3 stars = Good
"Madagascar 3" is a fast and furious animated adventure, with a pace that seems speeded up, even more celebrity voices as animals and humans, and a door swinging wide open for a possible fourth film if "Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted" does well.
The story opens in Africa as the penguins fly off to Monte Carlo on the only working aircraft in sight, leaving the zoo refugees on their own. The foursome -- Alex (voice of Ben Stiller), Marty the zebra (Chris Rock), Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) -- make their way to the French Riviera with plans to grab the penguins from the casino and force them to transport them to New York in the monkey-powered super plane.
But this turns out to be an impossible mission as they crash-land into the casino and attract the attention, and screams, of gamblers and animal control officer Chantel DuBois (Frances McDormand). Her idea of wildlife control, particularly when it comes to the king of the jungle, is to try to capture Alex and add his head to her trophy wall.
To escape from this human bloodhound and the police, the Zoosters pretend to be circus animals and escape with Circus Zaragoza.
"Madagascar 3" can never recapture the novelty of the first or the glory of Africa in the second, but the circus rehearsals and performances provide visual panache and remind us that in the world of animation, anything is possible.
The Blu-ray includes the short feature "Get Them to the Train," a behind-the-scenes look, deleted scenes and a roundtable with the stars.
2 stars = Mediocre
A group of young people find terror at the site of the nuclear accident.
Other than the setting, there's little about the film to distinguish it from all of the other horror films in which a group of good-looking people find themselves in a deadly situation and make silly decisions as they are picked off one by one.
As with so many of these films, it's not the destination but the journey that either makes or breaks the movie.
The journey here has six tourists taking a trip to the abandoned city of Pripyat. The extreme tourist trip goes bad when the group's van won't start, and they soon realize the city is not as abandoned as they thought.
-- Rick Bentley, McClatchy Newspapers
1 star = Awful
Here's a strong contender for worst movies of the year list.
"That's My Boy" is about a teacher who seduces a seventh-grader in 1984, has his child and is sentenced to 30 years in the Massachusetts women's penitentiary.
Flash forward to the present, when that child is all grown up -- christened Han Solo by his immature dad, Donny Berger (Adam Sandler) -- and about to marry. Han now works on Wall Street, calls himself Todd (Andy Samberg) and tells everyone his parents are dead instead of the subject of salacious headlines and a made-for-TV movie.
But Donny, once hailed as a "junior high stud" and still recognized everywhere he goes, hasn't paid taxes in years and will be going to jail unless he can come up with $43,000.
A scheme to get the money leads him to Todd on the eve of his son's lavish wedding to Jamie (Leighton Meester). Donny poses as a pal of Todd, ingratiates himself into his son's circle of future in-laws and friends and even gets Todd to loosen up but their newly re-established bond might be destroyed forever.
"That's My Boy" has a couple of funny moments, largely pertaining to boyhood tats and TV or music mainstays from the late 1980s or early '90s. But despite the inspired casting of Mr. Sandler and Mr. Samberg as father and son in an eclectic ensemble that also counts Tony Orlando, Vanilla Ice and James Caan, "That's My Boy" aims low with women invariably as sexpots, strippers or skanks plus multiple references to bodily fluids and sex acts, and people being cracked on the head with bottles or punched in the nose.
ALSO THIS WEEK:
• "Moonrise Kingdom" (2-1/2 stars): Set on an island off the coast of New England in the summer of 1965, this Wes Anderson ("Fantastic Mr. Fox," "Rushmore") comedy tells the story of two 12-year-olds who fall in love, make a secret pact and run away together into the wilderness.
• "Neil Young Journeys" (3-1/2 stars): This third film directed by Jonathan Demme documents his two-night stand at the famed Massey Theater in Toronto on his tour for "Le Noise," wherein he eschewed side musicians and stripped the music down to its raw essence.
• "Alcatraz: The Complete Series": The short-lived Fox series from J.J. Abrams looks at what happens when all of the guards and prisoners at the prison vanish, then begin reappearing years later.
• "Thomas Kinkade Presents a Christmas Miracle": Eight strangers spend Christmas together.
• "The Ice House": Detectives must decide if a dead body is a new or old case.
• "Brave New World": Five-part documentary series that looks at technology and biology.
• "Touch: The Complete First Season": Fox series stars Kiefer Sutherland.
• "Psych: The Complete Sixth Season": James Roday stars.
• "Pete's Dragon": Disney film is on Blu-ray to mark its 35th anniversary.
• "Last Ride": Fugitive takes 10-year-old son into the Australian Outback.
• "Pound Puppies: Super Secret Pup Club": Includes five Pound Puppies adventures.
• "Legendary Amazons": Jackie Chan stars in film based on 1972's "The 14 Amazons."
• "Cagney & Lacey: The Complete Series": Tyne Daly, Sharon Gless star in the TV cop drama.
• "The Heart of Christmas": A family wants to give their child one last Christmas.
• "Company": Stories told through Broadway musical standards.
• "Back From Hell": Country manor may not be idyllic for renters.
• "The Firm: The Complete First Season": Josh Lucas headlines law drama.
• "2016: Obama's America": Film based on Dinesh D'Souza novel.
• "Lemon": Story of Tony Award winner and felon Lemon Andersen.
• "Simon & Simon: Season Seven": Rick and A.J. are back for another season of sleuthing.
-- PG staff and Rick Bentley, McClatchy Newspapers