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Posted: Saturday, August 21, 2010 12:00 am

“THE OTHER GUYS”

** (out of four)

The Other Guys,” the new comedy from director Adam McKay and star Will Ferrell, proudly continues this season’s pattern of disappointment by consistently failing to live up to its potential, and frankly, at this point, it’s hard to get angry. This kind of thing has become the standard, and so we as moviegoers are left to wander a desolate wasteland of recycled screenplays and failed remakes — alone, afraid, and praying for that rare reprieve from the onslaught of sheer mediocrity. Get used to it, I guess. “The Other Guys” suffers from the same central problem that has plagued many movies this summer, including last week’s “Dinner for Schmucks.”

“DINNER FOR SCHMUCKS”

**

With a different approach, “Dinner for Schmucks” probably would have made for a riotous, R-rated, politically incorrect comedy of the highest order. The plot is rife for it: Rudd stars as Tim, a low-level assets manager (or something equally mundane) who wants to impress the boss and claim his rightful place in the recently vacated main-floor office. Problems arise when Tim discovers that in order to woo his superiors, he must take part in a dinner game in which he invites along the most obliviously stupid person he can find — fresh meat for the snobbish superiors to make fun of. The employee who invites the most idiotic guest wins a trophy and, presumably, the boss’ favor.

“SALT”

**

I suppose the best thing I can say about “Salt” — apart from praising its status as “not terrible” — is that it made me buy Angelina Jolie as an action star, and actually had me looking forward to the scenes in which she’s in full ass-kicking mode. This could be because the action sequences (as staged by Phillip Noyce, the erratic director of movies as wildly different as “Sliver” and “The Saint,” and “The Quiet American” and “Rabbit-Proof Fence”) are at least competently filmed and edited, or it could be because the non-action scenes are just that boring and derivative. Either way, for the first time, I’m open-minded about Jolie as the femme action star du jour.

“INCEPTION”

****

There are things in this film that will force you to re-evaluate what you thought was possible in cinema. This rare quality has inspired comparisons to “The Matrix,” but consensus seems to be that “Inception” is exponentially more effective, mature and polished in the manner in which it goes about blowing your mind completely apart. And I’m not just referring to the cool visuals you’ve seen in the trailers (zero-gravity gun fights, cities that roll over onto themselves, etc.) — “Inception” is a veritable symphony for the senses, filled with countless images and sounds and ideas that will be immediately seared into your memory. It’s a trip, in every sense of the word.

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