- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 30, 2007

OPENING

• Even Money (2007) (PG-13). A saga of compulsive gamblers, written by Robert Tannen and directed by Mark Rydell, who attracted an intriguing cast: Forest Whitaker, Ray Liotta, Kim Basinger, Danny De Vito, Carla Gugino, Nick Cannon, Kelsey Grammer and Jay Mohr.

• Gracie (2007) (PG-13). An inspirational sports tearjerker set in the late 1970s and said to be a semi-autobiographical memoir from the girlhood of actress Elisabeth Shue, who portrays the mother of the title character, a New Jersey teenager. Gracie (Carly Schroeder) crusades to join a boys’ high school soccer team after the accidental death of her older brother, a star player. Also a family affair behind the scenes, the movie was directed by Miss Shue’s husband, Davis Guggenheim, and co-produced by her actor brother, Andrew Shue. The cast includes Dermot Mulroney as Gracie’s father.

• Killer of Sheep (1977) (No MPAA rating: Adult subject matter). A 30th-anniversary revival of Charles Burnett’s slice-of-life feature about the struggles of a Watts family man (Henry Gayle Sanders) whose despondent moods owe something to an allegorically dead-end job at a slaughterhouse. Made on a shoestring budget, the movie never attracted a theatrical distributor but slowly built a reputation among critical and festival admirers. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema.

• Knocked Up (2007) (R: Adult language, sexual situations, drug use and mature themes). Writer-director Judd Apatow (“The 40-Year-Old Virgin”) strikes again with this very adult comedy. A mismatched pair (Seth Rogen, Katherine Heigl) hook up one drunken night and later learn they’re going to be parents.

• Mr. Brooks (2007) (R: Strong violence, sexuality, gore, nudity and adult language). Kevin Costner is Mr. Brooks, a mild-mannered businessman by day, reluctant serial killer by night. William Hurt plays Mr. Brooks’ murderous id, the voice in his head that implores him to kill. Demi Moore makes a rare screen appearance as a detective hot on the murderer’s trail.

• Severance (2007) (R: Strong violence, gore, nudity, adult language and drug use). This British horror/comedy follows a group of defense contractors who travel to Hungary for some team bonding exercises. Turns out the locals don’t like how the company’s weapons have impacted their lives, and it’s time for a bit of revenge.

NOW SHOWING

• Aqua Teen Hunger Force (2007) (R: Crude and sexual humor, violent animated images and language) — ***. Based on the successful television series that’s part of Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim animation block, “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” follows Master Shake, Frylock and Meatwad as the fast-food items try to save their neighbor Carl. The surreal cartoon isn’t for everyone, but those who appreciate this kind of humor will find an easy transition from the small to the big screen. — Kelly Jane Torrance

• Away From Her (2007) (PG-13: Some sexual references) — ***1/2. A deeply intelligent film about the burdens of marriage and memory. Julie Christie, in a bravura performance, stars as Fiona, who moves into a nursing home and seemingly forgets her husband after she’s diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Her husband Grant (Gordon Pinsent) has to watch his wife form an attachment to another man. Actress Sarah Polley directed and adapted the screenplay from an Alice Munro short story in a stunningly accomplished debut. — Kelly Jane Torrance

• Black Book — (2007) (R: Some strong violence, graphic nudity, sexuality and language) — ***1/2. Paul Verhoeven’s (“Total Recall,” “Basic Instinct”) first Dutch film in 20 years is a marvelous blend of American style and European morals. Carice van Houten and Sebastian Koch star as a Jewish member of the Dutch Resistance and her Nazi lover in this thriller that shows war is hell and so is the cleanup. — Kelly Jane Torrance

• Blades of Glory (2007) (PG-13: Language, some crude and sexual jokes and mild violence) — *. Will Ferrell fans will put up with a lot, but this ice-skating parody may test their commitment to the famous funnyman. He stars as a competitive skater alongside “Napoleon Dynamite’s” Jon Heder, but when a post-competition brawl disqualifies them from the sport indefinitely, their only hope for future gold lies in a loophole: They can team up and enter the pairs division, where they’ll show audiences just how audacious and sexually suggestive it is for two men to embrace each other on the ice. — Jenny Mayo

• Bug (2007) (R:Strong violence, sexuality, nudity, language and drug use) — **1/2. Ashley Judd stars as a divorced woman who begins dating a new man who believes he has bugs living in his body. “Bug” begins as an earnest character study but devolves into gory psycho-horror. It’s still riveting along the way, even if the payoff is a bust. — Christian Toto

