"Country Strong" (2) Some of the best country songs are the ones that tell a story. Ones that feature vivid imagery, a strong narrative drive and a killer emotional payoff. In telling the story of a self-destructive singing superstar, this hints at the possibility of delivering that kind of moving experience, but ultimately it's too meandering and uneven to ever truly tug at your heart. Writer-director Shana Feste's film occupies an uncomfortable sort of middle ground. It's not rich enough, and its characters aren't developed enough, to be a searing drama or a portrait of artistic torment; "Coal Miner's Daughter" this is not. But at the same time, it isn't over-the-top enough to be enjoyed as a divalicious guilty pleasure. Still, "Country Strong" has its moments, mainly in the music, all of which is enjoyable if not earth-shattering and is actually sung by its stars. PG-13 for thematic elements involving alcohol abuse and some sexual content. 111 minutes.
"True Grit" (3)
One of the most mainstream, crowd-pleasing films Joel and Ethan Coen have ever made. It's sort of a screwball Western, if you will, with vivid performances and strikingly vast, picturesque vistas, the always gorgeous work of the always great Roger Deakins, the Coens' frequent cinematographer. But it's a minor entry from the writing-directing brothers, especially when you consider the inventiveness and strength of their canon and the close aesthetic resemblance to "No Country for Old Men," their masterpiece. While "True Grit" is entertaining, it's also surprisingly lacking in emotional resonance, as well as the intriguing sense of ambiguity that so often permeates Coen pictures. 110 min. Rated PG-13.
"Rabbit Hole" (3)
This is suffocatingly sad, as you can imagine any film would be that deals with the death of a young child. The challenge is to find a way to get people to want to see it, and then want to sit through it, without being filled with abject dread -- or at least the feeling that they're slogging through eat-your-vegetables cinema. John Cameron Mitchell accomplishes that with graceful performances from his stars, Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart, which are filled with subtle moments as well as recognizable human frailties and flaws. (Kidman does some of her best work in a while here.) 92 min. Rated PG-13.
"Little Fockers" (1.5)
Meet the latest in Robert De Niro and Ben Stiller's comedy franchise. Grit your teeth through the fairly short though agonizing duration of its stay. Then wave goodbye in relief as its huge cast of characters departs like the annoying in-laws they are. "Meet the Parents" was a tolerable trifle and "Meet the Fockers" was a bloated bore. But this third installment is tasteless trash, filled with abysmally unfunny gags involving vomit, enemas, erectile dysfunction and the like. Hopefully, the Fockers will call it quits after this. We don't need these in-laws coming to visit again. 98 min. Rated PG-13.
In gauzy portraits of privileged isolation, Sofia Coppola has situated her characters in a Tokyo hotel ("Lost in Translation"), the opulent remove of Versailles ("Marie Antoinette") and now, in her new film, at Los Angeles' celebrity-infested Chateau Marmont. Though she gently coaxes her characters out of their insulation and toward the outside world, her talent is in her eye for cloistered, disaffected decadence. "Somewhere," which won the top prize at the Venice International Film Festival, stars Stephen Dorff as a famous Hollywood actor, Johnny Marco. Coppola is brilliant at capturing mood, but substance isn't her game. 98 min. Rated R.
"Gulliver's Travels" (1.5)
Sure, Jack Black's Jonathan Swift-inspired adventure comedy is bad, but the big problem is that the movie sullies a piece of literature that has endured for nearly 300 years for the sake of a cheap kiddie flick that will be forgotten in a month. With Black's giant footprints all over it, Swift's tale of Gulliver's voyages is pretty much out of bounds for a long time for any filmmakers who actually might have wanted to make a good, faithful adaptation (you never know, it could have happened). The effects are nice, but Swift's biting satire is softened to innocuous family fare, with enough cute little gags and mugging by Black that young children should stay interested, if not enthralled. 88 min. Rated PG.
"The King's Speech" (3.5)
This is the kind of handsomely photographed, weighty-yet-uplifting period drama that seems to arrive amid great fanfare come awards time each year. It's based on a true story about British royalty, features a glittery cast and hits every note you expect it to hit. And yet the film is so flawlessly appointed and impeccably acted, you can't help but succumb. If you can get past the nagging sensation that what you're watching is a cynical calculation to appeal to the Academy, well, you'll be delighted, because the "The King's Speech" is undeniably charming. 118 min. Rated R.
"The Fighter" (3)
Mark Wahlberg produces and stars, David O. Russell directs, but supporting player Christian Bale owns this real-life tale about boxer Micky Ward, who rose from his blue-collar roots and overcame ugly family squabbles to earn a title shot in his mid-30s. Bales dominates the action, much as Heath Ledger's Joker took over "The Dark Knight" from its hero, Bale's Batman. The film itself is a strange stew, a raw, genuine portrait of working-class stiffs one moment, a shrill-bordering-on-caricatured comedy of family discord and vulgar people the next. 116 min. Rated R.
"The Tempest" (2)
A pedigreed cast, led by the formidable Helen Mirren and including David Strathairn, Chris Cooper, Djimon Hounsou and Alfred Molina, cannot save this misguided mess. It's just too weird. And it's a waste of one of Shakespeare's richest comedies, the play that's considered his last. You want to admire director Julie Taymor for taking such risks, for trying to do something different with a classic work. And in the wildly visual style that's become her trademark through stage productions like "The Lion King" and films like "Frida," ''Across the Universe" and a previous Shakespeare adaptation, "Titus," she upends and reinvents the play on many levels. 110 min. Rated PG-13.
"How Do You Know" (1)
How do you know when a film is horrible? Here, it's pretty obvious. Nothing about this would-be romantic comedy ever gels -- neither the romance nor the comedy and, worst of all, not the characters. Individually likable ordinarily, Reese Witherspoon and Paul Rudd make zero sense together here as a couple. Similarly, the dueling story lines that comprise the script feel slammed together, so the film as a whole never finds a groove -- which only accentuates the fact that it's overlong. Most shockingly of all, "How Do You Know" comes from someone who should know better: writer-director James L. Brooks, who's repeatedly proven himself more than capable of finding just the right tone or the perfectly poignant turn of phrase in films like "Broadcast News," "As Good As It Gets" and his multiple Oscar-winner "Terms of Endearment." 116 min. Rated PG-13.
"Tron: Legacy" (2.5)
Hugely high-tech and forward-thinking in its day, "Tron" now looks cheesy and quaint in retrospect, with its blocky graphics and simplistic blips and bleeps. The original film from 1982 was all about the possibility of technology and the human imagination, and the adventures that could result from marrying the two, but only now are the computer-generated effects available to render this digital world in its fullest potential. Hence, we have a sequel, which is in 3-D (of course) but is actually best viewed in IMAX 3-D. The whole point of the story and the aesthetics are that they're meant to convey an immersive experience. We're supposed to feel just as trapped inside this challenging and dangerous electronic realm as the film's characters. 125 min. Rated PG.
"Yogi Bear" (2)
Inspired by Art Carney's Ed Norton from "The Honeymooners" and originally voiced by Daws Butler, Yogi Bear has always had an intelligence that surpasses that of your typical clawed mammalia. He has finally gotten his own movie -- in 3-D, no less -- and so it comes with little surprise but still some disappointment that "Yogi Bear" is a bland pic-a-nic, indeed. There he is, in trademark green tie and white collar and voiced by Dan Aykroyd, with the bow-tied Boo Boo (Justin Timberlake) at his side. Of course, this being the highly advanced 21st century, simple animation won't do, so we must suffer through the mediocre, lifeless computer-generated animation of this treasured twosome. 80 min. PG.
"Night Catches Us" (2.5)
So much is right about writer-director Tanya Hamilton's feature debut: terrific acting, great music, a painterly eye for detail, fine period trappings that bring the mid-1970s to life without turning the film into a garish flashback. Yet her story of former Black Panthers moving on after the civil-rights movement is predictable and overly simple, an injustice to the characters and environment she's created. The drama unfolds in an obvious manner as a prodigal Panther (Anthony Mackie) comes home to his blighted Philadelphia neighborhood, has run-ins with cops and old comrades turned adversaries, and reconnects with the woman (Kerry Washington) for whom he once carried a torch. It's an admirable story, admirably told, but there's nothing fresh or unexpected here. 89 min. Rated R.
"The Tourist" (2.5)
It's probably best to head into this with the mind-set that you're going on an actual vacation yourself. If you're in the mood for mindless, escapist fun -- dazzling scenery, elegant evenings, decadent hotel suites and expensive clothes -- you'll be fine. There are all the obligatory chases and shootouts you'd expect in a romantic action caper, but you never get the sense that anyone's in real danger. There are twists, but they won't make you think too terribly hard, and in the end you will have devoted fewer than two hours of your life to a decent diversion. 105 min. Rated PG-13.
"The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" (2)
C.S. Lewis began the third book in his Narnia series: "There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it." Nothing in the three inspiration-less films adapted from Lewis' series ever rises to the wit of that simple line, though the latest comes closest to the spirit of the original -- arguably the most fun of Lewis' seven Narnia tales. Lewis' Christian themes are worn more openly here than in the last installment. But the religious allegory (which will go over the heads of most young viewers, just as it did young readers) isn't what sinks the Narnia movies. It's a lack of imagination -- not exactly a sin, but still lamentable. 114 min. Rated PG.
"I Love You Phillip Morris" (2.5)
Jim Carrey gets to show off the best of what he can do here, both the physical comedy he made his name on and the unexpected tenderness that has crept into his later, more dramatic work. He uses that whole range to play a gay con-man driven by love, giving a consistently charming, breezy performance in a film that frequently feels inconsistent in tone. The directing debut of Glenn Ficarra and John Requa, who wrote the awesomely inappropriate "Bad Santa," veers a bit jarringly between its humorous, serious and romantic moments. But Carrey, as real-life scam artist Steven Russell, is never short of fascinating to watch. 98 min. Rated R.
"Black Swan" (3.5)
At once gorgeous and gloriously nutso, a trippy, twisted fantasy that delights and disturbs in equal measure. Darren Aronofsky takes the same stripped-down fascination with, and appreciation for, the minutiae of preparation that he brought to his Oscar-nominated "The Wrestler" and applies it to the pursuit of a different kind of artistry: ballet. But then the director mixes in a wildly hallucinatory flair as "Black Swan" enters darker psychological territory. Working with his frequent cinematographer, Matthew Libatique, and incorporating some dazzling visual effects, Aronofsky spins a nightmare scenario within a seemingly gentle, pristine world. 110 min. Rated R.