Capsule reviews of films opening this week:
"Cave of Forgotten Dreams" _ He's 68 years old and narrates his documentaries in an unmistakably raspy whisper, his heavy German accent adding an air of mystery to everything he's describing. And yet Werner Herzog has such obvious enthusiasm for the discoveries here, it's as if you're listening to a giddy little kid who learned the coolest thing at school today and cannot wait to tell you all about it. That's just one of the many fascinating contradictions that mark Herzog's latest film, about a French cave containing spectacular prehistoric artwork that was closed off to the outside world over 20,000 years ago when a rock face collapsed. Once scientists found it and began investigating inside, they saw vivid and pristine images of horses, bears, rhinos and other creatures that they estimate are over 30,000 years old _ almost twice as old as previous finds. Researchers call it one of the most important cultural finds ever, and not only did Herzog gain unprecedented access, he also shot it all in 3-D. Now, we're not always a fan of the technology, but not only is it not gimmicky, it actually enhances the viewing experience _ making these images seem more tactile and immediate. "Cave of Forgotten Dreams" immerses us in a space that's at once enormous and darkly cramped, full of shimmering crystal formations and scattered cave bear skulls. The film does grow a bit repetitive, though, and could have been a half-hour shorter. G. 90 minutes. Three stars out of four.
_ Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic
"Fast Five" _ If the filmmakers had thrown in giant, shape-shifting robots, talking apes and some vampires, the fifth installment in "The Fast and the Furious" franchise would hardly have been more outlandish. That said, the movie will get you where you're going. Opting for a blowout of a movie with no restraints whatsoever, director Justin Lin wisely adds former wrestling superstar Dwayne Johnson as a relentless federal agent to go toe-to-toe with Vin Diesel's driving ace, who's again on the run along with his sister (Jordana Brewster) and his cop-turned-outlaw pal (Paul Walker). Any thwack from the inevitable Diesel-Johnson slugfest might kill an ordinary human, but these characters basically are comic-book figures, so they're able to wail the innards out of each other and come through with only a cosmetic bruise or two. It's nonsense, but when Hollywood does nonsense right, it can be a lot of fun. Lin now is far more assured as an action director, crafting stunts and chases that zip along so recklessly you won't much care how utterly impossible they are. Past "Fast and Furious" rowdies such as Tyrese Gibson, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges and Sung Kang join Diesel and company for an "Ocean's Eleven"-style heist romp. PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, sexual content and language. 130 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.
_ David Germain, AP Movie Writer
"Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil" _ Red Riding Hood needs a better agent. Months after being refashioned in a werewolf tale, she's back in this computer-animated sequel to the mostly forgotten 2005 original. The fractured fairy tale has returned with 3-D graphics, more polished animation and less wit. There was some madcap charm to the earlier "Hoodwinked!" which reinterpreted the story of Red Riding Hood as a "Rashomon"-style detective story. This sequel, directed by Mike Disa, takes the same characters and instead of refashioning a fairy tale, casts them in an action film plot. Red (Hayden Panettiere assuming Anne Hathaway's role), Wolf (Patrick Warburton), Twitchy (an overcaffeinated squirrel voiced by Cory Edwards) and Granny (Glenn Close) are now special agents in the Happily Ever After Agency. Led by the dapper, long-legged frog Nicky Flippers (David Ogden Stiers), they pursue the kidnapped Hansel (Bill Hader) and Gretel (Amy Poehler) when they're taken by a witch (Joan Cusack). The frame is more "Mission: Impossible" than Brothers Grimm. The result is a more professional-looking film with less comedy. If only the talented voice cast had written it, too. PG for some mild rude humor, language and action. 85 minutes. One star out of four.
_ Jake Coyle, AP Entertainment Writer
"Prom" _ It's not just prom, it's Disney's "Prom." And so no one smokes, no one sneaks in peach schnapps in a flask and no one gets lucky in the back of a limo. This is all about that magical night when everyone gets together, regardless of the social hierarchy that had been firmly in place the past four years, and dreams come true. Wholesome, earnest dreams for wholesome, earnest kids _ except for the resident bad boy, that is. But naturally, he'll turn out to have a heart of gold. Yes, director Joe Nussbaum's film, from a script by Katie Wech, is chock-full of high-school movie cliches _ sometimes knowingly and amusingly so. There's a tall, misfit character named Lloyd (Nicholas Braun) who resembles "Say Anything ..."-era John Cusack _ a tall, misfit character named Lloyd. Of course, the straight-arrow good girl (Aimee Teegarden) will get stuck working with the motorcycle-riding rebel (Thomas McDonell), and they will see through their respective prejudices to not only get along but fall for each other. Still, the sweetness and guilelessness of "Prom" is actually strangely charming, and for its target audience _ girls who are several years away from having to pick out that perfect dress _ this will be a safe, enjoyable and validating little diversion. PG for mild language and a brief fight. 103 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.
_ Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic