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Published: Thursday, 7/7/2011

Movie reviews: 7-7

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.

Bad Teacher. Cameron Diaz gets in touch with her bad side in this raunchy comedy about an alcoholic, drug-using party animal marking time as a teacher as she tries to snare a wealthy husband. Diaz is funny, but she can't erase the movie's slow spots or uneven tone. R ** 1/2 89 min. (Wire review) (FP, FT, LC)

Cars 2. Lightning McQueen heads to the first-ever World Grand Prix race. On the way, his best friend, the tow truck Mater, is mistaken for a secret agent. Though by no mean a wreck, this Pixar sequel is a disappointment, putting the spotlight on Mater as a country bumpkin bumbling his way through a sophisticated world. G ** 113 min. (Baird) (Fox, FP, FT, LC, SDI)

Green Lantern. Ryan Reynolds is a cocky test pilot who is recruited to join a galactic police force known as the Green Lanterns. Once part of the corps, he must stop an evil force known as Parallax, which feeds on fear. Reynolds is the perfect choice to play Green Lantern, though the film bottles up much of his smart-aleck charm. Other problems: The story is a mess, the CGI unconvincing, and some big-name actors are wasted, including Tim Robbins and Angela Bassett. PG-13 ** 105 min. (Baird) (FP, FT, LC)

Larry Crowne. Tom Hanks directed, co-wrote, and stars in this mess of a comedy about a middle-aged guy forced to reinvent himself after a divorce and job layoff. He enrolls in a community college, where he meets an instructor (Julia Roberts) who is merely going through the motions of her job on top of marriage issues of her own. Corny jokes abound, including gags about cell phones, scooters, and Star Trek. PG-13 * 99 minutes. (Baird) (FP, FT, LC)

Midnight in Paris. Woody Allen's romantic comedy is a tale of Americans who travel to Paris for business and have their lives transformed by the magical city. With an appealing cast, it is Allen's warmest, mellowest, and funniest venture in far too long. PG-13 **** 94 min. (Wire review) (FP, LC)

Mr. Popper's Penguins. Jim Carrey stars in this adaptation of the 1939 Newbery Award-winning children's book about a businessman who has lost sight of the important things in life. When he inherits six penguins, they turn his swanky New York apartment into a winter wonderland and the rest of his life upside-down. The film is little more than another slice off a very stale loaf, but it's earnest, benign, and sometimes funny. PG ** 95 min. (Wire review) (Fox, FP, FT, LC, SDI)

Monte Carlo. Three gal-pals (Selena Gomez, Leighton Meester, and Katie Cassidy) go on vacation to Paris, where Gomez is mistaken for a famous British heiress. Instead of telling the truth, the friends decide to see how the other half lives. The old-fashioned mistaken-identity comedy is filled with cliches and leaden humor, and Gomez, supposedly the star, is too young to compete with the grown women who are her costars. PG * 1/2 109 min. (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 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) (MIT)

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) (MIT)

Super 8. This monster movie masquerading as an early Steven Spielberg work is set in 1979, when a train wreck lets something mysterious loose on the fictional town of Lillian, Ohio. First the military shows up to investigate the accident, then residents begin to vanish, leaving a group of teens who filmed the wreck scrambling to uncover the truth. Writer-director J.J. Abrams is a gifted storyteller, but he's no Spielberg (who produced), and Super 8 lacks the magic of classics such as Jaws, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial. PG-13 ** 112 min. (Baird) (FP, 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) (MIT)

Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Shia LaBeouf again stars in and Michael Bay directs the third Transformers film, and shock of shocks, it's fun. There are enough holes in logic and plot to drive an Autobot through, and dialogue is meaningless, but the movie delivers where it counts -- action and effects -- and is unrelenting in its goal to be this summer's biggest, baddest crowd-pleaser. PG-13 *** 1/2 157 min. (Baird) (Fox, FP, FT, LC, SDI)

Water for Elephants. During the Great Depression, a veterinary student (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 hokey stereotypes, but the main trio is well-developed. PG-13 *** 1/2 122 minutes (Wire review) (MIT)

X-Men: First Class successfully reboots the franchise with an origins story set in the early 1960s of friends-turned-rivals Professor X and Magneto when they were still known as Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) and Eric Lehnsherr (Michael Fassbender). The pair lead a young team of mutants against a villainous band led by the powerful mutant Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon). Director Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass) assembles a strong cast and a pretty good script, with Brian Singer welcomed back as the franchise's guiding force. PG-13 *** 1/2 132 min. (Baird) (FP)



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