Friday August 17, 2012

BEASTS OF THE SOUTHERN WILD (PG-13). The fictional tale of a 6-year-old girl named Hushpuppy and her struggle for survival in the southern Delta with her ailing father as a storm approaches. This damply poetic debut film explores the fertile and terrifying world of a child's imagination which knows no sealed barrier cleaving reality from fantasy. The film is its own beast, and it's a rare one. HHHH (Biancolli, Houston Chronicle -- 8/4). 1:33.

DIARY OF A WIMPY KID: DOG DAYS (PG). The hapless hero (Zachary Gordon) of the best-selling books stumbles through trouble over summer vacation. The series' best so far. HHH (Biancolli, Hiuston Chjrinicxle -- 8/4). 1:34.

HOPE SPRINGS (PG-13). Meryl Streep and Tommy Lee Jones are a long-married couple trying to renew the spark with a counselor (Steve Carell). You've never seen Streep and Jones like this -- by turns silly, befuddled, awkward and confused -- and this comedy is all the richer for it. HHH (Moore, McClatchy Newspapers -- 8/8). 1:50.

HYSTERIA (R). This stylistic romantic comedy stars Maggie Gyllenhaal as the late 19th century social reformer daughter of a London doctor whose successful treatment of society ladies diagnosed with various forms of hysteria has led to a thriving practice and extremely strong word-of-mouth. With Hugh Dancy, Jonathan Pryce.

ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT (PG). When the Earth's tectonic plates start shifting, the breaking land separates Manny, Diego and Sid from the rest of the clan, sending them out to sea on an iceberg. There, they encounter -- what else? -- a villainous pirate orangutan. The dialogueless peanuts-and-pratfall antics of the squirrel-rat Scat prove the charm in a film that is otherwise overstuffed with loud action scenes and the yammer of celebrity voices. HH (Coyle, Associated Press -- 7/14). 1:27.

PARANORMAN (PG). This animated comedy centers on a boy who can speak with the dead and becomes the last hope of his hometown after it's overrun by zombies.

SPARKLE (PG-13). Whitney Houston's final movie role features the late singer as mom to a girl group (including "American Idol" winner Jordin Sparks) struggling with the pressures of fame.

TED (R). A teddy bear come to life is every boy's dream -- until the thing sticks around into the kid's adult years. Mark Wahlberg stars in this comedy from Seth MacFarlane ("Family Guy"). Deeply juvenile and profoundly surreal. HH1/2 (Biancolli, Houston Chronicle -- 7/4). 1:46.

THE BOURNE LEGACY (PG-13). The spirit of lethal operative Jason Bourne lives on, minus Matt Damon, with Jeremy Renner at the center of fallout from the first three action hits. The franchise has found a compelling new hero in Aaron Cross and a commanding performer in Renner. It's possible Renner's Cross, a former U.S.soldier presumed dead, has an even more haunting skill set than Bourne. Consider him and the new movie Bourne 2.0. With Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Stacy Keach. HHH1/2 (Kennedy, Denver Post -- 8/11). 2:05.

THE BOURNE LEGACY (PG-13). The spirit of lethal operative Jason Bourne lives on, minus Matt Damon, with Jeremy Renner at the center of fallout from the first three action hits. The franchise has found a compelling new hero in Aaron Cross and a commanding performer in Renner. It's possible Renner's Cross, a former U.S.soldier presumed dead, has an even more haunting skill set than Bourne. Consider him and the new movie Bourne 2.0. With Rachel Weisz, Edward Norton, Stacy Keach. HHH1/2 (Kennedy, Denver Post -- 8/11). 2:05.

THE CAMPAIGN (R). This comedy pits Will Ferrell against Zach Galifianakis as two political rivals for whom no trick is too dirty as they compete for a North Carolina Congressional seat. Like its stars, the film seems to be two forces, in this case two movies, battling against one another, leaving its audience wondering which will win out. One is a genuinely funny political satire; the other is a typical low-rent comedy filled with poop jokes, raunch and little kids saying improbably dirty things. The first movie wins, but just barely. HH (Macdonald, Seattle Times -- 8/11). 1:37.

THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (PG-13). The masked vigilante Batman must save Gotham City from dangerous new threats, including the mysterious villain Bane. For about half its running time, it's reasonably entertaining, but the other half -- inevitably the second half -- is something of a slog. The movie is self-important but with little ultimate importance, and sentimental without much in the way of human feeling. But it has its moments -- at 165 minutes it had better -- plus Anne Hathaway, enjoyable throughout as the movie's nicely reimagined Catwoman. With Christian Bale, Tom Hardy, Gary Oldman, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Marion Cotillard. HH (LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle -- 7/20). 2:45.

THE EXPENDABLES 2 (R). Action heroes crowd the screen again as Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li and friends seek vengeance after a mission goes wrong. With Bruce Willis, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Dolph Lundgren.

THE ODD LIFE OF TIMOTHY GREEN (PG). A childless couple sets down on paper the qualities they would want in a perfect child and bury the list in their garden only to have the 10-year-old boy of their dreams mysteriously materialize and take his place in their home and lives. A very pretty movie to look at but beneath the pretty pictures is a stab at Capra-corn, the sort of magical story of simple, genuine people mastered by Frank Capra in such films as "It's a Wonderful Life" and "Meet John Doe." Sadly, this is all corn and no Capra. With Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgertgon, CJ Adams. HH (Germain, Associated Press -- 8/15). 1:44.

TOTAL RECALL (PG-13). Colin Farrell steps into Arnold Schwarzenegger's sci-fi role as an average guy on the run who uncovers a secret identity even he didn't know about. For all its dazzlingly rendered cityscapes and nonstop action, this revamped "Total Recall" is a bland thing -- bloodless, airless, humorless, featureless. With Kate Beckinsale, Bryan Cranston. HH (Biancolli, Houston Chronicle -- 8/4). 1:58.

YOUR SISTER'S SISTER (R). Comedy-drama about the intricate relationship among a young man still grieving over the death of his brother one year earlier; his best friend, a young woman who suggests he retreat to the solitude of her family's vacation home on a nearby island; and the woman he unexpectedly finds there -- his best friend's sister who's just ended a long-term romantic relationship and is seeking a little solitude of her own. An actor's movie, offering the small-scale pleasures of a good story well-told. With Mark Duplass, Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt. HHH (Macdonald, Seattle Times -- 8/7). 1:30.