Capsule reviews of recently reviewed films 

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SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE 3 stars (R) Police suspect a young man (Dev Patel) of cheating his way to the brink of victory on India's version of "Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?" although he's motivated by reconnecting to his long-lost sweetheart (Freida Pinto). Trainspotting director Danny Boyle transplants his trademark narrative velocity to sprawling Mumbai for a harrowing, Dickensian tale of children in the Indian underworld. Slumdog Millionaire builds to such a thrilling, uplifting climax that it's hard to resist the manipulative nature of its first hour. -- Holman

TAKEN (PG-13) After his 17-year-old daughter is kidnapped for sex slavery, a former-spy father (Liam Neeson) does everything he can to return her to safety.

THE TALE OF DESPEREAUX 2 stars (G) A diminutive but fearless mouse (voiced by Matthew Broderick) dares great deeds and sets an example to both a grim human kingdom and a timid mouse-city. This downbeat CGI swashbuckler suffers not from its similarities to Ratatouille (Kate DiCamillo's original children's book came first) but from a confused adaptation. The filmmakers create more elaborate set-pieces -- including a soup-spirit made of produce and arena-style battles in a dungeon rat city -- but the plot's chronology and motivation become a muddle. The impressive voice cast includes Dustin Hoffman, Frank Langella, William H. Macy, Sigourney Weaver and Tracey Ullman as a lumpish servant girl with royal aspirations. -- Holman

THE WRESTLER 4 stars (R) Mickey Rourke justly earns his heralded comeback with his humble, dignified performance as Randy "The Ram" Robinson, a washed-up 1980s pro wrestler wondering if his life will have a second act. Director Darren Aronofsky makes the most of Rourke's ravaged features and pumped-up physique by capturing the showbiz-style beauty treatments of wrestlers and the horrible punishment they can inflict on each other (one harrowing match involves a staple gun). The script harks back to old-fashioned melodramas -- Marisa Tomei plays an aging stripper with a heart of gold, Randy considers whether he should participate in a big match -- but in the last moments, Aronofsky overturns cliches like a wrestler hitting you upside the head with a folding chair. -- Holman

TRANSPORTER 3 (PG-13) Frank Martin puts on his driving gloves for another mission, this time to rescue the kidnapped daughter of a Ukranian government official.

TWILIGHT 2 stars (PG-13) Moody teen Bella (Kristen Stewart) falls for pale but hunky fellow high schooler Edward (Robert Pattinson), only to discover that he's a vampire. Based on an astonishingly popular series of novels primarily aimed at teenage girls, the film version plays like "Buffy: The Vampire Slayer" drained of suspense or humor. Fans of the books will probably enjoy the angsty treatment of star-crossed love, but other audiences will be put off by the overabundance of characters, the overemoting leads and the use of wires in the action scenes. -- Holman

UNDERWORLD: RISE OF THE LYCANS (R) Werewolves and vampires continue a long-standing, bloody feud in the third installment of the Underworld series that's more like a prequel.

THE UNINVITED (PG-13) A creepy ghost and mean parents await a young girl when she returns from treatment at a mental hospital.

VALKYRIE 2 stars (PG-13) Tom Cruise dons a much-maligned eye-patch to play wounded German Col. Claus von Stauffenberg who led a coup and assassination attempt on Adolph Hitler in the waning months of World War II. Usual Suspects director Bryan Singer creates an effective mood of paranoia as the conspirators (including Kenneth Branagh and Bill Nighy) seek allies for their treasonous plan. Despite some heist-style thrills -- the film coul be called Das Mission Impossible -- the characters remain too one-dimensional for audiences to invest much emotion in their fates. -- Holman

WALTZ WITH BASHIR 4 stars (R) Ari Folman, a filmmaker and veteran of the Lebanon War of the early 1980s, interviews his former comrades-in-arms to examine his puzzling absence of memories about the conflict. The animated documentary alternates between realistically rendered conversations and embellished war-time re-creations, some of which suggest a hallucinatory mix of American Vietnam movie and 1960s underground comics. The audience can't help but associate the Lebanese conflict with the recent fighting in Gaza, suggesting that even those who remember the mistakes of history may be doomed to repeat them. An Oscar nominee (and Golden Globe winner) for Best Foreign Language Film. -- 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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