At the movies |

At the movies

Capsule reviews of films opening this week

“Body of Lies”

“Rendition.” “Redacted.” “The Kingdom.” “In the Valley of Elah.” “Lions for Lambs.” They’re all movies about the war on terror that nobody has wanted to see, either because the topic is too daunting or too much of a downer, or it’s simply too soon after 9/11. Soon, you’ll be able to add “Body of Lies” to that list, even though it’s probably the most worthwhile and least preachy of the bunch. The pieces would all seem to be in place for a compelling take on this complex topic: strong work from acting heavyweights Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio; an intricate script from William Monahan, an Academy Award winner for “The Departed”; and the virtuoso visual styling of director Ridley Scott. Of course, it looks great as it bounces breathlessly between Iraq and Jordan, Qatar and the Netherlands, Dubai and the Virginia suburbs. And yet the result, with its many explosions and shootouts, too often feels like a generic action picture, albeit one with weightier stuff on its mind. Based on the novel of the same name by Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, whose knowledge of the subject matter would seem to be unimpeachable, “Body of Lies” follows undercover CIA operative Roger Ferris (DiCaprio), who’s trying to ferret out the mastermind behind a series of anonymous bombings around the world. At the same time, Ferris’ boss, Ed Hoffman (Crowe), is running surveillance and plotting strategy from home with the help of his ever-present cell-phone headset and laptop. But despite their shared goals and mutual dependence, Ferris and Hoffman often end up miscommunicating and undermining each other. This becomes especially true when Ferris tries to chat up the smooth Jordanian intelligence chief (Mark Strong, who nearly steals the whole movie). R for strong violence, including some torture, and for language throughout. 128 min. Two and a half stars out of four.

– Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

“Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist”

Someday, Michael Cera will show us what else he can do. He surely must have someone else inside him besides the poignantly verbal but sweetly awkward nerd we’ve come to know and love in such movies as “Superbad” and “Juno,” and the late, great TV series “Arrested Development.” For now, though, Cera is that guy again, but he also shows some potential as a viable romantic lead – albeit an unconventional one. He and Kat Dennings have a lively, easy chemistry with each other as a couple of high school seniors prowling the streets of New York on an all-night quest to find their favorite underground band. Cera’s Nick is an average middle-class New Jersey kid who is obsessed with Tris (Alexis Dziena), the unfaithful ex-girlfriend who dumped him, and the CD mixes he makes for her of his favorite indie rock tunes aren’t winning her back. But they do win the heart of Dennings’ Norah, a classmate of Tris’ who thinks Nick must be the coolest guy in the world, based solely on his musical taste. One night, through a convoluted confluence of events, Nick and Norah find themselves thrown together. The comedy from Peter Sollett (“Raising Victor Vargas”), based on the book by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, is aimed squarely at 20-something hipsters, but it’s a worthy successor to those 1980s John Hughes movies that were sweetly romantic without trying hard to be. PG-13 for mature thematic material including teen drinking, sexuality, language and crude behavior. 89 min. Three stars out of four.

– Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

“Burn After Reading”

It’s a total goof, of course. A lark, a one-off. The latest offering in the eclectic filmography of Joel and Ethan Coen is not to be taken seriously – one look at Brad Pitt’s blond-streaked pouf of hair tells you that – and it’s certainly not to be compared to their starkly violent Academy Award-winner from last year, “No Country for Old Men.” Having said that, this is by no means a letdown as a follow-up. With its rat-a-tat dialogue and delusional characters, “Burn After Reading” falls more like the brothers’ cult-favorite comedies like “Raising Arizona” and “The Big Lebowski.” We are no longer in “No Country” but we are assuredly in Coen country. This time, they take their eye for regional detail to Washington for what looks like an espionage thriller, except that the spying uncovers no significant information, everyone is clueless and no one’s ever truly in danger. But rather than treating their characters with condescension, the writing-directing brothers seem to have genuine affection for the idiots they’ve concocted – and the A-list actors are clearly having a blast playing them. John Malkovich, as a fired CIA analyst whose memoirs fall into the wrong hands, is a hilarious marvel of precise, percolating rage. The Coens’ old pal, George Clooney, is almost as much of a buffoon here as he was in “O Brother, Where Art Thou?” Naturally, Frances McDormand is uniquely tuned into the Coens’ rhythms, being one of their frequent stars (not to mention, Joel’s wife). But Pitt steals every scene he’s in – and nearly walks away with the whole movie – as an overgrown child of a gym trainer whose bungled schemes get him in way over his head. R for pervasive language, some sexual content and violence. 96 min. Three stars out of four.

– Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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