Here's a sampling of our panel's opinions on some of the films that opened recently:
' Tropic Thunder' 2 1/2 stars (fair-good)
Momgreenbem: This movie was terrible. I don't know how it ever got three stars. I do not know how anyone as talented as Ben Stiller could direct/write/produce and act in such a piece of garbage. I also found it difficult to understand Robert Downey Jr. People in the audience were laughing, so maybe it is just me. Could it be that this movie is not suitable for the over-65 age group?
' Star Wars: The Clone Wars' 2 stars (fair)
Young at Heart: What I hoped would be a good film turned out to be a real mess, no better than some of the junk seen on Saturday morning TV. Its commercialism was evident. Why can't they leave a good thing alone? Let the children grow up on the original from which it was fashioned.
'Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2' 3 stars (good)
Bicycleboy: I am ashamed to say I enjoyed this movie. Go with your wife or girlfriend or niece or a female friend--you couldn't really tell your buddy that you wanna go, or that you liked it. Better yet, tell your girlfriend that you want to see some horrible movie that you know she will hate, let her talk you into this one. You both will enjoy the movie and you will get good-guy bonus points.
' Bottle Shock' 3 stars (good)
Young at Heart: This was a real sleeper. The truth of the story gave it credence, and the performances are quite good. Here's a toast: "Long live American wines." Definitely worth a try.
' Pineapple Express' 2 stars (fair)
ValerieL: What a crazy story! Too much violence, but it worked. ... The true surprise was James Franco. His comedic ability was smokin'! Hopefully there is more to come.
' American Teen' 2 1/2 stars
Bicycleboy: A nice high school story. Much nicer than my high school years. Maybe wanting to be included in a film made these kids 10 times more mature than I was in high school.
' Swing Vote' 2 stars
Liz: In the movies, impossible events become possible events. This time you have to suspend your disbelief that actually one man's vote would decide an election of a president of the United States. Kevin Costner is a common man thrust into this political limelight. It is always fun to see two opposing political parties connive, scheme and manipulate anything to their advantage. There is always an element in movies that reflects real life. Food for thought. Madeline Carroll playing Molly the daughter is an actress to watch.
' The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor' 1 1/2 stars
Young at Heart: Another opening, another action sequel. I am getting tired of these action sequels and find nothing to say about this one. It is all in the title. What is needed is some originality.
'The X-Files: I Want To Believe' **
Reda: It is nice to see an "X-Files" movie after such a long break. It doesn't matter whether you watched the series or not. If you like sci-fi, you should enjoy it.
Dominika: Only true fans of "The X-Files" "will want to believe" it.
Amy: Unlike some sequels and movies based on television shows, this one could be enjoyed by someone unfamiliar with "The X-Files." I probably missed some of the inside jokes but was able to follow the movie. The plot was not realistic enough to be really compelling.
Liz: Fox Mulder and Dr. Dana Scully are back! This time it doesn't deal with any alien conspiracy so the movie just bogs down ... how boring!
Haumza: I was dragged to this film, and it was typical "X-Files." For someone dragged to this movie (kicking and screaming) the story line was interesting, but unless you're a fan of the show I would pass.
Young at Heart: I must admit that I never saw the television show, and I was able to view this film with a clear mind. I was confused a bit at the start but got into the plot without much difficulty. I enjoyed the interplay between Scully and Mulder, and the performance of Billy Connolly as Father Joseph. I am sure addicts of the show will not be disappointed, and new friends will be made.
Kaycee: Great to see Mulder and Scully together again, but the plot was a little lacking.
Bicycleboy: " Step Brothers" was really funny. I advise you to go to "Step Brothers." I really would go to "Step Brothers" if I was you. If you are crazy about "The X-Files" (I have never seen the TV show) you will go to this movie. If you are crazy about Amanda Peet, no matter what she does, you will go to this movie. Otherwise, go to "Step Brothers," or " The Dark Knight," or something really good.
Momgreenbem: I liked the movie. It was a good story that really kept your attention.
'Step Brothers' **
Dominika: This movie is generally stupid, but one will laugh here and there.
