- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 31, 2006

OPENING

• 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. Jon Favreau, Ann-Margret and Joey Lauren Adams co-star in this romantic comedy from the director of “Bring It On,” Peyton Reed. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• District B13 (2006) R) — A French crime thriller set in Paris in the near future, when the government has isolated ethnic enclaves within walls, and gang warfare prevails. The gang in a sector called B13 is rumored to be in possession of weapons of mass destruction, and an intrepid agent is assigned to infiltrate and investigate. With David Belle and Cyril Raffaelli.

• 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.

• The Omen (2006) (R) — A remake of Richard Donner’s unsavory supernatural hit of 30 summers ago, in which a diplomat played by Gregory Peck was persuaded that his changeling son, named Damien, was actually the spawn of Satan. Live Schreiber and Julia Stiles inherit the roles of the ill-omened parents originally played by Mr. Peck and Lee Remick. Opens Tuesday.

• Overlord (1975) (No MPAA rating: Adult subject matter) — A brief revival of a British movie that failed to achieve American distribution when it was new. Director Stuart Cooper, who will introduce the first showing on Friday, and cinematographer John Alcott endeavored to sustain a semi-documentary illusion while depicting the experiences of a British draftee (Brian Stirner) destined to be among the first wave of Allied assault troops at Normandy on D-Day, June 6, 1944. Exclusively at the AFI Silver Theatre.

• The Puffy Chair (2006) (R) — A romantic farce about the misadventures of a trio of couples embarked on a road trip to deliver a large purple easy chair as a birthday gift. Directed by Jay Duplass from a screenplay by himself and Mark Duplass, who also plays a principal role. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema.

• Sketches of Frank Gehry (2006) (PG) — Impressions of the famous architect, filmed by the prominent Hollywood director Sydney Pollack.

• 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.

• 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.

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.

• American Dreamz (2006) (PG-13: Disturbing themes, sexual situations and adult language) — **1/2. 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.

• Army of Shadows (1969) (No MPAA rating: Adult subject matter, with episodes of incisive graphic violence in a wartime setting) — ***1/2. 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: Male frontal nudity, violence, language) — **. A dark comedy that returns director Terry Zwigoff to a familiar subject — contempt. An art-school freshman (Max Minghella), a darkly handsome, brooding naif who aspires to become the greatest artist of the 21st century, arrives on the dilapidated campus to find it beset by competitive students, pretentious faculty and a serial killer. The film contains some very funny set pieces but gleams with disdain for all concerned, including the audience, which makes it curiously watchable in spite of some clumsy plotlines. With John Malkovich as an appallingly pretentious professor and wasted turns by Angelica Huston as an aging faculty vamp and Steve Buscemi as the proprietor of an off-campus coffee shop. Reviewed by Adam Mazmanian.

• 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.

• Drawing Restraint 9 (2006) (No MPAA rating: Adult subject matter) — The avant-garde sails again in abstract artist Matthew Barney and vocalist Bjork’s celebration of themselves. Booking passage on a Japanese whaling vessel, they use it as the setting for assorted seagoing pantomimes and frolics, including a dress-up tea ceremony and the construction of a sculpture in petroleum jelly. Expect little or no dialogue.

• 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.

• Giuliani Time (2006) (No MPAA rating: Adult subject matter) — **. A documentary profile, mostly hostile, that recalls the controversies that surrounded Rudolph Giuliani during his time as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York and the mayor of New York City. The director, Kevin Keating, and his principal source, former Village Voice reporter Wayne Barrett, seem to exemplify diehard Manhattan liberals who resent the fact that the September 11 attacks rejuvenated Mr. Giuliani’s reputation as a political leader. Though intriguing in certain respects, this career recap, largely intended to scorn any prospect of a presidential candidacy for the former mayor, is dogged and singleminded to a fault. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema.

• 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. Not reviewed.

• Ice Age: The Meltdown (2006) (PG) — **1/2 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.

• 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.

• 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 warm-hearted feature. Strong vocal performances by Bruce Willis, Nick Nolte, Garry Shandling and Steve Carell elevate the pedestrian story. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• Poseidon (2006) (PG-13: Disturbing images and action violence) — **1/2. The 1972 film “The Poseidon Adventure” is reborn with updated special effects and a colorful cast led by Kurt Russell. Once more, a luxury cruise ship is upended by a massive wave. The film’s crisp pace gets bogged down by cliched characters and a gnawing sense of redundancy. Reviewed by Christian Toto.

• The Proposition (2005) (R) — ***.An Australian “Western” set in the 1880s, in which a newly arrived English constable played by Ray Winstone attempts to strike a deal with an Irish outlaw played by Guy Pearce: The lawman will spare the life of a condemned younger brother if Mr. Pearce abets the manhunt for his elder brother, played by Danny Huston. Directed by John Hillcoat from a screenplay by post-punk rocker and novelist Nick Cave, the film is an unforgiving, visually stunning tale of crime and punishment that dramatizes the larger tale of the sun-scorched frontier and the efforts of the British Empire to tame it. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema. Reviewed by Adam Mazmanian.

• 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.

• Thank You for Smoking (2006) (R: Adult language, sexual situations and partial nudity) — ***1/2Christopher 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.

• 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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