Capsule reviews: 'Rango,' 'The Adjustment Bureau'

Associated Press
In this film publicity image released by CBS Films, Alex Pettyfer, left, and Vanessa Hudgens are shown in a scene from "Beastly." (AP Photo/CBS Films, Takashi Seida)
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Capsule reviews of films opening this week:

"The Adjustment Bureau" — Matt Damon and Emily Blunt fall in love and flee shadowy figures in this immensely stylish romantic thriller. If only the ending lived up to the buildup. Damon and Blunt have crazy, sexy chemistry from the very first moment they meet. They're a real treat to watch together — he's a reserved and sort of smart-alecky congressman, she's a quick-witted and flirty dancer — and the contrast in their appearances and personalities just works. You want them to end up with each other, despite the many elaborate and creative obstacles that thrust themselves in the couple's path. With all that heat and hype, you long for a climax worthy of the dedication that their characters (and the actors) have given. Instead, writer-director George Nolfi's film, based on a Philip K. Dick story, takes all that dazzle and wraps things up with a fizzle. Following intelligent debates about the nature of free will, "The Adjustment Bureau" ends in an overly simplistic, heavy-handed religious allegory that leaves you wondering, really? Is that it? But it's got a lot going for it, for a while. It is shot beautifully, the stark cinematography from Oscar-winner John Toll reflecting the isolation and frustration Damon's character feels. The strong supporting cast features John Slattery, Anthony Mackie and the always formidable Terence Stamp. PG-13 for brief strong language, some sexuality and a violent image. 99 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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"Beastly" — Just as superficial and obsessed with looks as the characters and the mindset it rails against, which would seem like a bitter, frustrating irony if it merited the emotional reaction to care that much. Alex Pettyfer stars as the chiseled, blond Kyle. He's arrogant, moneyed and cruel, which makes him the perfect guy to rule his posh Manhattan prep school. Why not? Nothing else in writer-director Daniel Barnz's film, based on novelist Alex Flinn's young-adult take on "Beauty and the Beast," even remotely resembles any kind of nuanced reality, so we may as well play up all possible stereotypes. One day, Kyle crosses classmate Kendra (Mary-Kate Olsen), who may or may not be a witch. She places a curse on him that renders him "ugly." Suddenly, his head is shaved and he's covered with facial tattoos and scars that make Mike Tyson look understated. The thing is, Kyle's markings are so artful and stylized, they're actually cool-looking, and not at all hideous. He is not an animal. Still, he's stuck this way unless he can find someone within one year's time who will love him for him. That person ends up being fellow student Lindy ("High School Musical" star Vanessa Hudgens), the class outcast. Neil Patrick Harris, as Kyle's blind tutor, gives a snappy performance that's the only thing worth watching here. PG-13 for language including crude comments, brief violence and some thematic material. 86 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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"Rango" — "Pirates of the Caribbean" director Gore Verbinski has crafted a relentlessly inventive animated amalgamation of "Chinatown," Sergio Leone spaghetti Westerns and the drug-conjured lizards of "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas." Yes, it's a PG-rated kids movie, but it's also an extremely cinematic animated film and a witty slapstick comedy. Johnny Depp voices the title character, a theatrically inclined chameleon who's bounced from his pet lizard tank and cast into the Mojave Desert. Arriving in the critter-populated town of Dirt, he dons the role of gunslinger and does it well enough that he's made sheriff. He's a method actor, it turns out. With the great cinematographer Roger Deakins serving as visual consultant and visual effects headed by Mark McCreery, the refraction of light in "Rango" is so authentic that one swears the saloon full of gun-toting varmints is live action. Hans Zimmer's score, a fun ode to Ennio Morricone, adds to the playful tone. With Isla Fisher, Abigail Breslin and Ned Beatty (as Noah Cross remade as a tortoise) among the fine voice cast. PG for crude humor, language, action and smoking. 107 minutes. Three stars out of four.

— Jake Coyle, AP Entertainment Writer

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"Take Me Home Tonight" — A nostalgic homage to the romantic-comedy romps of the 1980s, this cycles through all the conventions of the genre without breathing any new life into them, or offering characters who are developed well enough to make us care about them. Director Michael Dowse's film isn't a full-on John Hughes parody, like "Not Another Teen Movie," but it still may as well come with a checklist at the door, just so you can keep track of all the '80s cliches. There's the wild, all-night party that brings together people from varying social strata, the nerdy guy who finally gets the girl of his dreams, the pretty, popular girl who's tired of being pretty and popular. And like the similarly big-haired, acid-washed "Hot Tub Time Machine," it wallows in the period kitsch, complete with one-hit wonders like "Safety Dance" and "Come on Eileen." But once you get past giggling at how ridiculous we all looked back then, you realize there isn't much story there to keep you hooked. Topher Grace, who helped come up with that story, stars as Matt Franklin, a recent MIT grad. It's 1988, and instead of landing some prestigious engineering job, he's working at a video store at the mall and living at home with his parents. When he sees a chance to hook up with Tori (Teresa Palmer), the prom queen he's secretly loved from afar, he lies and says he's a big-time banker. Dan Fogler and Anna Faris are along for the ride. R for language, sexual content and drug use. 97 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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