- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 27, 2007

OPENING

• Blame It On Fidel! (2007) (No MPAA rating: Adult subject matter). A semi-autobiographical feature debut from Julie Gavras, daughter of the prominent French director of Greek extraction, Constantin Costa-Gavras. She observes the reactions of a 9-year-old girl transported from Paris to Latin America when her activist parents decide to relocate to Chile during the Allende regime. In French and Spanish with English subtitles. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema.

• Feast of Love (2007) (R). A movie version of a novel by Charles Baxter, directed by Robert Benton and transposed from the author’s home in Ann Arbor, Mich. to Portland, Ore. Morgan Freeman is cast as a university professor who shares a lingering burden of family grief with spouse Jane Alexander. He observes the vicissitudes of a cafe owner played by Greg Kinnear, who proves unlucky in successive mates, Selma Blair and Radha Mitchell. A succession of love affairs and heartaches also enmesh Billy Burke, Alexa Davalos and Toby Hemingway.

• The Game Plan (2007) (PG). A blend of sports and domestic comedy starring Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as a pro quarterback obliged to make a home for the little girl he fathered, unwittingly, eight years before. Kyra Sedgwick co-stars as his sarcastic sports agent and Madison Pettis as the child. Directed by Andy Fickman from a screenplay by Nichole Millard, Kathryn Price and Audrey Wells.

• The Hottest State (2007) (R). Bittersweet romance from Ethan Hawke, adapting and directing his own novel. He also plays a supporting role while casting Mark Webber as the protagonist, a young actor infatuated with Mexican songbird Catalina Sandino Moreno. Laura Linney also has a principal role.

• Into the Wild (2007) (R). Sean Penn’s movie version of the Jon Krakauer best-seller of 1996. Emile Hirsch plays the hero, an Emory College grad and D.C. resident named Christopher McCandless, who decided to invest his savings in extended hitchhiking around Alaska. With Marcia Gay Harden, William Hurt, Jena Malone, Catherine Keener, Vince Vaughn, Kristen Stewart and Hal Holbrook as some of the folks he encounters.

• The Jane Austen Book Club (2007) (PG-13). A movie version of the novel by Karen Joy Fowler, adapted and directed by Robin Swicord. The title alludes to a book-reading group in Sacramento, Calif., that devotes itself to Jane Austen’s major novels over a six-month period. The club consists of five women with a fondness for the author — Kathy Bates, Maria Bello, Amy Brenneman, Maggie Grace and Emily Blunt — and a stray male, Hugh Dancy. This is Miss Swicord’s directing debut. Her screenwriting credits have included “Little Women” and “Memoirs of a Geisha.”

• King of California (2007) (PG-13: Adult language). Michael Douglas, sporting a scraggly beard, stars as a mentally deranged man who thinks there’s gold buried in his suburban neighborhood. Evan Rachel Wood of “Thirteen” fame plays his daughter, who he enlists to help him dig for treasure.

• The Kingdom (2007) (R: War violence, adult language and disturbing imagery). A suicide attack in Saudi Arabia brings an FBI crew to the crime scene to investigate. Oscar winner Jamie Foxx stars alongside Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper and Jason Bateman. — Christian Toto

• Manda Bala (2007) (No MPAA rating: Adult subject matter). A portrait of contemporary Brazil from documentary filmmaker Jason Kohn, preoccupied with aspects that reveal systematic political corruption. Exclusively at the AMC Dupont Circle.

• The Rape of Europa (2005) (No MPAA rating: Adult subject matter). A documentary feature inspired by a book of the same title, dealing with attempts to trace and restore artworks stolen by the Nazi regime. The original author was Lynn Nicholas. The movie, shot on high-definition video, was co-directed by Bonni Cohen and Richard Berge. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema.

NOW SHOWING

Across the Universe (2007) (PG-13: Some drug content, sexuality, nudity, violence and language) — …. Director Julie Taymor (“Frida,” Broadway’s “The Lion King”) delivers a movie musical that slips 33 beloved Beatles tunes, now reinterpreted, into an original, fictionalized ‘60s-era love story. Jude (Jim Sturgess) travels to the U.S. from Liverpool to meet his long-lost father and ends up finding enduring friendship and the love of his life in Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood). As the lovers’ and their buddies’ lives play out in Greenwich Village, they find themselves sucked into the antiwar and counterculture movements, which seem to help them cope with the tumultuous times. — Jenny Mayo

• The Brave One (2007) (R: Violence, disturbing themes, sexual situations) — …. Jodie Foster plays a happily engaged talk show host who turns into a vigilante when her fiance is brutally murdered. Miss Foster delivers her standard, superior performance, lifting “The Brave One” above your average vigilante thriller. — Christian Toto

