OPENING THIS WEEK
LEATHERHEADS (PG-13) Read Curt Holman's review.
10,000 B.C. (PG-13) 10,000 B.C. is the latest movie from Roland Emmerich, the man responsible for bombast-fests such as Independence Day, Godzilla and The Day After Tomorrow, which should give you a fairly good idea of what to expect. Steven Strait and Camilla Belle play early humans running around in animal furs chasing and being chased by saber tooth tigers, wooly mammoths and other big, scary CGI creatures. There are some appealingly bizarre flourishes toward the end involving possible extraterrestrial influences on a quasi-Mayan/Egyptian civilization, but the movie is mainly just dull, silly (although not enough to be truly amusing) and a bit pretentious. Inexplicably, our grimy, dreadlocked heroes speak a stilted, prosaic English from a time when contractions apparently had not yet been invented. Also stars Cliff Curtis, Joel Fry, Tim Barlow and Nathanael Baring.
ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS (PG) You might expect that Dave Seville's singing rodents would have to be dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century, but they make the transition fairly painlessly thanks to this sweet and occasionally amusing big-screen outing. Jason Lee stars as the aspiring songwriter who learns about family and responsibility (and all the other things people are supposed to learn in movies like this) when a trio of talking chipmunks moves into his house and turns his world upside down. The CGI is fairly high quality, and the fart and poop jokes are held to a blessed minimum, but even at not-quite 90 minutes, the movie feels padded, and the last act drags on for what seems like forever. On the up side, the hip-hop beat grafted onto "Witchdoctor" isn't quite as ridiculous as you might imagine. Also stars David Cross, Cameron Richardson, Jane Lynch and Ross Bagdasarian. 1/2
THE BANK JOB (R) Although it's neither as engagingly moody as Layer Cake nor as cleverly stylish as Guy Ritchie's output, The Bank Job makes for a nice addition to the current crop of British crime dramas. Jason Statham (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels) stars as Terry, a small-time thief who's talked into pulling off the titular heist by a former girlfriend (Saffron Burrows) with a suitcase full of ulterior motives. What Terry and his crew of East End bumblers don't know is that, in addition to the millions of pounds stored in the bank they're targeting, the safe deposit boxes contain blackmail photos of highly ranked Brits that a number of shadowy figures are all too ready to kill for. Based on a series of actual events that took place in the early '70s, The Bank Job captures the feel of the period nicely, but is curiously workmanlike in the way it lays out the details of its fascinating and somewhat convoluted story. Seductions and betrayals pile up steadily but without much fanfare for much of the movie's running time, and it's only in its final act, as the violence approaches Tarantino-esque levels, that The Bank Job begins to fully come alive. Also stars Stephen Campbell Moore, Peter De Jersey, Daniel Mays, James Faulkner and Alki David.
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.
CHARLIE BARTLETT (R) Precocious, privileged Charlie (Anton Yelchin) is booted out of prep school and forced to join the unwashed masses at public school in Charlie Bartlett — a movie that seems determined to recycle Rushmore for a new generation. After being subjected to some cursory bullying, Charlie too-quickly learns to make friends and influence people by supplying them with various highly coveted prescription drugs and playing shrink to his classmates in the boy's bathroom. Robert Downey Jr. is both believable and borderline dangerous, but there's not much else about Charlie Bartlett that's particularly convincing. Too many of the characters are lazily written (the school bully, the depressed loner, the slow, fat kid), the movie's sense of ironic detachment comes and goes (the drug pushing is sometimes played for laughs, sometimes for pathos), and the quirks are often uncomfortably forced. Also stars Kat Dennings, Tyler Hilton and Hope Davis. 1/2