- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 18, 2007

OPENING

• Black Book (2007) (R) A melodramatic World War II memoir from director Paul Verhoeven, returning to his native Holland after many years in Hollywood, that evokes perilous events during the Nazi occupation and Allied liberation. The plot revolves around Carice van Houten as a Jewish cabaret singer, Rachel Stein, who has taken refuge with a family in the countryside. She becomes a fugitive again and stirs protective impulses on both sides of the conflict. Dutch, German and Hebrew dialogue with English subtitles.

• Fracture (2007) (R) Anthony Hopkins echoes Hannibal Lecter again while cast as a suspected murderer who relishes interrogation by Ryan Gosling, a young assistant D.A. Director Gregory Hoblit’s first successful movie was in this genre — “Primal Fear,” where client Edward Norton outwitted criminal attorney Richard Gere. The cast includes David Strathairn, Embeth Davidtz and Rosamund Pike.

• Hot Fuzz (2007) (R: Violence, gore and adult language). The minds behind the zombie spoof “Shaun of the Dead” return, but this time they’re gunning for the action film genre. Hot shot London officer Nicholas Angel (Simon Pegg) gets transferred to a sleepy hamlet only to find a serial killer on the loose.

• In the Land of Women (2007) (PG-13). A domestic comedy written and directed by Jon Kasdan, offspring of Lawrence Kasdan. Following a romantic breakup, a screenwriter played by Adam Brody leaves Hollywood for suburban Michigan, where an aging grandmother, Olympia Dukakis, needs immediate care. He also becomes absorbed in the problems of a neighbor, Meg Ryan, and her adolescent daughters, Makenzie Vega and Kristen Stewart.

• In the Pit (2006) (No MPAA rating: Adult subject matter). A Mexican documentary feature about the construction crews working on a mammoth elevated freeway in Mexico City. Directed by Juan Carlos Rulfo. In Spanish with English subtitles. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema.

• The TV Set (2007) (R). Still another younger Kasdan, Jake, directed this satirical comedy about the obstacles confronted by a writer-producer, David Duchovny, trying to shepherd his pilot from script to telecast at a network run by Sigourney Weaver, whose late father did run NBC Television in the 1950s. With Judy Greer and Ioan Gruffudd.

• Vacancy (2007) (R). You can’t avoid the TV trailers. Here’s the whole frightfest, an entrapment horror thriller that isolates Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale, a couple recently devastated by the loss of a child, at a motel rigged with hidden cameras that can observe them being systematically terrorized. Directed by Nimrod Antal from a screenplay by Mark L. Smith.

• Year of the Dog (2007) (PG:13) Some suggestive references, adult language and mature themes). Molly Shannon stars as a single woman who becomes depressed when her beloved dog dies accidentally. She seeks solace in a fellow dog lover (Peter Sarsgaard) while taking dating tips from an aggressive co-worker (Regina King).

NOW SHOWING

• After the Wedding (2007) (R: Partial nudity, sexual situations and adult language) — ***1/2. Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier directs this wonderful tale of a man (Mads Mikkelsen) who travels to Copenhagen to secure funding for an Indian orphanage. His trip turns sour when he gets invited to a wedding, a joyous event which stirs up old wounds. — Christian Toto

• Aqua Teen Hunger Force (2007) (R: crude and sexual humor, violent animated images and language) — ***. Based on the successful television series that’s part of Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim animation block, “Aqua Teen Hunger Force” follows Master Shake, Frylock and Meatwad as the fast-food items try to save their neighbor Carl. The surreal cartoon isn’t for everyone, but those who appreciate this kind of humor will find an easy transition from the small to the big screen. — Kelly Jane Torrance

• Are We Done Yet? (2007) (PG). A sequel to the Ice Cube comedy of 2005, “Are We There Yet?” Directed by Steve Carr, it reunites the star with leading lady Nia Long and juveniles Aleisha Allen and Philip Daniel Bolden. The hero has now married Miss Long’s character, becoming a stepfather to her children. The new family encounters fixer-upper problems after acquiring a house in the suburbs and hiring an irrepressible contractor, John C. McGinley. Not reviewed.

