- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 14, 2006

OPENING

• The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006) (PG-13). The third edition of the car-stunt melodramas designed to glorify contemporary drag racing. The pretext is transposed to Tokyo, where Lucas Black, the son of an American officer stationed in Japan, quickly finds the local speed burners and becomes the rival of a Japanese youth whose pop may be a mobster. With Bow Wow, Brian Tee and Nathalie Kelley. Directed by Justin Lin from a screenplay by Chris Morgan and Kario Salem.

• Garfield:A Tail of Two Kitties (2006) (PG). The sequel to the initial Garfield cartoon feature was immune to negative reviews when released in 2004. Now the filmmakers aim to extend audience loyalty by transposing their fat cat to England, where he is mistaken for a sneaky lookalike called Lord Dargis. With a voice cast that includes Bill Murray, Billy Connolly, Breckin Meyer and Jennifer Love Hewitt. Directed by Tim Hill..

• The Heart of the Game (2006) (PG-13: Fleeting profanity and sexual candor). The patience of documentary filmmaker named Ward Serrill is rewarded with this engaging six-year chronicle of a girls’ high-school basketball team, the Roosevelt Rough Riders of Seattle. An unorthodox new coach, Bill Resler, a tax professor with a yen to run other teams into submission, turns the squad into an annual contender for the state title. The arrival of a reluctant freshman transfer from Garfield, 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.”

• The King (2006) (R: Sustained ominous overtones; occasional profanity, sexual candor and graphic violence). The sinister ambience of Patricia Highsmith’s Ripley murder novels is reawakened with sometimes brilliant creepiness by director James Marsh in this suspense thriller set in a location Hollywood seldom visits: Corpus Christi, Tex. Gael Garcia Bernal contributes an impressive performance as a disarming psychopath, a young sailor named Elvis who has ended his hitch and intends to seek out the father he’s never known. Now re-established as a thriving evangelist pastor in Corpus Christi, this former reprobate, played by William Hurt, has no desire to recognize a grown illegitimate son. Ultimately, he’s left with no alternative. The supplicant has a way of infiltrating himself that is inexorable and calamitous. The rest of the ill-fated family is portrayed by Laura Herring, Paul Dano and the remarkable ingenue Pell James. Mr. Marsh collaborated on the screenplay with Milo Addica, whose “Monster Ball” had a similar fatalistic undertow.

• The Lake House(2006) (R). A reunion vehicle for Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves, the co-stars of “Speed” in days gone by. In this supernatural romance that would appear to defy credibility, they’re cast as enviable professionals, a doctor and an architect, respectively, who seem to have a residence and courtship in common, although there’s a baffling two-year time gap in their lives. Directed by Alejandro Agresti from a screenplay by David Auburn.

• Nacho Libre (2006) (PG: Some rough action, and crude humor including dialogue). Jack Black endeavors to endear himself in ethnic disguise, cast as a Mexican padre named Ignacio who masquerades as a professional wrestler to raise money for the orphanage he supervises. “Libre” comes from the director of “Napoleon Dynamite” and co-stars Peter Stormare of “Fargo” fame.

• 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

NOW PLAYING

• Akeelah and the Bee (2006) (PG: Some mild language) — ***. A young South Central girl (Keke Palmer) catches the National Spelling Bee championships on ESPN and is hooked. She studies hard and sets her sights on winning the next year’s competition. Angela Bassett plays the girl’s mother and Laurence Fishburne is a helpful professor. “Akeelah” is predictable, mushy in spots and hardly cutting-edge. None of that matters when Mr. Fishburne is counseling young Akeelah. Their tender scenes, and the film’s oversized heart, make it a warm and winning film for young and old. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• The Break Up (2006) (PG-13: Sexual situations, nudity and adult language) — ***. Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston play a fractured couple fighting over who gets to keep their condo. Their relationship might strain belief, but Mr. Vaughn’s comic antics make this “Break-Up” worth all the fuss. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• 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 abig race. “Cars” is one long ride at nearly two hours but much of the time is well spent. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• Clean (2005) (R) — The Chinese actress Maggie Cheung won the best actress award at the Cannes Festival a year ago while collaborating with the French director Olivier Assyas on this tearjerker about a musician trying to kick her drug addiction and regain custody of her young son. The cast includes Nick Nolte, Martha Henry and Beatrice Dalle. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema. Not reviewed.

• The Da Vinci Code (2006) (PG-13: Disturbing images, violence, some nudity and sexual content) — **. Dan Brown’s popular page turner becomes a watch glancer in the hands of director Ron Howard. “Code” follows a religious scholar (Tom Hanks) who gets embroiled in an ancient mystery involving the Catholic Church and a certain great painter. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• Friends With Money (2006) (R: Adult language, sexual situations and brief drug use) — ***. Jennifer Aniston joins an ensemble cast to explore the cultural divide separating the haves from the have nots. The “Friends” star plays a broke single woman supported by three close friends and their spouses. The seriocomedy showcases writer-director Nicole Holofcener’s knack for crafting beautifully real characters. It’s a lovely script with wonderful subtleties and clever wordplay made even better by outstanding performances. Reviewed by Jenny Mayo.

