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Published: Thursday, 9/22/2011

Movie reviews: 9-22

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.

Colombiana. A young woman has grown up to be an assassin after witnessing the murder of her parents as a child. Turning herself into a professional killer and working for her uncle, she remains focused on her ultimate goal: to hunt down and get revenge on the mobster responsible for her parents' deaths. PG-13 *** 107 min. (Wire review) (FP, Fox)

Contagion. An A-list cast that includes Matt Damon, Marion Cotillard, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Gwyneth Paltrow and Bryan Cranston star in this thriller about the outbreak of a deadly virus and the CDC's efforts to contain it. PG-13 *** 1/2 106 min. (Baird) (FP, LC, FT, SDI)

Crazy, Stupid, Love. Steve Carell plays a happily married Cal, whose world unravels when he finds out his high school sweetheart wife (Julianne Moore) wants a divorce. The comedy hits a bull's-eye with a plot that's romantic, touching, a little risque, and reassuringly down-to-earth. PG-13 **** 118 min. (Wire review) (FT)

The Debt. The espionage thriller begins in 1997, as shocking news reaches retired Mossad secret agents Rachel and Stefan about their former colleague David. All three have been venerated for decades by their country because of the mission that they undertook back in 1966, when the trio tracked down Nazi war criminal Vogel in East Berlin. At great risk, and at considerable personal cost, the team's mission was accomplished - or was it? R *** 113 min. (Wire review) (LC)

Don't Be Afraid of the Dark. While architect Alex Hurst and his girlfriend Kim restore their Gothic mansion's period interiors, Alex's young daughter Sally can investigate the macabre history and dark corners of the estate. Spurring Sally's investigation are the raspy whispers who call out to her from the basement, who promise her understanding and friendship, who are so very hungry and would like to be set free. When Sally gives in to her curiosity, she opens a gateway into a hellish underworld. R, ** 100 min. (Baird) (FT)

Drive. A Hollywood stunt man (Ryan Gosling) moonlighting as a getaway driver for the criminal underworld is targeted for execution after a bungled heist. Carey Mulligan co-stars as a young mother who is caught in the crossfire. Albert Brooks is the murderous mob boss on their trail. (wire review) R 100 min. **** (FP, LC, FT)

The Guard. An unorthodox Irish policeman (Brendan Gleeson) with a confrontational personality is teamed up with an uptight FBI agent (Don Cheadle) to investigate an international drug-smuggling ring (wire review). R 96 min. *** 1/2 (LC)

The Help. Set in Mississippi during the 1960s, Emma Stone stars as a southern society girl who returns from college determined to become a writer, but turns her friends' lives -- and a small Mississippi town -- upside down when she decides to interview the black women, led by Viola Davis, who have spent their lives taking care of prominent southern families. PG-13 *** 1/2 138 min. (Wire review) (FP, FT, LC)

I Don't Know How She Does It. Sarah Jessica Parker finds out if there's life after Sex and the City with this adaptation of Allison Pearson's bestseller about a career woman trying to balance her job with her recently downsized husband (Greg Kinnear), their two children and the romantic advances of a co-worker (Pierce Brosnan). (wire review) PG-13 95 min. ** (FP, LC, FT, SDI)

The Lion King 3D. The Disney animated classic returns, only this time it's in your face. G 89 min. (FP, LC, FT)

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. PG ** 95 min. (Wire review) (MIT)

Rise of the Planet of the Apes. This story about the origins of the film franchise is a reality-based cautionary tale. James Franco plays a scientist who conducts experiments on the intelligence of apes and pushes things a bit too far. The animals suddenly become too smart for mankind's good - and decide they want to take over. PG-13 *** 1/2 110 min. (Wire review) (FP)

Shark Night 3D. Newly arrived at her family's lake-island cabin, college student Sara and her friends prepare for a weekend of fun in the sun. But soon after they dive into the lake, football player Malik stumbles out of the water with a grievous wound. Thinking Malik is the victim of a freak accident, the friends pile into a tiny speedboat and head for the hospital. To their horror, they discover that they are surrounded by hundreds of massive, hungry sharks. PG-13 *95 min. (Wire review) (FP, FT)

The Smurfs. Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays, Sofia Vergara, and Hank Azaria share the screen with the computer-animated little blue people, who are chased from their village by the evil Gargamel and wind up in our world -- right in the middle of Central Park. The family-friendly film has brains, heart, and style, which will endear it to adults as well as youngsters. PG *** 86 min. (Wire review) (Fox)

Spy Kids: All the Time in the World. A retired spy is called back into action, and to bond with her new step-children, she invites them along for the adventure to stop the evil Timekeeper from taking over the world. PG * 100 min. (Wire review) (FT, Fox)

Straw Dogs. David and Amy Summer, a Hollywood screenwriter and his actress wife, return to her small hometown in the deep South to prepare the family home for sale after her father's death. Once there, tensions build in their marriage and old conflicts reemerge with the locals, including Amy's ex-boyfriend Charlie, leading to a violent confrontation. (wire review) R 105 min. *** 1/2 (FP, LC, FT)

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 holes in logic and plot big enough 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 crowd-pleaser. PG-13 *** 1/2 157 min. (Baird) (MIT)

Warrior. The Oscar buzz has begun for this "Rocky"-like drama about two brothers (Joel Edgerton and Tom Hardy) competing for the title of mixed martial arts world champion. Nick Nolte co-stars as the two men's father for director Gavin O'Connor ("Pride and Glory," ''Miracle"). PG-13 * * * 1/2 139 min. (Wire review) (FP, LC, FT)

Zookeeper. When an animal-loving caretaker (Kevin James) realizes he's more comfortable in the company of a lion than that of a woman, he decides he must make a career change and quits his beloved job. But the animals at the zoo (voiced by Cher, Adam Sandler, Nick Nolte, and Sylvester Stallone) try to get him to change his mind by teaching him the ways of courtship -- jungle style. James may not make audiences believe animals can talk, but with slapstick and sincerity, he makes the film work anyway. PG ** 104 minutes. (Wire review) (MIT)



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