Reviews from recently released movies

Flushed Away, Night at the Museum, Rocky Balboa

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NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM (PG) It's a toss up who's the real star here — Ben Stiller or the special effects — in a comedy-adventure about a hapless security guard who discovers all the exhibits in the Museum of Natural History are coming to life. Also stars Owen Wilson, Ricky Gervais, Dick Van Dyke and Carla Gugino. (Not Reviewed)

ROCKY BALBOA (PG) Three decades after the original Rocky and 16 years after the franchise's last hurrah, Sylvester Stallone's most iconic character returns to the big screen for yet another bout of head-bashing and obstacle overcoming. Also stars Burt Young, Antonio Tarver and Milo Ventimiglia. (Not Reviewed)

STRANGER THAN FICTION (PG-13) Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) discovers that he's the main character in a novel-in-process and that his death is imminent unless he can actually locate the mysterious author and somehow change the book's ending. Needless to say, this revelation causes our terribly uptight hero to loosen up, find love, learn to play guitar and discover the true meaning of life. The obvious references here are Groundhog Day, Charlie Kaufman's Adaptation and, for all its flaws, I (Heart) Huckabees — but while there are plenty of amusing moments to enjoy in Stranger Than Fiction, art and reality collide here in ways more cute than clever. There's nothing in Zach Hem's script that's remotely as thought-provoking as even the least of Kaufman's projects, nor anything as genuinely profound as the lessons learned in Groundhog Day, and metaphysics here serve as window dressing for what is basically just a moderately engaging romantic comedy. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Also stars Maggie Gyllenhaal, Emma Thompson, Dustin Hoffman and Queen Latifah. 2.5 stars

TENACIOUS D: THE PICK OF DESTINY (R) Tenacious D is pretty much a love-it-or-hate-it proposition and, from where I'm sitting, there's not much to love about Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny. This is stoner retro-comedy, pure and brain-cell-decimated simple, a notch above Half Baked (but several notches below Cheech and Chong), and the movie's gleeful wallowing in its own stupidity doesn't make it any more appealing. There are no distinctions drawn here between heroes and losers, and both functions are filled by Jack Black and Kyle Gass, two ordinary schlubs charged with the divine mission of becoming the "greatest rock band of all time." This band turns out to be Tenacious D, natch, and director Liam Lynch (Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic) follows Black and Gass, performers of very limited range (putting it mildly), as they rehearse their boring, hard rock ditties, endure a series of humiliations, and do an awful lot of standing around while repeating various catchphrases. There are a few worthwhile bits here — an opening homage to Tommy is inspired, a cameo by Tim Robbins is a treat, and a Sid-and-Marty-Kroft-esque mushroom trip isn't bad either — but the rest is often excruciating. Tenacious D is probably best experienced in small doses, and this 98-minute dose can be painful. Also stars JR Reed, Troy Gentile, Tim Robbins and Ben Stiller. 2 stars

WE ARE MARSHALL (PG) Despite a fairly strong start and the best of intentions, this inspirational sports opus ultimately falls victim to most of the pitfalls of its genre. Taking as its starting point one of the most horrific moments in American sports history — the 1970 plane crash that killed the entire football team of Marshall, West Virginia — We Are Marshall begins with a melancholy and moving first act that focuses on the grieving survivors of the community. Director McG changes course quickly enough, though, when an earnest new coach (Matthew McConaughey) is brought in to rebuild the team, and montages, period music and speech-making take over in a blatant effort to tug at those old heartstrings. Also stars Matthew Fox, Ian McShane, Anthony Mackie, Kate Mara and David Strathairn. 2.5 stars

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