Film clips for 1/18/06 

Opening: Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World (PG-13) Albert Brooks, Sheetal Sheth,

Opening: Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World (PG-13) Albert Brooks, Sheetal Sheth, John Carroll Lynch, Jon Tenney. The State Department asks Albert Brooks (playing a fictionalized version of himself) to fly to India and Pakistan, countries with large Muslim populations, where he will do research for a 500-page report on what makes them laugh. Of the seven films written and directed by Brooks, this is one of his weakest. There are laughs in Looking for Comedy, to be sure, but not enough of them. Sadly, the bulk of the fish-out-of-water comedy consists of tepid gags attached to a plodding storyline. 98 minutes. - EJO The Matador (R) Pierce Brosnan, Greg Kinnear, Hope Davis, Philip Baker Hall, Adam Scott. Julian Noble (Brosnan) is a hit man who's very good at what he does, but is losing his taste for the business. Danny (Kinnear) is a salesman whose marriage and finances are in trouble. One night, at the hotel bar, these two men meet. Before long, they find themselves having an extremely unique Mexico City experience, one that will change them both forever. 97 minutes. Match Point (R) Scarlett Johansson, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Emily Mortimer, Matthew Goode, Brian Cox. Chris Wilton (Rhys-Meyers), a young tennis instructor, becomes involved with a wealthy family, one member of which he's giving tennis lessons to. This leads to his rise in the world of upper class people and his subsequent romantic involvement with two women. A clandestine affair follows, leading him into an ever deepening quagmire until the only way out for him is to contemplate doing away with one of the women. Written and directed by Woody Allen. 124 minutes. The New World (PG-13) Colin Farrell, Michael Greyeyes, Christopher Plummer, August Schellenberg, Wes Studi. Epic adventure set amid the encounter of European and Native American cultures during the founding of the Jamestown settlement in 1607. Inspired by the legend of John Smith and Pocahontas, acclaimed filmmaker Terrence Malick transforms this classic story into a sweeping exploration of love, loss and discovery, both a celebration and an elegy of the America that was ... and the America that was yet to come. 150 minutes. Underworld: Evolution (R) Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Bill Nighy, Tony Curran, Derek Jacobi. Sequel to the 2003 horror story. A war emerges between the aristocratic Death Dealers and the barbaric Lycans (werewolves), stemming from an ancient feud between the two tribes. Selene, the beautiful vampire heroine, and Michael, the lycan hybrid, try to unlock the secrets of their bloodlines. Their forbidden love takes them into the battle to end all wars as the immortals must finally face their retribution. 106 minutes. Limited Run: Reel Paradise (R) John Pierson, Janet Pierson, Georgia Pierson, Wyatt Pierson. Filmmaker Steve James (Hoop Dreams) documents the story of John Pierson's family at the end of a year-long adventure on a remote island in Fiji where they ran the 180 Meridian Cinema, showing free movies to the locals. The production serves as a commentary on cultural difference, the ever-changing American family, and cinema's power to excite, incite, and inspire. 114 minutes. At Key Cinemas Beech Grove for one more week only. First Run: Bloodrayne (R) Kristanna Loken, Michael Madsen, Matthew Davis, Michelle Rodriguez, Ben Kingsley. Oh, how I wanted to give this a glowing review, if only for the sheer schlockiness of it. Uwe Boll, bucking for the title of the 21st century's Ed Wood, tries and spectacularly fails to make his Lord of the Rings with this period vampire adventure based on the videogame. Rayne (Loken) and company try to save the world from evil vampires who plot to gather the three talismans and blah blah blah. It's a gigantic splatterfest, a gleefully gory Grand Guignol with blood flowing like the Niagara. It can be enjoyed on a purely nerdy level as a stupendously bad B-film, especially the phoned-in performance of ponytailed Ben Kingsley and the way it's exactly structured like a videogame, complete with weapon upgrades, end-of-level bosses, alternate costumes and save