- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 6, 2007

OPENING

The Brothers Solomon (2007) (R). A sex farce written by “Saturday Night Live” staffer Will Forte, also cast as one of the title characters. Crackpot siblings hire a surrogate mother, SNL cast member Kristen Wiig, whom they propose to impregnate in hopes of comforting their ailing dad with the prospect of a grandchild. Will Arnett plays the other Solomon. Directed by Bob Oedekirk, erstwhile comedy-writing partner of Jim Carrey.

m Deep Water (2007) (PG). A British feature about the controversies surrounding Donald Crowhurst, an inventor who claimed to be revolutionizing yacht design in the late 1960s and entered a round-the-world sailing race to publicize his claims. Directed by Louise Osmond and Jerry Rothwell.

m Shoot ‘Em Up (2007) (R). A suspense thriller written and directed by a Rockville native Michael Davis, who recruited Clive Owen and Monica Bellucci to play heroic strangers who rally to shield a newborn from a psychopath, Paul Giamatti.

Them (2007) (No MPAA rating: Adult subject matter). A claustrophobic thriller from Romania, with Michael Cohen and Olivia Bonamy as a couple in suburban Bucharest whose home is besieged by supernatural marauders. In Romanian with English subtitles. Exclusively at the Landmark E Street Cinema.



3:10 to Yuma (2007) (R:Violence, disturbing imagery) The 1957 classic starring Glenn Ford as a charismatic outlaw is reborn by James Mangold, the director of “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.

NOW SHOWING

m Balls of Fury (2007) (PG-13). A sports-and-espionage farce about a supposed underworld of cutthroat professional Ping-Pong, to which leading man Dan Fogler returns on undercover assignment for the FBI, reporting to agent George Lopez. The object: to undermine a criminal despot and Ping-Pong enthusiast named Feng, played by Christopher Walken. With James Hong as the hero’s Confucian mentor and Maggie Q as his demanding trainer. Not reviewed.

Becoming Jane (2007) (PG: Brief nudity and mild language) — …. A fun and frothy costume drama that re-imagines Jane Austen as the heroine of a complicated love story not unlike those she wrote. Austen fans will have fun spotting the allusions to her six novels, but they might not be satisfied with the idea that the great novelist would have given up all her talent for love. Anne Hathaway puts in an accomplished performance as the author. — Kelly Jane Torrance

The Bourne Ultimatum (2007) (PG-13: Intense action sequences) — …. Jason Bourne is back in this third, and potentially final, tale of the operative who can’t remember his past. Matt Damon remains a gripping action hero, and the film’s fight sequences rank as some of the year’s best. — Christian Toto

El Cantante (2007) (R: Drug use, sexuality and language) — ..1/2. Jennifer Lopez and her Nuyorican Productions’ first feature film, a biopic about the tumultuous life of salsa pioneer Hector Lavoe. The Latina’s real-life hubby, Marc Anthony, stars as the Puerto Rican singer, who immigrates to New York City in 1963 and soars to singing success on the wings of the emerging salsa genre. As his career blossoms, though, his personal life shrivels, including his marriage to “Puchi” (Miss Lopez). The movie’s best attribute is Mr. Anthony’s electric renditions of his predecessor’s songs, which appear mostly in splashy mini music videos complete with subtitles. — Jenny Mayo

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

m Death at a Funeral (2007) (R). A farce about the mishaps and indignities, fitfully obscene, that await an English family gathered for the funeral of a deceased dad. Matthew MacFadyen and Rupert Graves are cast as respectively earnest and flighty sons. As the widow, Jane Asher gets a funny line that transcends the context: “Tea can do many things, my dear, but it can’t bring back the dead.” Alan Tudyk has some virtuoso scenes as a guest accidentally zonked by a hallucinogenic pill. The filthiest gags target Peter Vaughn as an immobile, cranky codger. With Peter Dinklage as the resident ringer. Directed by Frank Oz from a screenplay by Dean Craig. Not reviewed.

Death Sentence (2007) (R: Bloody violence and pervasive adult language). Kevin Bacon stars in this cross between “Straw Dogs” and “Death Wish.” A family man (Mr. Bacon) loses his son thanks to a brutal gang initiation, and he swears revenge for those responsible for the killing.

Hairspray (2007) (PG: Some language, suggestive content and teen smoking) — …. Director-choreographer Adam Shankman takes inspiration from the 1988 John Waters film and subsequent Broadway show. Full-figured teen Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky) finally gets her chance to be on “The Corny Collins Show” but soon learns she’s not the only person facing discrimination in ‘60s-era Baltimore. Also starring John Travolta, Christopher Walken, Michelle Pfeiffer, Queen Latifah, Zac Efron and more. Not as poignant as Mr. Waters’ work, but cheekier and a whole lot more music-centric. — Jenny Mayo

Halloween (2007) (R: Extreme violence, gore and adult language). John Carpenter’s slasher classic is reborn through the eyes of rocker-turned-director Rob Zombie. This quasi-remake promises to fill in the blanks about killer Michael Myers’ back story.

