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Published: Thursday, 5/24/2012

Movie reviews: 5-24

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 Avengers not only matches the hype, it exceeds it. Written and directed by longtime comic-book fan Josh Whedon, The Avengers soars with a clever script that offers plenty of big-budget action as Earth's Mightiest Heroes team up to save the world from an evil demigod and an alien warrior race out to conquer Earth. Every superhero has more than a few spotlight moments on screen, and Whedon's zippy one-liners maintain the film's energy and fun during breaks between the CGI mayhem. The Avengers is Marvel's new flagship comic-book movie franchise, and the gold standard for popcorn entertainment this summer. Starring Robert Downey, Jr., Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Hemsworth, Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, and Tom Hiddleston. In 3-D at select locations. PG-13 142 min. (Baird) (FP, LC, FT, SDI)

Battleship. Inspired by Hasbro's classic naval combat game, Battleship, a fleet of ships is forced to do battle with an armada of unknown origins in order to discover and thwart their destructive goals. PG-13 * 131 min. (Wire review) (FP, LC, FT, SDI)

Chimpanzee. The world is a playground for little Oscar and his fellow young chimps, who'd rather make mayhem than join their parents for an afternoon nap. But when Oscar's family is confronted by a rival band of chimps, he is left to fend for himself until a surprising ally steps in and changes his life forever. G *** 1/2 78 min. (Wire review) (FT)

Dark Shadows. Based on the cult supernatural soap opera from the 1960s and directed by Tim Burton, Dark Shadows looks like every Burton film: dark, creepy, and with a meticulous eye for detail. The film features a strong cast, led by Johnny Depp as vampire Barnabas Collins, returned from 200 years of imprisonment to the year 1972 to battle the witch that cursed him (Eva Green), and Michelle Pfeiffer as the matriarch of the Collins family. Dark Shadows is inconsistent in tone and message, offering an uneven mix of humor, drama, and campy homage. The film is never consistently funny, its plot too ridiculous to be taken seriously, and the nostalgia-for-laughs gags reduced to lame jokes about band names and Lava Lamps. PG-13 ** 1/2 113 min. (Baird) (FP, LC, FT, SDI)

The Dictator. Sacha Baron Cohen takes on a new role -- and a scripted one at that -- in the funny and occasionally political comedy The Dictator. Cohen plays Admiral General Aladeen, dictator of the fictional North African country of the Republic of Wadiya, who, while visiting New York, falls victim to a coup. Unrecognized and penniless, Aladeen relies on the help of a super-liberal organic vegetable store owner (Anna Faris) to regain his rule. While The Dictator is not the equal to Cohen's brilliant Borat, this fish-out-of-water comedy features clever (and raunchy) jokes that poke fun at Middle Eastern and Western cultures, governments, and even 9-11 . R *** 1/2 84 min. (Baird) (FP, LC, FT)

The Hunger Games. Set in a future where the Capitol selects a boy and girl from the twelve districts to fight to the death on live television, 16-year-old Katniss Everdeen volunteers to take her younger sister's place for the latest match. If she's ever to return home, Katniss must make impossible choices in the arena that weigh survival against humanity and life against love. PG-13 **** 142 min. (Wire review) (FP, FT)

John Carter. War-weary, former military captain John Carter is inexplicably transported to Mars where he becomes reluctantly embroiled in a conflict of epic proportions amongst the inhabitants of the planet. In a world on the brink of collapse, Carter rediscovers his humanity when he realizes that the survival of the people rests in his hands. In 3-D at select theaters. PG-13 ** 139 min. (Wire review) (MIT)

The Lorax. This is an adaptation of Dr. Seuss' classic tale of a forest creature who shares the enduring power of hope. The animated adventure follows the journey of a boy as he searches for the one thing that will enable him to win the affection of the girl of his dreams. To find it he must discover the story of the Lorax, the grumpy yet charming creature who fights to protect his world. In 3-D at select locations. PG *** 95 min. (Wire review) (MIT)

Mirror Mirror. A fresh and funny retelling of the Snow White legend, Mirror Mirror features breakout star Lily Collins as Snow White, a princess in exile, and Julia Roberts as the evil Queen who ruthlessly rules her captured kingdom. Seven courageous rebel dwarfs join forces with Snow White as she fights to reclaim her birthright and win her Prince in this magical comedy filled with jealousy, romance, and betrayal. PG ** 1/2 106 min. (Wire review) (MIT)

The Pirates: Band of Misfits. Filmmakers Peter Lord and Jeff Newitt never met a pirate pun they didn't like. And if they have, they certainly didn't bother to include it in their new animated film, The Pirates! Band of Misfits. Based on a series of humorous books by Gideon Defoe, who also wrote the screenplay, The Pirates! Band of Misfits is the tale of the Pirate Captain who desperately wants to win the coveted Pirate of the Year award. The film has jokes for kids and adults, and offers a spectacular blend of claymation and CGI. Featuring the voices of Hugh Grant as Pirate Captain and Martin Freeman as his first mate, with cameos by Jeremy Piven and Salma Hayek as rival pirate captains. PG *** 88 min. (Baird) (FP, LC)

What to Expect When You're Expecting. A look at love through the eyes of five interconnected couples experiencing the thrills and surprises of having a baby, and ultimately coming to understand the universal truth that no matter what you plan for, life doesn't always deliver what's expected. PG-13 ** 1/2 110 min. (Wire review) (FP, LC, FT)

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