- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 15, 2005

OPENING

• Apres Vous (2005) (R: Occasional profanity and sexual candor) —**1/2.Two and a half stars.dori and his co-writers sustain some witty character observation and preposterous complications. Daniel Auteuil, as a compulsively helpful headwaiter, rescues a potential suicide named Louis (Jose Garcia) and feels obliged to follow through on his generosity, despite inconvenience and Louis’ ingratitude. Eventually the rescuer is rewarded with a new sweetheart: Louis’ ex-girlfriend (Sandrine Kiberlain), a lanky flower shop proprietor with a wistfully bedraggled appeal. Mr. Auteuil is in expert control of a self-effacing temperament and expressively beady eyes. In French with English subtitles.

• Batman Begins (2005) (PG-13: Action movie violence and disturbing themes) — **1/2. “Memento” director Christopher Nolan gallantly tries to re-start the Batman movie franchise with a thoughtful but ultimately wan prequel. Christian Bale is just fine as the Caped Crusader, whose past we learn through a series of cogent flashbacks. But the lack of an arresting villain and murky battle sequences render “Batman Begins” inferior to the 1989 feature starring Michael Keaton. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• The Deal (2005) (R) — A futuristic thriller about war and espionage that envisions a Middle Eastern oil crisis that has driven prices sky-high and left the automotive world vulnerable to manipulation by the Russian mafia.

• Deep Blue (2005) (G: Occasional images of predatory sea creatures) — ***1/2. An imposing documentary feature from many of the filmmakers involved in the “Blue Planet” television series. In fact there’s a certain amount of overflow footage from that ambitious project. The collection is frequently stunning and sometimes wrenching — there are recurrent predatory assaults as big fish feed on smaller specimens. The mind-boggling sights include proximity to enormous shoals of fish and a plunge into the Marianas Trench by a pair of Mir submersibles, which enable crews to illuminate marine life forms that had remained beyond camera range.

• Happily Ever After (2004) (No MPAA rating — adult subject matter, consistent with the R category; occasional profanity and systematic sexual candor, with an emphasis on marital infidelity) *1/2. The Israeli-French humorist Yvan Attal and his wife, actress Charlotte Gainsbourg, play a restless Parisian couple with a cute little boy (their own), who may need to reconcile himself to estrangement sooner or later, since papa remains obsessed with infidelity. Despite flashes of cleverness and insight, the movie degenerates into an interminable and obnoxious wallow in Gallic amorality. In French with English subtitles. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema.

• Herbie: Fully Loaded (2005) (PG) — Both the Love Bug and Batman have come out of mothballs. Lindsay Lohan and Michael Keaton are cast as the Beetle-loving daughter and father who inherit the magical Herbie and prepare him for the NASCAR circuit. Opens Wednesday.

• My Summer of Love (2005) (R: Occasional sexual candor while depicting a lesbian affair). A British romantic fable about lovelorn adolescent Yorkshire girls who become inseparable companions over the course of a summer.

• The Perfect Man (2005) (PG: Mildly suggestive content). Hilary Duff stars as a teen tired of watching her single mother pick up and move the family whenever a relationship fizzles. When the teen concocts an imaginary man for her mother to keep her preoccupied, she has to deliver that man when the prank goes too far. Chris Noth co-stars as the potential man of her mom’s dreams.

• Shake Hands with the Devil (2005) (No MPAA rating — adult subject matter, concerned with the Rwandan massacres of 1994 and including some distant but authentic images of the killings) — ***. An exceedingly partial but nonetheless sobering Canadian documentary feature about Lt. Gen. (ret.) Romeo Dallaire, the officer who was left in a position of impotence as commander of the United Nations’ troops in Rwanda in 1994 as the Hutus slaughtered their Tutsi countrymen. The filmmakers summarize the Rwandan calamity effectively and deliver well-earned rebukes to those who collaborated in the U.N. cop-out. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema.

NOW SHOWING

• The Adventures of Sharkboy & Lavagirl in 3D (2005) (PG: Action violence and a brief excretory joke) — **1/2. “Spy Kids” director Robert Rodriguez brings his puckish sense of humor to this tale of a boy whose dreams get him in all sorts of trouble. Said child (Cayden Boyd) dreams up a fantasy realm featuring the title characters, who later turn to the boy for help when their planet faces extinction. The film’s 3-D sequences disappoint, but children will cheer over the silly humor and heroic maneuvers. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• The Bridge of San Luis Rey (2005) (PG: Ominous episodes and some sexual allusions; fleeting violence and gruesome illustrative details) — *1/2. Irish director Sarah McGuckian botches a remake of Thornton Wilder’s novella, the Pulitzer Prize winner of 1928. Gabriel Byrne, Geraldine Chaplin and Adriana Dominguez project the right temperaments for the author’s meditations on fate, estrangement and eternal mysteries, but the estimable Kathy Bates is out of place as a colonial Spanish aristocrat dwelling in Lima, Peru, in the early 18th century. For the rest — including Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel and F. Murray Abraham — it’s a look-out-below fiasco.

