- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 9, 2007

OPENING

• Away From Her (2007) (PG-13). A tear-jerker derived from the Alice Munro short story “The Bear Came Over the Mountain.” Julie Christie and Gordon Pinsent co-star as a married couple of 50 years whose contentment is altered by indications that the wife is succumbing to Alzheimer’s disease.

• Delta Farce (2007) (PG-13). An apparently labored spoof of both the elite commando organization Delta Force and “The Magnificent Seven.” An ill-assorted batch of recruits think they’re bound for Iraq but end up in Mexico, where they defend a village from a ruthless warlord. With Danny Trejo as the villain, plus Larry the Cable Guy, Keith David and DJ Qualls.

• 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.

• Georgia Rule (2007) (R). Three generations of womenfolk clash and bond at an Idaho farm, where matriarch Jane Fonda agrees to help daughter Felicity Huffman improve the behavior of insolent teenager Lindsay Lohan. The token menfolk include Dermot Mulroney and Cary Elwes.

• The Hip-Hop Project (2007) (PG-13). A documentary feature that affirms hip-hop as “a vehicle for self-discovery and redemption.” Exhibit A is Chris “Kazi” Rolle, aligned with a New York City program called Art Start. He encourages teenagers to rise above their troubles by writing and distributing music albums.

• Home of the Brave (2007) (R). This week’s serious movie about American soldiers, a quartet who return home after a tour of duty in Iraq that culminated in a deadly mission. Samuel L. Jackson, Jessica Biel, Curtis Jackson and Brian Presley have principal roles.

• Offside (2006) (No MPAA rating). The latest film from Iranian writer-director Jafar Panahi, who again draws attention to the regime’s sexual prejudice by depicting the efforts of soccer-loving girls to crash a World Cup qualifying match in Tehran. Attendance is limited to men only. When apprehended, the girls are detained in a part of the stadium where sounds of the game still tantalize prisoners and the young soldiers guarding them. In Farsi with English subtitles.

• Snow Cake (2007) (No MPAA rating: Adult subject matter). A tear-jerker co-starring Sigourney Weaver as an autistic woman and Alan Rickman as a grief-stricken stranger brought together in the aftermath of an auto accident. With Carrie-Anne Moss as an indispensable go-between. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema.

• 28 Weeks Later (2007) (R: Gore, violence, adult language and disturbing imagery). The 2002 zombie hit “28 Days Later” gets extended in this horror sequel. 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.

• The Valet (2007) (PG-13). The new farce from writer-director Francis Veber of “The Dinner Game” and “The Closet.” He revives his favorite character name for a patsy, Francois Pignon, now a restaurant car service valet. Inadvertently, Pignon (Gad Elmaleh) is drawn into the romantic deceptions of a tycoon played by Daniel Auteuil, anxious to conceal a fashionable mistress, supermodel Alice Taglioni, from his suspicious wife, Kristin Scott Thomas. The hoax involves passing off the valet as the model’s boyfriend. In French with English subtitles.

• Waitress (2007) (PG-13: Sexual content, adult language and thematic elements). “Felicity’s” Keri Russell plays a put-upon waitress whose life gets even worse when she learns she’s pregnant. Salvation comes in form of a handsome doctor (Nathan Fillion) but he, like the waitress, is already married.

NOW SHOWING

• After the Wedding (2007) (R: Partial nudity, sexual situations and adult language) — ***1/2. Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier directs this wonderful tale of a man (Mads Mikkelsen) who travels to Copenhagen to secure funding for an Indian orphanage. His trip turns sour when he gets invited to a wedding, a joyous event which stirs up old wounds. — Christian Toto

• 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

• 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

• Civic Duty (2006) (No MPAA rating; Adult subject matter). A low-budget suspense melodrama about an accountant (Peter Krause of “Six Feet Under”) who begins to suspect his neighbor, an Islamic graduate student, of terrorist activities. Directed by Jeff Renfroe from a screenplay by Andrew Joiner. Not reviewed.

