- The Washington Times - Friday, May 12, 2006


• Army of Shadows (1969) (No MPAA rating. Adult subject matter, with episodes of incisive graphic violence in a wartime setting) — *** . The very belated American release of one of the last films directed by France’s Jean-Pierre Melville (1917-73). A member of the French Resistance during World War II, Mr. Melville earnestly adapted Joseph Kessel’s 1943 novel about the exploits of Resistance operatives struggling to survive in 1942 and ‘43. He concentrates on the sheer grind and psychological costs of sustaining a clandestine existence shadowed by death. The violent interludes are brilliantly sudden and shocking, but the ominous atmosphere is the movie’s most haunting element. With Lino Ventura, Paul Meurisse, Simone Signoret, Jean-Pierre Cassel, Claude Mann and Christian Barbier. In French with English subtitles. Exclusively at the American Film Institute Silver Theatre and Landmark E Street Cinema.

• Art School Confidential (2006) (R) — A reunion project for director Terry Zwigoff and the comic book humorist Daniel Clowes, who collaborated five years ago on an adaptation of Mr. Clowes’ “Ghost World.” This seriocomic fable revolves around a freshman (Max Minghella) who becomes gravely disillusioned while attending an art school. With John Malkovich as his most conspicuous teacher and Sophia Myles as the artist’s model he idolizes. The supporting cast includes Jim Broadbent, Anjelica Huston, Joel David Moore and Ethan Suplee.

• Down in the Valley (2006) (No MPAA Rating — adult subject matter, involving sexual episodes with a teenage heroine) — A romantic suspense melodrama about a restless teenager, Evan Rachel Wood, who begins consorting with a stranger, Edward Norton, who affects cowboy mannerisms but could be a menace. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema. Not reviewed.

• Goal! The Dream Begins (2006) (PG) —An inspirational sports saga about a Mexican-American youth whose prowess in a recreational soccer league earns him a tryout with a professional club in England. With Kuno Becker in the lead and various soccer celebrities in bit roles. Directed by Danny Cannon from a screenplay by the venerable team of Dick Clement and Ian La Fresnais, whose credits date back 40 years.

• Just My Luck (2006) (PG-13) — A post-graduate romantic comedy for Lindsay Lohan. Cast as young woman embarked on a promising career in Manhattan soon after college graduation, she is also envied for a history of good fortune. After kissing a stranger at a costume party, she seems to inherit his reputation for bad luck. Chris Pine plays the kissing jinx in question.

• Look Both Ways (2005) (PG-13) — An Australian romantic comedy that blends animation with live action while observing the dodgy courtship of chronically apprehensive types, played by Justine Clark and William McInnes. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema.

• Poseidon (2006) (PG-13: Prolonged sequences of disaster and peril) — Director Wolfgang Petersen (“The Perfect Storm”) returns to the water for this remake of the 1972 disaster film. “Poseidon” follows an ocean liner struck by a massive tidal wave. The remake stars Josh Lucas, Kurt Russell and Richard Dreyfuss as the unlucky passengers.

• Wah-Wah (2006) (R) — A social comedy about marital and other conflicts confronting members of the English colonial elite in Swaziland in the 1960s. The first feature directed by actor Richard E. Grant, from his own screenplay. The principal roles are played by Gabriel Byrne, Emily Watson, Julie Walters, Miranda Richardson and Nicholas Hoult.


• 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.

• American Dreamz (2006) (PG-13: Disturbing themes, sexual situations and adult language) — **. Hugh Grant is the Simon Cowell-esque host of the country’s most popular television show. President Staton (Dennis Quaid) hopes to boost his poll numbers by appearing on the program, while a terrorist group sees the singing show as a platform for its next murderous act. Writer-director Paul Weitz of “About a Boy” fame wrings some laughs out of touchy material but too much of the satire only skims the surface. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• Brick (2006) (R) — *** — An homage to film noir that won a special jury prize at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival. Writer-director Rian Johnson attempts to interweave the conventions of vintage private eye movies with a suburban high school setting in Southern California. The film has the raw feel of a first effort but is suffused with love of both filmmaking and the incredible variety of American personality. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is cast as the teenage sleuth, who encounters various sinister types while searching for a missing girlfriend. Reviewed by Kelly Jane Torrance.

• Crazy Like a Fox (2001) (PG-13: Fleeting profanity and comic vulgarity) — ***. One of the more creditable and diverting first features to emerge from a Washington-based filmmaker. Writer-director Richard Squires shot this comic valentine to a stubborn Virginia landowner called Nat Banks (Roger Rees) near Middleburg in 2001. Mortgaged to the hilt but proudly averse to selling his patrimony, Nat relents when a wealthy young couple offers a substantial price. But they turn into absentee landlords harboring a development scheme, so Nat tries to recoup, becoming a squatter and nuisance. The material is stronger in the first half, when Mr. Squires recognizes the incorrigible side of Nat and the need for him to face facts. The last half prefers to embrace Nat without reservation, but the partiality doesn’t wreck much of the humorous characterization or the loving response to the countryside. Exclusively at the AMC Loews Georgetown and Regal Countryside in Sterling.

• 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 serio-comedy 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.

• Hoot (2006) (PG: Destruction of property, indifference to authority, very mild violence) — **.A movie version of the award-winning juvenile novel by Carl Hiaasen, who championed a group of middle-school students in Florida who conspire to obstruct a shady development deal that threatens the habitat of a colony of owls. The movie lacks ideological teeth of any kind: The plot hinges not so much on whether it is morally right to build on animal habitat, but whether a certain megalomaniacal chain restaurant executive fudged or didn’t fudge a legal filing. With Logan Lerman, Brie Larson, Cody Linley and Luke Wilson in principal roles. Reviewed by Adam Mazmanian.

• Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006) (PG) — ** Manfred the mammoth (Ray Romano), Sid the sloth (John Leguizamo) and Diego the saber-toothed tiger (Denis Leary) return and hit the road again in this follow-up to 2002’s computer-animated hit “Ice Age.” Now they (and Scrat the squirrel) head for a boat to escape the rising waters as the polar ice caps melt. Queen Latifah joins the troupe as the voice of a somewhat confused she-mammoth named Ellie. The film delivers a solid, entertaining story for all ages, but has too many characters, all running amok — and vying for our attention. Reviewed by Jenny Mayo.

• 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.

• Lucky Number Slevin (2006) (R: Sexual situations, graphic violence, adult language and mature themes) — **. Josh Hartnett is Slevin, a young man with a mistaken identity problem. Dueling mob lords think he’s someone else, someone who owes them both a great deal of cash. Sir Ben Kingsley and Morgan Freeman play the mobsters, and Bruce Willis appears as a hit man whose loyalties are as complex as the rest of this comic thriller. The crackling supporting cast can’t camouflage the story’s insincerity or Mr. Hartnett’s bland presence. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• 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.

• Mountain Patrol (2005) (No MPAA rating: Adult subject matter) — A Chinese adventure melodrama about game wardens imperiled by antelope poachers in the mountains of Tibet. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema. Not reviewed.

• Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont (2006) (PG) — A sentimental comedy about the friendship that evolves between an elderly Scottish woman, Joan Plowright, and a young writer, Rupert Friend, who meet in London. Directed by Dan Ireland from a screenplay by Ruth Sacks. Not reviewed.

• The Notorious Bettie Page (2006) (R) — A biographical drama about the legendary checkered career of a popular pin-up model and stag film performer of the 1950s. Gretchen Mol gets the title role; the supporting cast includes Lili Taylor, David Strathairn, Cara Seymour and Tara Subkoff. Directed by Mary Harron from a screenplay by herself and Guinevere Turner. Not reviewed.

• The Promise (2006) (PG-13: — Stylized violence and martial arts action and some sexual content) — **. Writer/director Chen Kaige has created the most expensive film ever made in China, a story of a cursed woman and a quicksilver-fast man who meet and fall in love in the most unusual of circumstances. The film’s sumptuous colors and scope can’t make up for clumsy storytelling and laughable action sequences. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• RV (2006) (PG) — A road comedy starring Robin Williams as a dad who conceals troubles at work by promoting a vacation trip in a rented recreational vehicle. His itinerary puzzles wife Cheryl Hines and their two teens. While on the road they meet a seasoned RV family headed by Jeff Daniels and Kristin Chenoweth. Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld from a screenplay by Geoff Rodkey, also responsible for “Daddy Day Care” and the recent remake of “The Shaggy Dog.” Not reviewed.

• Scary Movie 4 (2006) (PG-13: Crude sexual humor, violence and mature language) — **. The “Scary Movie” franchise celebrates its fourth film by poking fun at “War of the Worlds,” “The Village” and “The Grudge,” as well as non-horror movies like “Brokeback Mountain.” Anna Faris returns as Cindy, the addled heroine trying to find love again after her boyfriend’s death. But that storyline exists merely to connect the various parodies. A few of “Scary’s” jokes connect, but too many fall embarrassingly flat for this parody to nail its targets. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• The Sentinel (2006) (PG-13: Violent action sequences and a scene of sensuality) — **. Kiefer Sutherland of “24” fame plays a Secret Service agent out to stop a plot against the president. The prime suspect is a former agent (Michael Douglas) who taught Mr. Sutherland’s character everything he knows about law enforcement. The thriller, which co-stars Kim Basinger and Eva Longoria of “Desperate Housewives” fame, paints a descriptive picture of the Secret Service but its conspiracy plot is nowhere near as intriguing. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• Stick It (2006) (PG-13) — The feature directing debut of Jessica Bendinger, a former model who broke through belatedly as a screenwriter with the exuberant “Bring It On.” This variant, also written by Miss Bendinger, revolves around Missy Peregrym as a high school rebel who suddenly emerges as a gymnastics prodigy. With Jeff Bridges as her coach, Jon Gries as her dad and Vanessa Lengies, Nikki Soohoo and Maddy Curley as teammates who have to deal with her attitude. Not reviewed.

• Thank You for Smoking (2006) (R: Adult language, sexual situations and partial nudity) — ***. 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.

• Tsotsi (2006) (R: Violence, a disturbing kidnapping and adult language) — ***. The 2005 Oscar winner for best foreign language film follows a young South African gang leader who finds redemption when he accidentally kidnaps a small child. Writer-director Gavin Hood brilliantly captures the energy and danger in the Johannesburg environs where the movie is set. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• United 93 (2006) (R: Mature themes, adult language and bloody violence) — ****. The fateful flight that missed its target on September 11 is the subject of this harrowing thriller. A cast of unknowns play the passengers of United 93, who find themselves on the front lines of the war on terror when their plane is hijacked by terrorists. Writer-director Paul Greengrass (“The Bourne Supremacy”) never exploits or panders in this unwavering tribute to the passengers who helped prevent a fourth plane from striking a critical U.S. target. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• Water (2005) (PG-13: Occasional violence and sexual candor) — **. 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.


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