- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 14, 2007


• Beyond the Gates (2007) (R). Another dramatized memoir of the looming massacre in Rwanda in 1995, with Hugh Dancy as a teacher and John Hurt as a priest at a school which shelters numerous Tutsis and a detachment of United Nations soldiers. A fleeting sense of security is shattered when the troops are ordered to withdraw. Directed by Michael Caton-Jones from a screenplay by David Wolstencroft.

• Dead Silence (2007) (R). A horror melodrama from the production company responsible for the sadistic “Saw” thrillers, with Donnie Wahlberg and Bob Gunton as two of the characters lured to a homicidal rendezvous. Derived from a Brian Garfield novel and directed by James Wan. Not reviewed.

• I Think I Love My Wife (2007) (R: Adult language, nudity and sexual situations). Chris Rock directed and co-wrote this look at the temptations facing the modern married man. Richard (Mr. Rock) has two great youngsters, a beautiful wife and a successful career, but a temptress named Nikki (Kerry Washington) threatens to upset his staid life.

• Mafioso (1962) (No MPAA rating: Adult subject matter). A revival of an ingenious but somewhat neglected Italian comedy-melodrama that starred Alberto Sordi as a Sicilian who has prospered and started a family in Milan. He returns with his wife and two daughters for a vacation in his hometown and discovers that the venerable folkways have barely changed. The rudest awakening: He’s still expected to do criminal favors for an elderly Mafia patron. Directed by Alberto Lattuada from a screenplay by Rafael Azcona, Marco Ferreri and the invaluable team of Agenore Incrocci and Furio Scarpelli. In Italian with English subtitles. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema.

• The Namesake (2007) (PG-13). The new movie from Mira Nair of “Monsoon Wedding.” She depicts the assimilation of an Indian family that has migrated from Calcutta to New York City. With Irrfan Khan and Tabu as the parents and Kai Penn as their son. Some dialogue in Hindi with English subtitles.

• Premonition (2007) (PG-13). A “Groundhog Day” time warp menaces Sandra Bullock in this suspense thriller about a housewife who believes her husband has been killed in an auto crash until he turns up alive the next day. The now-she-sees-him, now-she-doesn’t spouse is played by Julian McMahon. The cast also features Kate Nelligan, Nia Long and Amber Valletta. Directed by Mennan Yapo from a screenplay by Bill Kelly.

• Puccini for Beginners (2006) (No MPAA rating: Adult subject matter). An attempt at updated screwball romance from Maria Maggenti, who blundered into the genre 12 years ago with “The Incredibly True Adventure of Two Girls in Love.” The tease this time is a four-part round of infatuations, with three capricious women and an exchangeable man. Gretchen Mol, Julianne Nicholson, Elizabeth Reaser and Justin Kirk comprise the quartet. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema.

• Shooter (2007) (R). A movie version of a suspense novel by Stephen Hunter, who doubles as a movie critic for The Washington Post. He also supplied the screenplay for director Antoine Fuqua, who casts Mark Wahlberg as a former Army sniper set up for treachery when summoned out of retirement to advise on a suspected plot to assassinate the president.

• Two Weeks (2007) (R). A family tearjerker about four grown children reunited during a death watch for their mother, Sally Field. Written and directed by Steve Stockman. The cast also includes Ben Chaplin, Tom Cavanagh, Clea Duvall and busy-busy Julianne Nicholson.


• Amazing Grace (2007) (PG) — ***. A stirring look at how William Wilberforce and other idealists fought to end the British slave trade, released the year of the 200th anniversary of its abolition. The cast includes many of Britain’s finest actors, both old and young, whose performances bring this far above the level of the usual biopic. — Kelly Jane Torrance

• 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

• Because I Said So (2007) (PG-13: Mature themes, sexually suggestive dialogue and partial nudity) — **. This is what would happen if Mom’s Redbook married daughter’s Cosmo. It’s a full-color dose of fashion, decor, edibles, beauty queens, sex talk and relationship advice — all light on intelligence, but nevertheless modestly entertaining. Meddling mom Daphne (Diane Keaton) tries to marry off her youngest daughter Milly (Mandy Moore) by secretly finding her a suitor on the Internet. Life intervenes, and budding caterer Milly finds herself cooking with not one but two handsome men. “Because” never transcends the genre, but that’s OK; it’s a chick flick, after all. — Jenny Mayo

• Black Snake Moan (2007) (R: Strong adult content and language) — ***. Craig Brewer (“Hustle & Flow”) returns with another musically fueled Southern portrait. God-fearing Lazarus (Samuel L. Jackson) tries to cure oversexed Rae (Christina Ricci) of her sinful ways by chaining her to his radiator. In the process, she helps him rediscover his past as a bluesman, and he helps her heal from her abusive past. The two turn in nice performances, as does the supporting cast, which includes Justin Timberlake. Like “Hustle,” the film contains misogynistic themes that may offend some viewers, but it’s a compelling story with a soulful soundtrack. — Jenny Mayo