Amy: The humor isn't funny, but just dumb. It's repetitive and insulting.
Liz: The Will Ferrelland John C. Reilly comedy team-up is already running out of steam. The premise of two middle-age men forced to bond because of the marriage of their parents has come up lame. It's an exercise in futility that doesn't have any room for any comedic premise. Grow up, Peter Pan.
Oula: Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly work so well together. For one of those stupid comedies that make guys crack up, as a woman it made me laugh!
Young at Heart: I found the story hilarious, and the characters working well to make it believable, but why is it necessary to rely so much on vulgarity? This would have worked just as well without the incessant swearing. It is a predictable story that gave me a good laugh.
Kaycee: Funny Farrell.
Momgreenbem: There is funny, silly and ridiculous. Not only is this the most ridiculous movie, it is gross. The only good thing about the movie is the last five minutes because you know it is almost over.
Bicycleboy: The theater was roaring with laughter. This film is laugh out loud funny. (It is also rude, crude and socially unacceptable.) Go see this movie, leave your kids at home.
'The Dark Knight' ****
Valerie L: For a movie to be superb, it first has to have an outstanding script. Then the actors have to deliver the lines to make the story believable. "The Dark Knight" is much more. The incredible duo of Bale and Ledger made movie history. Ledger's Joker says to Bale's Batman that their game will go on forever. Unfortunately this will be impossible without the amazing talent of Heath Ledger.
Liz: The plot holds numerous surprises that were not alluded to in the trailers. The musical score lends itself nicely to the serious and dramatic nature of the film. Ledger's performance is intense and frightening, and the best parts of the movie are the scenes in which he performs. The movie meets and exceeds the expectations created by all of the hype.
Amy: Health Ledger redefined the villain's role!
Young at Heart: Holy mackerel. Another comic book movie with Batman and Joker taking on the forces of good and evil. I liked this film because I became bonded to the characters, because of the writing, direction, performances of the characters, and that the special effects did not outweigh the cast.
Oula: Heath Ledger was excellent in this role.
Momgreenbem: Probably the best Batman movie that has been made. It had it all--good story line, action, drama and suspense. I could not imagine sitting through a 2 1/2 hour movie about a comic book character, but the time flew by.
Bicycleboy: Heath Ledger is fantastic. I thought all the talk about his amazing performance was because he died too young. His performance was incredible and would have been talked about under any circumstances. Check him out.
' Mamma Mia! The Movie' ** 1/2
Liz: Meryl Streep once again has proven herself a very good actress and a fine singer. The stage musical turned into a movie event is very entertaining. The story line sticks mostly to the original script.
Steve P: This movie was fun! OK, the singing is not the best and the plot line is thin, but how can you not like all of the upbeat songs and beautiful scenery? The actors all seem to be having a good time, which makes the viewer have a good time. This is a summer, feel-good film with no aspirations of being an Oscar-worthy film (despite having A-list actors in the cast).
Amy: I loved this film! I think this movie is meant for people who love the musical, because the movie alone might not be as enjoyable due to some of the casting and the cast's ability to sing. But anyone would still like the movie ... you have to be a fan of the musical to love it!
Young at Heart: On the heels of good musical films like "Chicago" and "Dreamgirls," they brought out this film. I did not particularly like the play, but it was intimate and sometimes pleasing. Being lured by the trailers, I found the movie to be a total mess on all fronts. I suggest renting the film only to see the mix and outtakes at the end.
Oula: It was difficult to see Meryl Streep in this role. However, it was a good film if you like ABBA. I saw the musical, and it was better on screen!
Momgreenbem: I have always felt that a live stage production was better than a movie, even though more could be done in a movie. However, I did not see the stage production of "Mamma Mia!" Accordingly, I really enjoyed the movie. It was very entertaining. The cast, the music and the scenery were terrific. If I had one complaint, it was that the music was so loud in some instances that you could not hear the lyrics.
Big boomer: The songs were good in the '70s, the stage musical fun, the movie misses on all counts.