• Cinderella Man (2005) (PG-13: Occasional profanity and graphic violence, concentrated in prizefight sequences) — ***1/2. A fable of athletic tenacity and family solidarity during the Depression, this ingratiating new classic of the fight game celebrates the remarkable comeback of boxer Jim Braddock (Russell Crowe), who emerged from a five-year slump and grinding poverty to challenge Max Baer for the heavyweight title in June 1935. The aura of tenderness that surrounds Mr. Crowe as Braddock and Renee Zellweger as his apprehensive wife, Mae, gives the movie an irresistible emotional appeal.

• Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (2005) (No MPAA rating — Adult subject matter) — **1/2. A refresher course on the Enron business scandal, derived from the book by Fortune magazine reporters Bethany McLean and Peter Elkind. They are principal interview subjects for documentary filmmaker Alex Gibney, who provides a coherent and often diverting chronicle of the company’s rise, malpractice and fall. A denouement awaits the outcome of federal trials next year.

• High Tension (2005) (R) — A French filmmaker, Alexandre Aja, joins the horror throng with a thriller about two coeds menaced by a stalker while residing in a secluded farmhouse. With Cecile De France and Maiween Le Besco as the endangered ones. In French with English subtitles. Not reviewed.

• The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005) (PG: Action violence; mild profanity) — **1/2. Comic sci-fi adventure starring Martin Freeman as an average Brit scooped into space for an intergalactic voyage of sight gags and spoofy philosophy. Also starring Mos Def and Sam Rockwell. Based on the BBC radio and novel series by the late Douglas Adams. Directed by Garth Jennings. Reviewed by Scott Galupo.

• The Honeymooners (2005) (PG-13: Comic violence and mild innuendo) — **. Cedric the Entertainer headlines this gentle but unnecessary remake of the 1950s TV institution. Cedric’s Ralph Kramden is always digging up some get-rich-quick scheme, but his latest could endanger his chances of buying a duplex for his wife Alice (Gabrielle Union) and their neighbors Norton (Mike Epps) and Trixie (Regina Hall). The film’s stale gags and wandering plot can’t completely besmirch Cedric’s avuncular turn as a kinder, gentle Ralph Kramden. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) (PG) — An animated feature from Hayao Miyazaki, director of the Oscar-winning “Spirited Away.” Sinister and benign spirits also contend in this fable about a teenager named Sophie, who has been transformed into a witch. To dispel the curse she seeks out a wizard called Howl, whose abode is guarded by a fiery but helpful demon. Not reviewed.

• Kicking & Screaming (2005) (PG: Comic violence and strong language). Will Ferrell takes an unfortunate career misstep with this flat kiddie comedy. He plays a put-upon dad who takes over his son’s soccer team in an effort to outcoach his father (Robert Duvall), the league’s best coach. Even Mr. Ferrell’s inspired rants can’t bring more than an occasional chuckle to this warmed over “Bad News Bears” retread. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• Ladies in Lavender (2005) (PG-13: Fleeting ominous elements and sexual allusions) — **. Maggie Smith and Judi Dench play sisters who share a secluded seacoast home on the Cornwall coast in the late 1930s. Miriam Margolyes is their brusquely amusing cook and housekeeper. A castaway (Daniel Bruehl) washes up on the beach, and the women nurse him back to health. He emerges as a violin virtuoso destined to make a brilliant London debut, under the sponsorship of Natasha McElhone, a glamourpuss water colorist living near the sisters. While Miss Dench gets a crush on the convalescent, village doctor David Warner pines for Miss McElhone. The quality of heartbreak is exceedingly frail, but the actresses remain fine company.