• Disturbia (2007) (PG-13: Some violent scenes and sensuality) — ***. This suspenseful thriller swiftly draws viewers into its current, then picks up speed slowly before finally leaving its audience to gasp on the other side of the finale’s ripping rapids. After his father’s death leads him down a troubled path, Kale (the talented young Shia LaBeouf) finds himself under house arrest, where he learns to amuse himself with what’s outside his windows — particularly his creepy and possibly serial-killer next-door neighbor, Mr. Turner (David Morse). — Jenny Mayo

• The Ex (2007) (PG-13). A romantic comedy-melodrama about the vicissitudes of a young couple, Zach Braff and Amanda Peet, who have just had their first child and relocate to the Midwest, where the husband takes a job with his father-in-law, Charles Grodin. The firm also employs a resentful snake-in-the-grass, Jason Bateman, still carrying a torch for Miss Peet and eager to sabotage Mr. Braff. Supporting players include Mia Farrow, Donal Logue, Amy Poehler and Amy Adams. Not reviewed.

• Fay Grim (2007) (R: Language, some violent scenes and sexuality) — **1/2. Writer-director Hal Hartley’s 10-years-later sequel to “Henry Fool.” Fay Grim (Parker Posey) learns that her husband, who disappeared years ago, may have been involved in international espionage and is coerced by a CIA agent (Jeff Goldblum) to travel to Europe to reclaim journals he kept that may contain national secrets. The picture probably won’t win back the indie-film-ace status that Mr. Hartley has lost in recent years, but fans will welcome Fay’s familiar face and Miss Posey’s delicious performance. — Jenny Mayo

• The Flying Scotsman (2007) (PG-13: Some mildly violent scenes, dark themes and language) — **1/2. Jonny Lee Miller (“Afterglow,” “Trainspotting”) stars as legendary Scottish cyclist Graeme Obree in this British-made biopic about the athlete’s struggles to conquer world records as well as his own depression. Around the tumultuous main storyline — by turns dark and uplifting — the script’s supporting characters (played by Brian Cox, Billy Boyd and more) create a lighter counterpoint. — Jenny Mayo

• Fracture (2007) (R). Anthony Hopkins echoes Hannibal Lecter again while cast as a suspected murderer who relishes interrogation by Ryan Gosling, a young assistant D.A. Director Gregory Hoblit’s first successful movie was in this genre — “Primal Fear,” in which client Edward Norton outwitted criminal attorney Richard Gere. The cast includes David Strathairn, Embeth Davidtz and Rosamund Pike. Not reviewed.

• Georgia Rule (2007) (R: Sexual content and some language) — *. In director Garry Marshall’s Mother’s Day weekend offering, Lindsay Lohan stars as Rachel, a misunderstood bad girl whose mother (Felicity Huffman) banishes her to small-town Idaho, where grandma Georgia (Jane Fonda) runs a strict Christian home. But the so-called “Georgia rules” won’t save the lusty, rebellious Rachel from herself or save this soap-operatic film from itself. — Jenny Mayo

• Hot Fuzz (2007) (R: Violence, gore and adult language) — ***. The minds behind the zombie spoof “Shaun of the Dead” return with a tale of a hot-shot London officer, Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) tracking a serial killer in a sleepy British hamlet. “Fuzz” loses steam in the final reel, but until then, it’s a comic delight. — Christian Toto

• Jindabyne (2007) (R: Disturbing images, language and some nudity) — ***. Director Ray Lawrence has transferred Raymond Carver’s short story to Australia, adding layers of meaning. Stewart (Gabriel Byrne) and his friends put off reporting a dead body until they finish their fishing trip near the Australian town of Jindabyne. The community — including Stewart wife’s, Claire (Laura Linney), who has a secret of her own — can’t understand how the men could be so selfish, in this deft exploration of the ties between loyalty and morality. — Kelly Jane Torrance

• The Namesake (2007) (PG-13: Sexuality/nudity, some disturbing images and brief language) — **1/2. Jhumpa Lahiri’s acclaimed novel has been made into a lush family saga by director Mira Nair. Though the title character’s story never really gets off the ground, the tale of the arranged marriage between Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli, who move from Calcutta to New York, is a compelling immigrant saga. — Kelly Jane Torrance