' Space Chimps' * 1/2
Liz: "Keep your hands off me you damn, dirty ape!" That's not the type of dialogue that can be found in this movie. The story line is lame, with two chimps on a rescue mission. The dialogue is too contrived, and all ages seeing this movie will not have an enjoyable time.
Amy: Surprisingly clever! The cast really performs well together, and it is enjoyable for both adults and kids.
Kaycee: I was chimpapointed.
Henri Mensonge: Cheap animation, cheap plot, cheap laughs = expensive ticket?
Bicycleboy: I have no children. I didn't have any reason to stay until the end. If you go see the manager in the beginning of the movie, they will give you a re-admit pass. But this was better than "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly"(but I was forced to stay until the end of that movie).
' Journey to the Center of the Earth' **
Liz: A remake of an old movie without Pat Boone. Brendan Fraser being Brendan Fraser, making the same expressions from all the movies he is starring in; the only improvement is the special effects that are a standard of movies today.
Dominika: Maybe if I watched it in 3-D I would have liked it more. Simple story, probably appealing to teenagers.
Henri: Forty years after "2001: A Space Odyssey," the contrast between that movie's lyrical vision of an unknown future out there in space and this one's obsession with the past and inner space is unsettling.
Linda: I found this film highly entertaining because of its non-stop action. The humor applies to all ages, from dinosaur lovers to lovers of a love story! Some parts were a bit corny; however, I just kept in my mind the film was just some fun-filled fiction!
Momgreenbem: I did not think it was as good as the original movie in 1959. This version was like a combination of scenes from " Indiana Jones," Tinker Bell from "Peter Pan," Audrey from "Little Shop of Horrors" and the chase scene in " Jurassic Park."
Bicycleboy: RealD 3-D is cool. It really works, even if you wear glasses. All sorts of stuff comes flying out of the screen. You duck. You put your hands up to keep stuff from hitting you. "Journey" is entertaining enough. The entire experience is pretty groovy. (DON'T GO IF IT ISN'T IN 3-D.)
' Hellboy II: The Golden Army' ** 1/2
Liz: The big red is back! Much bigger and more exciting than the first one, once again battling the forces of evil threatening mankind. The good guys win!
Reda: Pretty cool. I really enjoyed this one as much as I did enjoy part one.
Dominika: Much better than the first one!
Kaycee: Great special effects.
Amy: This is a movie that I think you need to see the original to be able to enjoy and follow the sequel. This was my first exposure to "Hellboy" and spent the majority of the time confused and did not enjoy the movie.
Bicycleboy: This movie is OK. Some action, some humor, some little creatures that del Toro loves to create. Something is missing. I can't put my finger on what it is. But there are flat parts of the movie, parts where I was kinda bored. Then it picks back up. If you saw the trailer--lower your expectations.
' Meet Dave' **
has lost his appeal, sleepwalking through this movie. He could have just phoned his role in.
John: I'm happy I met Dave and his entourage of insipid aliens. Nothing to ponder here, the humor is plain and simple. Murphy pulls it off though, with his timing of infectious facial expressions. The film is light-hearted in its parable and does not dwell on ideals....Just fluff for a summer filled with egotistical hero movies.
Kaycee: Fair summer film.
Henri: What's more important to you, paying for two gallons of gas or paying for one ticket to another Eddie Murphy movie?
Young at Heart: It's time to stop going to the majority of summer movies. Are they just put into the show as fillers for blockbusters? Take a talented star like Eddie Murphy. He had the talent to make "
Cop," but lately has appeared in movies not even worth renting, "Meet Dave" included. Send the kids out to play.
Momgreenbem: I liked the movie. As always, Eddie Murphy played his role very well. The movie was very entertaining and you left the theater feeling good.
Big E: Eddie just does not do it anymore. Hard to believe he was a box-office force with "Beverly Hills Cop."
' Hancock' ** 1/2
Liz: One of the lesser movie vehicles that Will Smith has picked among his past good picks. It's a story about a superhero who has lost his sense of purpose. The movie cannot make up its mind whether to be funny or serious; both categories fail.
Amy: Will Smith makes fabulous 4th of July movies! This is not quite in the same mold of previous Smith/July 4th movies, but it's still a good movie that the whole family can enjoy! Will Smith's acting is what makes this movie good.
