Thursday, July 12, 2007


{bullet} Introducing the Dwights (2007) (R). An Australian domestic comedy that stars Brenda Blethyn as a domineering mother, still aspiring to the big-time as a stand-up comic. She takes it hard when one of her two sons acquires a girlfriend. The cast includes Khan Chittenden, Emma Booth, Richard Wilson and Rebecca Gibney.

{bullet} Joshua (2007) (R). A domestic chiller co-starring Vera Farmiga and Sam Rockwell as a prosperous Manhattan couple who suspect things may not be quite right with their first child, named Joshua, after the birth of his baby sister.

{bullet} Lady Chatterley’s Lover (2007) (No MPAA rating: Adult subject matter). A French movie version of the D.H. Lawrence erotic classic, adapted and directed by Pascale Ferran, whose efforts were rewarded with the Cesar for best movie. Another award went to leading lady Marina Hands. Her co-stars are Hippolyte Girardot and Jean-Louis Coulloch, cast as the husband and gamekeeper, respectively. The running time approaches three hours. In French with English subtitles. Exclusively at the Landmark Bethesda Row and E Street Cinema.

{bullet} Manufactured Landscapes (2007) (No MPAA rating: Adult subject matter). A documentary feature by Jennifer Baichwal, who chronicles a trip to China by the industrial and landscape photographer Edward Burtynsky, seeking images of the current economic and industrial transformation. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema.

{bullet} Rescue Dawn (2007) (PG-13). Werner Herzog’s fictionalized reprise of his 1997 documentary biopic “Little Dieter Needs to Fly,” which celebrated the late Dieter Diegler, who became a U.S. Navy pilot after emigrating from Germany in his teens. Shot down over Laos in 1966, Lt. Dengler survived a later escape attempt and was rescued by a helicopter crew. Christian Bale portrays Dengler; Steve Zahn and Jeremy Davies play the other Americans he encounters during captivity. Mr. Herzog directed on locations in Thailand.

{bullet} Talk to Me (2007) (R). The rare biopic about a Washington-based entertainment personality. The subject is the late disc jockey and TV host Petey Greene, who emerged from an armed robbery sentence at Lorton to become a charismatic fixture at WOL-AM in the late 1960s. He was a calming influence in the aftermath of the 1968 riots. Don Cheadle is cast as Mr. Greene, who died of cancer in 1984; Chiwetel Ejiofor co-stars.


{bullet} Away From Her (2007) (PG-13: Some sexual references) — ***1/2. A deeply intelligent film about the burdens of marriage and memory. Julie Christie, in a bravura performance, stars as Fiona, who moves into a nursing home and seemingly forgets her husband after she’s diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Her husband Grant (Gordon Pinsent) has to watch his wife form an attachment to another man. Actress Sarah Polley directed and adapted the screenplay from an Alice Munro short story in a stunningly accomplished debut. — Kelly Jane Torrance

{bullet} Eagle vs Shark (2007) (R: Language, some sexy scenes and mild violence) — ***. This debut feature film from New Zealand director Taika Waititi is reminiscent of “Napoleon Dynamite” with its story of nerd love and dry humor, although it has a lot more cursing and adult content — not to mention actors with accents. Geeks Lily (Loren Horsley) and Jarrod (Jemaine Clement) hook up at a dress-as-your-favorite-animal party and a complicated on-again-off-again relationship develops. Watching it unfold is silly, uncomfortable, emotional and poignant. — Jenny Mayo

{bullet} Evan Almighty (2007) (PG: Mild rude humor and some perilous situations) — ***. This sort-of sequel to the Jim Carrey hit “Bruce Almighty” features Steve Carell as a congressman chosen by God (Morgan Freeman) to build an ark. The family-friendly comedy offers just enough laughs for the adults, thanks to a strong supporting cast including Wanda Sykes. — Christian Toto

{bullet} Evening (2007) (PG-13: Some thematic elements, sexuality and language) — **. An adaptation of Susan Minot’s beloved novel, reworked for the screen with Michael Cunningham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “The Hours.” Ann Lord (Vanessa Redgrave) lies on her death bed, while the memories surrounding her best friend’s wedding and moments that changed her life come flooding back. Ann’s daughters struggle to make sense of her mutterings, and where one chooses to see them as delusions, the other digs for deeper meaning. Nice performances and picture-perfect visuals abound, but the story promises something slightly more profound than what it delivers. — Jenny Mayo

{bullet} Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (2007) (PG: Comic book violence and mild sexual innuendo) — ***. The squabbling superheroes are back, and this time they must protect Earth from an intergalactic planet eater. The film represents a stark upgrade from the first film, although it’s still better suited for younger viewers. — Christian Toto

{bullet} Gypsy Caravan — (2007) (Not rated: Suitable for all audiences) — ***. This glorious, life-affirming documentary follows five bands of Roma musicians from four different countries as they tour North America. With compelling characters — one group’s CD sales brought electricity to their small Romanian village — and irresistible music, “Gypsy Caravan” is a Roma “Buena Vista Social Club” that shows how suffering from centuries of persecution was turned into great art. — Kelly Jane Torrance

{bullet} Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) (PG-13: Fantasy violence and frightening imagery) — **. The madly popular series continues, and so does wicked Lord Voldemort’s plans for revenge. The powers that be at Hogwarts Academy don’t believe Voldemort’s return is imminent, putting poor Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) at a perilous disadvantage. “Phoenix” marks the series’ low point, a confusing affair with very little magic in its storytelling. — Christian Toto

{bullet} Knocked Up (2007) (R: Adult language, sexual situations, drug use and mature themes) — ***1/2. Writer-director Judd Apatow (“The 40-Year-Old Virgin”) strikes again with this very adult, very funny comedy. A mismatched pair (Seth Rogen, Katherine Heigl) hook up one drunken night and later learn they’re going to be parents. — Christian Toto

{bullet} La vie en rose (2007) (PG-13). A flamboyant, warts-and-all biographical chronicle of the life and career of French singer Edith Piaf, portrayed from street waif to tenacious wreck by Marion Cotillard, in what should prove a durably stirring performance. Written and directed by Olivier Dahan, the movie interweaves time frames and ignores certain chapters of the Piaf saga entirely. Most conspicuous omission: World War II. Despite the lapses, Mr. Dahan’s passion for the subject is undeniable, and the musical and histrionic highlights are formidable. With Gerard Depardieu, Sylvie Testud, Emmanuelle Seigner, Catherine Allegret and, as boxer Marcel Cerdan, Jean-Pierre Martins. In French with English subtitles. Not reviewed.

{bullet} License To Wed (2007) (PG-13). A romantic farce about the embarrassments awaiting prospective newlyweds Mandy Moore and John Krasinski, who feel obliged for family amity to enroll in a “marriage prep” course conducted by Robin Williams as a screwball pastor. Christine Taylor is also a member of the cast. Not reviewed.

{bullet} Live Free or Die Hard (2007) (PG-13: Adult language, intense violence and mature themes) — **. Bruce Willis is back as John McClane, the put-upon cop who saved the day in three “Die Hard” films. Here, he’s trying to stop a techno-terrorist out to shut down the United States’ computer systems. Some riveting action can’t save this mostly inept sequel. — Christian Toto

{bullet} A Mighty Heart (2007) (R: Language) — **. Murdered journalist Daniel Pearl was a compelling character, but you wouldn’t know it from watching “A Mighty Heart.” Though with fine performances and a talented director, the film is nothing so much as a missed opportunity, as it focuses on his wife Mariane (Angelina Jolie) to the detriment of a fascinating man and story. The question of how a British-born-and-raised Muslim turned into a murderer is never even addressed. — Kelly Jane Torrance

{bullet} Nancy Drew (2007) (PG: Mild violence, thematic elements and brief language) — **1/2. Emma Roberts is charming as the industrious, intelligent sleuth that’s captivated girls for decades, making the changes from the books easier to swallow. Nancy Drew looks like she’s stepped out of one of the 1960s books, but the movie is an update on the classic tales as Nancy travels from River Heights to L.A. to solve a mystery while attending high school. — Kelly Jane Torrance

{bullet} Ocean’s Thirteen (2007) (PG-13: Brief sensuality) — **1/2. The “Ocean’s Eleven” and “Twelve” boys are back in town — Vegas, that is — for director Steven Soderbergh’s third installment. Danny Ocean (George Clooney) and his capering crew (including Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and Don Cheadle) try to avenge their bankrolling buddy, Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould), by bringing down the man who swindled him, Willy Bank (Al Pacino). The flick is replete with star power, sumptuous colors and sets, and a few zingers. Plot-wise, however, the payoffs are more in line with slots than the blackjack table. — Jenny Mayo