• 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 Inside Man (2006) (R: Violent sequences, sexual situations and adult language) — ***. Spike Lee rebounds from his recent clunkers with a thriller that compares favorably to “Dog Day Afternoon.” Denzel Washington plays a hostage negotiator trying to deal with a savvy bank robber (Clive Owen) who appears to have pulled off the perfect crime. The strong cast is matched by a smart screenplay and more than a few satisfying twists. “Inside Man” also stars Jodie Foster and Christopher Plummer. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• Keeping Up with the Steins (2006) (PG-13: Adult language, partial nudity and some drug references — **. Jeremy Piven of “Entourage” fame plays a meddling father who wants his son to have a bigger, better bar mitzvah than a rich neighbor’s son. “Steins” has a good heart and a fine performance from Garry Marshall as Mr. Piven’s estranged father but a severe paucity of laughs. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• The Lost City (2006) (R) — Andy Garcia attempts to evoke Havana during the late 1950s, on the eve of the Castro revolution, while portraying a prominent showman whose livelihood is at risk — the owner of a fashionable nightclub called El Tropico. The source material is a novel by the Cuban writer Guillermo Cabrera Infante. The cast also includes Bill Murray, Dustin Hoffman, Tomas Milian and Ines Sastre. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema. Not reviewed.

• Mission: Impossible III (2006) (PG-13: Action violence, some sensuality and disturbing imagery) — ***. Tom Cruise returns as Ethan Hunt, the superspy spawned from the popular 1960s series. Director J.J. Abrams breathes new life into the franchise, thanks to some nifty stunts and a sparkling cast including Oscar winner Philip Seymour Hoffman as the latest villain. 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.

• Over the Hedge (2006) (PG: Slapstick violence and coarse humor) — ***. A gaggle of woodland creatures wake from their winter sleep to find their forest replaced by a housing development in this warmhearted feature. Strong vocal performances by Bruce Willis, Nick Nolte, Garry Shandling and Steve Carell elevate the pedestrian story. 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.

• Sketches of Frank Gehry (2006) (PG-13: Brief strong language) — **. In this, his first documentary, veteran filmmaker Sydney Pollack asks what the fuss is about his architect friend. He answers with fawning commentary by Hollywood moguls and celebrities who gush about Mr. Gehry’s genius throughout this superficial movie. The film misses what is essential to understanding Gehry — his theatrical spaces — and that’s a shame because film has the potential to capture the three-dimensional power of architecture. As a subject, Mr. Gehry expresses self-doubts about his work, but he’s evidently savvy enough to persuade a respected movie director to enshrine his legend with this all-too-flattering film. Reviewed by Deborah K. Dietsch.

• Swimmers (2005) (R: Occasional violence, profanity and sexual candor) **1/2. An independent feature written and directed by Doug Sadler, who uses locations on Maryland’s Eastern Shore very effectively while depicting a succession of crises in a maritime family, the Tylers. The youngest child, 11-year-old Emma (Tara Devon Gallagher, recruited from the student body of “Mad Hot Ballroom”), needs inner ear surgery. The financial pinch intensifies misunderstandings between her parents, played by Cherry Jones and Robert Knott. Two grown brothers come to blows over a neurotic troublemaker played by Sarah Paulson, whose mental instability displays creepy echoes of Jean Seberg in “Lilith.” Not as singular and satisfying an impression of a close-knit family in distress as “Off the Map,” but absorbing and creditable. Exclusively at the Avalon.

• Thank You for Smoking (2006) (R: Adult language, sexual situations and partial nudity) — ***1/2. Christopher Buckley’s scathing satire on political spin cycles is brought to the screen with all of its wit and intelligence intact by writer-director Jason Reitman (son of Ivan Reitman). Aaron Eckhart plays a sleazy tobacco lobbyist who dreams of a new way to get cigarettes in the mouths of men and women everywhere. The movie’s nod toward personal responsibility is refreshing, but so, too, are its hilarious supporting characters. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• Twelve and Holding (2006) (R) — Calamities and perversities pile up in a Long Island suburb, commencing with the death of a little boy and the burden of guilt assumed by his older brother. The adult cast members include such familiar names as Annabella Sciorra, Linus Roache, Tony Roberts, Mark Linn-Baker and Bruce Altman. Directed by Michael Cuesta of “L.I.E.” from a fatalistic screenplay by Anthony Cipriano. Not reviewed

• Typhoon (2006) (R) — An apocalyptic chase thriller from the Korean filmmaker Kwak Kyung-taek, who pits an embittered modern pirate called Sin against a stalwart naval officer, Kang Se-jong, with the survival of the Korean peninsula in the balance. Not reviewed.

• Water (2005) (PG-13: Occasional violence and sexual candor) — **1/2. The Indian filmmaker Deepa Mehta concludes a trilogy of social and romantic dramas about India in the decades before political independence with this absorbing account of a widowed child bride banished in 1938 to a shadow region — an ashram for widows in Varanasi, a holy city on the Ganges. The 8-year-old newcomer, Chuyia, must contend with a house tyrant, a splendid grotesque as embodied by the veteran character actress Manorma. The girl finds protectors in the kind-hearted Seema Biswas and beauteous Lisa Ray, exploited as a courtesan with wealthy clients across the river. In Hindi with English subtitles. Exclusively at the AMC Loews Dupont Circle and the Landmark Bethesda Row.

• X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) (PG-13: Intense sequences of action violence, some sexual content and language — **1/2. The heroic X-Men and their mutant foes face their greatest challenge in their third big-screen adventure. A cure to the mutant gene has been found, but will our heroes take their medicine? The film stuffs a number of worthy subplots into the mix, but too many themes — and characters — leave the viewer exhausted. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide