Movie guide

Capsule reviews of new releases

Lonely Hearts (R)

Director: Todd Robinson. With James Gandolfini, Salma Hayek, Jared Leto, John Travolta. (107 min.)

The story of the infamous "lonely hearts killers" of the late 1940s has been filmed twice before: Leonard Kastle's "The Honeymoon Killers," (1970), which was originally to have been directed by the young Martin Scorsese, and Arturo Ripstein's "Deep Crimson" (1996). Both were terrific. "Lonely Hearts" is less so. John Travolta stars as Elmer Robinson, the Nassau County police detective who, with his partner (James Gandolfini), pursued Martha Beck (Salma Hayek) and Raymond Fernandez (Jared Leto), a nurse and gigolo who bilked and murdered young women before finally being executed in 1951 in Sing Sing prison. Travolta gives a hangdog performance as the world-weary cop obsessed with rooting out the killers. Hayek and Leto share a few tart black comic moments as the film spirals into a bloodbath. Grade: B–
– Peter Rainer

Year of the Dog (R)

Director: Mike White. With Molly Shannon, Peter Sarsgaard. (98 min.)

Recommended: Could you pass a US citizenship test?

Writer-director Mike White's "Year of the Dog" certainly gets points for oddity. Molly Shannon plays Peggy, a spinsterish office administrator who loves her pet beagle Pencil to distraction. When Pencil dies suddenly, she is bereft, until she hooks up with animal-rights activist and vegan Newt (Peter Sarsgaard, in a highly original performance). The conceit of the movie is that everyone is obsessed by something and never really tunes into anybody else. Peggy's neighbor (John C. Reilly) is an avid hunter with a wall of big-game trophies. Her sister in-law (Laura Dern) is fixated on raising the perfect child. Her best friend (Regina King) believes a good man can cure all ills. In her quest for happiness, Peggy is often abrasive and near-maniacal, although White probably wants us to like her more than we do. Still, there's a good subject buried here: The way the lives of animal lovers can be upended by the loss of a pet. Grade: B
– P.R.

Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters (R)

Director: Dave Willis and Matt Maiellaro. With Dana Snyder. (86 min.)

Spelling out the title's punctuation to evoke a little potty humor is as clever as this big screen version of the cult television series gets. Crudely animated, tasteless, and totally pointless, which I'm sure the filmmakers would say is the point. Grade: F
– M.K. Terrell

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