Capsule reviews of recently released films 

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THE BURNING PLAIN (R) Oscar-nominated screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga makes his directorial debut with this drama starring Charlize Theron as a restaurant manager whose life becomes connected to other women in America and Mexico, including Kim Basinger.

3 stars (PG) Young crackpot inventor Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader) accidentally revitalizes his struggling hometown with a gizmo that causes "food weather" to fall from the sky. When greed and pride cause ginormous menu items to wreak havoc, it's like a Roland Emmerich disaster film combined with an all-you-can eat buffet. The sight gags, splendid animation and effective use of 3-D make up for the thin characterizations, and the metaphors for excess consumption make the film comparable to a Happy Meal version of Super Size Me. - Holman

EXTRACT (R) "Arrested Development's" Jason Bateman plays Joel, owner of a beverage company called Reynold's Extract, who juggles a corporate buyout, a personal injury lawsuit, a sexually disinterested wife (Kristen Wiig), a manipulative hottie (Mila Kunis) and the occasional horse tranquilizer. Mike Judge, who previously helmed the cult hits Office Space and Idiocracy, tends to be kind of half-assed with plot and structure, but deserves employee of the month for his hilarious, quotable dialogue and work with actors including Ben Affleck, J.K. Simmons and David Koechner, and Gene Simmons in a hilarious cameo as a personal injury lawyer with unbelievable helmet-hair. - Holman

(500) DAYS OF SUMMER 2 stars (PG-13) Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays a hapless would-be architect who falls for free-spirited Summer (Zooey Deschanel), despite her aversion to emotionally committed relationships. Quirky to a fault but nicely acted by Gordon-Levitt and Deschanel, the film offers a fresh substitute for cookie-cutter rom-coms, but Woody Allen brought more insight to scrambled chronology and surreal set-ups in Annie Hall. Summer would be on stronger ground if it offered a strong female perspective to balance Gordon-Levitt's character. - Holman

FAME (PG) The High School Musical franchise no doubt inspired this PG-rated "reinvention" of the R-rated Alan Parker film from 1980 about the students and teachers at the New York School of Performing Arts.

THE FINAL DESTINATION (R) The fourth and allegedly "final" film in the Final Destination series follows a group of young people who avoid a disaster at a race track, only to fall prey to more outlandish demises after the fact. Presented in 3-D at participating theaters, so you can feel like stuff is flying right at your head.

FUNNY PEOPLE 2 stars (R) In Judd Apatow's third film, Adam Sandler plays a fictionalized version of himself, a stand-up comic-turned-movie star who mentors an aspiring comedian (Seth Rogen) after being diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia. Apatow captures life at the top and bottom rungs of Hollywood comedy, from open-mic nights to lame sitcoms to high-concept movies, and Sandler deserves credit for his performance as a self-absorbed jerk. But if you're not already a fan of Sandler's humor, the incessant dick jokes won't convert you, and Apatow somehow stretches the thin plot to two and a half dreary hours. — Holman

G-FORCE (PG) Remember Spy Kids? Think of this as Spy Pets. A highly-trained team of cute fluffy animals, including guinea pigs and a mole, go on espionage missions in this 3-D comedy with such voice talents as Nicolas Cage, Tracy Morgan and Penelope Cruz.

GAMER (R) Gerard Butler stars in this futuristic action-satire in which real humans become unwitting pawns in a violent, multi-player on-line game created by an evil rich guy ("Dexter's" Michael C. Hall).

G.I. JOE: THE RISE OF COBRA (PG-13) Stephen Sommers, director of the first two Mummy movies, literally turns actors into action figures in this adaptation of Hasbro's G.I. Joe toy franchise. Remember, this draws on its 1980s incarnation, when G.I. Joe is not a person, but an organization that takes on the terrorist group called Cobra.

HALLOWEEN II (R) Laurie Strode struggles to come to terms with her brother Michael's deadly return to Haddonfield, Ill. Meanwhile, Michael prepares for another reunion with his sister.

HARRY POTTER AND THE HALF-BLOOD PRINCE 4 stars (PG-13) The romantic misadventures of Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and his pals Ron and Hermione (Rupert Grint and Emma Watson) distract them from the secret plans of Professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) and Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) to respectively hinder and help the malevolent Lord Voldemort. The sixth Harry Potter film conspicuously lacks the headlong momentum and political metaphors of Order of the Phoenix, director David Yates' previous effort. Between a suspenseful first section and an eventful (if anticlimactic) finale lies a pleasant but draggy stretch primarily about teen hormones and magic charms, but it's all essentially a prelude to the final two films. - Holman

5 stars (R) In 2004 Baghdad, two U.S. "bomb techs" (Anthony Mackie and Brian Geraghty) hope to finish their tour without getting killed by the confident, reckless Sgt. James (Jeremy Renner in a star-making performance). Director Kathryn Bigelow presents the most original and gripping war film since Saving Private Ryan by crafting bomb disposal set pieces that draw the audience's attention as taut as a tripwire. Compared to other Iraq War films, The Hurt Locker  keeps its politics close to the chest,  while exploring the psychological impact war can have on our soldiers' psyches. - Holman



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    • Local band Manchester Orchestra, who provided the soundtrack, probably would have appreciated a shout-out.

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