Capsule reviews of recently reviewed films 

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CTHULHU 3 stars (R) A gay history professor (Jason Cottle) returns to his hometown for his mother's funeral and discovers occult goings-on. Very loosely based on the short story "The Shadow Over Innsmouth" by H.P. Lovecraft, Dan Gildark's film creates an atmosphere of low-budget menace by keeping the protagonist and the audience in the dark for most of the running time. -- Holman

GHOST TOWN 2 stars (PG-13) A misanthropic dentist ("The Office's" Ricky Gervais) has a near-death experience and discovers he can talk to ghosts, including a pushy jerk (Greg Kinnear) who wants to scuttle the remarriage of his widow (Téa Leoni). David Koepp's supernatural comedy plays less like a spoof of The Sixth Sense than a variation on Groundhog Day's redemption of a jerky guy, but the jokes feel undercooked. -- Holman

HAMLET 2 2 stars (R) Failed actor turned failing high school teacher Dana Marschz (Steve Coogan) faces the closing of the drama department unless his misguided, autobiographical musical sequel to Hamlet turns out to be a hit. Although the comedy offers an overt spoof of inspirational-teacher films like Dangerous Minds, it's more reminiscent of Christopher Guest's portraits of American losers like Waiting for Guffman, only Coogan's overplayed characterization makes the jokes resemble shooting fish in a barrel. The show's opening night, with the musical number "Rock Me Sexy Jesus" is a hoot, but not enough to redeem the rest of the film. -- Holman

HANCOCK 3 stars (PG-13) Will Smith plays hilariously against his slick megastar image as John Hancock, a superhero with Kryptonian powers who's nevertheless a drunken, surly jerk who causes more problems than he alleviates. The first hour or so of Hancock has a great deal of fun with its premise, which satirizes superheroes and misbehaving celebrities, and gives Hancock an amusing foil in Jason Bateman's idealistic publicist (now there's a contradiction in terms). The last section throws logic, humor and audience goodwill out the window, and no one catches the movie when it falls. -- Holman

INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL 3 stars (PG-13) The latest Indy flick embraces the franchise's nostalgia for itself, but the sentimental streak seems justifiable given the 19-year interim between chapters. It isn't exactly a fresh film adventure -- an automotive chase through the jungle feels like an undisguised retread of Raiders of the Lost Ark's truck chase. But Crystal Skull comes across not as lazy, but laid-back, as though the filmmakers have too much confidence to panic about trying to top the earlier films, or compete with their younger selves. -- Holman

A JIHAD FOR LOVE 3 stars (PG) This documentary from Parvez Sharma explores the impossible situation of gay people who identify themselves as devout Muslims, even though some Islamic countries define homosexuality as a capital offense. The film follows the difficulties of gay and lesbian people in the Muslim communities of South Africa, Egypt, Turkey, India and other countries and suffers from narrative limitations, spending only a little time with its subjects before going off to follow more. Some of the interviewees recount harrowing tales of persecution, but gay Imam Muhsin Hendricks sets an example that leaves some small hope that attitudes can change over time. -- Holman

JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH 3-D 2 stars (PG) Brendan Fraser plays a scientist who uses Jules Verne's novel Journey to the Center of the Earth as a guide to a prehistoric underground realm. The plot resembles those tame family comedies like Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, but if you've never seen a 3-D film before, you can enjoy the way the characters and filmmakers shove stuff at the audience. Last fall's Beowulf film had more impressive 3-D, though. -- Holman

KIT KITTREDGE: AN AMERICAN GIRL 3 stars (G) This big-screen extension of the American Girl line of dolls and merchandise depicts a plucky would-be reporter (Little Miss Sunshine's Abigail Breslin) and the challenges she faces when her family tries to weather the Great Depression. Parents will appreciate the film's lack of vulgar humor and scary intensity, although it ventures into some unexpectedly grim (and unfortunately timely) themes of the toll of economic downturns on family life. -- Holman

KUNG FU PANDA 4 stars (PG) In fairy-tale, talking-animal China, a fat panda named Po (voiced by Jack Black) is improbably chosen to be the all-powerful "Dragon Warrior." The studio that gave us the Shrek movies downplays the pop references and body-function humor for a satisfying CGI action/comedy that features a splendid visual design and surprisingly exciting fight scenes, including a chopstick fight between Po and his diminutive teacher (voiced by Dustin Hoffman). -- Holman


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  • Re: Fresh air

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

    • on June 29, 2016
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