Friday May 11, 2012

DAMSELS IN DISTRESS (PG-13). A group of college women try to mask their personal terrors through altruistic acts. But these elements are wedded to flat scenes, weak characters and a disjointed and almost nonexistent narrative. H (LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle -- 5/7). 1:39.

DARK SHADOWS (PG-13). Johnny Depp and director Tim Burton adapt the creepy TV soap opera featuring a 200-year-old vampire. Review, D3

DR. SEUSS' THE LORAX (PG). A furry orange creature tries to stop an enterprising man from cutting down Truffula trees -- the key resource for his new invention, a soft and multipurpose thing called a Thneed. Despite the fact that the film ex ploits few of the book's loopy rhymes and loopier neo-Seussisms, the whole thing is harmless. HH1/2 (Biancolli, Houston Chronicle -- 3/5). 1:26.

FOOTNOTE (PG). A prestigious award, intended for one scholar, is mistakenly bestowed on another. Trouble ensues. Deftly turning the law of inverse proportions on its head Amertican-born Israeli director Joseph Cedar spins a committee-room squabble into something authentically grand: a piercing satire, a poignant family drama and an investigation of the competing claims of honesty, loyalty, ambition and love. Really, the stakes could hardly be higher. (Scott, New York Times -- 4/ 23). 1:45.

MARVEL'S THE AVENGERS (PG-13). Iron Man, Captain America, The Hulk, Thor, the leather-clad assassin Black Widow, the lethal archer Hawkeye and the superheroes' one-eyed wrangler, Nick Fury, bunch together in the service of defeating Thor's malevolent brother, the god Loki, who hails from the interstellar world known as Asgard, and who yearns to conquer Earth with an all-powerful blue energy cube called the Tesseract. Essentially an extended action sequence interrupted by an extended soul search in the middle. Director Joss Whedon is both a wiseacre and a sincere devotee of Marvels' durable, malleable ensemble of lugs and indestructibles. "The Avengers' is both a culminator and a set-up for more, more, more. With Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Tom Hiddleston, Samuel L. Jackson, Stellan Skarsgard. HHH (Phillips, Chicago Tribune -- 5/4). 2:22.

MONSIEUR LAZHAR (NR). An Algerian immigrant in Montreal appears as if by magic in a grade-school administrator's office and is hired to take over a class whose students are frozen in grief following their teacher's suicide. Review, D5

SAFE (R). As Luke Wright, Jason Statham goes up against a triumvirate of Russian mobsters, Chinese bad guys and dirty New York cops, in an effort to save the life of a young Chinese girl who's valued by the villains because of her mathematical skills.

SMALL, BEAUTIFULLY MOVING PARTS (NR). A pregnant computer technician and gadget freak living in New York goes to Los Angeles for a baby shower hosted by her sister that winds up straining her emotional resources.. With Anna Margaret Hollyman, Andre Holland, Sarah Raf ferty, Mary Beth Peil, Richard Hoag.

THE ARTIST (PG-13). Michel Hazan a vicius' black-and-white, near-wordless film is a loving, irresistibly charming ode to a long-ago movie era that not only summons the dormant conventions of silent movie making, but makes them dance again. Jean Dujardin stars as silent film star George Valentin, a kind of Douglas Fairbanks, swashbuckling matinee idol. He (along with his on- and off-screen sidekick Jack Russell terrier) is the toast of Hollywood, but the good times are soon to end: The Talkies are coming. Kinograph Stu dios head Al Zimmer (John Good man) transitions to sound films with new, talking stars. Among them is Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo), whose ascent mirrors Valentin's fall. HHH (Coyle, Associated Press -- 1/26). 1:40.

THE DICTATOR (R). Sacha Baron Cohen outdoes Castro with his wild beard in this comedy about a tyrant battling for untruth, injustice and the totalitarian way.

THE DICTATOR (R). Sacha Baron Cohen outdoes Castro with his wild beard in this comedy about a tyrant battling for untruth, injustice and the totalitarian way.

