CRYSTAL FAIRY & THE MAGICAL CACTUS (NR). Starring Michael Cera, Gaby Hoffmann and a trio of irresistibly charming Chilean brothers, the search for a slice of the famed San Pedro cactus with legendary hallucinogenic powers takes us through northern Chile’s corner of the Atacama Desert.
DESPICABLE ME 2 (PG).There’s enough here for a nice little movie. El Macho (Benjamin Bratt) is plotting his usual world domination thing when a reformed Gru (Steve Carell) is recruited to assist his capture by the Anti-Villain League led by Silas Ramsbottom (big laugh for the kiddies there). "Despicable Me 2" gains considerably from Kristen Wiig’s sing-song neuroses as AVL agent Lucy Wilde. The logical extension of Gru’s rehabilitation is finding someone who’ll make him a better man, and a partner for parenthood he never expected. Wiig and Carell would make a terrific rom-com coupling in the flesh but their voices will have to suffice for now. HH1/2 (Persall, Tampa Bay Times --7/4). 1:38.
ELYSIUM (R). Director Neill Blomkamp’s follow-up to his breakout debut hit "District 9" is another action-heavy sci-fi picture. In the near future, the world’s wealthiest 1 percent (led by Jodie Foster) will abandon our ruined planet and move into a mammoth space station orbiting Earth. The people left behind (including Matt Damon) are required to work in factories to keep the satellite running smoothly. A violent, derivative and yet thoroughly entertaining trip into the future through the lens of today. HHH (Moore, McClatchy-Tribune News Service -- 8/10). 1:42.
GROWN UPS 2 (PG-13). Basically, the sequel to the hit "Grown Ups" finds our Hollywood pal Lenny Feder (Adam Sandler), his wife (Salma Hayek) and brood moved back to his home town. That’s where childhood pal Eric (Kevin James) runs a body shop, Kurt (Chris Rock) is a cable guy, and Marcus (David Spade) has just learned he’s a deadbeat dad. Another pointless romp through Sandlerland -- where the women are buxom, the kids have catch phrases and the jokes are below average. H (Moore, McClatchy-Tribune News Service -- 7/12). 1:41.
I’M SO EXCITED (R). Spanish director Pedro Almodovar’s new film features Oscar winner Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banderas as, respectively, a luggage cart driver at a Madrid airport and a runway worker whose negligence puts a flight in danger after takeoff. The landing gear is stuck and no runways can be cleared for an emergency landing. The flight crew slips mickeys to passengers flying cheaper in coach, knocking them out for the entire movie while privileged first class passengers sweat. A flamboyantly gay trio of attendants (Javier Camara, Raul Arevalo and Carlos Areces) make it their duty to keep passengers entertained -- lip-synching the title song is a highlight -- and distracted with tequila shots, mescaline cocktails and mile high club encounters.
JOBS (PG-13). This new biopic is a "Brief History of Apple," as seen through the eyes of its co-founding genius. With Ashton Kutcher.
KICK ASS 2 (R). Coming three years after the modest success of "Kick Ass," this sequel covers much of the same ground -- Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) is no longer a pre-teen, Kick Ass himself (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) strains to look like a high school senior. Comic book / movie superhero nerd Dave Lizewski suffers terrible beatings and the mobster’s son once known as Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) rounds up a posse of evil henchmen, becomes a super villain and kills or maims scores of cops and civilians.
LEE DANIELS’ THE BUTLER (PG-13). Inspired by but not entirely based on the career of Eugene Allen, a White House servant to eight presidents during times of racial change. With Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey.
PARANOIA (PG-13). A low-level apps innovator is bribed and blackmailed into corporate espionage by one cell phone mogul into stealing from his old mentor, another mogul. With Liam Hemsworth,. Gary Oldman, Harrison Ford, Amber Heard, Richard Dreyfuss.
PERCY JACKSON: SEA OF MONSTERS (PG). Logan Lerman returns as the teenage son of Poseidon in this second adaptation of Rick Riordan’s popular fantasy novels.
PLANES (PG). A cropduster (voiced by Dane Cook) dreams of competing in a famous aerial race. Yes, it does sound an awful lot like Pixar’s "Cars," minus the Pixar. This one is just plain Disney.
THE WAY, WAY BACK (PG-13). A water park becomes the unlikely location for a gawky youth’s coming into his own over the course of a summer. The jokes are often double-edged, the performances always spot-on. You’ll see more inventive movies this year but few more endearing. With Liam Grace, Sam Rockwell, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, Amanda Peet, Rob Corddry. HHH1/2 (Persall, Tampa Bay Times -- 7/19). 1:43.
2 GUNS (R). Mark Wahlberg and Denzel Washington play a naval intelligence officer and a DEA agent, respectively, who are investigating each other, in the belief that each is stealing money from the mob. When they discover they’ve been set up -- they have, in fact, inadvertently ripped off the CIA -- they have to find a way to return the money. Too fun to notice any holes besides those being blown into people and property. Nothing succeeds like good-humored excess. HHH (Steve Persall, Tampa Bay Times -- 8/3). 1:41.
WE’RE THE MILLERS (R). In order to smuggle a large shipment of marijuana from Mexico to the United States, a pot dealer (Jason Sudeikis) hires a stripper (Jennifer Aniston) and two kids to pose as his family.