- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 21, 2007

OPENING

• Color Me Kubrick (2006) (No MPAA rating: Adult subject matter) The “Son of Sidney Poitier” hoax that prompted John Guare’s play “Six Degrees of Separation” had a counterpart while the late Stanley Kubrick was directing “Eyes Wide Shut,” his last movie, in London. Two former assistants, director Brian Cook and screenwriter Anthony Frewin, recall the caper in this comedy of celebrity imposture that stars John Malkovich as a professional con artist named Alan Conway, who has a high time posing as the reclusive filmmaker. With Richard E. Grant and Marisa Berenson. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema.

• Flannel Pajamas (2006) (No MPAA rating: Adult subject matter) A romantic comedy that traces a courtship from blind date to marriage. Justin Kirk and Julianne Nicholson play the leads for writer-director Jeff Lipsky, well-known for many years as an executive with independent film companies.Exclusively at the Avalon.

• Pride (2007) (PG) — An inspirational sports melodrama starring Terrence Howard as a dedicated Philadelphia schoolteacher of the 1970s who protects a municipal pool from demolition by organizing “the city’s first African-American swim team.” Bernie Mac co-stars as a helpful, kibitzing janitor. Directed by Sunu Gonera from a screenplay that originated with the team of Kevin Michael Smith and Michael Gozzard.

• The Hills Have Eyes 2 (2007) (R) — No repulsive movie pretext ever goes to its grave, as demonstrated by this quickie sequel to the reactivated Wes Craven horror franchise of 30 years ago, which envisioned a vacationing family at the mercy of mutant cannibals.

• The Last Mimzy (2007) (PG) — A rare directing beau geste from Robert Shaye, the founder and co-chairman of New Line Cinema.Best known for his command decision to finance Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, Mr. Shaye hasn’t directed a feature since “Book of Love” in 1990. This science-fiction fable, based on a short story by Lewis Padgett, depicts the amazement and alarm provoked by the sudden mental brilliance of two children who have discovered a mysterious box of toys, evidently extraterrestrial in origin. With Timothy Hutton, Joely Richardson, Rainn Wilson, Michael Clarke Duncan and, as the genius juveniles, Rhiannon Leigh Wryn and Chris O’Neil.

• The Prisoner or: How I Planned to Kill Tony Blair (2007) (No MPAA rating: Adult subject matter) — A semi-facetious reconstruction of the ordeal of an Iraqi named Yunis Khatayer Abbas, who was jailed on suspicion of terrorist activities in Baghdad in September 2003.He spent time in the Abu Ghraib prison before being cleared.A follow-up project by Michael Tucker and Petra Epperlein, who collaborated on “Gunner Palace,” an early chronicle of American soldiers in Iraq, the new movie includes embedded footage, home movies, interviews and comic book illustration. The running time is brief: 72 minutes. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema.

• Reign Over Me (2007) (R: Adult language, mature themes and sexual situations) — Adam Sandler takes the serious route once more to play 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.

• Shooter (2007) (R: Extreme violence, adult language, gore and partial nudity) — Mark Wahlberg stars as a retired sniper who gets dragged back into action to prevent a presidential assassination. But the plan backfires and he finds himself accused of the crime he tried to stop. Ned Beatty and Michael Pena co-star.

• TMNT (2007) (PG) — The return of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, evidently abbrieviated 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.

NOW SHOWING

• 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) — …. Three stars 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

• 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. Not reviewed.

• Black Snake Moan (2007) (R: Strong adult content and language) — ….Three stars 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

• 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.

• 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

• 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. Not reviewed.

• 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. While 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

• Premonition (2007) (PG-13: Some violent and disturbing content, brief language) — … In director Mennan Yapo’s psychological thriller, Sandra Bullock stars as Linda Hanson, a woman who learns that her husband, Jim (“Nip/Tuck’s” Julian McMahon) has died in a car accident. The next day, though, he’s alive; the next, dead. She’s living the days bookending the tragedy out of sequence — but this, along with many of the other plot twists, have already been revealed in the trailer. The rest is relatively easy to figure out in this flick, which doesn’t take enough risks, and misses opportunities for crafting a more complex and intelligent plot. — Jenny Mayo

• 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. 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 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

• 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. 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 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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