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Published: Wednesday, 1/26/2011

Movie reviews: 01-27

Summaries are condensed from Blade reviews and reflect the theater schedule starting Friday. Films are rated on a scale of 5 stars (best) to Bomb (worst). The reviewer's name, movie running time, and abbreviations of the theaters where the movie is playing are at the end of each summary.

Black Swan. The drama starts out as a character study of a talented but troubled ballet dancer but goes off in strange directions. Natalie Portman wastes an impressive performance as Nina, a ballerina who wins a lead role in Swan Lake, then goes off the deep end. R ** 110 minutes (Neman) (FP, FT, LC)

Burlesque. In her first starring role in more than a decade, Cher returns as the owner and headliner of a failing cabaret who hires an ingenue (Christina Aguilera) as a cocktail waitress. Writer/director Steve Antin lays on the cliches with a trowel. PG -13 ** 1/2 100 min. (Wire review) (MIT)

Country Strong. Gwyneth Paltrow plays a faded country music star looking to make a comeback with the help of her husband-manager (Tim McGraw) and an up-and-coming songwriter (Garrett Hedlund). Odd moments of sincerity, heart, and authenticity peek through the plastic, the hype, and the hokum. PG-13 * 1/2 112 minutes (Wire review) (FP, FT)

The Dilemma. An automobile designer (Vince Vaughn) tries to decide what to do after he sees the wife of his best friend (Kevin James) canoodling with another man. The uncertainty over whether a script about infidelity is supposed to be funny makes the film an unsatisfying experience. PG-13 ** 118 minutes (Wire review) (Fox, FP, FT, LC)

The Fighter. Mark Wahlberg stars as boxer "Irish" Micky Ward, and Christian Bale co-stars as Micky's half-brother, an ex-con and drug addict who becomes his trainer. The performances are superb, but there are just too many subplots, and it's not quite obvious which cliche is the ultimate winner. R *** 1/2 110 minutes (Baird) (Fox, FP, FT)

The Green Hornet. This big-screen version of the classic TV series stars Seth Rogen and Jay Chou as the mask-wearing vigilantes and Christoph Waltz as the crime kingpin who wants to take them down. The film is nowhere near the mess that trailers and release delays have led us to believe, but it's never as clever, funny, or exciting as its aspirations. PG-13 ** 1/2 108 minutes (Baird) (Fox, FP, FT, LC)

Gulliver's Travels. Jack Black is Jonathan Swift's wandering hero in a modern take on Gulliver's visit to the tiny people of Lilliput. The film plays to a few of Black's strengths, -- his physicality, his musicality, his eyebrows. But even at 83 minutes (plus a three-minute cartoon) it's a drag, another 3-D movie for kids in which the 3-D adds nothing. PG-13 * 1/2 83 minutes (Wire review) (FT)

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 1 marks the beginning of end for the beloved series. And what a finale it turns out to be as Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his faithful friends, Ron (Rupert Grint) and Hermione (Emma Watson), embark on a desperate quest to stop the evil Lord Voldemort once and for all. Even without a true ending -- that will come next summer with Part 2 -- the dark, gloomy, and exciting Deathly Hallows doesn't disappoint, casting a spell that is impossible to resist. PG-13 **** 150 minutes (Baird) (FT)

The King's Speech. Colin Firth plays the man who becomes King George VI after his brother abdicates. Plagued with a dreadful stutter, he hires an unorthodox speech therapist (Geoffrey Rush) to help him. The meeting of the unstoppable force that is Rush's speech therapist and the immovable object that is Firth's future English king is as good as one-on-one acting gets. R ***** 118 minutes (Wire review) (FP, FT, LC)

Little Fockers. Meet the Parents was a tolerable trifle and Meet the Fockers was a bloated bore. But this third installment is tasteless trash, filled with abysmally unfunny gags involving vomit, enemas, erectile dysfunction, and the like. PG-13 * 98 minutes (Wire review) (FP, FT)

Megamind. Brad Pitt, Will Ferrell, and Tina Fey provide voices for an animated comedy about a supervillain whose life is empty after defeating his superhero nemesis. The plot is uninspired and predictable, and there's not nearly enough humor to cover for it. PG ** 96 minutes. (Wire review) (MIT)

No Strings Attached. Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutchner co-star as a pair of friends with benefits -- until romantic feelings start getting in the way of their purely sexual relationship. Portman shows off considerable comedy chops, and Kutcher finally lands a big-screen role in which he doesn't flounder. The sturdy but unspectacular film is sometimes funny and occasionally insightful. R *** 110 minutes (Baird) (Fox, FP, FT, LC)

Season of the Witch. Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman play soldiers who desert from the Crusades and as their penalty are ordered to escort a suspected witch to a church tribunal. The scenery is drab, the battles are interchangeable, and the plot and acting aren't even bad enough to be fun. It's just a bloated, boring, forgettable mess. PG-13 * 98 minutes (Wire review) (FP)

Tangled. The magic at the Mouse House continues with this twisted take on the classic Rapunzel tale. The film offers wondrous 3D animation, laughs, an enjoyable song or two, and loads of fun. PG ***100 minutes (Baird) (FP, FT)

Tron: Legacy. In a sequel to 1982's Tron, a too-talky script mutes the power of some of the best special effects this side of Avatar. Jeff Bridges returns as Kevin Flynn, the world-famous video-game designer who is trapped in a digital world he created. Garrett Hedlund co-stars as his son, who discovers dad's situation and sets out to rescue him. PG-13 *** 127 minutes (Baird) (FP, FT)

True Grit. The pioneering Coen brothers don't blaze new territory with this remake of a John Wayne classic, but what they do offer is a whip-smart screenplay, colorful characters, and sequences that are stunningly acted and shot. Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and newcomer Hailee Steinfeld are marvelous as an unlikely set of Three Musketeers, out to a capture a murderer in the Old West. **** 1/2 110 minutes (Wire review) (FP, FT, LC)

Unstoppable. Tony Scott directs a poorly executed thriller about a runaway train heading for certain disaster. Denzel Washington and Chris Pine play the veteran engineer and the rookie who devise a plan to stop it. Even by Hollywood standards, the film is too illogical and far-fetched to truly enjoy. PG-13 * 1/2 98 min. (Baird) (MIT)

Yogi Bear. Dan Aykroyd and Justin Timberlake supply the voices of Yogi Bear and his buddy, Boo-Boo, in this adaptation of the classic cartoon. Unfortunately, the plot about the town's mayor trying to open the park to logging is bland, and the jokes are thin. PG ** 88 minutes. (Wire review) (FP, FT, LC)



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