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (2007) (PG-13: Fantasy violence and frightening imagery) — … The madly popular series continues, and so do wicked Lord Voldemort’s plans for revenge. The powers that be at Hogwarts Academy don’t believe Voldemort’s return is imminent, putting poor Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) at a perilous disadvantage. “Phoenix” marks the series’ low point, a confusing affair with very little magic in its storytelling. — Christian Toto

I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry (2007) (PG-13: Crude sexual humor, nudity, adult language and drug references) — … Adam Sandler and Kevin James play a pair of straight firefighters who pretend to be a same-sex couple to receive domestic-partner benefits. The intermittently amusing film staunchly defends homosexual rights while maligning the women in the cast and insulting an Asian character. — Christian Toto

The Invasion (2007) (PG-13: Violence, mature themes and adult language) — … The fourth interpretation of Jack Finney’s “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” explores our fear of a deadly pandemic. A doctor (Nicole Kidman) and her friend (Daniel Craig) try to stop an invasion of alien spores overtaking the planet. “The Invasion” isn’t as gripping or insightful as the 1978 version starring Donald Sutherland. — Christian Toto

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007) (PG-13: A brief sexual reference) …1/2. Every competitive arena should have foes as ferociously funny and compelling as Billy Mitchell and Steve Wiebe, the two men who vie for the “Donkey Kong” arcade game world record in this nifty documentary. One is a hot-sauce mogul, the other an unemployed “Mr. Mom” type. Need we say more? — Jenny Mayo

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. Bean’s Holiday (2007) (PG). The return of Rowan Atkinson’s tongue-tied, rubber-faced and supremely weird bungler, observed through a cycle of mishaps in France after he wins a vacation to the Riviera. Bean intrudes on the Cannes Film Festival and saves a pretentious actor-director, Willem Dafoe, from professional folly. Fleeting dialogue in French and Romanian with English subtitles. Not reviewed.

m The Nanny Diaries (2007) (PG-13: Language) — … Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus’ satirical novel gets remade for the big screen. Recent graduate Annie (Scarlett Johansson) stumbles into a job as a nanny for Upper East Siders Mr. and Mrs. X (Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney). In the process, she learns more about herself than about child care. Less barbed and nuanced than the book that inspired it, “The Nanny Diaries” is best taken as a fluffy summer chick flick. — Jenny Mayo

Ratatouille — (2007) (G: Nothing objectionable — except very minor peril and a whole lot of rats in the kitchen) — ..1/2. Pixar’s latest, written and directed by Brad Bird of “The Incredibles.” Remy (voiced by Patton Oswalt) is a sewer rat with dreams of culinary greatness. Linguini (Lou Romano) is a bumbling boy who snags a job toting trash at a five-star restaurant. Together they amount to gastronomic genius, but will someone in the kitchen smell a rat? The animation is fantastic, and the moral is a nice one for children, but the flick lacks the Pixar “pop” seen in earlier undertakings such as “Toy Story 2.” — Jenny Mayo

m Rocket Science (2007) (R: Some sexual content and language) — ..1/2. Resolved: “Rocket Science” is a literate, touchingly funny debut from the documentarian of “Spellbound.” High school debaters turn out to be just as intense and interesting a bunch as spelling-bee contenders. — Kelly Jane Torrance

m September Dawn (2007) (R: Violence) — … This history-based feature tells the story of the 1857 Mountain Meadows Massacre, in which 120 people were slaughtered by Mormons. The film takes an intriguing look at religious fanaticism, both past and present, but its dramatic histrionics dampen the message. — Christian Toto

m The Simpsons Movie (2007) (PG-13: Irreverent humor throughout) — …. Two decades after their first appearance on “The Tracy Ullman Show,” the Simpsons clan finally makes the leap to the big screen with a film that might not revive Simpsons fever to its peak levels but serves as an important reminder of why we let the clan into our homes and why they became a phenomenon. The flick is wider, longer, less about peripheral characters and has splashier animation as well as a more epic plot than its TV counterpart, but its plotline (Homer’s stupidity leads to the possible demise of his marriage and all of Springfield) feels familiar in all the right ways. — Jenny Mayo

m Stardust (2007) (PG-13: Fantasy violence and risque humor) ..1/2. Director Matthew Vaughn and a star-studded cast take on Neil Gaiman’s epic fantasy novel. Tristan (Charlie Cox) crosses from the English town of Wall into a world of magic and murder called Stormhold to fetch a falling star (Claire Danes) for the woman he loves (Sienna Miller). On the way home, he’ll have to protect her from venomous princes, a lightning-stealing pirate (Robert De Niro) and a bloodthirsty witch (Michelle Pfeiffer). Imagination and performances are “Star”-y, yet some of the humor crumbles like “dust.” — Jenny Mayo

m 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

m Talk to Me (2007) (R: Profanity, adult situations and some sexual content) — …1/2. A straight-from-the-shoulder biopic about the late disc jockey and TV host Petey Greene, who emerged from an armed-robbery sentence at Lorton Reformatory to become a charismatic fixture at Washington’s WOL-AM in the late 1960s and a calming influence in the aftermath of the 1968 riots. With standout performances from Don Cheadle as Mr. Greene and Chiwetel Ejiofor as WOL’s program director, as well as a stellar soundtrack that makes up for a non-climactic ending. — Robyn-Denise Yourse

m This Is England (2007) (Not rated: Some violent scenes, drug use, language and mild sexuality) — …1/2. Three and a half stars British writer-director Shaun Meadows’ semiautobiographical film follows 12-year-old Shaun (Thomas Turgoose, a nonprofessional in an amazing breakout role), who’s living in 1980s-era seaside England and coping with his father’s death after the Falklands War. Tired of being bullied, the youngster falls in with a crowd of skinheads who give him everything he needs, including brotherhood and belonging — but there may be painful costs associated with his childhood choices. — Jenny Mayo

m 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

m War (2007) (R). A revenge thriller for two action stars, pitting Jason Statham as an FBI agent against Jet Li as an international assassin. The cast also includes John Lone, Luis Guzman and Saul Rubinek. Not reviewed. MAXIMUM RATING: FOUR STARS

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