- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 14, 2005


• The Baxter (2005) (PG-13) Another romantic comedy about a loser’s redemption, written and directed for himself by Michael Showalter. He plays lovelorn protagonist Elliot Sherman, a shy tax accountant with a history of being jilted by girlfriends. It appears he may have lucked out with a magazine editor played by Elizabeth Banks. They’re engaged, but one of her high-school sweethearts (Justin Theroux) is suddenly back on the scene. —Not reviewed.

• Cry Wolf (2005) (PG-13) A murder thriller set on a college campus where a playfully morbid game turns lethal, suggesting that a serial killer is in the shadows. The cast includes Jon Bon Jovi, Lindy Booth and Jared Padalecki. —Not reviewed.

• G (200 ) (R) — An update of “The Great Gatsby,” transposed to the hip-hop scene. Jay Gatsby becomes Summer G, who has created a recording empire and hopes to place it at the feet of a cherished college sweetheart, encountered years later in the Hamptons. The cast includes Blair Underwood, Andre Royo, Richard T. Jones and Chenoa Maxwell.

• Just Like Heaven (2005) (PG) — A romantic comedy with a supernatural angle, co-starring Mark Ruffalo as the current tenant of a San Francisco apartment and Reese Witherspoon as his immediate predecessor, who comes and goes in a ghostly fashion while insisting that she still lives there.

• Lord of War (2005) (R: Drug use, violence, sexual situations and adult themes). Nicholas Cage stars as a veteran gunrunner who confronts the consequences of his work while being hounded by an Interpol agent. “War” co-stars Jared Leto, Ethan Hawke and Bridget Moynahan.

• Venom (2005) (R ) — A horror thriller set in the Louisiana bayous and contrived to spook high school friends played by Agnes Bruckner, Method Man, Bijou Phillips, D.J. Cotrona, Jonathan Jackson and Meagan Good with a voodoo curse. Directed by Jim Gillespie from a screenplay by Kevin Williamson of “Scream” renown.


• Broken Flowers (2005) (R: Occasional profanity, nudity and sexual candor; fleeting violence) — *1/2. Another exercise in starvation comedy from Jim Jarmusch, whose material often resembles wilted flowers. Bill Murray is cast as a hard-to-redeem protagonist, an inert and sketchily defined computer entrepreneur who has allowed his life to wilt. This middle-aged sad sack has acquired a reputation as a Don Juan. He goes on a wild goose chase to look up four discarded consorts, played in order by Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange and Tilda Swinton. Only the Stone stopover pays humorous dividends, in part because the old flame has a flirty teenage daughter named Lolita (Alexis Dziena) who enjoys treating the visitor like a potential Humbert.

• Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) (PG: Quirky situations and mild language) — ***. The Roald Dahl classic, which inspired the delightful 1971 film featuring Gene Wilder, gets retold more accurately by Tim Burton. Johnny Depp stars as the retiring candy king who invites a group of children into his factory to earn the right to be his heir. Mr. Depp’s quirky performance pales in comparison to Mr. Wilder’s, but there’s enough child-like wonder here to justify the retelling. Danny Elfman’s score and original Oompa Loompa tunes bring a fresh voice to the story. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• The Constant Gardener (2005) (R: Occasional graphic violence with gruesome illustrative details; elements of sexual candor and racial animosity) *1/2. A movie version of the John Le Carre novel, which belabors a tail-chasing, self-devouring, tendentious plot about a deceived and grief-stricken British diplomat in Kenya, a new showcase for Ralph Fiennes as a suffering gentleman. He investigates the violent death of wife Rachel Weisz, a left-wing political activist who appears to have been taking shameful advantage of his trust. Nevertheless, the circumstantial evidence contrived to give her a shady profile is eventually softened, leaving the ghost of an angelic martyr to international opportunists in league with a pharmaceutical conglomerate. Mr. Le Carre has always been fond of heroines whose political naivete made them pawns for the ruthless. He’s still at it, and the dubious aspects loom larger than ever. With Danny Huston and Bill Nighy as dishonorable Englishmen. Directed by Fernando Meirelles, who keeps slogging away long after you’ve cried “uncle.”

• Elevator to the Gallows (1957) (No MPAA rating: Made before the advent of the rating system; occasional profanity, violence and sexual allusions) — *1/2. A revival of Louis Malle’s 1958 debut feature, which enjoyed more of a vogue for recruiting Miles Davis to contribute a jazz score than for its merits as a mystery thriller. The awful truth is that it becomes a maddening fiasco. The pretext has nerve-wracking potential: Jeanne Moreau’s lover, Maurice Ronet, kills her husband but is trapped in the office elevator he had counted on for his getaway. You expect the scenario to concentrate on the lovers and how they reached this grotesque juncture. Incredibly, it prefers joyrides and digressions with extraneous characters that fall short with a thud. “Elevator” is a vintage rattletrap, but it contains numerous cliches and familiar faces of the approaching new wave. In French with English subtitles. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema.

