At the movies

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"The Hangover"

You'd be forgiven for thinking this is a documentary. After all, who hasn't woken up in a trashed Las Vegas hotel suite with a missing tooth, a tiger in the bathroom, a baby in the closet and little or no memory of what happened the night before? Director Todd Phillips and screenwriters Jon Lucas and Scott Moore take this idea to bold new heights - or depths, depending on your perspective - with a comedy that stays weird and wild for the first two-thirds, only to disappoint in the final act. Structurally, though, it's based on a clever concept: Three guys take their buddy Doug (Justin Bartha) to Vegas for a bachelor party right before his wedding. When they wake up the morning after their debauched bacchanal, they realize the groom is missing - and that's only the beginning of their trouble. As they nurse their pounding heads and retrace their steps, they stumble down an increasingly absurd, and surprisingly dark, path. And because it all turns out to be so unpredictable, we feel like we're solving a mystery right along with them. Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms and Zach Galifianakis make a believably motley trio, with Galifianakis in particular stealing many moments with a performance that's a fascinating balance of creepy and endearing. But Ken Jeong, veteran of many a Judd Apatow production, is stuck in a role that's a distasteful (and unfunny) stereotype of both Asians and gays. R for pervasive language, sexual content including nudity and some drug material. 99 min. Two and a half stars out of four.

- Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

"Land of the Lost"

There is exactly one funny bit here, and it stands out because it comes at the very beginning and the very end. Will Ferrell, as arrogant scientist Dr. Rick Marshall, appears on the "Today" show to discuss his time-travel theories and pimp out his latest book. Matt Lauer, thinking he's a crackpot, interviews him with unmistakabale disdain and chafes at Marshall's attempts to hijack the segment. In between, though, is an awkward combination of kitschy comedy (which is never amusing) and earnest action (which is never thrilling). And it's not as if the source material was worthy of a big-budget summer blockbuster starring an A-lister. The Sid & Marty Krofft TV series "Land of the Lost," about a family that gets sucked into a prehistoric age when an earthquake hits while they're rafting, aired for just three seasons in the mid-1970s. It was laughable with its stiff dialogue and low-tech effects. At least the series knew what it was, though. Working from a script by Chris Henchy and Dennis McNicholas (though Ferrell and co-star Danny McBride clearly did a healthy amount of ad-libbing), director Brad Silberling can't seem to decide whether he's making fun of the show's cheesy visuals or seizing on its sense of rough-hewn adventure. And so in hopes of pleasing the lowest common denominator nonetheless, they offer an overload of jokes about dinosaur poop and urine. Danny McBride and Anna Friel co-star as Will and Holly, with "Saturday Night Live" writer Jorma Taccone as the mischievous primate Chaka. PG-13 for crude and sexual content, and for language including a drug reference. 93 min. One star out of four.

- Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

"Terminator Salvation"

We have seen the future, and the future is noisy. This fourth flick in the "Terminator" saga takes place in 2018, 14 years after Judgment Day. John Connor is a rising force in the resistance against Skynet, the artificial intelligence network that started thinking for itself and eradicating humanity, but he has yet to become its leader. He has seen destruction and listened to the recordings left by his mother that foretell his future, but he has yet to send anyone back in time in hopes of stopping it, including the man who will become his father. (You definitely need to have seen the first three movies to have a clue as to what's going on here, and why certain details matter. This is no time to play catch-up. Being a fan also helps.) Director McG, of the "Charlie's Angels" movies and "We Are Marshall," drops into this well-established lore and presents a post-apocalyptic world that is repetitively bleak and relentlessly loud. Yes, the machines have taken over, and so of course there's going to be a healthy amount of clanging, crunching metal - but even things that shouldn't be noisy, like the lighting of a flare, sound like a rocket launch. And Christian Bale steps into the role of John Connor, played previously by Edward Furlong and Nick Stahl, and he ... well, he does the same voice he uses when he dons the black suit for the "Batman" movies, a monotone, guttural growl regardless of the dialogue. John must find and protect his future father, Kyle Reese (Anton Yelchin), while trying to determine whether to trust the mysterious Marcus Wright (Sam Worthington) to help in this quest. PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and action, and language. 114 min. Two stars out of four.

- Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

"Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian"

This is one of those sequels in which "bigger" is supposed to mean "better," in which more characters, more sight gags and more adventures are supposed to add up to more fun. They don't. The follow-up to the enormous 2006 hit "Night at the Museum" heaps on the historical figures and crams them into not one but two museums, with the end result feeling crazed, scattered and desperate. So many new characters have been added to the ones who appeared in the original film, and director Shawn Levy flits between them at such a zippy pace, no one gets much of a chance to register. And that's a huge waste of the comic talents amassed among the cast. Besides returning stars Ben Stiller, Ricky Gervais, Owen Wilson, Steve Coogan and Robin Williams, now we have Amy Adams, Hank Azaria, Christopher Guest, Jonah Hill and Bill Hader. Having said all that, kids are the primary targets for a lot of the visuals, and will probably enjoy themselves. Stiller gets smacked around by two capuchin monkeys this time, and the T-Rex skeleton that acts like a playful pup should provoke some giggles. Stiller, as former night guard Larry Daley, returns to Manhattan's Museum of Natural History and discovers that the friends who came to life in the middle of the night are being shipped off to storage at the Smithsonian in Washington. And so he must step into action and save them, while also battling the Egyptian ruler Kahmunrah (Azaria), who has awaked from a 3,000-year slumber with plans to take over the museum, and the world. PG for mild action and brief language. 105 min. Two stars out of four.

- Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

"Angels & Demons"

Blessedly, "Angels & Demons" is more entertaining and less self-serious than its predecessor, the dense and dreary yet enormously successful "The Da Vinci Code." In adapting another of author Dan Brown's religious-mystery page turners, Ron Howard wisely gave in to its beat-the-clock thriller elements, which makes for a more enjoyable summer-movie experience. But its twists, turns and revelations are just as ridiculous as those in "The Da Vinci Code" - perhaps even more so - and it breezes through arcane details with just as much dizzying speed. The key players are back from that 2006 international hit, including Tom Hanks as Harvard professor and symbologist Robert Langdon and Akiva Goldsman as screenwriter (joined this time by David Koepp). Although the book "Angels & Demons" came out before "The Da Vinci Code," the film is positioned as a sequel to take advantage of the strained relationship between Langdon and the Vatican - only this time, it's his expertise the folks there reluctantly need. With the pope dead and the College of Cardinals about to meet in conclave to choose a replacement, a secret society known as the Illuminati has kidnapped the four likeliest candidates. Langdon must decipher clues at various churches and historical sites throughout Rome to prevent the killing of the cardinals, one every hour, leading to a bomb explosion at the Vatican. But wait, we haven't even gotten to the most laughable part of the story yet! Ewan McGregor, Stellan Skarsgaard and Armin Mueller-Stahl are among the estimable supporting cast, all of whom have enjoyed the benefits of stronger material but manage to supply gravitas nonetheless. PG-13 for sequences of violence, disturbing images and thematic material. 138 min. Two stars out of four.

- Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

"Star Trek"

J.J. Abrams' hugely anticipated summer extravaganza boldly goes to the past within the distant future of the "Star Trek" universe, years ahead of the TV series and the myriad movies and spin-offs it spawned. And in doing so, he and his longtime collaborators, writers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman, change everything you know - or obsess about, if you're into this kind of thing - about the kitschy pop-culture phenomenon. It's a daring and exciting approach that's sure to tickle and provoke purists, while at the same time probably cause neophytes to feel a bit lost. A major plot twist pops up about halfway through the film (along with Leonard Nimoy), one that doesn't exactly work and from which the film never completely recovers, and from there the adventures feel a bit repetitive. Having said that, Abrams clearly aimed to appeal to the broadest possible moviegoing audience with this dazzling visual spectacle while also leaving plenty of Easter eggs for the hardcore fans to find. It's an absolutely gorgeous film with impeccable production design - the lighting is wondrous, almost heavenly - and lovely, tiny details frequently emerge from within the larger, grander images. Abrams certainly puts on a good show - between "Lost" and the 2006 "Mission: Impossible" sequel he directed, there's no question the man knows how to stage an action sequence - and the opening gets things off to a thrilling start. He efficiently and satisfyingly presents the back stories of the men who will become Capt. James T. Kirk (Chris Pine) and the half-Vulcan, half-human Mr. Spock (Zachary Quinto) and puts them on a collision course with each other, which ups the excitement level early. John Cho, Simon Pegg, Zoe Saldana and Eric Bana co-star. PG-13 for sci-fi action and violence and brief sexual content. 127 min. Two and a half stars out of four.

- Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

"X-Men Origins: Wolverine"

Hugh Jackman's mutant Wolverine goes to war in a prologue for this "X-Men" prequel where the immortal mutant and his brother (Liev Schreiber) fight in all the big ones, from the Civil War to Vietnam. The battles set a predictable tone from which director Gavin Hood rarely deviates. Hood presents one duel after another, with a brief respite for sappy romance so Wolverine can get really mad and hellbent on vengeance over his dead girlfriend (Lynn Collins). Wolverine fights his brother, he fights other mutants, then he fights his brother some more on his way to becoming the amnesiac, metal-clawed freak of nature Jackman played in the "X-Men" trilogy. For all the action, there's never much real sense of adventure or risk. Unlike the upcoming "Star Trek" prequel, which truly casts the starship Enterprise crew into an uncharted future, "Wolverine" is a setup for stories fans already have seen. We know Wolverine's going to take his lumps but come out OK (though minus his memories) by the time the credits roll. PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and some partial nudity. 107 min. Two stars out of four.

- David Germain, AP Movie Writer

"Ghosts of Girlfriends Past"

You will be shocked - shocked! - to learn that Matthew McConaughey plays an arrogant womanizer who coasts on his looks and charm but eventually realizes that love does matter after all. Call it laziness, call it finding your niche. You've seen McConaughey in this kind of role before, usually with Kate Hudson as his co-star. (Jennifer Garner stands in as the voice of reason this time.) You've also seen "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past" before, in countless variations of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." But you won't see Dickens credited anywhere here, even though the plot finds McConaughey, as playboy photographer Connor Mead, reluctantly revisiting the myriad women he's wronged with the ghosts of girlfriends past, present and future as his guides. Oh, no - this is a wholly creative enterprise. Jon Lucas and Scott Moore, who also were behind the overbearing "Four Christmases," wrote the screenplay; Mark Waters, who's enjoyed better material with the Tina Fey-scripted "Mean Girls" and the 2003 remake of "Freaky Friday," directs. You can count the jokes that work on one hand; the rest is pratfalls and predictability. Connor is forced to attend the wedding of his younger brother Paul (Breckin Meyer). While there, the ghost of his Uncle Wayne (Michael Douglas), an old-school player, warns him not to waste his life without love. As he endures a litany of exes - all of whom are depicted as malleable sluts - he eventually realizes he misses childhood friend Jenny (Garner), the one who got away. PG-13 for sexual content throughout, some language and a drug reference. 100 min. One star out of four.

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