'Buck' is about overcoming fear and pain, breaking free of a cycle of suffering. It offers an example of a man who figured out how to start over and helps others to do the same. It's for those who have an "interest" in living an ethical life like Buck Brannaman. Grade A.
Butts will likely settle into seats for Michael Bay's hyper-realized 3-D action, which this time has been rendered in a slower, more drawn-out fashion for some semblance of coherence. The aim is a combination of 'Bad Boys 2' and the 'Matrix Reloaded' highway sequences, only jacked up on steroids with the resulting feelings of barely contained rage. Grade: F.
While this Pixar sequel is supposed to be a second outing for the speed-racing Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) and his tow buddy Mater (Larry the Cable Guy), launching them on the international racing circuit, in actuality it feels more like an animated 'Spy Kids' knockoff with the sidekick as the lead. Grade: D.
This warm, engaging, entertaining and award-winning documentary concerns a New Zealand singing duo — Jools and Linda Topp — with a singularly unusual background. They are middle-aged twin sisters, lesbians and in their act mix rootsy, heartfelt Folk/Country material with the creation of comic characters. Grade: B-plus.
'The Tree of Life' opens with a bit of Scripture: "Where were you when I laid the earth's foundation ... while the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy?" Where were we, indeed? That's the question that Terrence Malick's latest dares to pose and better still seeks to answer, but neither the question nor the answer matter much in the overall scheme of things. The effort is the point and purpose of the exercise, the meaning of life itself. The effort is the point and purpose of the exercise, the meaning of life itself. Grade: A.
Director Martin Campbell forgoes the urban realism of Christopher Nolan’s 'Batman' reboots and the romantic/heroic ideal of 'Superman' for the CG rendering of the otherworldly power of the Lantern and the Ring in his introduction to the origin story behind how a recklessly daring pilot named Hal Jordan (Ryan Reynolds) became the first human member of the Green Lantern Corp. Grade: D-plus.
Writer/director Gavin Wiesen's formulaic romantic comedy attempts some familiar indie-pic variations on the comeing-of-age theme but ignores the most fundamental need of the genre: Somewhere, there better be somebody you actually want to root for. Grade: C.
Loosely based on Florence
Atwater's 1938 children's book, 'Mr.
Popper's Penguins' never completely gels.
But that doesn't stop Jim Carrey from using everything in his arsenal
of comic physicality. Grade: B-.
This year marks the 30th anniversary run of the Race Across America (RAAM), a grueling bicycle endurance race that finds only the toughest and the craziest cyclists eager to risk their physical health and their psychological stamina on this 3,000-plus mile trek from California to a destination somewhere along the East Coast (generally somewhere between Maryland and New York).
Megan McDonald, the writer behind the beloved children’s series of books based on the Judy Moody character, teams up with television screenwriter Kathy Waugh and director John Schultz to bring Judy (Jordana Beatty) to life in this genuinely goofy adaptation that dares to remain faithful to its third-grade-reader roots by not pandering with inappropriate pop-cultural references to lure in teens or adults. Grade: C-plus.
Give J.J. Abrams credit for stones the size of bowling balls, because he practically gift-wraps the pike on which his science-fiction thriller 'Super 8' could be skewered. Early in the film, aspiring middle-school filmmaker Charles (Riley Griffiths) explains to his pal, Joe Lamb (Joel Courtney), why he has added new scenes to the zombie movie they're shooting with Charles' Super-8 camera. It can't be just about the creatures, Charles quotes from the screenwriting books he's been brushing up on; you have to care about the characters, so that you want them to live. Grade: B.
Midnight in Paris is a love letter to the city at night and the nostalgia for bygone days, but it realizes, even as it celebrates these elements, especially the past, that there is a trap in falling for the romance and old-fashioned romantic notions. Nostalgia, we are told, is denial of the present, the harsh realities, the swift movement forward that actually obliterates the now and seeks to erase everything that has come before.
Brilliantly constructed from the bountiful narrative fabric of Wajdi Mouawad's complex stage play about a familial legacy passed down from a mother to her fraternal twins, 'Incendies' is one of the most powerful dramas ever conceived. Grade: A.