Reda: Really cool movie. Perfect to watch for a 4th of July weekend. Made me realize what power of PR means these days. Even a superhero needs to watch his mouth.
Dominika: I really enjoyed it. Will Smith is always fun to watch (maybe with the exception of "Wild Wild West").
John: Forget logic. I surprisingly enjoyed this film. I loved Will Smith's character from start to finish. There was that subliminal quality of goodness in him, even with his misanthropic personality. There are many funny scenes that Smith pulls off dearly, and the story moved and was unpredictable. It is one of the few films that the preview trailer didn't spoil.
Young at Heart: This film was awful. Sci-fi movies are usually optimistic. This one left me with a bad taste. It was extremely violent and used street language much too often. The rating of PG-13 adds to the problem. Children get in without adults and go in groups. The script was confusing and had no depth.
Kaycee: A waste of the talented Will Smith. An alcoholic superhero is no role model, and the commercial attempt to reinvent him is ridiculous.
Bicycleboy: Want some Will Smith? Go rent your favorite. Need some new Will Smith? Go, but lower your expectations. I'm sure he'll be back next year, so it is OK to give this one a pass. Better to spend the movie money on a meat upgrade for your barbecue this weekend. Get a T-bone, forget "Hancock."
Liza: It was mildly interesting. The movie was decent, so it will not disappoint, but it will not be a favorite either.
'WALL-E' *** 1/2
Henri: As a lifelong Rust Belt resident, I'm a sucker for romantic representations of dystopias, so it's not surprising that this movie touched my inner trash compactor. However, I don't know what to think about the human characters in the film. Why were there no people of color? What sort of vision is it that underwrote the filmmakers' decision to recolonize the planet with only people with pale skin color?
Amy: Surprisingly good! This film excels on multiple levels and definitely leaves you with something to think about.
Momgreenbem: I loved the film and so did the grandchildren. Pixar has outdone themselves. The movie was delightful and just made you feel good. How could you not love WALL-E?
Gregory: A truly great film. An unusual but effective beginning, and as the movie progresses [it] develops even more. Has some very emotional and funny scenes.
John: More than animation, "WALL-E" is visual poetry. Actions speak louder than words, which move the story line with emotion through anthropomorphic robots, and it all works. The humor that occurs is natural and related to the predicament of WALL-E's sphere. This is the perfect introduction for the youth of the world to an interpretive, yet entertaining, film.
Kaycee: Film can be enjoyed by all ages. Great special effects.
Young at Heart: Hail to the family film. Every so often a film comes out that appeals to the younger members of a family and doesn't bore the older ones, and this certainly fills the bill. The animation is fascinating, and the hero is unusual without being too cutesy. Take the family, and enjoy. It ranks with the classics. Treat your family to a good time.
Bicycleboy: Go. Just go. Sit down with your snack and drink in air-conditioned comfort in stadium seating and enjoy. Holding someone's hand is really all you can do to improve the experience.
Big E: Great movie to be enjoyed with your whole family. 10-year-old, Mom, Dad and Grandma all enjoyed.
' Wanted' ** 1/2
Henri: Eh. I get it, but I've begun to get tired of it. Yet another film that touches on enlightened gender relations from a Glock? To paraphrase Chairman Mao, theatrical power comes from the barrel of a gun.
Jlb: Very entertaining and surprisingly funny and action-packed as well.
Amy: For as much hype as this film gets as an Angelina Jolie movie, I was surprised that her character wasn't as big as I would have thought. This definitely IS NOT her movie.
Momgreenbem: I had mixed feelings about this movie. In the beginning I did not like the movie, as I thought it was just another no-brainer action film. As the movie progressed it became more interesting. This is a must see for anyone who likes a lot of action and an element of suspense and a surprise ending.
Bicycleboy: Super-intense crazy action! Lower Wacker Drive! Lakeview! African food from Bolat on Clark (available at the Taste of Chicago!) Chicago alleys! If you live in and love Chicago--GO!
