This week at the multiplex

Short movie reviews for Fri., March 11-Thurs., March 17.

New this week

BATTLE: LOS ANGELES (PG-13) Aliens hit Tinseltown and humanity must fight to repel the invaders. Battle: LA screened too late for us to get a review in print, but look for Joe Bardi's review online this week at dailyloafblog.com.

CEDAR RAPIDS (R) See Joe Bardi's review.

RED RIDING HOOD (PG-13) Amanda Seyfried and Gary Oldman stars in this modern update to the classic childrens tale, directed by Catherine Hardwicke (Twilight). Red Riding Hood screened too late for us to get a review in print, but look for Shannon Bennett's take online this week at dailyloafblog.com.

VISION — FROM THE LIFE OF HILDEGARD VON BINGEN (NR) Opening exclusively at the tampa Theatre this weekend, Vision tells the life story of German nun Hildegard von Bingen, best known as a composer and religious visionary. (Not reviewed)

Recent releases

THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU (PG-13) A young, defeated NY Senate candidate (Matt Damon) meets a ballerina (Emily Blunt) right before he is to deliver his concession speech. Though they feel an instant mutual attraction, they quickly part ways. All the while, men in dark suits and hats are following their every move. The pair meet again a few years later, but then Damon arrives at work and finds the suit guys brain-scanning his partner. The men work for the titular Bureau and make minor "adjustments" so that humanity follows "the Chairman's" plan for the world. Damon and Blunt must decide whether or not they are willing to sacrifice their dreams for love. The Adjustment Bureau can be heavy-handed in its treatment of the themes of fate and destiny, but in the end, the movie is about the choices we make. Damon and Blunt have excellent chemistry, and even though the chase scenes can go on too long, The Adjustment Bureau mixes genres successfully enough to leave most audiences satisfied. —Upohar Haroon

GNOMEO & JULIET (G) A 3D candy-colored mess, Gnomeo & Juliet is pretty to look at, and so eager to please the viewer with its energy and visual splendor, that it overlooks the need to tell a coherent, engaging story. The film's screenplay is credited to seven writers and they have little to show for their collective effort. Though I should probably qualify that by saying your appreciation for the movie may depend on how irresistibly cute and funny you find the concept of garden gnomes participating in lawnmower races and falling in love. —Anthony Salveggi

HALL PASS (R) An air of "been there, done that" lingers over the entirety of Hall Pass. The premise — two men are given a pass by their wives to play outside the bonds of marriage for a week — feels tired and, in light of our narcissistic times, pretty lame and unprovocative. Owen Wilson and Jenna Fischer make for a cute married-with-children pair, comfortably in the same middle-class league with onscreen spouses Jason Sudeikis and Christina Applegate. Yes, Hall Pass is sometimes laugh-out-loud funny, but the humor isn't born of character or circumstance or misunderstanding. Instead, the movie clumsily drags a series of moments strung along loosely by a gimmicky premise masquerading as plot. Unlike co-directors the Farrelly Brothers' better movies, Hall Pass never reaches the sustained zaniness and unpredictability that would make its flaws easier to overlook. —AS

THE ILLUSIONIST (PG) The latest animated film by acclaimed director Sylvain Chomet, The Illusionist takes place in a melancholy Edinburgh populated by aging vaudevillian performers trying to stay alive in a fast-changing modern world. Chomet is working with an abandoned screenplay by one of cinema's greatest comic directors, Jacques Tati. The Illusionist is a profoundly sad film — but one that goes down surprisingly easily. There are light comic touches everywhere and an adorable little love story tucked in the middle. It's cinema in its purest form. —AN

JUSTIN BIEBER: NEVER SAY NEVER (PG) Part documentary, part snazzy 3D concert film, Never Say Never does for Justin Bieber what Riefenstahl did for the Nazis. The documentary portions of the film are actually quite engaging, and the concert footage interspersed throughout is not tragically grating. Justin Bieber is uber-talented, a seemingly good kid and a decent-looking teenage lesbian, and Never Say Never is a fun little snapshot of him, one that offers more proof that he's got the goods. —Rabid Nick Refer

RANGO (PG) Johnny Depp gives voice to the titular lizard who, through some crazy animated hijinks, ends up in an Old West town. Eventually, Rango meets a comely female lizard (voiced by Wedding Crashers' Isla Fisher) and a shadier character named Rattlesnake Jake (the great Bill Nighy), and the lonely little lizard must find a way to be the hero in this interesting spin on the Spaghetti Western. Rango is flawless from a technical standpoint: The animation is beautiful, the detail work outstanding, and the characters are unique and interesting. Sure, take a kid if it makes you feel better, but it's not a "kids' movie." It's an adult movie that's pretty enough to keep the young ones entertained, and should make for an interesting family outing. It may be a bit too dark for younger children (I wonder if little kids will like it at all), but anyone familiar with the work of John Wayne or Clint Eastwood will be grinning throughout. —Kevin Hopp

SANCTUM (R) With James Cameron listed as executive producer, the square-jawed, cartoonish machismo and casual sadism of Sanctum comes as little surprise. What is a surprise is that this lazily written, lifeless film was deemed worthy of theatrical release. A thoroughly rote, lackluster story with an unconvincing father-son conflict are front and center in this Australian production. The few scenes of claustrophobic suspense can't compensate for Sanctum's terrible line readings and Z-grade dialogue. Along with its shallow characterizations and juvenile, scatalogical humor, Sanctum dares to reach for emotional resonance. But the cheap spectacle of daddy and son working out their issues as they try to navigate "the mother of all caves" is offensive for its pandering. —AS

TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT (R) Dorky kid (Topher Grace) works in a video store, his high school crush (Teresa Palmer) comes around, boy drools and plots his grand move for the party of the century occurring that very night (of course). A crazy, off-the-cuff friend (Dan Fogler) gets involved. Hijinks ensues, including: too much alcohol, the boy fucking up his shot at the dream girl, the crazy friend doing crazy shit, cliched songs from a decade that needs to be laid to rest, etc. Somewhere, 1987 John Cusack is crying and wondering where it all went wrong. Take Me Home Tonight is a mediocre soundtrack with a terrible film playing in the background, and I didn't like any of it. —RNR

UNKNOWN (PG-13) Liam Neeson stars as a man who wakes from a coma in a foreign country on to find another man (Adian Quinn) has assumed his identity and his wife (Mad Men's January Jones) is playing along. Unknown is very similar to Neeson's 2009 flick, Taken, though the plot of Unknown is much more complex, and the film is more thought-provoking for the audience. I enjoyed Unknown more, but is that really saying much? It's yet another "thrill ride" that depends solely on action and intensity as opposed to solid story structure and a sense of reality. —Anthony Allen

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