THE FIVE-YEAR ENGAGEMENT (R). A sous chef (Jason Segel) at an upscale San Francisco restaurant, proposes to his girlfriend (Emily Blunt) on the one-year anniversary of the night they met: New Year's Eve. But as they're planning their wedding, she gets accepted to the University of Michigan to study for her doctorate in psychology, so they postpone their big day for the first of many times. This is one of those movies you badly want to like more than you do. But it squanders its charms by dragging out the couple's happy ending for what seems like much longer than five years. You just want to tell these two people to get married already -- we can tell that these two are meant to live happily ever after. HH (Macdonald, Seattle Times -- 4/30). 2:03.

THE HUNGER GAMES (PG-13). The first of four films based on Suzanne Collins' hugely popular literary trilogy set in a totalitarian North America a century or so from now in which 24 teens are selected annually to fight to the death before a national television audience. The film earns its PG-13 rating honestly. The killings mean something in emotional terms and are meant to have cumulative effect on the crafty, stoical heroine, Katniss Everdeen, played by Jennifer Lawrence with ferocity and purpose. With Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth, Wes Bentley, Stanley Tucci, Toby Jones, Donald Sutherland, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks. HHH (Phillips, Chicago Tribune -- 3/22). 2:22.

THE KID WITH A BIKE (PG-13). Convinced it will help him put his life back in order, an 11-year-old boy runs away from the state-run boys home where his unemployed father has left him in search of his bicycle. When he finds it, he literally grabs on to a stranger to keep the authorities from taking him back. A wonderfully human and humane story about none of those lost-and-found children who tend to slip through society's not-so-safe safety net. In French, with English subtitles. (Sharkey, Los Angeles Timese -- 4/20). 1:27.

THE LUCKY ONE (PG-13). Zac Efron stars as a U.S. Marine sergeant who tracks down a beautiful woman (Taylor Schilling) whose photograph he believes saved his life in Iraq. Based on the best-selling novel by Nicholas Sparks, so you know what you're getting and Sparks delivers. The leads' chemistry is more theoretical than actual. Still, the sunsets and sunrises and sunbeams through the window fall easily on the eyes. HH (Phillips, Chicago Tribune -- 4/20). 1:41.

THE PIRATES! BAND OF MISFITS (PG). Accompanied by a rag-trag crew, an eager pirate captain sails the Seven Seas, determined to vanquish his rivals in an effort to be named Pirate of the Year. A cheeky mix of computer graphics and stop-motion animated high jinks. With the voices of Hugh Grant, Salma Hayek, Brendan Gleason, Jeremy Piven, David Tennant. HHHH (Biancolli, Houston Chronicle -- 4/27). 1:28.

THE RAVEN (R). Edgar Allan Poe is enlisted by a Baltimore police detective (Luke Evans) to help solve a string of killings inspired by the author's macabre stories. Director James McTeigue and his colleagues peck at Poe's stories to fill out a plot that sounds sort of cool in concept but is featherheaded in execution. John Cusack makes a terrible Poe. With his little goatee and his black cape, Cusack vaguely looks the part, but he's a lightweight. The filmmakers make poor use of their source material, wringing a few moments of gore from them while adding no suspense or originality of their own. H1/2 (Germain, Associated Press -- 4/30). 1:40.

THE THREE STOOGES (PG). The Farrelly Brothers ("Dumb and Dumber," "There's Something About Mary") bring back the depression-era knuckleheads in a new feature film that finds the trio trying to raise money to save the orphanage in which they were raised. A retro exercise that is little more than a stare-out-loud cover-band project. With Sean Hayes, Chris Diamontopoulos, Will Sasso. HH (Phillips, Chicago Tribune -- 4/16). 1:32.

THINK LIKE A MAN (PG-13), Four men (Michael Ealy, Jerry Ferrera, Terrence Jenkins, Romany Malco) turn the tables on their significant others (Taraji P. Henson, Gabrielle Union, Regina Hall, Meagan Good) when they discover the women have been using Steve Harvey's relationship advice book against them.