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Posted 5/19/2010

HARRY BROWN Pragmatic and weary with a pulsing undercurrent of menace, Harry Brown is most remarkable for the way it mimics its titular character every step of the way. Terrorized by inner-city thugs and crumbling under the weight of time and the loss of friends and family that entails, Harry Brown (Michael Caine) needs to lash out. He yearns to bend these kids over his knee and give them a good what for in the misplaced parental hope that he can change the downward slide his neighborhood has taken. Brown doesn't quite know how he's going to do this, or even if his elderly heart can take it, and neither does the movie itself. Harry Brown thrashes, telegraphing its punches from a mile away and whiffing every other knockout attempt, but when it connects, it's a whopper. Caine's performance elevates Brown's internal struggle to high art and the legendary actor has found in debut director Daniel Barber a companion unafraid to go down the dark alleys, even if it lands them in structural trouble on occasion. Harry Brown is bold, nearly reckless in its abandon, and one that stands head and shoulders above the never-ending pileup of British gangster movies. (Justin Strout) Opens May 21 at the Charles Theatre.

FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGH This 1982 flick put both director Amy Heckerling and writer Cameron Crowe on the proverbial map by practically reinventing the high-school comedy drama from the ground up. Stacy (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and her older brother Brad (Judge Reinhold) attend the titular Southern California high, populated by a cross section of teenage kicks: Pat Benatar wannabes, smooth talking ticket scalpers (Robert Romanus), "nice" guys (Brian Backer), high school girls with college-aged boyfriends (Pheobe Cates), football stars (Forest Whitaker), and class-disrupting permanently stoned surfers (Sean Penn). In Heckerling and Crowe's version of teenage wasteland, students work shitty jobs, parents are never around, Led Zeppelin is considered make-out music, and sex can have consequences. Holds up well. At the Charles Theatre at noon May 22, at 7 p.m . May 24, and 9 p.m. May 27.

SHREK FOREVER AFTER Ostensibly the "final' chapter in this DreamWorks animation series about a big green ogre (voiced by Mike Myers), his donkey pal (Eddie Murphy), a princess (Cameron Diaz), and their various misadventures. Opens May 21.

MACGRUBER Another Saturday Night Live skit gets inflated into a feature length. SNL writers John Solomon and Jorma Taccone, who also directs, skewer action movies and Richard Dean Anderson's 1980 TV series with Will Forte starring as the titular man of action and Kriten Wiig as his assistant Vicky. Opens May 21.

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