise while you're doing chores. The words are catchy and the beat keeps you awake, though all of it quickly fades. R 114 minutes

What Just Happened: **** It's a superb comedy that just happens to take place in that tinseled part of the real America known as Hollywood. Robert De Niro's harried, resourceful producer attempts to keep a British auteur (Michael Wincott) and an American superstar (Bruce Willis) from imploding, as well as woo an ex-wife (Robin Wright Penn) and provide fatherly guidance to his eldest child (Kristen Stewart). No one in this Barry Levinson-directed film has a frank conversation; everyone is negotiating relationships and deals, or barking or receiving orders, or simply begging for favors. The result is a crackpot symphony of missed connections. R 107 minutes

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