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New in theaters

Capsule reviews of the subtext-free 'Death Sentence,' and Christopher Walken's ping pong comedy 'Balls of Fury.'

New in theaters Balls of Fury (PG-13)

Director: Robert Ben Garant. With Dan Fogler, Christopher Walken. (90 min.)

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At last -- an exposé of the forbidden world of underground ping-pong. In "Balls of Fury," we travel back to the 1988 Olympics, where 12-year-old table tennis sensation Randy Daytona's injury hurls him out of the competition and into obscurity. Now an adult, Randy (Dan Fogler) exhibits his skills in sleazy nightclub acts, but the FBI wants him to train so that he can infiltrate the lair of master criminal and ping-pong obsessive Feng (Christopher Walken, at his campiest). It's an alternately hilarious and lame movie, but fairly inoffensive if one overlooks some breaches of political correctness and heavy reliance on shots to the groin. Grade: C
– M.K. Terrell

Death Sentence (R)

Director: James Wan. With Kevin Bacon, John Goodman, Kelly Preston. (110 min.)

With the subtlety of a bulldozer comes this dubiously pedigreed revenge thriller from the creators of "Saw" and the writer of "Death Wish," about an impossibly happy suburban dad (movie biz fulcrum Kevin Bacon) who becomes an uncontrollable, justice-dispensing machine after his superstar son is randomly killed in a gang-initiation ritual. Its "violence begets violence" message is lost in over-stylized music-video editing, awkward and under-saturated compositions, and gee-whiz camera ballets, all gloriously subtext-free. What we see is what we get, and neither amounts to much more than oversimplified, fetishist eye candy that leaves a sour taste. Grade: C–
– Robert Newton

• "Halloween" (R) was not screened for critics.

Still in theaters Superbad (R)

Directors: Greg Mottola. With Jonah Hill, Michael Cera, Seth Rogan, Christopher Mintz-Plasse. (114 min.)

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This movie tries to be a "Knocked Up" or "40-Year-Old Virgin" for teens, and pretty well succeeds. Three misfits about to finish high school desperately seek summer girlfriends to get some romantic experience before heading off to college. What they get is a night full of drug dealers, trigger-happy cops, and trouble. A lot of wit and inventiveness went into this production – too bad it couldn't have been used constructively. Grade: D
– M.K.T.


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