• Layer Cake (2005) (R: Strong violence, harsh language and drug use) — ***. Rising star Daniel Craig gives a craggy gravitas to this seedy gangster film, which has enough twists to satisfy genre purists. Mr. Craig plays an upper-crust drug dealer looking to retire with a pulse, but the game and its players just won’t let him. Watch for a commanding performance by Michael Gambon as one of two criminal kingpins. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• The Longest Yard (2005) (PG-13: Profanity; crude and sexual humor; drug reference; football violence) — **1/2. Adam Sandler and Chris Rock star in a super-sized, super-violent remake of the (overrated) ‘70s gridiron comedy. It’s the cons vs. the guards in a godforsaken Texas penitentiary, and retired National Football League stars such as Michael Irvin make the action seem bone-crunchingly real. But the laughs quit at the 50-yard line. Directed by Peter Segal. Reviewed by Scott Galupo.

• Look at Me (2004) (PG-13: Brief profanity; sexual references) — ***. An almost perfectly calibrated Cannes screenplay winner from French director Agnes Jaoui (co-writing with husband Jean-Pierre Bacri), who uses the indifferent relationship of a famous novelist to his overweight daughter (Marilou Berry) to skewer fame. In French with subtitles. Reviewed by Scott Galupo.

• Lords of Dogtown (2005) (PG-13: Sexual situations, coarse language and drug use) — **1/2. Counterculture guardian Stacy Peralta (“Riding Giants”) tells the story of his own contributions to the birth of skateboarding in this ambitious but uneven yarn. It’s a coming of age saga with fantastic skateboarding stunts, but when the wheels stop spinning we’re left numb to the characters’ woes. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• Mad Hot Ballroom (2005) (PG: Some allusions to troubled family and social backgrounds; no objectionable language or depiction) — ***1/2. A disarming documentary feature that observes fifth-grade students in New York City schools as they participate in ballroom dance classes and then prepare to compete in annual dance competitions. A “Rocky” finish is scarcely needed to improve the movie’s charm and appeal.

• Madagascar (2005) (PG: Comic violence and mild excretory humor) — ***1/2. The latest computer-generated wonder follows a quartet of zoo animals who find themselves lost in the jungle after years of safe captivity. Ben Stiller, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith and Chris Rock all shine as the lead voices, and the lush animation is matched by jokes that young and old will giggle over. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• Monster-in-Law (2005) (PG-13: Profanity, sexual references) — **. A tit-for-tat farce of pre-wedding hijinks starring comeback girl Jane Fonda as the domineering prospective in-law of Jennifer Lopez. Miss Fonda chews the scenery; Miss Lopez stands out like, and acts about as well as, a sore thumb. Reviewed by Scott Galupo.

• Mr. and Mrs. Smith (2005) (PG-13) — **.The fateful vehicle matching Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt as passionately susceptible co-stars. Not to be confused with the vintage romantic comedy of the same name, directed in 1941 by Alfred Hitchcock, this “Smith” can be legitimately confused with “Prizzi’s Honor,” since the plot deals with contract killers who fall in love and marry, only to become targets of each other.

• Rock School (2005) (R: Profanity) —****. First-time documentarian Don Argott spends a raucous and revealingly entertaining at the Paul Green School of Rock Music in Philadelphia, a real-life rock academy that predates — and surpasses — the Jack Black comedy “The School of Rock.” Reviewed by Scott Galupo.

• The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (2005) (PG: Fleeting vulgar dialogue and sexual allusions; episodes of family conflict) — **. An attractive showcase for a quintet of young actresses, derived from a juvenile best-seller about the summertime activities of four high school friends from Bethesda who find themselves separated but exchange a supposedly magical talisman: a pair of jeans that miraculously fit every one of them. Most of the subplots are trite, but there are scenes that flatter every member of the sorority.

• Star Wars: Episode III — Revenge of the Sith (2005) (PG-13) — Frequent sword duels and depictions of massive aerial combat in a science-fiction setting; occasional graphic violence with gruesome illustrative details) — **1/2. The sixth and probably final installment of the progressively overblown science-fiction saga. Spectacle remains the strong suit, especially lavish aerial combat and prolonged light saber duels. If you go for those alone, there’s a big show to savor.

• Tell Them Who You Are (2005) (R: Frequent profanity and candid elements of family conflict and loss in a documentary format) — **. A sometimes revealing but also insufferable documentary feature about the famous cinematographer Haskell Wexler, directed by his son Mark, whose career as a photojournalist seems to have involved squabbles with his father that spill over into this psychodramatic memoir. The privileged professional status of both men makes their disputes difficult to tolerate at feature length. Exclusively at the Avalon.

• Torremolinos ‘73 (2004) (No MPAA rating: Adult subject matter, involving the vintage porn movie industry in Europe) — A Spanish sex comedy about a struggling husband and wife who hope to hustle a nest egg by collaborating on a low-budget erotic film. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema. Not reviewed.MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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