• Blades of Glory (2007) (PG-13: Language, some crude and sexual jokes and mild violence) — *. Will Ferrell fans will put up with a lot, but this ice-skating parody may test their commitment to the famous funnyman. He stars as a competitive skater alongside “Napoleon Dynamite’s” Jon Heder, but when a post-competition brawl disqualifies them from the sport indefinitely, their only hope for future gold lies in a loophole: They can team up and enter the pairs division, where they’ll show audiences just how audacious and sexually suggestive it is for two men to embrace each other on the ice. — Jenny Mayo

• Disturbia (2007) (PG-13: some violent scenes and sensuality) — ***. This suspenseful thriller draws viewers into its current swiftly, then picks up speed slowly before finally leaving its audience to gasp on the other side of the finale’s ripping rapids. After his father’s death leads him down a troubled path, Kale (the talented young Shia LaBeouf) finds himself under house arrest, where he learns to amuse himself with what’s outside his windows — particularly his creepy and possibly serial-killer next-door neighbor Mr. Turner (David Morse). — Jenny Mayo

• Grbavica: The Land of My Dreams (2006) (No MPAA rating: Adult subject matter). A first feature by Bosnian filmmaker Jasmila Zbanic, who depicts the struggles of a widowed cocktail waitress and her adolescent daughter in post-war Sarajevo. With Mirjana Karanovic as the mother and Luna Mijovic as the girl. In Bosnian with English subtitles. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema. Not reviewed.

• Firehouse Dog (2007) (PG). A prompt reappearance by Josh Hutcherson, the admirable co-star of “Bridge to Terabithia,” now playing the boy who adopts a missing celebrity pooch, whose canine character improves with a new identity — mascot at a San Francisco fire station. The boy’s dad, Bruce Greenwood, is one of the firefighters. Not reviewed.

• Grindhouse (2007) (R: Nudity, gore, violence, adult language and disturbing imagery) — ***. Directors Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino direct two films in the exploitive grind house mode of yore. “Planet Terror” stays closest to the template with its gruesome zombies and purposely silly action. “Death Proof” features Kurt Russell but proves Mr. Tarantino’s dialogue isn’t always as snappy as it was in “Pulp Fiction.” — Christian Toto

• The Hoax (2007) (R: Some nudity, language, mature themes) — ***. Though not entirely historically accurate, “The Hoax” delivers a fascinating if slightly fabricated portrait of Clifford Irving (Richard Gere), the man who had a nation believing he’d obtained Howard Hughes’ exclusive memoirs. The well-acted film seems less a recollection of the real story than an extended hypothesis about how one man’s quest for notoriety, the public’s thirst for celebrity gossip and human willingness to trust can turn one little white lie into a white-hot wildfire that threatens all who encounter and enable it. — Jenny Mayo

• The Host (2007) (R: Beasts, violence and language) — ***. Bong Joon-ho’s film takes cues from its creature-feature predecessors but proves there’s also room for elements of comedy and humanist drama as well as political satire and cultural expose. The beast in this case is born in Seoul’s Han River, where it trolls the banks for victims and seems to be spreading some sort of hearty virus. Bumbling shopkeeper Gang-du (Song Kang-ho) and his ill-equipped family will take on the creature after he steals one of their own, embarking on an adventure that is filled with top-notch special effects, emotional moments and refreshing humor. In Korean with English subtitles. — Jenny Mayo

• Into Great Silence (Die Grosse Stille) (2007) (Not rated: Suitable for all audiences) — ***1/2. Philip Groening waited 16 years for permission to film the daily life of the Carthusian monks in France. The result is a poetic documentary with little dialogue and less plot that is utterly engrossing. Minimal French dialogue with English subtitles. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema. — Kelly Jane Torrance