{bullet} Once (2007) (R: Language and some mature themes) — ****. Irish writer-director John Carney’s “modern-day musical” is about a Guy (Glen Hansard, lead singer of the Irish rock band the Frames) who busks in the streets of Dublin and meets a Girl (Frames contributor Marketa Irglova) who plays piano and takes a liking to his tunes. As their friendship grows, they become professional partners, but both carry residual relationship baggage that may get in the way of a more serious (and sensual) commitment. Featuring Mr. Hansard and Miss Irglova’s lovely singer-songwriter fare, the film seamlessly melds dialogue and ditties in a way that redefines the term “musical.” — Jenny Mayo

{bullet} Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End (2007) (PG-13: Intense sequences of action/adventure violence and some frightening images) — **. The hugely profitable “Caribbean” series returns to cap the trilogy, and the final installment is as muddled as the last one. For chapter three, Will Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley) must save Capt. Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) from the clutches of Davy Jones. — Christian Toto

{bullet} Ratatouille — (2007) (G: Nothing objectionable — except very minor peril and a whole lot of rats in the kitchen) — **1/2. Pixar’s latest, written and directed by Brad Bird of “The Incredibles.” Remy (voiced by Patton Oswalt) is a sewer rat with dreams of culinary greatness. Linguini (Lou Romano) is a bumbling boy who snags a job toting trash at a five-star restaurant. Together, they amount to gastronomic genius, but will someone in the kitchen smell a rat? The animation is fantastic and the moral a nice one for kids, but the flick lacks the Pixar “pop” seen in earlier undertakings like “Toy Story 2.” — Jenny Mayo

{bullet} Shrek the Third (2007) (PG: Crude humor, suggestive content and swashbuckling action) — **1/2. The lovable green ogre is back in the least engaging film in the “Shrek” trilogy. This time, poor Shrek (Mike Myers) must become king of Far, Far Away unless he can persuade a bratty teen (voiced by Justin Timberlake) to take his place. Christian Toto

{bullet} Sicko (2007) (PG-13: Brief strong language) — *. Michael Moore’s latest documentary barely qualifies as such. In his look at what ails health care in the U.S. and how other countries provide it, he doesn’t document real life, but rather his own selective, misleading experience of it. Mr. Moore can certainly entertain, but he’s not using his talent to provide an honest appraisal of a flawed system and what could be done to fix it. — Kelly Jane Torrance

{bullet} Spider-Man 3 (007) (PG-13: Sequences of intense action violence) — ***. Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is still living a double life as Spider-Man in this third installment about the popular Marvel comic-book character. This time, he’ll have four villains to fight: New Goblin (James Franco), Sandman (Thomas Haden Church), Venom (Topher Grace) and a mysterious black gook that’s taking control of his Spidey suit. Too many characters muddle the script, but the film does offer tremendous special effects, high suspense and silly humor, plus some fine acting. — Jenny Mayo

{bullet} Surf’s Up (2007) (PG: Some minor peril and crude humor) —***. In this faux documentary-style computer-animated film, surfing penguin Cody Maverick (Shia LaBeouf) travels from his Antarctic home to exotic Pen Gu Island to compete in the Big Z Memorial Surf Off, where he befriends Chicken Joe (Jon Heder) and a mysterious Mr. Miyagi-like character (Jeff Bridges) who teaches him all the surf-wax-on, surf-wax-off secrets he needs to know to be a serious contender. The story itself is solid, but the angle and effects — borrowed as much from Ken Burns as Christopher Guest — make this film stand out from other animated fare. — Jenny Mayo

{bullet} Transformers (2007) (PG-13: Stylized action, brief sexual humor and adult language) — **1/2. The 1980s cartoon favorite hits the big screen, courtesy of bombastic director Michael Bay (“Pearl Harbor”). Two warring robot squads, each with the ability to shape shift, renew their hostilities with humanity (including actor Shia LaBeouf) caught in the balance. Terrific first half is followed by inane, numbing finale. — Christian Toto

{bullet} The Treatment (2007) (No MPAA rating) — **1/2. Chris Eigeman (“Metropolitan”) stars as Jake Singer, a neurotic English teacher at a private boys’ school whose hilariously unorthodox treatment with an Argentinian psychoanalyst threatens his budding relationship with school benefactor (and recent widow) Allegra Marshall (Bond girl Famke Janssen). Based on the novel by Daniel Menaker, this is a charming film, but its plotlines aren’t tied together well enough, and for all the script’s intelligence and wit, the novel’s heart feels strangely missing. — Kelly Jane Torrance MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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