- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 8, 2006


m The Boys of Baraka (2005) (No MPAA rating) — A documentary feature about the year abroad of several 12-year-old boys from Baltimore who are enrolled in a private boarding school in the countryside of Kenya. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema.

• Curious George (2006) (G) — An animated feature derived from the famous children’s books by H.A. Rey and his wife Margrit, European refugees from the Nazis who settled in Cambridge, Mass., and collaborated on a whimsical series about an inquisitive little monkey who attaches himself to an explorer in a yellow hat. The principal soundtrack voices are Will Ferrell, Dick Van Dyke, Drew Barrymore, Eugene Levy and Joan Plowright.

• Final Destination 3 (2006) (R) — Another sequel to the predatory thriller of 2000. The franchise trades on the notion that death resents being cheated. In this installment, again directed by James Wong, heroine Mary Elizabeth Winstead has a mortal premonition while riding a roller coaster. Although her panic proves a temporary lifesaver for herself and her friends, who exit before a calamitous accident, their survivals are a mere prelude to doom.

• Firewall (2006) (PG-13) — A suspense thriller predicated on the indomitability of crusty old Harrison Ford, cast as a bank security expert targeted by Paul Bettany, an aspiring thief who kidnaps the hero’s wife and family in hopes of extorting his cooperation in a robbery scheme. With Virginia Madsen as the endangered spouse, plus Alan Arkin, Robert Forster and Robert Patrick.

• The Pink Panther (2006) (PG-13: Slapstick violence, occasional crude humor). Steve Martin attempts to resurrect the “Pink Panther” franchise made famous by world class funnyman Peter Sellers. Our new Inspector Clouseau (Mr. Martin) must solve the mystery of a stolen pink diamond without bumbling his way into catastrophe. Kevin Kline, Beyonce Knowles and Jean Reno provide Mr. Martin with first-class support.

• The 3 Burials of Meliquiades Estrada (2005) (R) — Tommy Lee Jones scorns the gringos in a topical-polemical Western about violence along the border. Mr. Jones makes his directing debut while also starring as a Texas ranch foreman, Pete Perkins, who learns that a trusted hand who happens to be an illegal alien has been killed and buried by a border patrol agent. Stirred to vigilante reprisals, Perkins apprehends the agent, orders him to disinter the body and escorts both captive and corpse across the border to the Mexican hometown of the late Meliquiades Estrada.

• Why We Fight (2005) (PG-13) — Another argumentative documentary feature from Eugene Jarecki, who compiled “The Trials of Henry Kissinger” a few years ago. Borrowing the title of Frank Capra’s famous Army indoctrination films of World War II for heavyhanded ironic effect, Mr. Jarecki attempts to formulate a case against American defense and national security policy since the Cold War.


• Annapolis (2006) (PG-13: Violence, sexual content and adult language) — **. James Franco (“Tristan & Isolde”) stars as a blue-collar plebe making his way through the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis’ rigorous programs. He struggles at first, but finds a new path to glory and honor when he signs on for the school’s competitive boxing program. We’ve seen so much of “Annapolis” before, in better films like “An Officer and a Gentleman” and “Rocky,” but the amiable cast makes the material easy to digest. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• Big Momma’s House 2 (2006) (PG-13) — A return engagement for Martin Lawrence as the comedy-prone FBI agent named Malcolm Turner, once again undercover while disguised as a corpulent and mouthy septugenarian known as Big Momma. Nia Long also rejoins the cast, and John Whitesell directed. Not reviewed.

• Brokeback Mountain (2005) (R) — A movie version of an Annie Proulx short story about two young men who blunder into sexual intimacy while isolated one summer tending sheep in the Wyoming mountains. Although the men marry and have children, they sustain an affair during reunions over many years. Heath Ledger, who remains a cowhand in Wyoming, and Jake Gyllenhaal, who moves to Texas, portray this melancholy love match. Michelle Williams and Anne Hathaway are cast as their respective spouses. Directed by Ang Lee from a screenplay by Larry McMurtry and Diana Ossana. Eight Oscar nominations, including best film and direction. Not reviewed.

• Bubble (2006) (R: Violence, dark themes, drug use and adult language) — ***. Director Steven Soderbergh (“Ocean’s 12”) enlists a group of amateur actors for this small-scale murder mystery set in a poor working-class town. The film, the first salvo in his effort to release films simultaneously in theaters, on cable and on DVD, follows a trio of doll factory workers whose lives intersect with tragic consequences. “Bubble” nails all the tiny details of this poverty-drenched tale, and the use of unfamiliar faces lends the film a hyped-up sense of reality. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• Cache (2005) (R ) — ****. Also known as “Hidden,” this suspense thriller from the German writer-director Michael Haneke co-stars two of France’s best actors, Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche, as an endangered husband and wife. A TV talk show host, Mr. Auteuil becomes aware that someone has him under persistent and intimate surveillance. Reviewed by Victor Morton.