• Breach (2007) (PG-13: Violence, sexual content and adult language) — ***1/2. FBI agent-turned-traitor Robert Hanssen is the focus of this psychological thriller starring Oscar winner Chris Cooper. Ryan Phillippe stars as Eric O’Neill, a young agent assigned to flush out Hanssen (Mr. Cooper) for giving away government secrets to the Russians. “Breach” is the sort of smart, superbly acted thriller we typically see released during the fall Oscar season. — Christian Toto

• 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 does add 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

• Days of Glory (2007) (R: War violence and brief language) — ***. The story of the North Africans who fought to liberate France from the Germans in World War II is finally told. Rachid Bouchareb, a French director of Algerian descent, has crafted a moving film about the men who were denied the French ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity while they helped defend them. In Arabic and French with English subtitles. — Kelly Jane Torrance

• Dreamgirls — (2006) (PG-13: Language, racism, some sexuality and drug content) — ***1/2. Beyonce Knowles, Jennifer Hudson and Anika Noni Rose play the members of a pop vocal trio of the early 1960s loosely based on the Supremes. For the most part, the $70 million big-screen adaptation of the 1981 Broadway hit is as good as its hype — as is Jennifer Hudson as Effie White, in an astonishing film debut. Director Bill Condon skillfully translates the musical to the big screen in this timeless tale of backstage ambition, racism, heartache and redemption that spans the 1960s and ‘70s. Academy Award to Miss Hudson for supporting actress. — Robyn-Denise Yourse

• Factory Girl (2007) (R: Prominent drug use, sexual content, nudity and language) — **. Director George Hickenlooper’s biopic on Edie Sedgwick (played by Sienna Miller) recounts the rise of a blue-blooded art-school student to “It” girl status as she befriends pop artist Andy Warhol (Guy Pearce) and becomes the star of his movies and social scene. When she develops feelings for a mysteriously unnamed musician, perhaps Bob Dylan (Hayden Christensen), both men will wrestle for control over her and eventually throw the fragile nymph into a downward spiral. The script oversimplifies the real story, but makes for a largely entertaining film nonetheless. — Jenny Mayo

• Gray Matters (2007) (PG-13). The title of this romantic comedy, written and directed by Sue Kramer, is a pun, alluding to Heather Graham as one of the principal characters, Gray, who shares a New York loft and lots of compatibility with sibling Sam, played by Tom Cavanagh. They decide it’s probably time to begin looking seriously for consorts, but an emotional crisis looms when Tom falls for a prospect called Charlie, portrayed by Bridget Moynahan. With Sissy Spacek, Molly Shannon and Alan Cumming. Not reviewed.

• The Host (2007) (R: Beasts, violence and language) — ***. Bong Joon-ho’s film takes clues from its creature-feature predecessors, yet 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

• 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 through spying on a playwright and his actress girlfriend. In German with English subtitles. Oscar for best foreign film. — Kelly Jane Torrance

• Maxed Out (2007) (Not rated — some disturbing thematic material) — **1/2. James Scurlock’s documentary presents a riveting picture of what debt looks like in America, how prevalent it is, and the lengths that banks will go to get us mired in it. While he misses one major issue — the tendency to live beyond our means — he does create an edgy, fast-paced narrative that travels to most corners of the country and many economic strata to present its argument. — Jenny Mayo

• Pan’s Labyrinth (2007) (R: Graphic violence and some language) — ****. With his dark fairy tale for adults set in Franco’s Spain, which explores good and evil, childhood, imagination and politics in the tradition of Terry Gilliam, director Guillermo del Toro has made a masterpiece whose images are not soon forgotten. In Spanish with English subtitles. Oscars for art direction, cinematography and makeup. — Kelly Jane Torrance

• The Queen (2006) (PG-13: Brief strong language) — ***. Helen Mirren gives a savvy, thoughtful interpretation of Queen Elizabeth II, who, as the film would have it, jeopardized the monarchy because she was insufficiently upset about the death of her son’s ex-wife, Diana, Princess of Wales — and is taught a thing or two about the public and the press by her green new prime minister, Michael Sheen as Tony Blair. With James Cromwell as Prince Philip. Oscar to Miss Mirren as best actress. — Kelly Jane Torrance

• 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

• Tears of the Black Tiger (2001) (No MPAA rating). A semi-satirical Thai adventure spectacle that was originaIly acquired by Miramax several years ago and then left on the inventory shelf. It is finally reaching art houses under the auspices of another distributor. The plot concerns a forbidden romance between a bandit known as Black Tiger and a highborn girl forced into an arranged marriage. Written and directed by Wisit Sasanatieng. In Thai with English subtitles. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema. Not reviewed.

• 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 country men to regroup. Star Gerard Butler makes for a formidable King Leonidas, and the film’s comic-style visuals overcome the story’s shallowness. — Christian Toto

• 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 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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