- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 7, 2007


• 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.

• The Host (2007) (R: Creature-style horrors and violence). This South Korean horror film follows a distraught family trying to save their daughter from the clutches of a sea creature. Some dialogue in Korean with English subtitles.

• Starter for Ten (2007) (PG-13). A British comedy, directed by Tom Vaughn, about the freshman year of a working-class student from Essex enrolled at Bristol University in the early 1980s. The title alludes to his participation in a popular television quiz show called “University Challenge.” With James McAvoy as the hero and Alice Eve and Rebecca Hall as the coeds who attract him.

• Maxed Out (2007) (No MPAA rating: Adult subject matter). A documentary feature by James Scurlock, who aims to expose dubious practices in the credit industry. A companion book is being published simultaneously: “Maxed Out: Hard Times, Easy Credit and the Era of Predatory Lenders.” Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema.

• 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.

• 300 (2007) (R: Graphic battle sequences, some sexuality and nudity). The Battle of Thermopylae is brought to life in this 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.


• 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

• The Astronaut Farmer (2007) (PG). An inspirational saga from the eccentric brothers Michael and Mark Polish. They collaborated on the screenplay directed by Michael Polish. Billy Bob Thornton plays a thwarted astronaut, who was compelled to resign from the space program because of family responsibilities. While struggling to sustain a farm in Texas for a decade, he also builds a rocket inside a barn. The proposed launch provokes intense publicity and government disapproval. With Virginia Madsen as the hero’s wife and Bruce Dern as his father. Not reviewed.

• 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

• Becket (1964) (No MPAA rating: Released four years before the start of the rating system; adult subject matter). A revival of one of the prestige productions of its year, Peter Glenville’s movie version of Jean Anouilh’s historical drama about the legendary friendship and fatal estrangement of Henry II and archbishop Thomas a Becket, portrayed by Peter O’Toole and Richard Burton, respectively. Nominated for 12 Academy Awards, the movie collected only one — Edward Anhalt for screenplay — while “My Fair Lady” was dominating the Oscars. The co-stars were pitted against each other for best actor, and John Gielgud was a nominee for supporting actor as the French monarch, Louis VII. A limited engagement, exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema. Not reviewed.

• 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

• Breaking and Entering (2007) (R: Sexuality and language) — ***. “The English Patient” director Anthony Minghella’s latest film is an epic writ small. Through the lives of contemporary Londoners, he explores nationality, class, and crime. Though at times rambling, this personal film is a love letter to the city and its varied inhabitants. — Kelly Jane Torrance

• 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

• Ghost Rider (2007) (PG-13: Horror violence and disturbing imagery) — *1/2. Nicolas Cage is Ghost Rider, Marvel’s cursed superhero, who metes out justice astride a flaming motorcycle. Johnny Blaze (Mr. Cage) makes a deal with the devil and is transformed into a fiery avenger with supernatural powers. “Ghost Rider” is alternately dopey and surreal, meant only for the most forgiving comic book junkies. — Christian Toto

• Kettle of Fish (2007) (R). An independent feature written and directed by a Washington-area filmmaker, Claudia Myers, who casts Matthew Modine as a saxophone player juggling three possible consorts, including one played by the smoldering Gina Gershon. Not reviewed.

• Music and Lyrics (2007) (PG-13: Some sexual content — *. Romantic comedy written and directed by Marc Lawrence, who penned “Miss Congeniality.” In this formulaic film, Alex Fletcher (Hugh Grant) is a has-been ‘80s artist who teams up with an unlikely lyricist, a plant caretaker named Sophie Fisher (Drew Barrymore). Their goal: to produce the next hit for the moment’s biggest, raunchiest pop star. The movie does a nice job parodying the recording industry, with its vacuity and over-bloated budgets, but ultimately, it suffers from that which it decries. — 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

• 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

• Le Petit Lieutenant (2007) (Unrated) — ***. The investigators are more fascinating than the crimes in this emotionally deep French police drama. Jalil Lespert is the young lieutenant who reminds Nathalie Baye, a two-years-sober commandant, of her long-dead son. — 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

• Tyler Perry’s ‘Daddy’s Little Girls’ (2007) (PG-13) — The latest feature from the prolific actor-writer-director concerns Monty Elba as a garage mechanic seeking custody of his three daughters from an unfit ex-wife. He complicates his case by falling in love with his attorney, Gabrielle Union. The cast includes Lou Gossett Jr. as a workplace friend and confidant. Not reviewed.

• An Unreasonable Man (2006).(No MPAA rating: Adult subject matter). A documentary feature about Ralph Nader, compiled by Henriette Mantel and Steve Skrovan, who evidently fear that a proud social legacy is being jeopardized by the subject’s campaigning for national political office, which became a sore point for Democrats in 2000. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema. 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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