- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 12, 2006

OPENING

• The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (2005) (R ) — A satire about the shortcomings of socialized medicine in Romania, written and directed by Cristi Puiu. The title character is a solitary Bucharest pensioner who summons an ambulance after suffering from a severe headache and ends up victimized by institutional neglect and incompetence. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema. In Romanian with English subtitles.

• Leonard Cohen, I’m Your Man

(2006) (PG-13) — Impressions of the Canadian poet-songwriter-mythomaniac, revolving around a concert held last year in Sydney, Australia, and augmented by interviews with the subject and other participating performers. The ensemble includes Martha Wainwright, Rufus Wainwright, Nick Cave, Linda Thompson, Teddy Thompson, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, U2 and Julie Christensen. Directed by Lian Lunson.

• Little Man (2006) (PG-13: Crude and sexual humor, adult language and brief drug references). The creative team behind “White Chicks” returns with an equally daffy comic premise. A vertically challenged criminal (Marlon Wayans, shrunk courtesy of computer effects) tries to hide out as the new adopted son of a young couple.

• Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos

(2006) (PG-13) — A documentary feature that recalls the rise and decline of a professional soccer franchise in New York City during the 1970s and 1980s. Directors Paul Crowder and John Dower wax particularly nostalgic over the 1977 season. The Cosmos, fortified by the Brazilian star Pele, moved to Giants Stadium while being promoted with a vengeance by Warner Communications tycoon Steve Ross.

• Peaceful Warrior (2006) (PG-13) — A movie version of an autobiographical novel by the mystically inclined gymnast Dan Millman. Portrayed by Scott Mechlowicz, he is drawn to a guru called Socrates, possibly an amusing opportunity for Nick Nolte. The hero credits Socrates and a mystery woman called Joy (Amy Smart) with hastening his recovery from injury and inspiring a serene outlook. Directed by Victor Salva, from a screenplay by himself and Kevin Bernhardt.

• A Scanner Darkly (2006) (R ) — A movie version of a science-fiction novel by Philip K. Dick, who envisioned a futuristic underworld in which undercover narc Bob Arctor (Keanu Reeves) has several friends under surveillance. A perverse stroke of casting finds them portrayed by actors with conspicuous drug histories of their own: Robert Downey Jr., Woody Harrelson and Winona Ryder. The live-action scenes are overlaid with an animation process similar to the methodology in director-screenwriter Richard Linklater’s 2001 film “Waking Life.” The technique is known as interpolated rotoscoping.

• You, Me and Dupree (2006) (PG-13: Adult humor, sexual situations and comic violence).Blissful newlyweds Carl (Matt Dillon) and Molly (Kate Hudson) find their honeymoon period spoiled by Carl’s ne’er-do-well buddy Dupree (Owen Wilson). Michael Douglas co-stars as Molly’s unctuous father, who also happens to be Carl’s boss.

NOW SHOWING

• Cars (2006) (G) — ***. The folks who brought us “The Incredibles” return with “Cars,” which follows a hotshot race car (voiced by Owen Wilson) who gets stranded in a small town en route to a big race. “Cars” is one long ride at nearly two hours but much of the time is well spent. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• Click (2006) (PG-13: Some risque humor, crude jokes and sexual references) — **1/2. Adam Sandler returns as an addled husband and parent looking for a little relief. His salvation comes with a special remote control that lets him freeze, fast forward and rewind life around him. “Click” fuses the slapstick from Mr. Sandler’s early films with his recent, more warmhearted fare with mixed results. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• The Devil Wears Prada (2006) (PG-13) — ***. A movie version of the Lauren Weisberger best-seller of 2003 about a young college grad, played by Anne Hathaway, who lands a seemingly enviable job as assistant to Meryl Streep, the editor of a fashion magazine. Before long her boss’s tyrannical streak proves intolerable. The novel was presumed to be a thinly fictionalized memoir of Miss Weisberger’s post-collegiate sojourn at Vogue. The cast also includes Stanley Tucci, Simon Baker, Emily Blunt and Adrian Grenier. A surprisingly thoughtful look at an industry about which there is much to love and, deliciously, much to hate. Reviewed by Kelly Jane Torrance.

• The Heart of the Game (2006) (PG-13: Fleeting profanity and sexual candor) — ***1/2. Documentary filmmaker Ward Serrill’s engaging six-year chronicle of a Seattle girls’ high-school basketball team. An unorthodox new coach turns the team into an annual contender for the state title. The arrival of a reluctant freshman transfer from a predominantly black school generates an additional set of challenges and rivalries, ultimately culminating in a nip-and-tuck title game. A compact but genuinely heartening and irresistible companion piece to “Hoop Dreams.” Exclusively at AMC Loews Dupont Circle.

• An Inconvenient Truth (2006) (PG) — A polemical documentary feature in which director Davis Guggenheim assists former Vice President Al Gore to sustain an illustrated lecture about the catastrophes they foresee as a consequence of global warming. Not reviewed.

• The Lake House (PG: A disturbing image, mature themes) — **. “Speed” stars Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock reunite in this romantic drama about two lonely souls separated by time, not distance. The love story’s greeting-card emotions derail two heartfelt performances and a novel premise. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• The Omen (2006) (R: Disturbing imagery, adult language and gore) — **1/2. The spooky 1976 thriller about a demon child named Damien is given a 21st-century facelift. Liev Schreiber plays the father of a young boy who, unbeknownst to him, is the spawn of Satan. “The Omen” is a step above the usual horror schlock but no match for the original. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006) (PG-13: Some intense action sequences, frightening imagery) — **.Capt. Jack Sparrow is back in the first of two sequels to the surprise 2003 smash. Capt. Jack (Johnny Depp) is reunited with Will (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) in a chase to capture the beating heart of Davy Jones (Bill Nighy). The snap of the original is gone, replaced by complicated storylines and numbing action sequences. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• A Prairie Home Companion (2006) (PG-13: Some risque humor) —

***. Director Robert Altman (“Nashville”) translates Garrison Keillor’s venerable radio show into a big-budget feature. The gaudy cast, which includes Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Kevin Kline and Woody Harrelson, portray folksy entertainers performing on their show’s final broadcast. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• Russian Dolls (2006) (No MPAA rating: Adult subject matter). A sequel to the popular French import “L’auberge espanol,” permitting writer-director Cedric Klapisch to revive the same amorous protagonist, Xavier, again impersonated by Romain Durais. Introduced as an exchange student in Spain, the character is now based in Paris, which serves as a springboard to other picturesque locales in Europe. A struggling freelance writer, Xavier is divorced from the sweetheart originally played by Audrey Tatou (still game for a brief encore) and attracted to a quartet played by Kelly Reilly, Aissa Maiga, Lucy Gordon and Cecile De France. Dialogue in French and Russian with English subtitles. Exclusively at the Avalon. Not reviewed.

• Stolen (2006) (No MPAA rating: Adult subject matter) — A documentary feature by Rebecca Dreyfus that showcases the American-born, London-based art detective Harold Smith, also the subject of Edward Dolnick’s book about contemporary art thefts and recoveries, “The Rescue Artist.” Evidently, Miss Dreyfus concentrates on his extended investigation of a 1990 break-in at the Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston that resulted in the disappearance of an invaluable Vermeer painting, “The Concert.” Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema. Not reviewed.

• Strangers with Candy (2006) (R: Drug use, adult language and sexual themes) — **1/2. The cult Comedy Central series starring Amy Sedaris gets the big-screen treatment with often hilarious results. Miss Sedaris’ Jerri Blank tries to restart her life by returning to high school at the tender age of 47. “Candy” traffics in absurdist, politically incorrect humor for the first hour but the laughs dry up during the home stretch. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• Superman Returns (2006) (PG-13: Some intense action sequences) — ***. The Man of Steel is back in this serious-minded resurrection of the DC Comics franchise. Unknown Brandon Routh is Superman, who returns from a five-year sabbatical to find Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) back on the street and his girlfriend Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) in the arms of another man. Mr. Routh fills in nicely for the late Christopher Reeve but this “Return” can’t top the original. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• Waist Deep (R) — A crime thriller starring Tyrese Gibson as an ex-con trying to recover his kidnapped son from a criminal warlord (rapper The Game) with the assistance of a devious brother (Larenz Tate) and opportunistic hustler (Meagan Good). Directed by Vondie Curtis Hall from a screenplay by himself and Darin Scott. Not reviewed.

The War Tapes (2006) (NR: Adult language, mature themes and disturbing imagery)— ***. Documentarian Deborah Scranton hands cameras to three National Guardsmen to let them capture what’s happening in Iraq from the military’s perspective. The results are a purer vision than most war documentaries, although the absence of narrative weakens the film just as it heads to its emotional conclusion. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• Wassup Rockers (2006) (R ) — A recent feature from the incorrigibly depraved Larry Clark, evidently hoping to recapture the shock effect of “Kids” in 1995. Still fixated on teenage lust, he follows a gang of skateboarders from South Central Los Angeles to Beverly Hills High School, where they hope to navigate the inclines and consort with rich girls. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema. Not reviewed.

• Wordplay (2006) (PG: Fleeting elements of sexual candor) —***1/2. A deft and likable documentary feature about the appeal of crossword puzzles, revolving around the tenure of Will Shortz as the puzzle editor at the New York Times and his annual supervision of the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament. Patrick Creadon’s chronicle incorporates portraits of several celebrity adepts as well as top contenders at the 2005 tournament in Stamford, Conn., a competition that incorporates more twists and surprises than one anticipates.

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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