• The Exorcism of Emily Rose (2005) (PG-13: Frightening imagery, mature themes) — **1/2. Take a courtroom drama and mix in some demonic possession and you get this well-crafted but slight horror flick based on a true story. The trial follows a priest (Tom Wilkinson) accused of negligence in the death of a young woman he tried to save via exorcism. Laura Linney plays the lawyer out to clear the father’s good name. The scares can’t match the grandfather of all possession films, “The Exorcist,” but writer/director Scott Derrickson shows flair with a few goose bump moments. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• The 40 Year-Old Virgin (2005) (R: Profanity; pervasive sexuality; crude humor; drug use) — ***. An unapologetically hilarious sex farce with sweetness at its center, starring brilliantly understated comedian Steve Carell as a terminally chaste electronics store stock supervisor. His work buddies (Paul Rudd, Romany Malco and Seth Rogen) entice him to do the deed with all manner of floozies, but he’s got his heart set on Catherine Keener’s doggedly classy Trish. Directed by Judd Apatow. Reviewed by Scott Galupo.

• Four Brothers (2005) (R: Strong language, violence and mature situations) — ***. Director John Singleton, hot again after helping produce the indie hit “Hustle & Flow,” directs this simplistic revenge tale co-starring Mark Wahlberg. The actor plays one of four adopted siblings out to find the men responsible for killing their mother. The film also stars Andre 3000, better known to music fans as half of OutKast. The engaging cast, and two standout set pieces, pave over the wafer-thin morality. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• Grizzly Man (2005) (R: Occasional profanity, graphic violence and evidence of dementia in a documentary format) — **1/2. An authentically unnerving memoir of a demented personality, a failed actor who called himself Tim Treadwell and won renown by promoting himself as a “protector” of Alaskan grizzly bears. For many years he taped his trips to the wilderness, where he tried to get up close and personal with the wildlife. Ultimately, he got so close that a rogue grizzly mauled him (and a female companion) to death. Werner Herzog, always attracted to lunacy, was invited to distill a feature from the Treadwell collection of vacation tapes, which also preserved numerous psychotic rants for the camera. If you think it can be edifying to see madness dead-on, “Grizzly Man” provides the real-life horror.

• Hustle & Flow (2005) (R: Harsh language, drug use, violence and sexual situations) — ***1/2. Terrence Howard dominates this fascinating tale of a pimp trying for his own piece of the American dream. Mr. Howard’s Djay thinks he could be the next big rap star, and he’s teaming up with an old high school friend (Anthony Anderson) for one last stab at stardom. The film doesn’t cower from the sins of its antihero, nor does it deny Djay a chance at redemption. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• Junebug (2005) (R: Profanity, sexual content, including nudity) ? ***. Funny, intimate and affecting first feature from native North Carolinian Phil Morrison that chronicles the culture clash that ensues when a man (Alessandro Nivola) brings home a worldly wife to his childhood home in Winston-Salem. Written by Angus MacLachlan. Reviewed by Scott Galupo.

• The Man (2005) (PG-13) — An odd-couple comedy that teams Samuel L. Jackson and Eugene Levy as crime fighters: respectively, an undercover federal agent and a dental supply salesman who blunders into harm’s way. Directed by Les Mayfield.

• March of the Penguins (2005) (G) —***. This often dazzling film capturing the life cycle of the emperor penguin will entertain even those normally repelled by nature documentaries. The creatures in question endure brutal temperatures and unforgiving landscapes yet maintain their species through fascinating coping measures. The film’s photography, which brings us right into the penguin world, occasionally is eclipsed by its cutesier segues. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• Red Eye (2005) (PG-13: Graphic violence, strong language and adult situations.) — **1/2. Horror maestro Wes Craven dials down the bloodshed for this taut thriller set mostly aboard an airplane. Rachel McAdams plays a woman singled out by a terrorist (Cillian Murphy) to help him carry out a hit on the deputy secretary of Homeland Security. The early nail-biting sequences give way to a silly and uneven finale. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• Saraband (2003) (R: Occasional profanity and sexual candor) — **1/2. Ingmar Bergman returns as a writer-director in this belated supplement to “Scenes from a Marriage.” Liv Ullmann and Erland Josephson play the same characters, Johan and Marianne, mismates divorced for 30 years and impulsively reunited when she visits him at his country home. Mr. Bergman introduces a second relationship, an incestuous one, between Johan’s son by an earlier marriage, Henrik (Borje Ahlstedt), and Karin (Julia Dufvenius), Henrik’s daughter. The set-up is Freudian to an agonizing fault, but the Bergman flair for corrosive torment reasserts itself while Henrik and Karin are emoting. Even when you’re resisting it, the movie has spellbinding sequences of confessional intimacy. In Swedish with English subtitles. Exclusively at the Cinema Arts, Landmark Bethesda Row and Landmark E Street Cinema.

