Jennifer Lawrence portrays Katniss Everdeen in a scene from "The Hunger Games."
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Summaries are condensed from Blade or wire 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 Amazing Spider-Man. The biggest obstacle facing The Amazing Spider-Man is that we are still living with the memories of the first Spider-Man movie from only a decade ago. Yet we sit through Spider-Man's origin story again, this time played by a brooding Andrew Garfield, as the nerdy Peter Parker who is bullied in high school, becomes Spider-Man, falls in love (Emma Stone as Gwen Stacy), and battles a mad scientist-turned monster (Rhys Ifans). This new Spider-Man, directed by Marc Webb, may be improved as far as effects, but it's hardly new, and there really isn't anything amazing about it either. In 3-D at select locations. PG-13 ** 1/2 136 min. (Baird) (FP, LC, FT, SDI)
Brave. Girl power finally makes it to Pixar with Brave, a charming and entertaining CG fable featuring a teenage princess in 10th-Century Scotland. Stubborn Merida (Kelly Macdonald) yearns for independence from her royal duties, while her Queen Mother (Emma Thomson) prefers she stick to tradition. A poor decision by Merida affects her mother and family in a horrifying way, forcing the teen to accept responsibility for her mistakes and to work with her mother to correct them. In 3-D at select theaters. R **** 100 min. (Baird) (FP, LC, FT)
The Dark Knight Rises. Batman (Christian Bale) has been absent nearly a decade while years of crime fighting have taken a physical toll on billionaire Bruce Wayne. But when a terrifying new villain Bane (Tom Hardy) paralyzes Gotham with threats to blow it up, only the Dark Knight can stop him. Filmmaker Christopher Nolan empties himself of everything for the conclusion to his Batman trilogy. It's an overly long and grim affair, that also happens to be the most ambitious superhero film ever put to screen. If Nolan's film is a misfire, then it's a spectacular one. In 3-D at select locations. PG-13 **** 165 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) (MIT)
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) (MIT)
Ice Age: Continental Drift. Manny, Diego, and Sid embark upon their greatest adventure after cataclysm sets an entire continent adrift. Separated from the rest of the herd, they use an iceberg as a makeshift ship, which launches them on an epic seafaring quest. The gang is challenged like never before as they encounter exotic sea creatures, explore a brave new world, and battle ruthless pirates. Scrat's reunion with his beloved but cursed acorn catapults him to places no prehistoric squirrel has gone before. In 3-D at select locations. PG *** 94 min. (Wire review) (FP, LC, FT, SDI)
Madea's Witness Protection. A Wall Street investment banker who has been set up as the linchpin of his company's mob-backed Ponzi scheme is relocated with his family to Aunt Madea's southern home. PG-13 * 1/2 114 min. Wire review) (FP)
Magic Mike. If nothing else, the make stripper comedy-drama Magic Mike proves that Channing Tatum can act. Of course, the chiseled 32-year-old actor was a stripper before his movie career, so he's essentially playing himself as a veteran male dancer who takes on a young protege (Alex Pettyfer), with the help of the club's owner (Matthew McConaughey). Steven Soderbergh directed Magic Mike, and it has the usual Soderbergh hallmark: a low-budget and intimate indie vibe. It's also funny, dark, and surprisingly fun as a backstage peak at the world of male strip clubs. R *** 110 min. (Baird) (FP, LC, FT, SDI)
Moonrise Kingdom. Set on an island off the coast of New England in the summer of 1965, two 12-year-olds fall in love, make a secret pact, and run away together into the wilderness. As various authorities try to hunt them down, a violent storm is brewing off-shore -- and the peaceful island community is turned upside down in more ways than anyone can handle. PG-13 ***** 93 min. (Wire review) (LC)
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) (MIT)
Savages. Oliver Stone's new film about American ingenuity, Mexican drug cartels, corrupt officials, ex-military assassins, and a three-way relationship shows the director to be in top form again. Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson star as best friends-turned successful Southern California pot dealers, and Blake Lively is their shared girlfriend who is kidnapped by the leader of Mexico's top drug cartel (Salma Hayek) who has problems of her own: a disapproving daughter and a rebellious enforcer (Benicio Del Toro). Savages is violent, twisty, engaging, and, given its director, surprisingly free of distracting political commentary. R *** 1/2 130 min. (Baird) (FP, FT)
Ted. John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) is a grown man who must deal with the cherished teddy bear who came to life as the result of a childhood wish ... and has refused to leave his side ever since. Ted is Seth MacFarlane's movie directoral debut. R *** 106 min. (Wire review) (FP, LC, FT)