Steroids and Cyberpsychos

What's at movie theaters this week

OPENING THIS WEEK

RAMBO (R) Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the megaplex ... Two decades after the last Rambo movie, Sylvester Stallone is back in the role that made him a household name, spewing up a storm of steroid sparks and kicking all manner of butt in Thailand. Also stars Julie Benz, Matthew Marsden and Graham McTavish. Opens Jan. 25 at local theaters. (Not Reviewed)

UNTRACEABLE (R) It's Saw meets Seven in an online chat room. A seasoned FBI agent played by Diane Lane finds herself on the trail of a cyberpsycho who plasters his victims' real-time plights on the Internet and then allows visitors to his website to determine how fast they die. Sounds just lurid enough to be fun, but the studio doesn't seem to think so; no advance screenings were held in time for our review. Also stars Billy Burke, Colin Hanks, Joseph Cross and Mary Beth Hurt. Opens Jan. 25 at local theaters. (Not Reviewed)

RECENT RELEASES

THE BUCKET LIST (PG-13) Director Rob Reiner layers on the schmaltz, and Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman supply the star power in a meathead's delight that might just have well been called Grumpy Old Terminally Ill Men. Freeman's obligatory opening voice-over sets the tone, cramming in the words "love," "fate" and "folks" in under a minute, as dying roommates Carter (Freeman) and Edward (Nicholson) decide to spend their final months, and a sizeable chunk of the latter's fortune, doing all the things they never got around to doing. Endless footage ensues of the old coots skydiving, getting tattoos, driving fast cars, and popping up in a virtual travelogue encompassing the Taj Mahal, the pyramids of Egypt and the Great Wall of China. Freeman's wise but slightly prickly character periodically pontificates on the nature of the world, eventually teaching the meaning of life to the considerably richer but far more cynical Nicholson, and it all feels like the spitting image of a made-for-TV movie. Also stars Sean Hayes and Beverly Todd. 2 stars

CASSANDRA'S DREAM (PG-13) We've lost count of how many movies Woody Allen has made, but obviously buoyed by the success of Match Point, this is the third consecutive one the director has shot in England. It might be time for Woody to come home, however, as advance reviews of this latest U.K.-shot production have been extremely unkind. Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell star as brothers caught up in a terribly inconvenient murder. Also stars Hayley Atwell, Sally Hawkins and Tom Wilkinson. (Not Reviewed)

CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR (R) Based on true events from the Reagan years, Mike Nichol's new film stars Tom Hanks as Charlie Wilson, a hard-partying Texas congressman who sets monumental forces in motion, almost without realizing it, when he begins lobbying to supply Afghanistan's Mujahideen in their struggle against Russian invaders. Urging Wilson on is his occasional lover, a rich, ultra-right-wing dragon lady played by Julia Roberts. The individual players are fairly engaging, but Charlie Wilson's War never manages to muster up much dramatic momentum. The movie's tone is all over the place, veering from screenwriter Aaron Sorkin's trademark sitcom style to quasi-screwball satire to something approaching sentimental mush, and then straight into agitprop, with tears welling up in Hanks' eyes in the midst of multitudes of mistreated Afghan orphans. Charlie Wilson's War starts out strong and then slowly fizzles out just as it should be getting interesting. The covert war waged by Hanks' congressman results in the Soviet empire crumbling just as the film is ending, all but ignoring the more interesting twists that followed (specifically, how Afghan "freedom fighters" transformed into the legions of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, using American weapons and training against their so-called benefactors). The movie opens with a dreamily stylized image of a Muslim praying beneath a starry sky, then picking up his rocket launcher and aiming at squarely at the camera — which is to say, at us — but that's about as close as Nichols gets to that particular can of worms. Stars Tom Hanks, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Julia Roberts and Amy Adams. 2.5 stars

JUNO (PG-13) Director Jason Reitman's second film is loopy in a more conventional way than his first, Thank You For Smoking, but it's equally clever and, even more crucially, just as much fun. The deliciously baroque plot twists of Smoking are almost entirely absent in Juno, but Reitman makes good use of this new-found, off-kilter minimalism, focusing his often static camera on characters whose endearing qualities rarely get in the way of their monumental oddness. Reitman and screenwriter Diablo Cody seem to have a ball referencing all the hippest bands and grooviest horror movie directors, and they fill their movie with music by Cat Power, Belle and Sebastian, and whimsical pop tunes a la The Velvet Underground's "I'm Sticking With You," which are so simple and achingly sincere they seem to cross the line into pomo irony. Just like the movie. Also stars Michael Cera, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman, Allison Janney and J.K. Simmons. 3.5 stars

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