• Sequins (2004) (No MPAA rating: Adult subject matter) — A domestic melodrama about the friendship that develops between a pregnant teenager (Lola Naymark) and the dressmaker (Ariane Ascaride) who employs her as an embroidery assistant. Directed by Eleonore Faucher. In French with English subtitles. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema. Not reviewed.

• Sky High (2005) (PG: Occasional violent spectacle in a science-fiction style with comic overtones) — ***. A surprisingly witty and entertaining synthesis of “The Incredibles” with high-school romantic farce in the John Hughes vein and superschool rivalries that resemble Hogwarts Academy. Sky High, secluded above a lofty cloud bank, recruits the supernaturally precocious. Entering freshman Will Stronghold (Michael Angarano) is the only son of titans Steve and Josie Stronghold (Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston), celebrated for their feats as The Commander and Jetstream. Will, whose super powers have yet to manifest themselves, is placed in the school’s also-ran category. He is comforted by a dream girl (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) whose motives may be suspect. The student body and faculty are generously stocked with amusing types and skillful performers.

• A Sound of Thunder (2005) (PG-13) — *. A science-fiction time-travel thriller that went into production about three years ago and has taken a while to complete finishing touches. Ben Kingsley is cast as the owner of a travel agency called Time Safari, Inc., which specializes in hunting trips to prehistoric ages. Edward Burns is his top scout and Catherine McCormack the inventor of the company’s technology, evidently subject to slip-ups that could mean curtains for terrestrial life in the near future. Derived from a Ray Bradbury short story and directed by Peter Hyams.

• Transporter 2 (2005) (PG-13) — A sequel to the French-made chase thriller of 2002, in which Jason Statham starred as a laconic and awesomely proficient soldier of fortune. He returns as the same character, Frank Martin, now the driver-bodyguard for a wealthy Miami family whose son is kidnapped. With Matthew Modine, Keith David, Jason Flemyng, Alessandro Gassman and Amber Valletta. Directed by Louis Leterrier for producer and co-writer Luc Besson, the man who invented “La Femme Nikita.” Not reviewed.

• 2046 (2004) (R: Thematic preoccupation with sensuality; fleeting nudity and simulated intercourse) — *1/2. The Hong Kong filmmaker Wong Kar-wai’s ill-advised companion piece to his romantic tearjerker of five years ago, “In the Mood for Love.” It depicted the smoldering, unconsummated attraction of two married people who meet as boarders. The original leading man, Tony Leung, is now the same character, allegedly. Now he’s a gambler-amorist-pulp novelist who pursues half a dozen women, including a hooker and gambling lady. The director’s infatuation with his own mystique is becoming a bad affair. In Cantonese, Mandarin and Japanese with English subtitles.

• Underclassman (2005) (PG-13: Violence, sexual references, drug material and some teen drinking) . Former child star Nick Cannon tries to stake out a claim to movie fame with this underwhelming cop comedy. The “Drumline” actor plays a baby-faced cop who goes undercover in a private school to nab a murderer. Young Mr. Cannon has charm, but this rote comedy simply goes through the cop cliche handbook with nary a wrinkle in sight. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• An Unfinished Life (2005) (PG-13) — **. A domestic melodrama starring Robert Redford as an embittered Wyoming rancher who resists reconciliation with a widowed daughter-in-law played by Jennifer Lopez, who arrives in need of protection from a threatening boyfriend (Damian Lewis). The cast also includes Morgan Freeman as Mr. Redford’s sidekick and Becca Gardner as Miss Lopez’s 11-year-old daughter, plus Josh Lucas and Camryn Manheim.

• Wedding Crashers (2005) (R: Profanity; strong sexuality; nudity) — ***. The most successful installment of the “Frat Pack” to date, starring Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson as professional wedding crashers. True love and other hilarities threaten to end the infantile duo’s streak at a post-wedding weekend on the Eastern Shore. Directed by David Dobkin. Also starring Christopher Walken and Rachel McAdams. Reviewed by Scott Galupo.


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