points. - PFPP Brokeback Mountain (R) Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Linda Cardellini, Anne Hathaway, Michelle Williams, Randy Quaid. The much ballyhooed "gay cowboy movie" is a sad, beautiful story of two young men tending sheep in 1963 Wyoming who have sex with each other one cold, liquor-laced night. So what does one cowboy say to the other on the morning after? Not much. "You know I ain't queer," Ennis mutters, to which Jack states, "Me neither." But the sex continues and turns to love, though they are unable to verbalize their feelings. Ang Lee (The Ice Storm) is a polite filmmaker, and he is perhaps a bit too polite with his adaptation of Annie Proulx's superb 1997 short story. Still, the production, packed with great acting (especially by Ledger and Gyllenhaal) in front of gorgeous scenery is a very good film, one of the best of 2005. 134 minutes. - EJO Capote (R) Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Clifton Collins Jr., Chris Cooper, Bruce Greenwood, Bob Balaban, Mark Pellegrino, Amy Ryan. Capote focuses on the years Truman Capote spent writing his greatest book, In Cold Blood, the story of a murdered family in Kansas. Here we get to see the minutiae that made the man Capote a real piece of work. Philip Seymour Hoffman's Capote is as big a queen as Elizabeth II without any of the grace. As much of a character, even caricature, as Hoffman is in this movie, he somehow remains believable. Director Bennett Miller keeps scenes intense, slow and detailed, which balances out the large and sudden jumps in time. 98 minutes. - Lisa Gauthier Casanova (R) Heath Ledger, Sienna Miller, Jeremy Irons, Lena Olin, Oliver Platt. It was said no woman could resist the amorous charms of Casanova (Brokeback Mountain star Ledger). But the legendary lover meets his match with Francesca (Miller), an alluring Venetian beauty who does the one thing he never thought possible: refuse him. Through a series of clever disguises and scheming ruses, he manages to get closer to her. But he is playing a dangerous game - one that will risk not only his life and reputation, but his only chance at true passion. Directed by Lasse Hallström (Chocolat, The Cider House Rules). 108 minutes. Cheaper by the Dozen 2 (PG) Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt, Hilary Duff, Tom Welling, Piper Perabo, Eugene Levy, Carmen Elektra. Sequel to the 2003 comedy hit. This time, Tom and Kate Baker (Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt) take their 12 kids (including Indianapolis native Forrest Landis) on vacation, where they end up competing with the overachieving large family of Jimmy Muraugh (Eugene Levy), Tom's longtime rival. 100 minutes. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe (PG) Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Tilda Swinton. The film is surprisingly simple, but generally effective, though it takes forever to get rolling. Honestly, you could easily skip the first 30 minutes and still catch all the good stuff. My guess is that children will enjoy the movie once they squirm their way through that boring early stretch. As for the adults - the acting is fine (standouts include Swinton, Keynes and Henley) and the special effects range from serviceable to positively striking (check out the detail on the lion). Bottom line: Though entertaining, this is perhaps the thinnest spectacle I've ever seen. I wonder, is there such a thing as a minor epic? 140 minutes. - EJO The Family Stone (PG-13) Claire Danes, Diane Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Dermot Mulroney, Craig T. Nelson, Sarah Jessica Parker, Luke Wilson. Sprawling holiday-with-the-family dramedy. Keaton and Nelson play the parents of a family of well-to-do New England bohemians. When their eldest son (Mulroney) brings his new straight-laced Manhattanite girlfriend (Parker) home for the holidays, it soon becomes clear that Miss New York Control Freak does not fit in. Clichés abound in this contrived outing, but those (like me) who miss big messy holidays with the family should find this vicarious visit worthwhile. 