• Chalk (2007) (PG-13: Language). ..1/2. “Chalk” has been touted as a mockumentary about teachers in the style of “The Office” and the films of Christopher Guest. In reality, “Chalk” is subtler and at times a bit slower-paced, and many of the laughs it elicits will likely be more like chuckles than guffaws. Anyone who ever has been in school can find something to relate to here, but it’s not necessarily a film for everyone. The teachers are portrayed by Troy Schremmer, Janelle Schremmer and Shannon Haragan. Directed by Mike Akel from a screenplay by himself and Chris Mass. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema. — Jenny Mayo

• December Boys (2007) (PG-13). A British tearjerker with an Australian setting that showcases young Daniel Radcliffe in a role outside the Harry Potter series. He plays one of four teenage orphans, all born in December, who find themselves competing for a set of adoptive parents during a summer holiday. Not reviewed.

• Dedication (2007) (R: Language and some sexual content) — …. Actor Justin Theroux makes his directorial debut with a sweet but never cloying film that resembles the typical romantic comedy only on the surface. Billy Crudup is a seemingly unlikable children’s book author forced to work with a young illustrator played by Mandy Moore when his patient collaborator (Tom Wilkinson) takes sick. — Kelly Jane Torrance

Eastern Promises (2007) (R: Strong brutal and bloody violence, some graphic sexuality, language and nudity) — …1/2. Canadian auteur David Cronenberg explores the Russian mafia in London, making a gangster flick that plays with every convention of the genre. Viggo Mortensen is mesmerizing (and perfectly convincing) as Nikolai, a mysterious Russian mob driver. He makes a connection with Anna (Naomi Watts), a midwife trying to trace the family of a young Russian prostitute who died after giving birth, who’s frightened of and compelled by him in equal measure. — Kelly Jane Torrance

• Fierce People (2007) (R: Adult language, drug use, violence and sexual situations) — .. Scripted by Dirk Wittenborn (based on his book) and directed by Griffin Dunne, “Fierce People” follows 16-year-old Finn (Anton Yelchin), whose dreams of spending the summer with his father amid the jungle-dwelling Ishkanani people are dashed when he gets caught buying dope for his mom, Liz (Diane Lane). Instead, when his mom’s wealthy “friend” (Donald Sutherland) takes the family in, Finn finds himself living among another exotic tribe: the rich. The “anthropological study” that follows is more likely to leave viewers with a feeling of fierce dislike than a notion of what fierce people are. — Jenny Mayo

• Forever (2007) (Not rated — suitable for all audiences) — ….. “Forever” is ostensibly about the famed Pere-Lachaise cemetery in Paris. But really, it’s about the life-changing, death-defying power of art. Through discussions with the pilgrims visiting the graves of such luminaries as Proust, Chopin and Hedayat, Dutch filmmaker Heddy Honifmann finds that beauty inspires and invigorates our everyday lives. Simply a beautiful look at a beautiful place. In French with English subtitles. — Kelly Jane Torrance

• Good Luck Chuck (2007) (R). A romantic farce that revolves around Dane Cook as a lovelorn dentist supposedly haunted by a peculiar curse: All his former girlfriends marry the next guy they date. According to the ground rules invented by screenwriter Josh Stolberg, this reputation makes Dr. Chuck desirable to promiscuous women but imperils all serious attachments. Then hope returns to his life: he falls for Jessica Alba as “an accident-prone penguin specialist.” Not reviewed.

• The Hunting Party (2007) (R: Violence, adult language and sexual situations) — …. The hunt for a Bosnian war criminal reunites a burnt-out war correspondent (Richard Gere) and his trusted camera man (Terrence Howard). The tone of this “Party” veers awkwardly from comedy to dark drama, but it’s consistently engaging and boasts two taut lead performances. — Christian Toto

• In the Shadow of the Moon (2007) (PG: Mild language, brief violent images and incidental smoking) — …. Director David Sington’s documentary is a beautiful homage to the first steps on the moon and other achievements of NASA’s Apollo Program. It includes interviews with 10 surviving crew members of various Apollo missions, including Apollo 11’s Buzz Aldrin, and presents remastered original footage from NASA, much of which has never been used before. Recalling a moment of great triumph for mankind amid troubled times, the film is likely to have viewers questioning whether the world will ever witness another event so beautifully unifying, so humbling and yet so majestic. — Jenny Mayo

• In the Valley of Elah (2007) (R: Violent and disturbing content, language and some sexuality/nudity) — ..1/2. Oscar-winning writer-director Paul Haggis (“Crash,” “Million Dollar Baby”) explores the effect the Iraq war is having on the troops fighting it in this murder-mystery starring Tommy Lee Jones as a Vietnam vet searching for answers about his son’s disappearance. — Kelly Jane Torrance

• Live-In Maid (2007) (No MPAA rating: Adult subject matter). An Argentine import that showcases Norma Aleandro as an aging, helpless Buenos Aires socialite, more and more dependent on her loyal, longtime maid, Norma Argentina. The latter is hard-pressed to continue open-ended devotion. Directed by Jorge Gaggero. In Spanish with English subtitles. Exclusively at the Landmark Bethesda Row. Not reviewed.

