Mini movie reviews

What's new at the multiplex this week. Plus: interesting films still in theaters.

New this week

HOP (PG) A modern reboot of the story of the Easter Bunny. What's next, a movie about the Tooth Fairy? (Wait, they already made it with The Rock as the fairy? Shoot me.) Hop screened too late for us to get a review in print, but Rabid Nick Refer is screening the film (and scoring points with his girlfriend in the process) and his review will be posted to by the end of the week. (Not reviewed)

INSIDIOUS (R) The success of Insidious lies in the way it conveys the subtlety of that which haunts us, the steady progression of terror, and the fear of regular objects that would otherwise seem harmless. With two young sons and a baby welcomed to the family, Josh (Patrick Wilson) and Renai (Rose Byrne) move into a new house that has all the familiar makings of being haunted. The new home, however, is not the problem. Dalton, the oldest child, has an accident in the attic (a conspicuously ominous attic, of course) and soon falls into what doctors believe is a coma. Once he returns home, still in his coma-like state, the haunting begins. Insidious features more than a few clichés in its plot points and is predictable in some areas, but the situations seem real and kept my chills from subsiding. Yes, it plays a little too much like a Halloween haunted house in parts, with miscellaneous ghouls and goblins seemingly lurking around every corner, but the genuine fear we feel with every step the characters take ultimately outweighs the camp factor. —Daniel Feingold

SOURCE CODE (PG13) See Joe Bardi's review

Recent releases

THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU (PG-13) A young, defeated NY Senate candidate (Matt Damon) meets a ballerina (Emily Blunt), and 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 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

BATTLE: LOS ANGELES (PG-13) As a title, Battle: Los Angeles is the perfect summation of Hollywood's latest alien invasion fantasy. This is a war movie unconcerned with little things like plot or characterization. Oh sure, there's a general through-line (meteors land off the coast of Santa Monica, aliens arrive on shore and open a can of whoop-ass, U.S. Marines fight to rescue civilians and stay alive) and a few characters get some depth, most notably Aaron Eckhart's Marine Staff Sgt. Michael Nantz. But Battle: Los Angeles only aspires to be a loud, rocking combat film (think Independence Day meets Black Hawk Down), and on that score it's a blast. —Joe Bardi

CEDAR RAPIDS (R) Tim Lippe (Ed Helms) is a small-town insurance salesmen pressed by his superiors to represent his firm at an annual industry convention in the titular Midwestern city. Lippe's boss (the always funny Stephen Root) only has two directives for him: come back with the coveted Two Diamond Award and avoid at all costs some joker named Dean Ziegler (John C. Reilly). This Ziegler chap is a real piece of work — loud, obnoxious, insulting, profane. Did I mention he loves to party? His zest for the celebration has him — along with fellow roommate Ronald (The Wire's Isiah Whitlock, Jr.) and the MILFy Joan (Anne Heche) — dragging an unwilling Lippe from hotel bar to gay wedding-crashing to late-night skinny-dipping in the indoor pool. Together, they're an unbeatable comic ensemble. Cedar Rapids is a low-key comedy that only flirts with the over-the-top gross-out humor so popular today. But by turning down the volume, the filmmakers have created something more genuine, and far more funny. —JB

LIMITLESS (PG-13) Bradley Cooper plays Eddie Morra, an average guy made super intelligent by an experimental pill, which he suddenly ends up with a pretty staggering supply of. With ample time to knock it back and fully optimize the drug's value, Morra goes from the predictable first steps (getting laid, etc.) into the big game — namely a spot in the boardroom with business shark Carl Van Loon (De Niro). It's all a delightful circus of entertainment and shock value. Limitless is twisty and turny without being confusing, fast-paced without being obnoxious, well-cast, well-played and overall just a lot of fun. Cooper is obviously having a blast and hoping you will too. And I promise you won't see the end coming. —Shannon Bennett

THE LINCOLN LAWYER (R) Despite its flaws, The Lincoln Lawyer cruises along thanks to the immense charisma and fine acting of star Matthew McConaughey, who deserves far better than the roles to which he's frequently assigned. Fortunately, he doesn't have to shoulder the burden of this familiar crime yarn by himself. Top to bottom, the movie has been exceptionally well cast, with noteworthy work by Josh Lucas as a prosecuting attorney and Marisa Tomei as McConaughey's ex. Even Ryan Phillippe, with his bland face and limited range of expressions, seems an ideal choice in the part of a rich brat accused of viciously beating a prostitute. In this particular role, Phillippe's blankness turns out to be an asset. Good thing for those performances, too. As it reaches the back end of its lumbering 2-hour running time, The Lincoln Lawyer becomes increasingly impatient to set things right, glossing over its stupid plot developments in the process. —Anthony Salveggi

PAUL (R) Paul is lots of fun, but "fun" doesn't necessarily denote quality. While the script (written by stars Simon Pegg and Nick Frost) is solid, and the acting is great, there is something missing from Paul that will keep it off the fanboy pedestal currently supporting previous Pegg/Frost collaborations Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. I don't know how long ago the filmmakers cast Rogen to play the title character, but his eruption into stardom over the last two years has made his voice so recognizable that it's honestly a bit distracting to hear it coming out of a little green man. But if you're familiar with the major sci-fi blockbusters of the 1980s and '90s (or just a huge nerd for all things Pegg/Frost) you're going to have a great time. —SB

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, but anyone familiar with the work of John Wayne or Clint Eastwood will be grinning throughout. —Kevin Hopp

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