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Capsule reviews of recently reviewed films 

Page 4 of 5

PIRATE RADIO Originally titled The Boat that Rocked, this British comedy about a fictitious pirate radio station that broadcasts to the United Kingdom from a ship is hitting American shores.

PLANET 51 (PG) In this week’s 3-D computer animated comedy, an astronaut (Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson) lands on a planet and discovers a population of green alien suburbanites who view him as an invader.

PRECIOUS: BASED ON THE NOVEL PUSH BY SAPPHIRE 3 stars (R) In Harlem of 1987, Clareece "Precious" Jones (Gabourey Sidibe) suffers enough hardships for several Greek tragedies, including obesity, illiteracy, sexual molestation and a shockingly abusive mother (Mo'Nique). Precious finds self-respect in an alternative school and a classroom full of boisterous women. Subtlety is not in the vocabulary of this film produced by Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry, but the performances of Sidibe, Mo'Nique, Mariah Carey (really) and the supporting cast make good on the film's ambitions. — Holman

RED CLIFF 3 stars (R) Renowned action director John Woo designed this Chinese military epic, set in 208 A.D., to be released in two parts that totaled well over four hours, but the U.S. edit clocks in at only two and a half. The result resembles watching one of the latter Lord of the Rings films without having seen the first — but that’s not so bad, because Woo’s lavish combat scenes give Peter Jackson a run for his money. Tony Leung plays a noble viceroy leading a rebellion against a Napoleonic prime minister, but the spectacular set pieces are the real stars, including some of the most astonishing naval battles ever seen in movies. — Holman

THE ROAD 2 stars (R) A nameless father and son (Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee, respectively) struggle to survive in the wastelands of post-apocalyptic America in John Hillcoat’s faithful-to-a-fault adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s best-seller. Mortensen and Smit-McPhee capture the anguish of the pair’s attempt to maintain their moral balance amid despair, but the film’s tone proves as monochromatic as its ashy color scheme, which falls short of the images evoked by the book’s stark lyricism. — Holman

SAW VI (R) They’re still making these?

A SERIOUS MAN 4 stars (R) A Jewish physics professor (Michael Stuhlbarg) endures crises of family, career and religion in the Minneapolis suburbs of 1967. The Oscar-winning Coen brothers mine their own childhood for a Kafka-esque, seriocomic spiritual quest in which God, if He even exists, refuses to provide answers to the protagonist’s sufferings. The Coens offer caricatures of most of the Jewish characters, but nevertheless touch on provocative issues of the ineffability of the universe. — Holman

THE STEPFATHER (PG-13) A teen returns from military school to discover that his mom (Sela Ward) has remarried, but his new stepfather (Dylan Walsh) may not be the all-American aad he appears. A remake of the nifty 1987 suspense film starring Terry O’Quinn of “Lost.”

SURROGATES 2 stars (PG-13) In the near future, most Americans vicariously live their lives through perfect android "surrogates" that they operate safely from home. Bruce Willis plays an FBI agent who unplugs his surrogate self to investigate a conspiracy in the flesh. This adaptation takes the premise of the graphic novel (from Atlanta's Top Shelf Productions) and pushes it into fascinating directions that resonate with contemporary trends in the Internet and social networking. The sheer number of twists push the film into silliness and director Jonathan Mostow doesn't distinguish between robotic acting and simply bad acting. — Holman 

THE TWILIGHT SAGA: NEW MOON 3 stars (PG-13) Chris Weitz has masterfully added depth and excitement to the moody, supernatural franchise. Unlike its predecessor, New Moon balances the sugary love talk with several fast-paced action sequences. While some of the film's moments sputter and lose momentum, the submersion of Stewart and Lautner into their onscreen personas is captivating and adds believability to their romantic rollercoaster ride.

(UNTITLED) (R) In A twisted bohemian New York love story avant-garde composer Adrian (Adam Goldberg) and trendy gallery owner Madeleine (Marley Shelton) fall in love. But, they try to keep their relationship a secret because Madeleine's gallery's livelihood depends on Adrian's brother Josh (Eion Bailey), whose popular artwork keeps the gallery standing.  

WHERE THE WILD THINGS ARE 4 stars (PG) The talented, intriguingly named Max Records plays “Max,” a boy who flees his neglected, latch-key existence for the land of the Wild Things, but he discovers the challenges of meeting the emotional needs of his monstrous but childlike playmates. Director Spike Jonze and co-writer Dave Eggers freely adapt Maurice Sendak’s archetypal picture book and render the wild things as chubby costumes with highly expressive, CGI-tweaked facial features (and such voice actors as James Gandolfini and Lauren Ambrose). Too melancholy and occasionally draggy for young kids, Where the Wild Things Are nevertheless offers a visually remarkable meditation on the complex emotions of childhood. — Holman

ZOMBIELAND 4 stars (R) Four mismatched survivors (Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin) road-trip across zombie-ravaged America in this comedy. Although the George Romero-inspired trope should have completely decomposed by now, Zombieland finds new life in the genre through a clever script and snappy direction. England'sShaun of the Dead did the rom-zom-com concept first and better, but Zombieland plays like a more raucous American-style variation on the same themes. It's like the difference between Flight of the Conchords and Tenacious D. — Holman  
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