102 minutes. - EJO Fun with Dick and Jane (PG-13) Jim Carrey, Téa Leoni, Angie Harmon, Jeff Garlin, Alec Baldwin. When upscale married couple Jim Carrey and Téa Leoni find themselves in financial ruin due to the collapse of an Enron-style company, they decide the best way to maintain their quality of life is to become armed robbers. A remake of the 1977 Jane Fonda/George Segal comedy, which was based on the novel by Gerald Gaiser. 85 minutes. Glory Road (PG) Josh Lucas, Jon Voight, Derek Luke, Austin Nichols, Emily Deschanel. Glory Road isn't just a basketball movie. It's an important film about the recent, racist history of the United States and a team and coach who braved bigotry to make a difference. This film, which will be a perfect teaching tool for young people, may have little weaknesses — especially for basketball fans searching for problems — but all of that can be overlooked because of the big message. Be sure to stick around for the closing credits that feature documentary interviews with the real players and coach involved in the true-life story. - Jim Walker Grandma's Boy (R) Allen Covert, Linda Cardellini, Peter Dante, Kevin Nealon, Rob Schneider. Comedy from Adam Sandler's Happy Madison company starring a number of actors that frequently appear as supporting players in his films. Alex (Covert), a 35-year-old videogame tester, is forced to move out of his apartment and in with his grandmother and her two old lady roommates. 96 minutes. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (PG-13) Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Robbie Coltrane, Ralph Fiennes. The fourth entry in the Harry Potter film series is an entertaining film on its own, but something of a failure as an adaptation of the fourth novel. This Cliff's Notes version of the tale is heavy on the atmosphere and action, but if you haven't read the book, you'll be missing out on at least another hour's worth of backstory that ties it all together. 150 minutes. - Paul Pogue Hookwinked (PG) Voices of Anne Hathaway, Glenn Close, Jim Belushi, Patrick Warburton, Anthony Anderson, David Ogden Stiers, Xzibit, Chazz Palminteri, Andy Dick. Mildly disappointing Rashomon version of Red Riding Hood with the same incident told by an ass-kicking Red, an extreme sports Granny, the Woodsman (or is he?) and the Wolf who thinks he's Fletch. Nice premise gets bogged down in the second-half by clichéd action-film thrills. When a film is 80-some minutes and 10 of it is padded with not good musical numbers and it feels too long, that's trouble. For those who think hearing Grannies say "Bring it" and snowboarding is really, really funny. 83 minutes. - Matthew Socey Hostel (R) Jay Hernandez, Derek Richardson, Eythor Gudjonsson, Barbara Nedeljakova, Jana Kaderabkova. Grisly horror. Two adventurous American college buddies, Paxton (Hernandez) and Josh (Richardson), backpack through Europe eager to make quintessentially hazy travel memories with new friend Oli (Gudjonsson), an Icelander they've met along the way. Paxton and Josh are eventually lured by a fellow traveler to what's described as a nirvana for American backpackers - a particular hostel in an out-of-the-way Slovakian town stocked with Eastern European women as desperate as they are gorgeous. The two friends arrive and easily connect with a pair of exotic beauties. Too easily. Initially distracted by the good time they're having, the two Americans quickly find themselves trapped in an increasingly sinister situation that they will discover is as wide and as deep as the darkest, sickest recess of human nature itself - if they survive. 95 minutes. King Kong (PG-13) Naomi Watts, Jack Black, Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann, Colin Hanks, Andy Serkis, Evan Parke, Jamie Bell. Peter Jackson's reimagining/homage to the classic tale of beauty and a beast is impressive as hell, to be sure. It's also quite possibly the most self-indulgent movie ever made. The new Kong is slightly over three hours long, with far too many embellishments to the original story. Too much backstory about Ann Darrow (Watts) and various crew members of the adventure-bound ship (the first hour needs serious trimming). Too much about the mutual affection between Ann and Kong (wait until you see them playfully slipping and sliding on a frozen lake). Universal Studios' contract with Jackson mandated that the finished film be no longer than two and a half hours. King Kong would have been a better movie if they had held him to it. That said, Jackson's homage to his childhood favorite is a real corker. I'd add more adjectives, but I don't want to be indulgent. 