Reda: I like Myers and every single movie he ever was in. The Love Guru is yet another hilarious piece by him. It is funny and entertaining.
Amy: A fun comedy, but not really a great movie. Mike Myers is good for some laughs and there is a plot you can almost follow, but it's likely exactly what you would except before going to see it.
Dominika: Funny, silly movie. Mike Myers is funny as usual so if anybody is looking for an easy movie that will make you smile a few times this is definitely the right pick.
Liz: Mike Myers has overstayed his welcome in the world of comedy. a silly waste of time.
Momgreenbem: This is one of the worst movies I have seen. I thought it was done in very poor taste and raunchy.
Reda: I laughed like crazy watching this one. Worth seeing, worth spending the money. I'll probably watch it many more times after it gets to DVDs.
Amy: The humor/puns were too ridiculous for me to really enjoy. The acting was good, but the over the top "jokes" made it difficult for me to say I enjoyed the movie.
Dominika: I like Steve Carell's sense of humor. This is a quite decent movie however it comes nowhere near "The 40 Year Old Virgin".
Steve P: I was expecting a lame version of television show, but was pleasantly surprised. The story stood up as a stand alone film and at the same time, made a few references to the TV show. Good chemistry with Steve Carrell and Anne Hathaway. Alan Arkin was under used though.
John Gorak: I wanted to love this film. I loved Don Adams back on the series, and there lies the problem. Don had the high annoying voice and mannerisms that brought out the humor. Carell just deadpans with his normal voice and NO mannerisms, and above all, he just doesn't "bumble" enough. The update try wasn't great, the secret phone booth was still there -- but do the young even know what that is? And it was clever writing to get the shoe phone in the story line; I wished the writers would of done as good with the Sunbeam. The humor did pick up in spaces without nostalgia toward the end of the film, and it was funny at the end with the security door being stuck. What's next in movieland? "Our Man Flint"?
liz: A remake of a '60s TV show without the silliness of Don Adams. Too serious for comedy Momgreenbem: I was talked into going to see this movie. I never cared for the TV show, but I enjoyed the movie. It was very entertaining and you left the theater smiling.
Young at Heart: "Get Smart" is timeless. There will always be counterespionage, and what better to make light of. I remember my children's enjoyment years ago, and feel that the present audiences will share in the humor. The audience at the performance I attended clapped at the end. In this case, the sequel worked. At least, for me.
bicycleboy: I expected this film to be horrible. I set my expectations at zero stars. It exceeded expectations. If you forget Don Adams, Ed Platt and Mel Brooks -- and go to "Get Smart" -- it is an evening out. Nothing special. Fair. It is always good to get out of the house and hold hands in the dark with your honey. Expect nothing more from this movie (and nothing less).
Screen Testers average: 3 stars
Amy: I was surprised how much I liked the depth of the story; I expected just bloody warfare, but there actually were characters and a plot I could follow.
liz: A semi-fiction of the adaption of Genghis Khan -- a romanticized version of the life and times of a conqueror. Suspend your skepticism to enjoy the movie.
bicycleboy: An intense film, well told. Gripping. The world has changed very little as it has changed very much. If you don't mind reading subtitles -- just go. Interesting and exciting.
Reda: Surprising for sure and not what I expected.
Valerie L: I understand what M. Night was saying about protecting the earth. It was an interesting concept "what if the plants had enough of us?" He had some good analogies (the huge, over-sized lawn mower). How many pollutants does this send into the environment? On the other hand, there was way too much violence. Some of it was so morose that I spent more time looking at my watch than at the movie.
Dominika: M. Night Shyamalan's movies are usually attractive to me. I like that they are always odd and strange; however, their endings usually are weak and not developed. This is the case with this movie as well.
Liz: Surprise from the director is predictable now
Amy: More funny than scary. Not intentionally, so but you will probably end up laughing more than you'll be scared.
John Gorak: The fun in seeing any M. Night Shyamalan film is finding the clues and the foreshadowing of what the ending to the mystery will be. In detecting these, sometimes diminutive objects, it is gratifying entertainment for this type of genre.
