Wall-E and Wanted latest blockbuster wanna-bes

Plus reviews of other recent releases

click to enlarge Wanted - Universal Pictures
Universal Pictures
Wanted

OPENING THIS WEEK

WALL-E (G) A futuristic comedy from the director of Finding Nemo, WALL-E is the tale of a lovable misfit robot who becomes the latest addition to Pixar's stable of lovable misfit toys, fish, rodents, bugs and cars. The buzz isn't at all bad so far on this latest animated feature from the mighty creators of Toy Story, The Incredibles and Ratatouille, and so it's a bit curious (and, truth be told, scary) that the studio choose not to screen the film in time for critics to review it. Features the voices of Ben Burtt, John Ratzenberger, Sigourney Weaver and Fred Willard. Opens June 27 at local theaters. (Not Reviewed)

WANTED (R) Timur Bekmambetov, director of the acclaimed Russian imports Night Watch and Day Watch, hits the Hollywood big time (or, if you prefer, sells his soul to the devil) with this action-fantasy extravaganza based on a popular graphic novel. Stars James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman and Angelina Jolie. Opens June 27 at local theaters. (Not Reviewed)

RECENT RELEASES

88 MINUTES (R) Al Pacino sports a goatee and a snappy action-hero name ("Jack Gramm") as an FBI forensic psychologist who finds himself matching wits with a brilliant (aren't they all?) serial killer. Be warned: The movie has already had its share of advance screenings, and the buzz is almost overwhelmingly bad. Also stars Alicia Witt, Leelee Sobieski, Amy Brenneman and William Forsythe. (Not Reviewed)

21 (PG-13) A blander Ocean's 11 meets Good Will Hunting, 21 stars Jim Sturgess as a brilliant but dirt-poor MIT student who's reluctantly recruited by a shady professor (Kevin Spacey) to partake in a card-counting scheme to take Vegas for millions. 21 is an odd and not particularly satisfying kettle of fish, loosely based on a true story but only giving off the vaguest whiffs of anything resembling authenticity. Visually, the movie is a bit drab and dark, a look probably designed to make us think something serious is going on, but that's curiously at odds with a basically jaunty sensibility that seems to aim for (but never quite achieves) the groovy swagger of the Ocean's movies. The film doesn't ever manage to communicate the kids' system very coherently, nor with much energy, and 21 consequently winds up feeling a little like a heist movie without a heist. Spacey, who also produced, is fun to watch as yet another one of those deliciously insidious characters he plays so well, but he's not enough to save the movie. Sturgess' character rises, falls and then does a bit more rising by way of a half-hearted coda, but by that time 21 is simply running on fumes. Also stars Kate Bosworth, Laurence Fishburne, Aaron Yoo, Jacob Pitts, Josh Gad and Sam Golzari. 2.5 stars

BABY MAMA (PG-13) Tina Fey and Amy Poehler offer up a watered-down version of their old SNL chemistry in this inoffensive comedy about a successful businesswoman (Fey) who hires a clueless skank (Poehler) to be the surrogate mother for her child. Nobody plays white trash as well as Poehler (it has something to do with that crazed, Nicholson-ian glint in her eye), but the script plays things too safe to let the comedian be nearly as unhinged as she needs to be. And between Poehler's antics and some juicy cameos by the likes of Steve Martin and Sigourney Weaver, the extremely funny Fey winds up reduced to a straight woman, or worse — a virtual supporting player in her own movie. There are a handful of nice moments (a Young Republican couple bonding with their Wiccan surrogate; "Endless Love" playing over an artificial insemination scene), but what pleasures there are here are nearly forgotten in a ridiculously inept final act full of forced revelations and rushed resolutions. The strong of heart can stick around for the closing credits, which feature some of the most worthless outtakes you'll ever see. Also stars Dax Shepard, Greg Kinnear, Romany Malco, Siobhan Fallon, Maura Tierney and Holland Taylor. 2.5 stars

THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: PRINCE CASPIAN (PG) Over 1300 years have passed since the events of 2005's The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, but the more things change the more they stay the same. The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian finds the titular kingdom once again under the thumb of evil despots and again in need of saving by our noble, still younger-than-springtime heroes (who are this time whisked away from grimy London to magical mystery land not via wardrobe but by the conduit of a Potter-esque train station). The sequel's look and feel is a bit darker than the original, with a vaguely Medieval ambience and an endless clanking of swords and solemn line readings that become tedious well before the movie's 144 minutes have elapsed. Character development is even more cursory than in the first film, with the main draw being a tapestry of unintentionally dopey-looking centaurs, minotaurs and talking animals (including a rodent rip-off of Shrek's swashbuckling kitty) that, mystical pretensions aside, belong in a Sid and Marty Krofft production. Sergio Castellitto makes an interesting villain and Peter Dinklage manages to maintain his dignity under a false nose and gnomish make-up, but there's not much else to brighten up the plodding here. When Tilda Swinton's evil witch briefly materializes towards the end — and then just as quickly vanishes — the movie's lack of life becomes all too apparent. Also stars Ben Barnes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes and Warwick Davis. 2.5 stars

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