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‘Taking of Pelham’ remake barely works

‘The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3’

Director Tony Scott’s remake of the gritty and darkly comic 1974 film starring Walter Matthau is about the controlled chaos of a city that barely works.

As the lead hijacker of a subway train that left the Pelham station at 1:23 p.m., John Travolta is in high manic mode, seething and unpredictable, violent and charismatic.

The best moments of the film are his conversations with Denzel Washington, who plays the Matthau role as disgraced subway official Walter Garber, accidentally thrust into a leading role.

If the movie stayed there and focused on the psychology of an ordinary guy with a blot on his record and a crazy man who sees his own darkness in everyone, it might have been a good film. But this is a Scott production, animated by an absurd need for excess and manic, dizzying camera work. (1:46; R for violence and pervasive language)

‘Food, Inc.’

This absorbing look behind the curtain of the cynical and often sickening workings of the modern industrial food system does a superb job of making its case that our current food ways are drastically out of whack.

Starting with the chicken and beef industries, the filmmakers trace how fast-food culture created the corporate concentration of agricultural production and the disappearance of the traditional family farm.

With damning hidden-camera footage and interviews with such pioneering journalists as Eric Schlosser and Michael Pollan, the film deftly demonstrates how issues such as illegal immigration, public health and intellectual property law intersect at the largely hidden nexus of Big Meat.

See this after dinner, but see it. (1:34; PG for thematic material and disturbing images)

‘G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra’

Stephen Sommers’ film, based on the line of Hasbro action figures, is loud, flashy, silly and too long.

The crack commando G.I. Joes encounter an evil weapons dealer, a mad scientist, nanobots with a taste for 19th-century Parisian landmarks, a funny black guy, a couple of unconvincing romances, and a girl who’s been brainwashed into becoming a lethal killing machine.

Mixed in with such hard bodies as Channing Tatum and Sienna Miller are terrific actors such as Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Christopher Eccleston. (1:58; PG-13 for strong sequences of action violence and mayhem throughout)

‘Aliens in the Attic’

An extended family gathers in a big Victorian rental home in the country. There’s Tom, the “Math-lete” (Carter Jenkins), Jake the alpha male (Austin Butler), Tom’s dating-a-college-guy sister (Ashley Tisdale), baby sister Hannah (Ashley Boettcher) and the Twins (Henri and Regan Young).

They stumble across four diminutive aliens (animated) who have landed in the attic at the vanguard of a Zirconian invasion force. The adults (Doris Roberts, Kevin Nealon and Andy Richter among them) are out of the loop. So is the sheriff (Tim Meadows). It’s up to the kids, who can resist the alien mind-and-body control ray that turns adults into zombie puppets, to save the Earth.

Stupid movie, right? But kid-friendly, as the children work out ways to fend off the beasties. (1:26; PG for action violence, some suggestive humor and language)

‘I Love You, Beth Cooper’

The story begins on graduation day at Buffalo Grove High School, where one nerdtastic Denis Cooverman (Paul Rust) is delivering the valedictory address.

After Denis declares his long-harbored love for blond it-girl Beth Cooper (Hayden Panettiere), he returns home with his token gay-ish friend (Jack T. Carpenter) for a post-grad soiree. The boys’ night of raucous adventuring kicks off when Beth and her two girlfriends show up, with Beth’s truly terrifying boyfriend in hot, homicidal pursuit.

It’s teen-movie business as usual: Girls are never intentionally funny, and the boy will get the hottie if he can (respectfully) convince her that she shouldn’t sleep with people who don’t respect her. (1:41; PG-13 for crude and sexual content and language, teen drinking and drug references, and brief violence)

Also available: “The Claudette Colbert Collection,” “The Dead,” “North by Northwest: 50th Anniversary Edition,” “Star Wars: The Clone Wars – Complete Season One,” “Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut,” “Wings of Desire: Criterion Collection”



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