• Once (2007) (R: Language and some mature themes) — ****. Irish writer-director John Carney’s “modern-day musical” is about a Guy (Glen Hansard, lead singer of the Irish rock band the Frames) who busks in the streets of Dublin and meets a Girl (Frames contributor Marketa Irglova) who plays piano and takes a liking to his tunes. As their friendship grows, they become professional partners, but both carry residual relationship baggage that may get in the way of a more serious (and sensual) commitment. Featuring Mr. Hansard and Miss Irglova’s lovely singer-songwriter fare, the film seamlessly melds dialogue and ditties in a way that redefines the term “musical.” — Jenny Mayo

• Paris, je t’aime (2006) (No MPAA rating) — An anthology of vignettes in which an international collection of directors contribute impressions of contemporary Paris. The filmmakers include Alexander Payne, Wes Craven, Gurinder Chadha, Gus Van Sant, Joel and Ethan Coen, Walter Salles and Olivier Assayas. The cast members include Juliette Binoche, Nick Nolte, Bob Hoskins, Rufus Sewell, Steve Buscemi, Fanny Ardant, Gena Rowlands, Elijah Wood, Natalie Portman, Emily Mortimer and Maggie Gyllenhaal. Some dialogue in French with English subtitles. Exclusively at the Cinema Arts in Fairfax, the Landmark Bethesda Row and Landmark E Street Cinema. Not reviewed.

• Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007) (PG-13: Intense sequences of action/adventure violence and some frightening images) — **. The hugely profitable “Caribbean” series returns to cap the trilogy, and the final installment is as muddled as the last one. For chapter three, Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) must save Capt. Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) from the clutches of Davy Jones. — Christian Toto

• Red Road (2007) (Not rated — language, nudity and a graphic sex scene) — ****. A tense but tender tale of revenge and redemption that never slips into cliche. English writer-director Andrea Arnold’s debut is the best film of the year so far. Jackie (Kate Dickie) is a Glasgow CCTV monitor who inserts herself into the life of a man she sees on camera, who may be connected to her tragic past. — Kelly Jane Torrance

• Shrek the Third (2007) (PG: Crude humor, suggestive content and swashbuckling action) — **1/2. The lovable green ogre is back in the least engaging film in the “Shrek” trilogy. This time, poor Shrek (Mike Myers) must become king of Far, Far Away unless he can persuade a bratty teen (voiced by Justin Timberlake) to take his place. — Christian Toto

• Spider-Man 3 (2007) (PG-13: Sequences of intense action violence) — ***. Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is still living a double life as Spider-Man in this third installment about the popular Marvel comic-book character. This time, he’ll have four villains to fight: New Goblin (James Franco), Sandman (Thomas Haden Church), Venom (Topher Grace) and a mysterious black gook that’s taking control of his Spidey suit. Too many characters muddle the script, but the film does offer tremendous special effects, high suspense and silly humor, plus some fine acting. — Jenny Mayo

• 28 Weeks Later (2007) (R: Gore, violence, adult language and disturbing imagery) — **1/2. The 2002 zombie hit “28 Days Later” gets extended in this ambitious horror sequel that can’t quite match the original. An international force is set to repopulate England in the wake of the “rage virus” outbreak, but the plague’s life may not be over yet. — Christian Toto

• The Valet (2007) (PG-13: Sexual content and language) — ***1/2. The valet of the title can’t believe his luck when a millionaire asks him to live with his supermodel girlfriend to throw his wife off the lovers’ trail. This French farce is a riot, courtesy of a witty script by director Francis Veber. In French with English subtitles. — Kelly Jane Torrance

• Waitress (2007) (PG-13: Sexual content, adult language and thematic elements) — ***. “Felicity’s” Keri Russell is delightful as a put-upon waitress whose life gets even worse when she learns she’s pregnant. The film’s as sweet and fluffy as the pastries the main character creates, but the ending will leave audiences with a toothache. —Christian Toto

• Year of the Dog (2007) (PG-13: Some suggestive references, adult language and mature themes). — ***. Molly Shannon shines as a single woman who becomes depressed when her beloved dog dies accidentally. She seeks solace in a fellow dog lover (Peter Sarsgaard) while taking dating tips from an aggressive co-worker (Regina King). “Dog” is anything but typical, but its shrewd comic dialogue reveals plenty about the main character’s pain. — Christian Toto MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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