- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 4, 2007

OPENING

• First Snow (2007) (R) — A psychological suspense melodrama starring Guy Pearce as a salesman who may be too susceptible to the remarks of a “roadside soothsayer” (J.K. Simmons), who predicts good fortune in the short term and possible catastrophe “after the first snow.” With Piper Perabo and William Fichtner.

• Glastonbury (2006) (R) — A documentary compilation by Julien Temple and Michael Eavis consisting of highlights from a pop-music and performing-arts festival held annually in southwestern England since 1971. The headliners include David Bowie, Bjork, Richie Havens, the Velvet Underground, Radiohead, the Cure, Oasis and many others. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema.

• Grindhouse (2007) (R) — A generation ago, Stanley Donen and Larry Gelbart collaborated on an expert set of parodies titled “Movie Movie,” which simulated a “typical” Warner Bros. double bill of the 1930s. Now cronies Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez attempt a similar caprice inspired by exploitation melodramas of the 1970s. The Tarantino featurette is a crime melodrama titled “Death Proof.” Mr. Rodriguez’s contribution is a science-fiction thriller called “Planet Terror.” The cast members include Kurt Russell, Rosario Dawson, Josh Brolin, Rose McGowan and Michael Biehn.

• The Hoax (2007) (R) — A belated remembrance of the literary hoax of 1974 perpetrated by writer Clifford Irving, portrayed by Richard Gere. Mr. Irving persuaded a friend named Richard Susskind (Alfred Molina) to collaborate on an alleged autobiography of reclusive tycoon Howard Hughes, who eventually came out of seclusion to discredit their claims. Mr. Irving’s confidence game took McGraw-Hill and Time-Life to the verge of publication. With Marcia Gay Harden, Hope Davis, Stanley Tucci and Julie Delpy. Directed by Lasse Hallstrom from a screenplay by William Wheeler, dubiously influenced by “A Beautiful Mind.”

• The Reaping (2007) (R) — A supernatural thriller that assails Hilary Swank, a missionary who lost her faith, with a wave of plagues. Directed by Stephen Hopkins from a screenplay by Chad Hayes and Carey W. Hayes. Opens today.

• The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006) (No MPAA rating — adult subject matter, with episodes of combat) — Ken Loach’s grand-prize winner at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, an evocation of the wars in Ireland in the early 1920s. The title is that of a ballad of an earlier uprising, in 1798. Cillian Murphy and Padraic Delaney play brothers who unite to fight the British and then end up as foes when the victorious Irish rebels plunge into civil war. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema.

NOW SHOWING

• Avenue Montaigne (2006) (PG-13: Some strong language and brief sexuality) — ***. A more down-to-earth “Amelie,” this French film is a witty look at dissatisfaction through the eyes of a Paris waitress who serves a famous actress, a concert pianist and a millionaire at a ritzy cafe. In French with English subtitles. — 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

• Bridge to Terabithia (2007) (PG: Mild peril and a really sad ending) — ***. Katherine Paterson’s beloved children’s book hits the big screen in an adaptation co-written by her son, David. Jess Aarons (Josh Hutcherson) and Leslie Burke (AnnaSophia Robb) become friends in a rural community and invent a magic kingdom called Terabithia, over which they rule. Director Gabor Csupo adds some major special effects to keep audiences interested — but thankfully, they don’t spoil the novel’s lovely understatedness and innocence. A sad ending, but a happy addition to the children’s film genre. — Jenny Mayo

• Color Me Kubrick (2006) (Not rated) — ***. The true story of Alan Conway, who impersonated legendary director Stanley Kubrick, is told in this witty, eclectic film made by former Kubrick associates. John Malkovich puts in an inspired performance as the chameleon con man. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema. — Kelly Jane Torrance

• 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.

• 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 Islander (2006) (No MPAA rating: Adult subject matter). An independent feature about conflicts among lobster fishermen in Maine. Exclusively at the AMC Dupont Circle. Not reviewed.

• The Last Mimzy (2007) (PG: Mild language and some thematic elements) — ***. New Line Cinema founder Bob Shaye returns to the director’s seat in this family-friendly sci-fi film about two children who discover a box of toys from the future, based on a 1943 short story by Lewis Padgett. Noah and Emma (first-timer Chris O’Neil and Rhiannon Leigh Wryn) develop superhuman powers as they interact with the enigmatic objects they discover, which include a stuffed bunny named Mimzy that talks to Emma. With a fast pace, plenty of suspense and fantastic acting from the young leads, the film keeps audiences guessing about what it all means until the very end. — Jenny Mayo

• 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

• The Prisoner or: How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair (2007) (PG-13: Some strong language and mature thematic elements) — ***. This slickly well-made documentary tells the story of Yunis Khatayer Abbas, an Iraqi journalist who spent nine months at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison. A former guard details the degrading conditions at the prison in which most of the inmates seemed to be innocent. — Kelly Jane Torrance

• Reign Over Me (2007) (R: Adult language, mature themes and sexual situations) — **1/2. Adam Sandler plays a married father of three who loses his family in the September 11 attacks. “Hotel Rwanda’s” Don Cheadle tries to help him overcome his grief. Touching and at times comical, “Reign” ultimately collapses under the weight of good intentions. — Christian Toto

• Shooter (2007) (R: Extreme violence, adult language, gore and partial nudity) — **1/2. Mark Wahlberg stars as a retired sniper who gets dragged back into action to prevent a presidential assassination. The plan backfires, and he finds himself accused of the crime he tried to stop. Mr. Wahlberg supplies the brains and brawn, but the former is in short supply through much of the film’s running time. — Christian Toto

• 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

• TMNT (2007) (PG) — The return of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, abbreviated evidently for someone’s convenience. The cartoonish superheroes of 20 years ago are also transformed from stuntmen in funny costumes to computer-animated figures. The producers claim that this “new incarnation” will prove “truly cutting-edge.” The voice cast includes Patrick Stewart, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Chris Evans and Mako. Written and directed by Kevin Munroe. Not reviewed.

• Wild Hogs (2007) (PG:13: Crude and sexual content and some violence) — **. John Travolta, Martin Lawrence, William H. Macy and Tim Allen star as four suburban men who go on a road trip to recapture their youth. They get more than they bargained for when they run into a real biker gang. It’s far sillier than funny, but the engaging cast saves the day. — Christian Toto

• Zodiac (2007) (R: Some graphic violence and language) — **1/2. The latest from director David Fincher may not be as fast-paced or gripping (or graphic) as his excellent previous works, including “Seven” and “Fight Club” — in fact, at well over two hours, it crawls along in spots. Yet the well-researched film (based on the book by Robert Graysmith, who became intimately involved in the case) accurately portrays the hysteria that surrounded the San Francisco Bay Area’s real-life Zodiac killer, who claimed at least five lives during his random murder spree in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. — Jenny Mayo MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS


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