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Published: Thursday, 5/5/2011

Movie reviews: 5-5

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.

African Cats. This magnificent documentary from Disneynature is an engrossing and often moving film built around the fierce protection instincts of a lioness and a cheetah, trying to teach their cubs the ways of the wild. G **** 89 minutes. (Wire review) (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)

Fast Five. It offers one of the better car-chase sequences in recent memory, as well as one of the more implausible, so leave logic at home and roll with what this latest Fast and Furious sequel gives you. Fugitives Dominic (Vin Diesel) and O'Conner (Paul Walker) team up with a specialized crew to steal millions from a ruthless crime lord in Rio di Janerio. Dwayne Johnson is the U.S. superagent sent south to bring the pair back to justice. PG-13 *** 130 minutes. (Baird) (Fox, FP, FT, LC, SDI)

Hoodwinked Too! Hood Vs. Evil. Hayden Panettiere, Glenn Close, Joan Cusack, Bill Hader, Amy Poehler, and David Alan Grier provide the voices for this animated tale about the further adventures of Little Red Riding Hood. The sequel to the mostly forgotten 2005 film has better animation and less wit. It may be time to quit tampering with fairy-tale icons. PG * 85 minutes. (Wire review) (FP, FT, LC)

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) (SDI)

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) (FT)

Just Go With It. In order to convince the girl of his dreams that he's a family-oriented guy, a man (Adam Sandler) enlists the help of a single mother (Jennifer Aniston) and her kids. It's a rarely amusing movie overwhelmed by grating kids, unfunny sidekicks, half-hearted Sandler funny voices, and Aniston's growing fear of smiling. PG-13 * 110 minutes. (Wire review) (MIT)

Justin Bieber: Never Say Never. Filmed during the worldwide teen idol's 2010 concert tour, this documentary looks at the meteoric rise of the former YouTube celebrity. The film consists of most of Bieber's hits, snippets of home movies, and limited screen time from his mom. But as for getting to see the "real" Bieber, that's not going to happen until Bieber fever fades. In other words, not any time soon. G ** 105 minutes. (Wire review) (MIT)

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) (LC)

Madea's Big Happy Family. The tough-talking grandma (played by writer-director Tyler Perry) teams up with her equally unpredictable Aunt Bam (Cassi Davis) to help her ailing niece reunite with her three adult estranged children. It's messy and stuffed to the gills with Perry's mix of the sacred and the silly and a serious dose of self-help for the self-absorbed, and the ensemble cast is funnier than it has been in ages. PG-13 ** 1/2 105 minutes. (Wire review) (FP, FT)

Prom. A Disney family comedy about various high-school couples frantically preparing for the biggest night of their lives so far. The movie is all fluff, no edge, with a few charming moments and fewer funny ones. PG ** 103 minutes. (Wire review) (FP, FT, LC)

Rango. Johnny Depp provides the lead voice in this animated tale of an adventurous chameleon that must protect a small Western town from bandits. Timothy Olyphant, Abigail Breslin, Alfred Molina, and Ned Beatty round out the cast of this exuberant, audacious love letter to spaghetti Westerns. PG **** 107 minutes. (Wire review) (SDI)

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 use 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)

Scream 4. Eleven years after the events of the last film, surviving cast members Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, and David Arquette reunite, along with Hayden Panettiere, Anna Paquin, and Kristen Bell. After a terrific opening sequence, the film never quite finds a steady groove or much fun to leaven Ghostface's new killing spree. R ** 1/2 103 minutes. (Wire review) (FP)

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 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) (FT)

Water for Elephants. During the Great Depression, an unemployed veterinarian (Robert Pattinson) lands a job treating animals in a traveling circus, then falls in love with the wife (Reese Witherspoon) of the circus' owner (Christoph Walz). This handsome adaptation of Sara Gruen's 2006 best seller balances the colorful glitz of a three-ring spectacle with the atmospheric realism that a rich drama demands. The sideline characters are stereotypes, but the main trio is well-developed. PG-13 *** 1/2 122 minutes (Wire review) (FP, FT, LC)



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