• The Lives of Others (2006) (R: Some sexuality and nudity — ****. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck’s astonishingly accomplished debut is the best film of 2006 and powerful but understated filmmaking. A Stasi officer in 1984 East Berlin gradually recovers his humanity by spying on a playwright and his actress girlfriend. In German with English subtitles. Oscar for best foreign film.— Kelly Jane Torrance

• The Lookout (2007) (R: language, some violence and sexual content) — **1/2. Scott Frank, the writer of “Out of Sight,” “Dead Again” and “Minority Report,” makes his directorial debut with this modern noir about a bank janitor enlisted to aid a robbery. Joseph Gordon-Levitt puts in a compelling performance, but it isn’t enough to save what ultimately feels like a first-draft film. — Kelly Jane Torrance

• Meet the Robinsons (2007) (G: Mild comic violence) — ***. Disney’s latest CGI-animated feature follows a young inventor who gets caught up in a time-travel jam. An orphan teams up with a boy from the future to thwart an evil character out to alter history. The film unfolds its tricky but well-constructed story without losing its multigenerational audience, all the while delivering some surprisingly rich humor.— Christian Toto

• The Namesake (2007) (PG-13: Sexuality/nudity, some disturbing images and brief language) — **1/2. Jhumpa Lahiri’s acclaimed novel has been made into a lush family saga by director Mira Nair. Though the title character’s story never really gets off the ground, the tale of the arranged marriage between Ashoke and Ashima Ganguli, who move from Calcutta to New York, is a compelling immigrant saga. — Kelly Jane Torrance

• Pathfinder (2007) (R: Brutal violence) — ** . A young Viking boy is left behind during a battle and is taken in by an American Indian family. The boy grows up to lead the Indians to fight the Norsemen. “Pathfinder” offers a few gripping sequences, but the thin dialogue and one-dimensional acting sink the other scenes. — Christian Toto

• Perfect Stranger (2007) (R: sexual content and nudity, violent images and language) — **. James Foley’s “sexy” urban thriller follows intrepid reporter Rowena Price’s (Halle Berry) undercover quest to bring down Harrison Hill (Bruce Willis), whom she suspects of murdering her friend. It aspires to bring viewers “CSI’s” intelligent forensics allure and “Grey’s Anatomy’s” sex appeal, but succeeds most in showcasing Miss Berry’s — er, gifts. — Jenny Mayo

• The Reaping (2007) (R: Violence, disturbing images and sexuality) — *1/2. Director Stephen Hopkins’ thriller about biblical plagues that befall a small Southern town and the college professor who tries to scientifically explain them away (Hilary Swank). Given that it’s a particularly religious time of year, perhaps the film’s subversive nature will help sell what is otherwise a middling picture. — Jenny Mayo

• Slow Burn (2007) (R). A melodrama about the trials of district attorney Ray Liotta, who may have a killer on his staff. With LL Cool J, Mekhi Phifer, Taye Diggs, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Jalene Blalock. Not reviewed.

• Starter for Ten (2007) (PG-13: Sexual content, language and a scene of drug use) — ***. This charming piece of nostalgia follows Brian Jackson (James McAvoy, “The Last King of Scotland”) as he follows his dream to appear on a college quiz show in 1980s Britain. The coming-of-age story features an incredibly talented young British cast and a great New Wave soundtrack. — Kelly Jane Torrance

• 300 (2007) (R: Graphic battle sequences, some sexuality and nudity) — ***. The battle of Thermopylae is brought to life in this action-packed adaptation of the Frank Miller graphic novel. A band of 300 men engage in a suicide fight hoping to buy precious time for their countrymen to regroup. Star Gerard Butler makes a formidable King Leonidas, and the film’s comic-style visuals overcome the story’s shallowness. — Christian Toto

• The Wind that Shakes the Barley (2006) (Not rated: Frequent violence) — ***. Ken Loach’s beautiful but brutal film explores the 1919-1921 Irish War of Independence and its civil war aftermath. Cillian Murphy shines in this intelligent film that mixes the personal and the political, at a time when war set brother against brother. The title is that of a ballad about an earlier uprising, in 1798. — Kelly Jane Torrance MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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