- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 28, 2007

OPENING

• 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. Opens Wednesday.

• Blades of Glory (2007) (PG-13). A new Will Ferrell sports farce, co-starring with Jon Heder as disgraced ice skaters from the 2002 Olympics team. Once bitter rivals, they seize a preposterous opportunity for redemption as a pairs team. The cast includes Craig T. Nelson, Amy Poehler, Will Arnett and Will Speck.

• 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. Opens Wednesday.

• Into Great Silence (2006) (No MPAA rating). A near-epic documentary feature distilling six months spent by filmmaker Philip Groening within a Carthusian monastery, Grand Chartreuse, near Grenoble, France. Some dialogue in French with English subtitles. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema.

• 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.

• The Lookout (2007) (R). A crime thriller written and directed by Scott Frank, the screenwriter of “Dead Again” and “Out of Sight.” This project marks his directing debut. The movie imperils Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a former high school athlete with plenty to regret. He cost the lives of three friends and suffered some brain damage while joyriding. Tucked away in a small Midwestern town where he works as a bank janitor, the young man is bullied into a bank robbery scheme by a sinister acquaintance, Matthew Goode. With Jeff Daniels, Carla Gugino, Bruce McGill and Isla Fisher.

• 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.

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

• 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

• 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

• Flannel Pajamas (2006) (Not rated; contains multiple scenes of nudity, mature themes and some adult language) — **1/2. If you like light-on-action, heavy-on-chatter films, you’ll admire the refreshing amount of authenticity and rawness that writer-director Jeff Lipsky mines from the relationship between a man and a woman in love. His well-acted, hyper-realist portrait shows its protagonists at every delightful and disquieting stage of the love game, from accidentally revealing embarrassing habits to disagreeing over when to have a child. These PJs aren’t for everyone, but they probably will remind everyone of moments in their own lives. — Jenny Mayo

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

• 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

• 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. Not reviewed.

• 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. But 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 comes 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 for 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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