• Disturbia (2007) (PG-13: Some violent scenes and sensuality) — ***. This suspenseful thriller draws viewers into its current swiftly, 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 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 quite dark and quite 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,” where client Edward Norton outwitted criminal attorney Richard Gere. The cast includes David Strathairn, Embeth Davidtz and Rosamund Pike. Not reviewed.

• Grindhouse (2007) (R: Nudity, gore, violence, adult language and disturbing imagery) — ***. Directors Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino direct two films in the exploitive grind house mode of yore. “Planet Terror” stays closest to the template with its gruesome zombies and purposely silly action. “Death Proof” features Kurt Russell but proves Mr. Tarantino’s dialogue isn’t always as snappy as it was in “Pulp Fiction.” — Christian Toto

• The Hoax (2007) (R: Some nudity, language, mature themes) — ***. Though not entirely historically accurate, “The Hoax” delivers a fascinating if slightly fabricated portrait of Clifford Irving (Richard Gere), the man who had a nation believing he’d obtained Howard Hughes’ exclusive memoirs. The well-acted film seems less a recollection of the real story than an extended hypothesis about how one man’s quest for notoriety, the public’s thirst for celebrity gossip and human willingness to trust can turn one little white lie into a white-hot wildfire that threatens all who encounter and enable it. — 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

• In the Land of Women (2007) (PG-13). A domestic comedy written and directed by Jake Kasdan, offspring of Lawrence Kasdan. Following a romantic break-up, a screenwriter played by Adam Brody leaves Hollywood for suburban Michigan, where an aging grandmother, Olympia Dukakis, needs immediate care. He also becomes absorbed in the problems of a neighbor, Meg Ryan, and her adolescent daughters, Makenzie Vega and Kristen Stewart. Not reviewed.

• The Lives of Others (2006) (R: Some sexuality and nudity — ****. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s astonishingly accomplished debut is the best film of 2006 and powerful but understated filmmaking. A Stasi officer in 1984 East Berlin gradually recovers his humanity by spying on a playwright and his actress girlfriend. In German with English subtitles. Oscar for best foreign film.— Kelly Jane Torrance

• Lucky You (2007) (PG:13: Some adult language and sexual humor) — *1/2. Eric Bana stars in this oft-delayed drama about a poker pro who meets an aspiring singer (Drew Barrymore) and sparks fly. The romantic angle is tepid, but no more so than the father-son tension between Mr. Bana and a bored Robert Duvall. — Christian Toto

• Meet the Robinsons (2007) (G: Mild comic violence) — ***. Disney’s latest CGI-animated feature follows a young inventor who gets caught up in a time-travel jam. An orphan teams up with a boy from the future to thwart an evil character out to alter history. The film unfolds its tricky but well-constructed story without losing its multigenerational audience, all the while delivering some surprisingly rich humor.— Christian Toto

• 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

• The Page Turner (La Tourneuse de pages) (2006) (Not rated — adult themes) — **1/2. This French film is a tale of revenge lying in wait, as a child patiently waits until adulthood to retaliate against the concert pianist who as an examination judge ended the girl’s career. The intriguing premise and solid performances don’t quite add up, however, and “The Page Turner” finally becomes a thriller without the thrills. In French with English subtitles. — Kelly Jane Torrance

• The Rules of the Game (1939) (No MPAA rating, made decades before the advent of the rating system; adult subject matter, with occasional violence and thematic emphasis on infidelity) — ****. A revival engagement of Jean Renoir’s famous social comedy about a weekend of hunting, revelry and feckless infidelity among the guests and servants at a country estate. Resented in the summer of 1939, when France was nearing social collapse and military defeat, the movie became a revered classic after being reevaluated a generation later. With the director himself in a memorable performance as the genial, shambling go-between Octave. In French with English subtitles. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema.

• 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 of the popular Marvel comic book character. This time, he’ll have four villains to fight: New Goblin (James Franco), Sandman (Thomas Hayden 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 performances. — Jenny Mayo

• 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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