Aug. 17 2009 12:00 AM

Adventureland. Nostalgia for a time that never was drives writer/director Greg Mottolas ("Superbad") unassuming 80s era coming-of-age romantic comedy. Jesse Eisenberg plays James Brennan, a virginal college graduate who foregoes a summer vacation to Europe because of his parents financial woes to work at Pittsburghs Adventureland amusement park. The only good thing about James game-booth job is the presence of his alluring coworker Em (Kristen Stewart) with whom James makes his first tentative steps toward developing a romantic relationship. James doesnt know about Ems sexually active bond with the parks roving electrician (Ryan Reynolds) that serves as a narrative time bomb. Eisenberg and Stewart make movie magic happen, but the miscasting of Reynolds as an adulterous playboy puts a severe damper on the film. Like the confused social period of the Reagan era that the story inhabits, "Adventureland" is an awkward comedy that makes you wish it were a lot better. (Miramax) Rated R. 107 mins. (B-)

Duplicity. Writer/director Tony Gilroy (director of "Michael Clayton" and "The Bourne Ultimatum") runs his ship aground with a smarty-pants crime romance set amid the world of corporate espionage. Uber spies Ray (Clive Owen) and Claire (Julia Roberts) get themselves in deep when they decide to leverage their mutual distrust for one another as a foundation for a romantic relationship. The wrongheaded decision makes Ray, an ex-MI6 double-spy, and Claire, a former CIA agent, a double-double spy when it comes to stealing the formula for a mystery cream (or is it a lotion?) from a mega-corporation run by blow-hard megalomaniac Howard Tully (Tom Wilkinson). Paul Giamatti plays Howards rival corporate raider, Dick Garsik, whose primary goal in life is to hear the sound of Howards cojones hitting the floor. With flashbacks, flash-forwards, and few flashes of inspiration, the movie flips around like a dying fish on a balsa wood boat dock. Sure Owen, Roberts, Giamatti and Wilkinson are all great to look at on the big screen, but that hardly makes "Duplicity" anything more than a barely watchable crime thriller where the biggest thrill is getting up from your seat when its finally over. (Universal) Rated PG-13. 118 mins. (C-)

The Haunting in Connecticut. This structurally defective horror movie never pays off on the carefully planted "Boo" scares detonated at a regular rate over the course of its underdeveloped story. In order to be closer to the hospital where their teenage son Matt (Kyle Gallner) is undergoing cancer treatment, Sara (Virginia Madsen) and Peter Campbell (Martin Donovan) rent a bargain Victorian house in Connecticut with room enough for their two other children and a visiting niece. As it turns out, the troubled property is a former funeral home that was inhabited
by a kooky family of corpse-collecting, sance-leading weirdoes whose
son Johan (Erik Berg) could make ghostly ectoplasm spew from the
orifices of himself and others. Afterthought subplots about Peters
battle with alcoholism and a cancersuffering Reverend champion (poorly
acted by Elias Koteas) lead the movie to its slapdash conclusion. Only Gallners gothic performance, as the deathsdoor-victim who sees more than just ghosts, gives the movie any weight. (Lionsgate) Rated PG-13. 92 mins. (C-)

Monsters vs. Aliens. Evidence
that 3D animation is here to stay, "Monsters vs. Aliens" is a blast of
eye-popping color and goofy characters that tips the scales a tad too
far into violent realms to validate its purpose. A UFO lands in
Modesto, Calif., on the day of hopeful bride Susan Murphys wedding,
and the alien attack that follows presses the U.S. government into
bringing out its best-kept security secret: Monsters. A 20,000-year-old
halffish/half-ape called The Missing Link (Will Arnett), a gigantic
furry bug named Insectasaurous, a mad scientist called Dr. Cockroach,
Ph.D. (Hugh Laurie), a one-eyed blue gelatinous mass called B.O.B.
(Seth Rogen), and the freshly grown 50-foot Susan, A.K.A. Ginormica
(Reese Witherspoon), do battle with an army of four-eyed aliens led by
Rain Wilsons Gallaxhar. The writers smuggle in a promilitary subtext
that intersects with a battle-of-the sexes theme played out between
Susan and her once would-be husband, an ambitious TV broadcaster (Paul
Rudd). Although good-humored, "Monsters vs. Aliens" doesnt stir many
laughs. But thats not to say its not an amusing ride if you can get
past the spoonfuls of social insinuation being fed to your little ones.
(DreamWorks Animation/Paramount) Rated PG. 98 mins. (B-)

I Love You, Man. Paul
Rudds understated comic genius comes to the fore in this nuanced
romantic comedy thats as much about the intricacies of male bonding as
it is about the invisible line between male/female relationships. Rudd
plays L.A. real estate salesman Peter Klaven, who proposes to his
cute-as-a-button girlfriend Zooey (Rashida Jones) only to discover that
her gang of girl buddies is suspicious of his long-standing lack of
male friends. Peter tries diligently to find a buddy to pal
around with before his upcoming wedding, because, well, he needs a best
man. While presenting an open house for TV star Lou Ferrigno, Peter
meets alpha male slacker Sydney Fife (Jason Segel) and the die is cast.
A common musical appreciation for the band Rush sets off a fast
friendship that threatens to outrev Peters domestic marital plans.
Rudd is hilarious — watch him milk laughs out of the phrase, "I slappa
da bass." And Jason Segel is on top of his game as an alternately
aggressive and passive aggressive SoCal dude with spot-on
people-reading skills. Supporting comic efforts from the likes of Andy
Samberg, Jane Curtain and Jon Favreau redouble the fun. Heres a
refreshing comedy that never tries too hard and consequently leaves a
lot of room for laughs to explode. (Paramount) Rated R. 104 mins. (B)

For more reviews visit www.colesmithey.com

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