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“X-Men Origins: Wolverine” opens this weekend, with Hugh Jackman reprising his role as the loner mutant. We learn about his tortured family past and his lost love, both influential factors in fueling his inner manimal. Another wide release is “Ghosts of Girlfriends Past,” starring Matthew McConaughey and Jennifer Garner. McConaughey plays his familiar romantic comedy role as a ladies’ man who gets the Scrooge treatment a la Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” after wronging one too many women. You’ll note that an animated adventure called “Battle for Terra” will also be in theaters.

Wolverine Poster X-Men Origins: Wolverine I once speculated around Oscars season that the fans’ perception of Wolverine’s manliness might be in jeopardy when Hugh Jackman hosted this year’s Academy Awards in true song-and-dance fashion (which he did quite skillfully, I will note). Further threatening potential box-office glory as the release date approached was that the entire film (albeit an unfinished version) was leaked online for all to view for free. And now there’s yet another possible obstacle: this crazy new swine flu scare. Will audiences pack moviehouses and make this film the first summer blockbuster triumph of the year?

The truth is, Jackman worked hard for this role and he is plenty ferocious, so be prepared for a non-stop, action-packed romp featuring one of audiences’ favorite comic book heroes. All critics don’t necessarily agree. Says Robert Wilonsky of the The Village Voice, “Without fail, the dullest installment in any superhero movie franchise is the origin story, during which audiences anxiously awaiting The Big Bad Guy have to suffer through, yaaaawn, scenes of childhood trauma, romantic tragedy, and other expository effluvia, by which point the closing credits are fast approaching.” Keep in mind, however, that the “Iron Man” franchise kicked-off with what was essentially a superhero origin story, and the Batman franchise re-established itself when Christian Bale first filled the suit in “Batman Begins” a few summers ago. Roger Ebert felt this way: “Nothing here about human nature. No personalities beyond those hauled in via typecasting. No lessons to learn. No joy to be experienced. Just mayhem, noise and pretty pictures.” On the other hand, Claudia Puig of the USA Today feels that, “Although it’s a quintessential popcorn movie, ‘Wolverine’ is not mindless. (Director) Gavin Hood and Jackman bring depth to a comic-book tale of anti-heroes with anger issues.”

I get the impression that most critics now believe that every comic book movie should be of the same level of complexity as last year’s mega-hit, “The Dark Knight.” But let’s be honest, summertime fun is about getting away from it all. So if you like cool-looking, big-time action, get yer blockbuster on with your old pal Wolverine.

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State of Play Poster Ghosts of Girlfriends Past Alright, alright, alright. Matt McConaughey gets a little older, but his movie roles stay the same age. In this one, he plays a perpetual bachelor who is haunted by the women of his past relationships. Clearly, this is the date night, “alternative programming” to the wild action fest mentioned above. Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly does note one difference with McConaughey’s previous screen personas: “Even if you’ve tired of the star’s oily cocoa-butter narcissism, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past offers a solution, of sorts: “It casts him as a studly photographer who is such a smarmy, dislikable (insert expletive of your choice) that the film doesn’t pretend you’re supposed to like him.” Randy Cordova critic for the Arizona Republic tends to agree about the character, but doesn’t think much of the film in general. “Is the guy a jerk? Sure. But is he charming, funny or even remotely interesting? Nope. That means you’re stuck in the company of a withering, cocky bore for 100 aching minutes, the running time of ‘Ghosts.’ And quite honestly, you have much better things to do with your time.” If you feel like going to the movies and you feel you MUST see something other than a superhero movie, then maybe you should think about this one. At least Jennifer Garner looks pretty and Michael Douglas shows up as a ghost.

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Crank High Voltage Poster Battle for TerraUnfortunately upon first sight, this flick looks a lot like the dubious sequel to one of last years biggest flops, “Delgo,” but it’s the only viable family fare out there this weekend and features the voice talents of Justin Long and Evan Rachel Wood. Some critics feel that “it is a work of art.” (John Anderson, Variety) Others, however, aren’t sure the movie is worth your time. “Terra, to be fair, looks fairly clean, and the 3-D is totally passable, but watching it will be no fun for either kids or adults.” (Vadim Rizov, The Village Voice)

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