Momgreenbem: I normally don't go in for thrillers, but this was a great movie. A lot of suspense. The movie really kept your attention every minute. The ending was a surprise, which I will not reveal.
bicycleboy: Producer, writer, director--M Night Shyamalan. Only person who wants to see this movie--M Night Shyamalan. Go to the nearest Walgreens. Give the homeless guy out front the $10 you would have spent on the ticket. Go home and watch some bad TV. You had a better evening than we had at The Happening.
Reda: More superhero movies please!
Dominika: Do we really need a remake of Hulk every five years?
Liz: much better than the previous 1990 film bearing the same title - special effects and story line is much better
Amy: I had no comic book background, but really did enjoy this movie!
Momgreenbem: I think this movie is more for the "comic book" crowd. It was not as good as the TV series. If you are into a lot of action, this is the movie for you.
Young at Heart: Not knowing what to expect, I went to this movie with only a recollection of the old television show. I felt I owed it to my husband for sitting through Sex and the City last week. I was pleased with the script and found the acting above average. My main complaint was it was played too loud, and was too intense for young children.
bicycleboy: Wowza. Toss together a first-rate actor ( Edward Norton) and someone who wants to blow apart the CGI envelope and you get a fantastic movie.
Momgreenbem: The acting was excellent. The story line can really hit home and is food for thought for the viewer. The movie addressed feelings that all of us have had at one time or another with our parents. Is this a wake up call for what our children may feel about us.
Liz: interesting storyline regarding exploring the relationship between parent and their children Amy: Not your typical Colin Firth movie, I didn't really enjoy it.
Momgreenbem: I thought it was one of the most ridiculous movies I have ever seen. Adam Sandler wasted his talents in this one. I admit there were some laughs in it, but also some pretty raunchy scenes. It did have a message, but you didn't find it until the last 10 minutes. Maybe the movie would appeal to a younger audience, but not to the 65+ group.
Young at Heart: It reminded me of Theatre of the Absurd. I don't know if I would recommend it, but personally I haven't laughed so hard in a long time. If one can be flexible about the language and morality issues, it will give you something to think and talk about. You will not forget this movie.
bicycleboy: Adam Sandler is funny. Go see this film if you are a guy. Leave your girlfriend at home. She won't like it. But you will. If you have a 13 year old nephew, take him. Buy him a lot of Coke or Pepsi--drop him off to his parents-energized.
John E. Gorak: Parodies of egotistical supermen who are ulitmate saviors and the object of admirers seem to be prevalent these days. Take the "most interesting man in the world" character pitching for Mexican beer. That's Zohan in the first scenes. But soon he is without sophistication, even with the desire of becoming a renowned hair stylist. Zohan becomes the ulitmate sexual toy, and, very lewd and disgusting; almost tedious. This is the REAL Sex and the City, especially for the older female. And those scenes are iconic in that regard. But he still must save the day, and the concocted script falls short in laughs at how its warring elements embrace each other against a common enemy...by singing...and using high pitch to cause havoc. Rival John Turturro should stick to the Coen films - what's he doing inthis? He's much more suited to a role with literary depth. But I didlike seeing Shelley Berman in the long list of cameos, his physicalpresence at the dinner table was a hoot.
Amy: A cute family movie- Not the best movie I've ever seen, but widespread appeal
Liz: it was great - for kids and adults .. a movie all age groups will enjoy
Dominika: Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman - you can't go wrong with this one. Excellent entertainment for the whole family.
Momgreenbem: This was a delightful film. As a grandmother of 10, I can honestly say this is a film the whole family would enjoy.
kaycee: Great visuals. Cute movie.
bicycleboy: Sappy. Weird animated fur. Jack Black used to be a very high energy kinda guy. All his recent films are made on the downhill slide of his sugar high. Pretty bad moral--Believe in yourself and you can outdo others who believe in themselves and are more prepared. Almost an advertisement for dropping out of school.
Amy: A non-mainstream comedy-- Not really my type of movie, but I could imagine that some people might really enjoy it. Reda: Boring. kaycee: meh . . . Dominika Chafai: Uninteresting story. Would not recommend for anybody to go and see it.