You don't have to give 2 cents about Heavy Metal music to appreciate Sacha Gervasi's joyous and touching documentary about charismatic Canadian musicians Steve "Lips" Kudlow and Robb Reiner, who for 35 years have held onto their dream of making it big with their Rock band Anvil. It's an unforgettable documentary about loyalty, values and an undying commitment to music. Grade A.
Writer/director Dito Montiel drops down a few rungs after his promising debut, 'A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints,' with an undernourished drama about small-town fighter Shawn MacArthur (Channing Tatum) who comes to Manhattan where he meets two-bit hustler Harvey Boarden (Terrence Howard). Grade B-.
Based on a politically charged BBC miniseries, 'State of Play' moves the action from the House of Parliament to Washington, D.C., where the suspicious death of a congressman's co-worker mistress underlines the desperate state of newspaper journalism in America. Russell Crowe, looking considerably older these days, plays Cal McAffrey, a veteran Washington Post-styled reporter with close ties to the congressman. Grade: C.
The genius here is the way the film pulls you into the character of Ronnie Barnhardt (Seth Rogen) — he just wants to be loved — and then pushes the audience away with his repellent behavior. That there are no likable characters in the story, save one, adds to a real sense of mall social miasma where Ronnie earns likeability points for at least having some personality, even if that persona is completely deranged. Grade A.
Writer/director Tony Gilroy ('Michael Clayton') runs his ship aground with a smarty-pants crime romance set amid the world of corporate espionage. Stars Clive Owen, Julia Roberts, Tom Wilkinson and Paul Giamatti all look great on the big screen, but that hardly makes 'Duplicity' anything more than a barely watchable crime thriller. Grade: C-.
'Confusions of a Shopaholic' would be a more accurate title for this garish romantic comedy that wants to have its thematic cake and eat it too when it comes to inveterate shopper Rebecca Bloomwood (Isla Fisher). Distilled from Sophie Kinsella's first two novels, the film struggles to mitigate the importance of dressing in designer fashions for Rebecca's new high-profile job with the necessity of fiscal responsibility. Grace C-.
Destined to be called the "Jennifer movie" because it stars Jennifer Aniston, Jennifer Connelly and Ginnifer Goodwin, the story grinds gears between a series of bumpy subplots rather than fully developed set pieces. From its lack of comic timing and romantic suspense, it's clear that none of the filmmakers has ever seen a Woody Allen movie. Grade: C-
The ever-capable Liam Neeson takes a well-earned payday as a retired CIA agent whose 17-year-old daughter is kidnapped by Albanian sex traffickers. Ham-fisted screenwriting over-establishes his desperation at winning his daughter's affection before he gets to use his specialized set of spy skills that will impose a hearty body count on his rescue and revenge quest around Paris. Grade C.
Based on Cornelia Funke's 2003 fantasy novel for kids, director Ian Softley ('The Wings of the Dove') makes a half-hearted adaptation that's further diminished by Brendon Fraser's signature Boy Scout performance as Mo Flochart. Grace: C-