- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 21, 2006

OPENING

• Autumn (2005) (No MPAA rating: Adult subject matter) — A French import about “a troubled hit man starting to realize he has too much of a conscience to kill.” This welcome change of mind is prompted when professional killer Laurent Lucas rediscovers a former childhood sweetheart played by Irene Jacob. He then declines to target her as part of a new assignment. Written and directed by Ra’up McGee. In French with English subtitles. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema.

• Click (2006) (PG-13: Some risque humor, crude jokes and sexual references). Adam Sandler returns as an addled husband and parent looking for a little relief. His salvation comes with a special remote control which lets him freeze, fast-forward and rewind life around him. “Click” co-stars Christopher Walken and Kate Beckinsale.

• The Great New Wonderful (2006) (R) — A set of five vignettes about New Yorkers a year after the September 11 terrorist attacks, with Tony Shalhoub, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Edie Falco and Olympia Dukakis in principal roles. Directed by Danny Leiner. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema.

• The Road to Guantanamo (2006) (R ) — A semi-documentary polemical melodrama from British filmmakers Michael Winterbottom and Mat Whitecross, who embrace the plight of three Muslims from the British Midlands who claim to have been wrongly imprisoned and mistreated by American authorities after being captured in Afghanistan during the U.S. invasion in October 2001. Eventually returned to British custody, the men were euphemized as The Tipton Three by sympathizers. The road to misadventure supposedly began when they attended a wedding in Pakistan and blundered into the war zone. Exclusively at the Avalon and Landmark E Street Cinema.

• 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.

• Superman Returns (2006) (PG) — Warner Bros. finally revives its “Superman” franchise, casting Brandon Routh in the dual role that made the late Christopher Reeve famous in 1978. Kate Bosworth portrays Lois Lane and Kevin Spacey becomes the new incarnation of Lex Luthor. The cast also includes Frank Langella, James Marsden, Eva Marie Saint and Parker Posey. Directed by Bryan Singer from a screenplay by Michael Dougherty and Dan Harris. Opens Wednesday.

• 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.

• Wordplay (2006) (PG: Fleeting elements of sexual candor) A deft and likable documentary feature about the appeal of crossworld puzzles, revolving around the tenure of Will Shortz as the puzzle editor at the New York Times and his annual supervision of the American Crossworld 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.

NOW SHOWING

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

• 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.

• 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. Not reviewed

• 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. Not reviewed.

• 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.”

• 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.

• 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 King (2006) (R: Sustained ominous overtones; occasional profanity, sexual candor and graphic violence) — ***1/2. 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 Corpus Christi, Texas. 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 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. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema.

• 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 separeted by time, not distance. The love story’s greeting-card emotions derail two heartfelt performances and a novel premise. 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.

• Nacho Libre (2006) (PG: Some flatulence humor and comic violence) — *. Jack Black plays a chubby monk who starts a side career as a “lucha libre” wrestler. The fun, farcical premise delivers groans, not laughter. 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.

• 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.

• 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.

• 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

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