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Film Capsules 

Bite-sized summaries for when you're in a hurry

Midnight in Paris(PG-13)

It seems appropriate for Woody Allen to make a movie about nostalgia at this point in his career. Here, he returns to the rain-soaked blue notes and nervous, bourgeois babble found in his best films. Owen Wilson plays Woody stand-in Gil, who's on a pre-wedding trip to Paris with his high-maintenance fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) and her parents. Gil — a screenwriter (what else?) obsessed with the past and trying to write a novel — falls in love with all the nostalgic charm of the city and, lost one night, ends up at a party with Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, and Cole Porter. Soon he's fumbling his way into the artistic elite and falling for a flapper played by Marion Cotillard. Allen's reimagining of 1920s Paris is beautiful, laden with the soft light of warmth and age, and a love for things past. The ensemble cast is fittingly emblematic of Allen's '70s and '80s classics. The past looks good on him.(Lydia Munnell)

The Beaver (R) — Batshit-crazy Mel Gibson plays batshit-crazy Walter Black, a family man whose life is crumbling around him. He and his wife (Jodie Foster, who also directs) are separated, and he hardly speaks to his two boys. Then Walter finds salvation in a beaver puppet he uncovers in a dumpster. He begins holding conversations with the furry creature, who convinces him to turn his life around. And for the first time in his life, Walter connects with his family. You may sympathize. But you won't laugh. (Michael Gallucci)

Bridesmaids (R) — Though it tries too hard by piling on the vulgarity to prove it's not your grandma's chick flick, this Judd Apatow-produced comedy still has more laughs than The Hangover. Much credit goes to co-writer and star Kristen Wiig, who plays bride-to-be Maya Rudolph'sa aggrieved BFF and maid of honor. After being usurped by rich bitch Rose Byrne during pre-wedding festivities, Wiig's unlucky-in-love-and-just-about-everything-else Annie doesn't get mad — she gets even. But typical Apatowian excess almost brings Bridesmaids down, and the third act's incessant wheel-spinning quickly grows as exhausting as most real-life wedding receptions. (Milan Paurich)

Fast Five (PG-13) — In yet another Fast and the Furious sequel, the original crew (Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, et al.) heads to Rio to orchestrate an Italian Job-style heist that could just as easily have been staged in Santa Monica. The fifth entry in this decade-old boys-and-toys franchise is just loud and mindless enough to satisfy the fan base, but it probably won't win any new admirers. (Paurich)

The Hangover Part II (R) — Like in the first Hangover, the raunchier sequel starts with most of the damage already done. This time it's Stu (Ed Helms) who's getting married, and the "wolf pack" (Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis, and Justin Bartha) heads to Thailand for the wedding. Then comes one crazy night in Bangkok that nobody can recall. This is pretty much the first movie with a new setting: The guys pass out, someone is missing, and once again the guys try to unravel very fuzzy clues to piece together the wild night they can't remember. There are some funny scenes here, but most of the plot and best jokes are recycled. (Gallucci)

Incendies (R) — Jeanne and her brother Simon go to the Middle East because their mother left them letters before she died, asking them to search for their brother and father. Incendies tells a familiar tale of how warring times turn people into monsters. But at its core it's a portrait of a Christian woman who fell in love with a Muslim and how that simple human act rippled throughout her life, as revolutionary fervor broke out and ravaged its way through her country and as men turned to old cruelties to deal with women radicalized by belief and motherly instincts. (Bret McCabe)

Kung Fu Panda 2 (PG) — There's not nearly as much quiet time here as there was in the first movie. Too bad, since the reflective scenes work way better than the ones with the evil peacock who plans to take over China. The movie avoids pop-culture references, guaranteeing a longer shelf life than the last Shrek. But there are plenty of boring scenes. (Gallucci)

Meek's Cutoff (PG) — In this hypnotic western, three families follow the advice of Wild West wrangler Meek (Bruce Greenwood) and split from a wagon train on a shortcut west. They're already lost when the movie begins, walking through arid stretches of Oregon looking for water. But Meek's Cutoff is less western than road movie, and less interested in the journey or destination than what happens in the mind. Like these travelers, you're not quite sure what's going to happen next. But getting to that point has left you irrevocably changed. (Bret McCabe)

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides (PG-13) — After the marathon running time and overstuffed plots of 2007's At World's End, you might wonder what's left to cram into the fourth movie of this swashbuckling franchise. How about mermaids, zombies, 3-D, and Penélope Cruz? The story this time has to do with the Fountain of Youth and all the pirates looking for it. Johnny Depp and Geoffrey Rush return, but Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley are gone. So is director Gore Verbinski, replaced by Chicago's Rob Marshall, who steers the movie into darker and calmer waters than its predecessor. (Gallucci)

Something Borrowed (R) — When attorney Rachel (Ginnifer Goodwin) sleeps with law-school crush Dex (Colin Egglesfield), it should be the start of a beautiful romance. But since Dex is already engaged to Rachel's high-maintenance best friend Darcy (Kate Hudson), their stealth affair is actually closer to an old-fashioned bedroom farce. Director Luke Greenfield stumbles with this charmless romantic comedy, which blows its appealing cast by making characters either clueless dolts or divas. (Paurich)

Thor (PG-13) — Director Kenneth Branagh tries to bring his impeccable sense of Shakespearean heft to the Marvel realm, but doesn't quite succeed. Thor (Chris Hemsworth), his brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston), and mortal pal Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) never seem more than comic-book cutouts. With any luck, next year's Avengers will bring out Thor's potential. (Justin Brenis)

X-Men: First Class (PG-13) — The X-Men finally get their backstory in this terrific prequel/reboot. And it's just what the series needed: a smart, fun, and thrilling movie that gets to know the humans inside the mutants. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender play Charles Xavier and Erik Lehnsherr before they become Professor X and Magneto. They battle arrogance, anger, their still-untested superpowers, and eventually each other. As the X-Men are assembled, BFs Charles and Erik are slowly pulled toward good and evil. But first they're sucked into a CIA plot to stop a nuclear holocaust. It all leads to First Class' best scenes, but the movie's soul is in its origin story — the start of something great. (Gallucci)

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