Survey 100 Kevin Smith fans on what they like best about his films, and the phrase “the way he directs” will not escape a single pair of lips. So why was he brought in as a director-for-hire on the Bruce Willis-Tracy Morgan buddy action-comedy Cop Out (Warner Bros.)? The answer is still a mystery, though his presence is felt in the film’s brutally unfunny improv bits. Smith’s affection for ‘80s action trash comes through as well, but Cop Out exposes his weaknesses in the shoot-’em-up and chase sequences, which are somewhere between inept and indifferent


It’s a close call, but in the battle for smug douchebag supremacy, action edition, The Losers (Warner Bros.) triumphs over The A-Team—which, of course, means it loses as entertainment. Led by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, this collection of rogue black-ops super-studs (and one studette) continues to embark on heroic missions the world over, and barely breaks a sweat doing it. Director Sylvain White tries so hard to make his heroes look cool at every moment that they more often seem anything but


In The Runaways (Sony), Michael Shannon plays cold-blooded music-biz Svengali Kim Fowley as a P.T. Barnum of the Sunset Strip, a mastermind whose encouragement of young rock stars looks a lot like abuse. Unfortunately, the movie isn’t about Fowley, it’s about the pre-fab ’70s girl-punk band of the title, starring Dakota Fanning as Cherie Currie and Kristen Stewart as Joan Jett. It isn’t a bad film, but such an unruly music scene deserves more than the standard biopic treatment


The big-screen spin-off of a popular series of animated shorts, the Belgian stop-motion animated feature A Town Called Panic (Zeitgeist) is the work of grown-ups who haven't forgotten the imaginative flights of fancy that children experience while playing. Flea-market toys plunge beneath the Earth, experience showers of bricks, and generally misbehave sweetly. It might be a tad too much delight for a feature film, but that's a minor complaint.