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Capsule reviews of films playing the week of April 20



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LIMITLESS For a film about a drug able to turn its user into a genius, Limitless isn't exactly the brightest bulb in the box — or the smartest movie in the multiplex, as it were. Bradley Cooper stars as Eddie Morra, a struggling writer who gains possession of tiny pills that, after ingested, allow him to write an entire novel in the course of four days while learning to play the piano and mastering a couple of foreign languages on the side. It turns out that this miracle pill unlocks that mythological 80% of the human brain that we don't use, so Eddie decides to put his newfound intelligence toward becoming a good capitalist. But things aren't all rosy for our upwardly mobile protagonist, as he's pursued by dangerous men and the pill's side effects are starting to take hold. The philosophical ramifications of suddenly becoming the most intelligent man on Earth are largely ignored, with the peeks into Eddie's beautiful mind simply conveyed through saturated color schemes and letters tumbling down from the rafters. Still, pushing aside the ridiculous ending and a few risible moments strewn throughout — a skating-rink sequence, Eddie lapping up blood Cronos-style, co-star Robert De Niro pretending to be interested in anything other than his paycheck — Limitless is a fairly entertaining thriller, and viewers aware of its limited appeal beforehand will probably enjoy it the most. **1/2

THE MUSIC NEVER STOPPED The music never stops in The Music Never Stopped, and that would be a problem if the tunes on parade were on the order of, say, Phil Collins' execrable "Sussudio" or Rebecca Black's splinter-in-the-tongue Web hit "Friday." But with a soundtrack lined with the likes of The Beatles and Bob Dylan, there's no chance of anybody finding themselves bleeding from the ears. Bleeding from the heart, though, might be another matter. Based on a true story (recounted in Dr. Oliver Sacks' case study "The Last Hippie"), this details the journey of two parents, Henry and Helen Sawyer (J.K. Simmons and Cara Seymour), as they try to deal with the fact that their alienated, grown son Gabriel (Lou Taylor Pucci) has been diagnosed with a head trauma that leaves him unable to form any new memories. As the parents attempt to communicate with their son, the conservative Henry is reminded of the conflicts that led his liberal son to split all those years ago. Progress in Gabriel's medical condition seems bleak until a therapist (Julia Ormond) realizes that music from Gabriel's youth — the classic sounds of 60s rock — can be used to trigger responses from him. It's pleasing to see Simmons in a rare lead role — he's more known for such supporting stints as Juno's dad or Peter Parker's editor — and it's notable that director Jim Kohlberg allows the emotional material to speak for itself rather than bathe it in manipulative, audience-pushing strokes. But perhaps his approach is a tad too muted: As it stands, the film plays like a slightly above-average television movie, the type that used to be described as a "TV weepie of the week." Some will collapse in tears over this story. Others will remain stone-cold. And still others, like me, will land somewhere in the middle of these extremes. **1/2

NO STRINGS ATTACHED Elizabeth Meriwether's script starts with a good idea: An emotionally blocked woman, Emma (Natalie Portman), and a perpetually peppy nice guy, Adam (Ashton Kutcher), find themselves attracted to each other, but because she's afraid of commitment, they agree to be "fuck buddies," satisfying each other's carnal urges whenever the need arises. No Strings Attached could have been fascinating had it made an honest attempt at exploring whether such a union could really work — think of it as a Last Tango in Paris for the Internet generation, with cell phones instead of butter as the story's chief accessory. But instead of Brando and Bertolucci, we have Kutcher and Ivan Reitman (who stopped mattering as a director after his partnership with Bill Murray in the 1980s), and the result is the usual rom-com ditherings, with the familiar assortment of stock supporting characters and one morally sound, preordained ending that again demonstrates the motto of hedonistic Hollywood is, "Do as I film, not as I do." The picture was too bland and forgettable to hurt Portman's Black Swan Oscar chances — she of course won — though I imagine her primary competition, The Kids Are All Right's Annette Bening, still read the negative notices with glee. *1/2

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