- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 27, 2006

OPENING

The Ant Bully (2006) (PG) — A computer-animated feature derived from a children’s book by John Nickle, who envisioned the incredible misadventures of a 10-year-old boy who learns lessons in humility when reduced to insect size and enslaved by the backyard ant colony he has stomped routinely. Adapted and directed by John A. Davis, who made his feature debut with a hit, “Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius.” The vocal cast includes Zach Tyler, Julia Roberts, Meryl Streep, Nicolas Cage, Lily Tomlin, Paul Giamatti, Regina King and Alan Cumming.

Cavite (2006) (No MPAA rating — adult subject matter and treatment). An independent feature about a young Filipino-American (Ian Gamazon) who is targeted for terrorist exploitation while attending the funeral of his father in the Philippines. Mr. Gamazon also collaborated on the screenplay and direction with Neill Dela Llana. Some dialogue in Tagalog with English subtitles. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema.

John Tucker Must Die (2006) (PG-13) — A high school romantic comedy about three disgruntled coeds (Arielle Kebbel, Ashanti and Sophia Bush) who conspire to get even with an athletic star named John Tucker (Jesse Metcalfe), who supposedly has trifled with their affections. The instrument of revenge is a newcomer played by Brittany Snow, who proves a reluctant recruit. Directed by Betty Thomas from a screenplay by Jeff Lowell.

m Miami Vice (2006) (R) — Michael Mann updates his glitzy police detective series of the 1980s, with Colin Farrell and Jamie Foxx in the roles of Miami narcs Sonny Crockett and Ricardo Tubbs, respectively. Their wardrobes and lifestyles make them difficult to distinguish from thriving dope dealers. With Gong Li and Naomi Harris as the heroes’ consorts.

Scoop (2006) (PG-13) — Woody Allen prolongs his London sojourn. He also recasts Scarlett Johansson as his leading lady, now matched with Hugh Jackman in a romantic comedy-mystery about an American undergrad vacationing in England who blunders onto a potentially scandalous story. Being a journalism student, she naturally pursues it at her peril.

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.

Clerks II (2006) (R: Crude language, partial nudity, disturbing themes and comic violence) — *** The slackers from Kevin Smith’s 1994 comedy are back and bawdier than ever. Dante (Brian O’Halloran) and Randal (Jeff Anderson) are working at a McDonald’s-style restaurant, but Dante’s pending move sets a comical series of events in motion. The sequel is as rude as the original, but the gags still work, and there’s a modest amount of maturity to keep viewers off balance. 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.

Lady in the Water (2006) (PG-13) — **1/2. A new supernatural mystery thriller from M. Night Shyamalan, who recruits Paul Giamatti to portray the manager of an apartment building where a mermaidlike creature, Bryce Dallas Howard, emerges from the swimming pool one stormy night. She needs his chivalrous assistance to evade creepy pursuers before returning to the amorphous region from which she came. If one can suspend disbelief along with the building’s tenants, the movie — beautifully shot by cinematographer Christopher Doyle — is as entertaining as anything else playing right now. It’s much funnier than any previous Shyamalan film. Yet it owes its success to the cast more than to Mr. Shyamalan’s message; Mr. Giamatti steals the show. Reviewed by Kelly Jane Torrance.

Leonard Cohen, I’m Your Man (2006) (PG-13: Some profanity and some sexually suggestive material) — *** Impressions of the 72-year-old 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. This film is a welcome chance to meet or become reacquainted with one of the towering and iconic songwriting talents of his era. Reviewed by Adam Mazmanian.

Little Man (2006) (PG-13:Crude and sexual humor, adultlanguage and brief drug references) — ** The creative team behind “White Chicks” returns with a sloppy, sophomoric comedy that defines bad taste. A vertically challenged criminal (Marlon Wayans, shrunk courtesy of computer effects) tries to hide out as the new adopted son of a young couple. The central gag, that of a grown man’s face plastered on a quasi-baby’s body, does lead to some laughter. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

Mongolian Ping Pong (2005) (No MPAA rating). A whimsical import about three lads from the grasslands of Mongolia who discover a ping-pong ball and set out to discover its purpose and origins. Written and directed by Ning Hao. In Chinese and Mongolian dialects with English subtitles. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema. Not reviewed.

Monster House (2006) (PG) — **1/2. A computer-animated farce about suburban youngsters exploring the neighborhood haunted house. The animation is built around performance-capture wizardry, but the figures rarely feel as grounded as in other animated movies, and the children’s faces look as if they were injected with Botox. Worse, “House” never gels into a bewitching story. That’s a shame because there are plenty of elements here that could have made this a thrill ride for all ages. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

My Super Ex-Girlfriend (2006) (PG-13) — *1/2. A live-action romantic farce that starts with a dirty joke and goes downhill from there. Luke Wilson, an unwary New York bachelor, blunders into a one-sided war of reprisal when he breaks up with girlfriend Uma Thurman, a resentful, Marvel-comic-style superhero Woman of Steel. It’s a somewhat creative twist on the typical “psycho-ex” plot but filled with the worst kind of juvenile humor — and anything but super. Reviewed by Kelly Jane Torrance.

Once in a Lifetime: The Extraordinary Story of the New York Cosmos(2006) (PG-13: Partial nudity and adult language) — **** Soccer’s incredible rise and fall stateside is depicted in this triumphant documentary. The film follows the late 1970s soccer scene, when names such as Pele and Giorgio Chinaglia stood tall alongside Reggie Jackson and Steve Garvey. “Lifetime” will delight soccer nuts and haters alike. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

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 named 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. Not reviewed.

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 story lines and numbing action sequences. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

A Scanner Darkly (2006) (R: Drug and animated sexual content, language and a brief violent image) — *** 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 called interpolated rotoscoping, similar to the methodology in director-screenwriter Richard Linklater’s 2001 film “Waking Life.” Mr. Linklater’s thoughtful movie is slow going at first; it takes a while to get to the payoff. When it does, though, this cautionary tale about the damage drugs can do turns into an oddly life-affirming film. Reviewed by Kelly Jane Torrance.

Shadowboxer(2006) (R: Sexual situations, nudity, violence, disturbing imagery and mature themes) — **1/2. Cuba Gooding Jr. and Helen Mirren make the oddest of couples in this new thriller. He’s a disturbed hit man with a horrible family history. She’s his stepmother, partner in crime and part-time lover. The film should be a mess, and at times it is, but it’s also engaging and rarely predictable. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

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.

Who Killed the Electric Car? (2006) (PG: Brief adult language) — **** The life and untimely death of an environmentally sound car fuels this provocative documentary. The electric car seemed like the answer to the country’s oil dependency woes, so why did so many forces unite to stamp it out? “Car” lets the consumer off too easily, but otherwise, the film entertains while it simultaneously alarms. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

Wondrous Oblivion (2003) (No MPAA rating). The belated Washington debut of a British domestic-sporting yarn about a cricket-loving youngster, the son of a suburban draper in the 1960s, whose enthusiasm is reinforced by new Jamaican neighbors. The father of the family, Delroy Lindo, even installs a wicket in his back yard and improves the boy’s batting skills. The downside: growing evidence of racial prejudice from other neighbors. Written and directed by Paul Morrison. Exclusively at the Avalon. Not reviewed.

You, Me and Dupree(2006) (PG-13: Adult humor, sexual situations and comic violence) — **1/2. 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). “Dupree” works thanks to a smart story detour in the second act and Mr. Wilson’s winning man-child shtick. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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