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Published: Thursday, 4/21/2011

Movie reviews: 4-21

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.

The Adjustment Bureau. Making a good, detail-oriented science-fiction film is tough enough, let alone cramming a love story into the mix. But The Adjustment Bureau successfully pulls it off, thanks to writer and first-time director George Nolfi, working from a 1954 short story by Philip K. Dick about godly destiny vs. human freewill. Matt Damon and Emily Blunt are well cast as new lovers kept apart by enforcers of a supreme plan that dictates they are not meant to be together. But the pair will not give up so easily. PG-13 ** 1/2 99 minutes. (Baird) (MIT)

Atlas Shrugged, Part 1. A powerful railroad executive struggles to keep her business alive while society is crumbling around her. Based on the 1957 novel by Ayn Rand, the film is inert, stiffly acted, heavy handed, and not nearly as provocative as it is no doubt meant to be. PG-13 ** 102 minutes. (Wire review) (LC)

Arthur. British comic Russell Brand takes over for the late Dudley Moore in this remake of the 1981 smash hit about a fun-loving and wealthy alcoholic who falls for an unsuitable woman (Greta Gerwig). His no-nonsense mother gives him an ultimatum: marry the woman (Jennifer Garner) she's chosen for him or be cut off from his family's fortune. Helping him through this crisis of the heart and wallet is Arthur's loyal nanny, Hobson (Helen Mirren). This update is pointless and sorely missing the charm and wit of the original. PG-13 ** 110 minutes. (Baird) (FP, FT)

The Conspirator. Director Robert Redford takes the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and those who faced a military tribunal for the crime and spins it into a grim history lesson with modern-day relevancy. Mary Surratt (Robin Wright), accused of the participating in the crime, is the focus of plot. Her defense attorney Frederick Aiken (James McAvoy) comes to believe she is innocent, but he is fighting political forces more concerned with swift justice than fair justice. A well-acted period piece, the parallels to the 9-11 tribunals are impossible to ignore. PG-13 *** 1/2 122 minutes. (Baird) (LC)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Rodrick Rules. In this sequel to 2010's surprise hit, Greg Heffley, the kid who made "wimpy" cool, begins seventh grade and tries to deal with his parents' misguided attempts to make him bond with his older brother, who is his chief tormentor. Though harmless enough, the film is less broad and far less funny than the original. PG ** 96 minutes. (Wire review) (FP, SDI)

Gnomeo & Juliet. Shakespeare's best-known tragedy gets a kid-friendly reimagining as an animated tale of two warring clans of garden gnomes. Emily Blunt is Juliet and James McAvoy is Gnomeo, who fall in love, try to keep their feelings secret from their families, and wind up caught in the backyard feud. Despite a few inspired moments, Gnomeo & Juliet, like its bland animation and soundtrack by Elton John, is a mostly ordinary and dull affair. G ** 1/2 84 minutes. (Baird) (MIT)

Hall Pass. Another strikeout from Bobby and Peter Farrelly, the writing-directing brothers who have stalled out their careers after Something About Mary and Kingpin. They take a promising premise -- two husbands with roving eyes who are given week-long reprieves from their marriages by their wives -- and waste it on stale gross-out gags and moderately amusing comedy scenes. R ** 1/2 98 minutes. (Baird) (SDI)

Hanna. A teenager (Saoirse Ronan) reared by her father (Eric Bana) to be the perfect assassin is sent on her first mission. Cate Blanchett is the intelligence agent hot on her trail. At its core, this is actually a coming-of-age drama, and the fact that it features such great performances from such a strong cast makes you care whether these people live or die. PG-13 *** 1/2 111 minutes. (Wire review) (FP, FT)

Hop. Live-action and animation blend in this comedy about a man (James Marsden) who accidentally hits the son of the Easter bunny (voiced by Russell Brand) with his car and ends up with the world's worst houseguest. The premise is promising, but the end result is about as bland as carrot-flavored jelly beans. PG ** 1/2 90 minutes. (Wire review) (Fox, FP, FT, LC)

Insidious. A married couple (Patrick Wilson and Rose Byrne) try to protect their comatose son (Ty Simpkins) from evil spirits. The finale is too literal and too long, but that doesn't spoil what is the spookiest and most entertaining horror flick since Paranormal Activity. PG-13 *** 102 minutes. (Wire review) (FP, FT)

The Lincoln Lawyer. Matthew McConaughey is perfect as Mick, a slick, smarmy, hustling lawyer who generally defends hookers, pushers, and bikers. When he's hired to represent a very rich, perhaps dangerous young man (Ryan Phillippe), Mick finds he's in way over his head. The supporting cast in this adaptation of Michael Connelly's novel is also superb, and the plot has twists and turns aplenty. R **** 119 minutes. (Wire review) (FT, LC)

Rio. Jessie Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway, Jane Lynch, and Wanda Sykes provide the voices for this animated tale about a domesticated macaw that travels around the world to chase down the love of his life. The film burst with big images and vibrant colors, and the used of 3-D is surprisingly effective.So much is so appealing for so long that you can almost forgive the fact that the story is ultra-thin. G *** 96 minutes. (Wire review) (Fox, FP, FT, LC, SDI)

Scream 4. Eleven years after the events of the last film, surviving cast members Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette reunite, along with a few new faces (Hayden Panettiere, Anna Paquin, and Kristen Bell). After a terrific opening sequence, the film never quite finds a steady groove or fuch fun to leaven Ghostface's new killing spree, this time complete with the gore that director Wes Craven managed to avoid thus far. R ** 1/2 103 minutes. (Wire review) (Fox, FP, FT, LC, SDI)

Soul Surfer. AnnaSophia Robb stars in this fact-based drama about a teenaged girl who musters up the courage to climb back on her surfboard after losing an arm in a shark attack. A barrage of clumsy pro-Christian messages, an unnecessary fictitious rival, and a distinct lack of subtlety make this biopic a frustrating venture. PG ** 105 minutes. (Wire review) (FP, FT, LC)

Source Code. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as a man who wakes up on a passenger train eight minutes before a terrorist bomb goes off, killing everyone aboard. Through the use of new anti-terrorist technology, he must relive those eight minutes again and again, until he can stop the attack. This bullet train of a thriller keeps audiences consistently confused and off-guard from the start. PG-13 **** 94 minutes. (Wire review) (FP, FT)

Your Highness. A medieval comedy about a prince (James Franco) who enlists the help of his useless younger brother (Danny McBride) to help rescue his fiancee (Zooey Deschanel) from the clutches of an evil wizard. The ugly mess of a script mistakes vulgarity for wit and minotaur genitalia for a brilliant sight gag. R * 102 minutes (Wire review) (FP)



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