• Moliere (2007) (PG-13: Sexual situations) — …. Writer-director Laurent Tirard takes a period of the French playwright’s life about which we know almost nothing and imagines it as the inspiration for the immortality that followed. Romain Duris is a sexy, brooding Moliere, whose genius is shaped by the very Moliere-like farce in which he finds himself. In French with English subtitles. — Kelly Jane Torrance

• Mr. Woodcock (2007) (PG-13). A domestic farce with Seann William Scott as the grown son of Susan Sarandon, a widow who announces that she is about to remarry. Her choice is Billy Bob Thornton as the title character, a high school coach unfondly recalled as a sarcastic bully. The prospect of this stepdad provokes Mr. Scott to desperate but presumably futile measures. With Amy Poehler and Ethan Suplee. Directed by Craig Gillespie from a screenplay by Michael Carnes and Josh Gilbert. Not reviewed.

• Resident Evil: Extinction (2007) (R). Supposedly the third and final installment in a set of zombie spectacles that originated with “a wildly popular video game.” Leading lady Milla Jovovich returns with assorted sidekicks to take a last stand in Nevada against apocalyptic menace. With Mike Epps, Ali Larter, Spencer Locke and Ashanti. Not reviewed.

• Shoot ‘Em Up (2007) (R: Pervasive strong bloody violence, sexuality and some language) — …1/2. Quite simply the most entertaining film of the year. At once a send-up of, a love letter to, and an exciting example of the action flick, writer-director Michael Davis has, like last year’s “Casino Royale,” made a tired genre new again. Clive Owen is the very good guy and Paul Giamatti the very bad guy in this hilarious and violent film. — Kelly Jane Torrance

• Superbad (2007) (R: Pervasive crude and sexual content, strong language, drinking, some drug use and a fantasy/comic violent image, all involving teens) — …. Judd Apatow (“Knocked Up”) returns as a producer for this dirty little comedy about two high school seniors, Seth and Evan (named after screenwriters Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg and played by Jonah Hill and Michael Cera), trying to score booze and chicks one night before they leave for college. Funny yet filthy, “Superbad” is more “American Pie” than “Wedding Crashers.” — Jenny Mayo

• Sydney White (2007) (PG-13: Adult language and sexual innuendo) — … Television’s Amanda Bynes (The CW’s “What I Like About You”) stars as a naive college freshman trying to live up to the memory of her late mother, who joined the hip sorority of her day. Miss Bynes shines brighter on the small screen, but the film’s sweet messages and colorful support cast add charm and humor. — Christian Toto

• 3:10 to Yuma (2007) (R: Violence, disturbing imagery) — …1/2. The 1957 classic starring Glenn Ford as a charismatic outlaw is reborn by James Mangold (“Walk the Line”). In “Yuma,” Mr. Ford’s part is played by Russell Crowe, and Christian Bale is the rancher out to escort the outlaw to prison. The remake is grittier, more complex and better in nearly every way than the terrific original. — Christian Toto

• Trade (2007) (R). A suspense melodrama about a 17-year-old boy in Mexico City who desperately attempts to rescue his 13-year-old sister, abducted by agents of an international sex slave business. The boy’s plight attracts the help of a Texas policeman played by Kevin Kline, and their search concludes in New Jersey. With Cesar Ramos and Paulina Gaitan as the siblings. The source material is a New York Times Magazine story by Peter Landesman titled “The Girls Next Door.” A first American feature from the German director Marco Kreuzpaintner. Not reviewed.

2 Days in Paris (2007) (R: Sexual content, some nudity and language) .Despite making an experimental film several years back, French actress Julie Delpy considers this dialogue-heavy romantic comedy her directorial debut. In it, she stars as Marion, a French-born photographer, who takes her boyfriend, Jack (Adam Goldberg), for a vacation in her native Paris. There, they find their relationship tested by Marion’s sexually open parents, her myriad ex-boyfriends and Jack’s increasing jealousy. — Jenny Mayo

MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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