• Capote (2005) (R: Fleeting graphic violence and occasional profanity) — **. An admirably earnest but monotonous and underwritten biographical drama about author Truman Capote. Cleverly impersonated by Philip Seymour Hoffman, the subject is recalled during the period when he was researching and writing the best-selling crime chronicle “In Cold Blood,” based on the murder of a family in rural Kansas. Screenwriter Dan Futterman and director Bennett Miller overlook opportunities to clarify Capote’s mixed motives and deceitful methods. Catherine Keener as Capote’s childhood friend Harper Lee and Bruce Greenwood as his companion, Jack Dunphy, play authors who both seem displeased with the drift of his project, which includes a prison-cell infatuation with one of the killers. Five Academy Award nominations, best film and best actor (Mr. Hoffman).

• The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) (PG: Intense battle sequences and frightening moments) — ***1/2 C.S. Lewis’ beloved text gets the big-screen treatment and loses none of its appeal in the translation. The classic tale of four siblings who enter an enchanted realm via a wardrobe door brims with crafty creatures and delightful performances. The book’s spiritual subtext remains in place, but children will be too busy marveling at all the colorful action to notice. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• Fateless (2005) (No MPAA rating: Adult subject matter, incorporating graphic depictions of the Nazi death camps) — ***. A distinctively nightmarish and haunting account of Holocaust survival, derived from a semi-autobiographical novel of 1975 by the Hungarian writer Imre Kertesz. He adapted his book for director Lajos Koltai, a prominent cinematographer. Pictorial design is a pervasively ominous aspect of the movie, embedding spectators in an eerie and estranged atmosphere. The young protagonist, a 14-year-old Jewish boy (Marcell Nagy), is swept into a roundup in Budapest in the summer of 1944 and sent to a succession of concentration camps. Death eludes him by the narrowest of margins, and his homecoming is powerfully shadowed by the experience. The solicitous incomprehension of those who didn’t share his fate prompts the reflection that in some ways, he was happier as an inmate. In Hungarian and German with English subtitles.

• A Good Woman (2006) (PG: Intermittent sexual innuendo and allusions to infidelity) — *. A rattletrap replica of Oscar Wilde’s theatrical beau geste of 1892, “Lady Windermere’s Fan,” concealed behind a nondescript title and change of setting — from fashionable London to a resort enclave on the Amalfi coast in 1930. Three principal characters are also Americanized to no discernible advantage. On the contrary, Scarlett Johansson and Helen Hunt prove standing jokes as the farfetched antagonists, the naive young socialite Lady Windermere and the adventuress Mrs. Erlynne, the mother who abandoned her years earlier. Miss Johansson would be plausible only as a gum-smacking bimbo in this timeframe; Miss Hunt has gone alarmingly gaunt and zestless. The movie’s only attractive element is Tom Wilkinson as Miss Hunt’s suitor.

• Hoodwinked (2005) (PG) — ***. An edgy, cute, animated take on “Little Red Riding Hood” in a computer-animated format. The traditional fairytale is transformed into a classic whodunit, with a dapper frog (the voice of David Ogden Stiers) at the helm of the investigation and enough quirky characters to keep the youngsters squealing the whole way through. Other vocal roles belong to Anne Hathaway, Patrick Warburton, Jim Belushi and Glenn Close. Reviewed by Jessica Leshnoff.

• Hostel (2006) (R: Extreme gore, bloody imagery, nudity, sexual situations, adult language and drug use) — **1/2. Eli Roth of “Cabin Fever” fame sharpens his horror skills with this torture-laden tale of three men who take a wrong turn in Europe. The backpackers think they’ve found a hedonistic utopia in a Slovakian hostel, but it’s really a front for a prison where people pay thousands for the chance to torture innocents. Mr. Roth appears addicted to sadistic imagery, but he’s savvy enough to include some intriguing subtexts here, including the price we’re willing to pay to satiate our darkest desires. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• Imagine Me and You (2006) (R) — A British romantic melodrama about a new bride, Piper Perabo, who finds herself attracted to the wedding’s florist, Lena Headey, in the aftermath of the ceremony. The groom is played by Matthew Goode. Written and directed by Ol Parker. Not reviewed.

• Memoirs of a Geisha (2005) (PG-13: Occasional sexual candor and violence in a historical setting) — ***. Rob Marshall follows “Chicago” with another fable about rivalry among showgirls, this one steeped in exotic Japanese trappings. Ziyi Zhang matures into a beautiful geisha, threatening the pride and status of Gong Li, the reigning diva in her particular establishment. Another prominent Chinese actress, Michelle Yeoh, reunites with Miss Zhang, her co-star in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.” The production commands respect for period evocation (the late 1920s through the late 1940s), but it doesn’t persuade you that geisha traditions and heartaches amount to an irresistible mystique. Six Oscar nominations.

• Mrs. Henderson Presents (2005) (R: Occasional profanity, nudity and sexual innuendo) — *1/2. An eccentric show business memoir from director Stephen Frears and screenwriter Martin Sherman, who recall the odd-couple theatrical partnership of a wealthy widow, Laura Henderson (Judi Dench), and a London theatrical producer, Vivian Van Damm (Bob Hoskins). In the 1930s they collaborate on reviving a West End theater called the Windmill, first with musical revues and then by adding statuesque nudity. This enhancement proves the movie’s classiest element. Mr. Frears and Mr. Sherman fumble their way through the learning curve while mounting this nostalgic and potentially jolly yarn. The disagreeable nature of their title character makes for lousy company in too many scenes. Oscar nomination for Miss Dench as best actress.

• Munich (2005) (R: Frequent graphic violence; occasional profanity and sexual candor, including a simulation of intercourse grotesquely intercut with a murder scene) — **1/2. Steven Spielberg, abetted by screenwriters Eric Roth and Tony Kushner, backtracks to the original media outrage of Palestinian terrorism, the capture and killing of Israeli athletes at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich. Eric Bana is cast as the leader of an Israeli espionage unit commissioned to take reprisals against Palestinian exiles in Europe believed to be part of the braintrust responsible for the Munich calamity. Despite several gripping and intriguing episodes, the movie ultimately champions high-minded equivocation in the post-September 11 vein. It identifies with the avengers but embraces all available options for second-guessing, hand-wringing and disillusion. Five Academy Award nominations, including best film and direction.

• Music From the Inside Out (2004) (No MPAA rating: Adult subject matter, but no objectionable depiction) — A documentary feature, premiered two years ago at the Silverdocs festival, about members of the Philadelphia Orchestra, observed over the course of several years by Daniel Anker, who grew up in Potomac. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema. Not reviewed.

• Nanny McPhee (2006) (PG) — ***. Emma Thompson tries on an identity in the Mary Poppins tradition while adapting one of Christinna Brand’s “Nurse Matilda” books for young people and playing the starring role. A governess with magic powers, Nanny McPhee is hired by a widower, Colin Firth, with seven bratty kids. Nanny’s own appearance has a way of changing as she changes the brood’s behavior patterns. With Angela Lansbury in her first movie role in many years. Directed by Kirk Jones of “Waking Ned Devine.” Reviewed by Phil Villareal for AP.

• The New World (2005) (PG-13: Occasional nudity and graphic violence) — *1/2. A 400th anniversary account of the Jamestown settlement and the fateful journey of Pocahontas to England after marrying tobacco planter John Rolfe. Writer-director Terrence Malick brings pictorial fascination to settings in Tidewater Virginia and Elizabethan England but has little aptitude for character delineation or sustained dramatic narrative. He envisions a passionate attachment between the Indian princess, played by the exceedingly coltish teenage newcomer Q’orianka Kilcher, and the English adventurer John Smith, a stumpy, taciturn letdown as embodied by Colin Farrell. As the eventual bridegroom, Christian Bale is obliged to act shy and deferential to a fault. The cast also includes Christopher Plummer, Wes Studi, David Thewlis and August Schellenberg. Oscar nomination for best cinematography.

• Pride and Prejudice (2005) (PG: Adult subject matter, but no objectionable language or depiction) — ****. A richly satisfying new movie version of the Jane Austen classic, showcasing Keira Knightley in a spirited performance as Elizabeth Bennet, whose prejudicial view of the haughty aristocrat Darcy (Matthew MacFayden) is altered by overwhelming evidence of his devotion to her. Making his feature debut, the young English director Joe Wright blends savory locations and period evocation with persuasive romantic heartache and redemption. Oscar nomination to Keira Knightley as best actress.

• Something New (2006) (PG-13: (Mature themes, sexual situations) — ***. An interracial blind date sets this daring romantic comedy in motion, but the material rises above the usual boy-meets-girl fare. Sanaa Lathan and Simon Baker send off sparks as the seemingly mismatched couple who learn something new about both romance and interracial courtship. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• Walk the Line (2005) (PG-13: Some profanity, mild sexuality, depictions of drug dependency) — **1/2. James Mangold’s highly anticipated screen biography of the late Johnny Cash gets the music right but comes dangerously close to cliche with its one-dimensional story line: that the reckless Mr. Cash was redeemed by the love of second wife June Carter. Oscar nominations for Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon as best actor and actress. Reviewed by Scott Galupo.

• When a Stranger Calls (2006) (PG-13) — A remake of an unsavory horror thriller of 1979, predicated on the notion that babysitter Camilla Belle has locked herself in with a homicidal maniac after putting the two little kids in her care to bed. The advent of cell phones may explain the decision to revive this premise. Directed by Simon West. Not reviewed.

• The World’s Fastest Indian (2005) (PG-13: Mild use of coarse language, drug use and mature themes) — **1/2. Anthony Hopkins dazzles in this true tale of a senior citizen who breaks the land-speed record for motorcycles. Mr. Hopkins is Burt Munro, an avuncular mechanic from New Zealand who won’t give up his speed dreams even after a heart attack slows him down. The film’s true events are translated into a syrupy brand of entertainment, but there’s no denying Mr. Hopkins’ ability to transcend hokey material. Reviewed by Christian Toto.


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