Film Capsules

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Transformers: Dark of the Moon (PG-13)

There aren't too many movies as loud and obnoxious as 2009's Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Thankfully, the third outing in the hit series scales back a bit, even as it expands (it's in 3-D and runs more than two and a half hours — yeesh!). This time there's a little history thrown into the big-ass-robots mix. Did you know that the Apollo 11 crew found a crashed spaceship on the moon? And did you know there was a conspiracy to keep it quiet? That's the silly premise that sets up Dark of the Moon. But that's not the worst of it; that honor goes to Shia LaBeouf, the Autobots' best human friend and quite possibly the most unlikable action hero ever to appear onscreen. There's also a mess of a plot involving a long-lost Transformer, a secret weapon, Buzz Aldrin (yes, the astronaut), and — why not? — Russians. Of course it all comes down to giant hunks of metal beating the gears out of each other. Of course some of it's kinda cool. And of course it will leave you with a splitting headache. (Michael Gallucci)

Bad Teacher (R) — Cameron Diaz plays Elizabeth Halsey, quite possibly the sluttiest woman to ever lead a seventh-grade classroom. After her fiancé dumps her, Elizabeth tries to snag the nerdy new substitute teacher (Justin Timberlake). But instead of doing her job, Elizabeth gets high in the school parking lot, constantly shows movies in class, and organizes a car wash straight out of a Playboy fantasy. Rude, crude, and stuffed with dick jokes, Bad Teacher tries hard to offend — too hard at times. But there are some funny scenes. (Gallucci)

Buck (PG) — Buck Brannaman is the inspiration behind The Horse Whisperer and a living legend in the equine world. But in this documentary, there's a lot more than just horse sense going on: There's triumph and tragedy and redemption. Buck follows Brannaman through his daily life working as a horse trainer and running clinics, where he spots the rowdiest colts and turns them docile in minutes. His horsemanship alone is a spectacle, but there's more to the story. Buck is a movie with undeniable schmaltz, but it's effortless in its approach and utterly inspiring. (Lydia Munnell)

Cars 2 (G) — Picking up where he left off in the original, Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) is now a global celebrity. He returns home to spend time with his best friend Mater (Larry the Cable Guy) and his girlfriend. But his R&R is cut short when he accepts a challenge from cocky race car Francesco Bernoulli (John Turturro), which leads him to a series of races in Japan, Italy, and England. The story may be too complex for younger children, but the lightning-fast pace, humor, and camaraderie are typical Pixar magic. (Ben Gifford)

Green Lantern (PG-13) — This is exactly the type of empty summer blowout they warn you about. Ryan Reynolds plays Hal Jordan, a hotshot test pilot who reluctantly becomes part of an intergalactic corps of peacekeepers after he inherits a glowing green ring that turns him into the titular hero. The movie can be harmless fun whenever Hal suits up. Unfortunately, most of Green Lantern is bogged down with Hal's boring backstory, his relationship with an ex-turned-boss (Blake Lively), and a subplot involving a scientist (Peter Sarsgaard). (Gallucci)

Larry Crowne (PG-13) — Tom Hanks (who also directs) plays the titular Navy vet who, after losing his retail job, signs up for community college. Before long he befriends a gang of ultra-hip scooter enthusiasts (seriously) and falls in love with his speech professor (Julia Roberts). Of course, Larry's class is filled with directionless but devastatingly attractive young people whose lives are changed by their bitter, albeit talented instructor. When he's not prowling the streets on his scooter or wooing his married teacher, Larry studies economics, cooks French toast at his favorite diner, and chews the fat with his neighbor. But suspend all disbelief. Hanks plays Larry like the kind of charming dope that went out of fashion with Dick Van Dyke. Don't expect your life to be changed. (Munnell)

Monte Carlo (PG) — "Could have been worse" might sound like faint praise, but for this tween dream that's as good as it gets. Any film starring Disney-product Selena Gomez, Gossip Girl's Leighton Meester, David Cassidy's daughter, and the hunk from Glee promises to land somewhere in the depths of a sugary-sweet teenage hell where Miley Cyrus rules with a trident and the only heat is a side effect of Bieber fever. Monte Carlo manages to be a little less painful than that. A case of mistaken identity carries three girls on a lavish European adventure where they find boys and themselves. But as bad as it is, this comedy of errors has a little more wit than you'd expect, and it should play well at sleepovers. With that in mind, here are two truths and a lie: 1) Monte Carlo relies too much on sparkles. 2) Meester's acting is matched in dreadfulness only by Gomez's English accent. 3) Monte Carlo follows the tradition of great filmmaking pioneered by Citizen Kane. Now who wants the first makeover? (Munnell)

Mr. Popper's Penguins (PG) — Jim Carrey plays Tommy Popper, a successful real-estate developer whose winning streak comes to a screeching halt after he inherits a penguin from his late explorer father. After a misunderstanding, he acquires five more and faces a whole mess of problems that come with having flightless aquatic birds in a fancy N.Y.C. apartment. You at least have to hand it to Mr. Popper's Penguins for taking such an old-school approach — complete with penguin farts and a high-society party-crashing — to summer family comedy. (Gallucci)

Super 8 (PG-13) — In 1979, a group of kids from suburban Ohio are making a zombie movie when they witness a spectacular train accident. Soon, strange things are happening around town: missing dogs, stolen appliances, power outages, and a shadowy creature snatching up folks. Super 8 fondly recalls a time when Famous Monsters of Filmland still mattered to middle-school boys. These old-school shadings — as opposed to blood, guts, and severed limbs — are the movie's centerpiece. (Gallucci)

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