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Friday movie roundup: Is August over yet?
It's a bad weekend for Hollywood movies.
The most-anticipated opening — at least for teen girls — is "If I Stay," a sticky-sweet romantic drama based on Gayle Forman's young-adult novel. Chloë Grace Moretz stars as Mia, a teen cello prodigy who's stuck between life and death after her family is in a car crash. In limbo, she roams the hospital while the movie flashes back to memories of her parents (Mirielle Enos, Joshua Leonard) and her troubled romance with a rising rock star (Jamie Blackley). Moretz's solid performance gets lost in a wave of faux-tragic sentimentality.
"Sin City: A Dame to Kill For" reunites filmmaker Robert Rodriguez and comic-book writer Frank Miller to tell more of Miller's detective-noir stories, but with such devotion to Miller's black-and-white visuals and nihilistic violence that all emotion, character or storytelling is lost. Returning cast members Mickey Rourke, Jessica Alba, Rosario Dawson, Powers Boothe and Bruce Willis are joined by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Josh Brolin, Eva Green and more.
Then there's the sports drama "When the Game Stands Tall," inspired by the true story of the De La Salle Spartans, a California Catholic high school football team that set a record 151-game winning streak. The movie concentrates on what happened after that, when the coach, Bob Ladouceur (Jim Caviezel), and his team must bounce back from its first loss in more than a decade. The real story is overwhelmed by phony melodrama and overpowered by the football action.
The good stuff this week is at the art houses. Best of all is "Land Ho!," a fun and laidback comedy about two retired ex-brothers-in-law (Earl Lynn Nelson, Paul Eenhoorn) on a vacation trip to Iceland. The movie has a frisky vibe, with these two charming characters bantering among the visual splendor.
Also opening this weekend is "Dinosaur 13," a powerful documentary about the largest T. rex specimen ever found — and how the for-profit diggers who discovered it ran into a legal minefield with the federal government. The story is fascinating and infuriating, and solidly told.