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Published: Thursday, 5/12/2011

Movie reviews: 5-12

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 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) (MIT)

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)

Jumping the Broom. Two families from different socioeconomic backgrounds must find a way to get along when they attend a wedding on Martha's Vineyard. Angela Bassett, Paula Patton, and Mike Epps are some of the folks attending the ceremony in this comedy that plays like a Tyler Perry movie, only with polish. PG-13 *** 113 minutes. (Wire review) (FP, FT, LC)

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) (SDI)

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)

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)

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) (FP, FT, LC)

Something Borrowed. After a night of too much partying, a lonely hearts attorney (Ginnifer Goodwin) gets lucky with the guy she's had a crush on since college (Colin Egglesfield). The only problem: He's engaged to marry her best friend (Kate Hudson). The characters are so ill-defined or unlikable, it's hard to care whether they get out of this tricky situation. PG-13 * 1/2 103 minutes. (Wire review) (FP, FT, LC)

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)

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)

Thor. As the movie debut of the mythological god with the hammer of thunder, Thor falls somewhere in the middle of the pack of comic-book adaptations. Chris Hemsworth excels as the title character, having the look of a Norse god and the sly wink to pull off some of the film's surprising comedic moments. His impressive work on camera, though, is often upstaged by director Kenneth Branagh's clumsy failure behind it. Thor is a should-have-been superhero film of mostly unrealized potential. PG-13 ** 1/2 130 minutes. (Baird) (Fox, FP, FT, LC, SDI)

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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