188 minutes. - EJO Last Holiday (PG-13) Queen Latifah, LL Cool J, Timothy Hutton, Giancarlo Esposito, Alicia Witt. It could have gone so awry. Latifah stars as a working-class woman who learns she only has weeks to live, and resolves to blow her savings on the vacation of her dreams. Along the way she and everyone she meets learn life lessons, love is found, life is affirmed, that sort of thing. Last Holiday never gives into tearjerking sentiment. Also, it's really, really funny, which is the point. Latifah heads up a cast of people who seem to be having fun with their roles, all of which are drawn from mistaken-identity stock comedy. 112 minutes. - PFPP The Libertine (R) Johnny Depp, Samantha Morton, John Malkovich, Stanley Townsend, Francesca Annis. A look at the underbelly of the Britocracy of centuries past. Adapted from the play by Stephen Jeffreys, focusing on the dastardly debauchery of the Earl of Rochester (Depp). A hedonist who makes Oscar Wilde seem moralistic, the Earl spent his days and nights in beds, brothels and bars, awakening from drunken blackouts only to stumble to the nearest whorehouse. Yet this ravishing rake was also possessed of a predilection for poetry, writing an acid-tongued play lampooning the very monarch that commissioned it. 130 minutes. Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D (G) Narrated by Tom Hanks. Hanks' IMAX 3D love letter to the space program has a clear agenda. He aims to create the kind of enthusiasm that was shown for the Apollo program back in the '60s, especially with young people. To that end, Hanks and company have crafted an impressive 40-minute feature centered on a series of walks across the lunar surface. Special effects, the IMAX cameras and a very effective 3D process combine to work magic; the moon walks are strikingly realistic. Throughout the production, imaginatively presented 2D footage covers the history of the Apollo program. The film wraps up with a tantalizing look at the future of space expeditions, including a lunar outpost. 40 minutes. At the IMAX Theater in the State Museum. - EJO Memoirs of a Geisha (PG-13) Ziyi Zhang, Ken Watanabe, Michelle Yeoh, Gong Li. Based on the popular novel by Arthur Golden and directed by Rob Marshall (Chicago), Memoirs is the journey of a young peasant girl who is sold into the most prominent geisha household and grows up to become a legend. This pre-WWII Japanese saga is a colorful masterpiece with breathtaking scenarios. It has soap opera qualities with tales of forbidden love. While many critics argue that Memoirs is a Western-centric depiction of this ancient tradition, the movie is highly engaging and entertaining. 136 minutes. - Ellen Kizik Munich (R) Eric Bana, Daniel Craig, Marie-Josee Croze, Geoffrey Rush, Mathieu Kassovitz. Steven Spielberg's examination of the 1972 massacre of Israeli Olympic athletes and its aftermath is a neatly woven political thriller, reminiscent of morally murky spy thrillers of the 1960s and 1970s, but never quite finds the heart Spielberg is looking for. Don't expect Schindler's List-level greatness from this, but do take heart in the fact that Spielberg is stripping himself of the cloying sentiment that weighs down even his best historical films. Just enjoy the tension as Eric Bana leads a hit squad out to kill a group of terrorist masterminds, and marvel at how Spielberg can still stage an incredibly intense, nail-biting scene when the situation calls for it. 164 minutes. - PFPP The Polar Express: An IMAX 3D Experience (G) Tom Hanks, Michael Jeter, Chris Coppola, Josh Hutcherson, Peter Scolari. The computer-animated holiday film returns, digitally remastered into 3D. Of the tale of a young boy's magical trip to the North Pole, Entertainment Weekly's Ty Burr says, "The world, it turns out, is divided into two kinds of people: Those who think The Polar Express is an instant Yuletide classic that utilizes groundbreaking computer technologies to create enchanting and timeless visual marvels, and those who think the movie's just creepy as hell." 97 minutes. At the IMAX Theater in the Indiana State Museum. The Producers e (PG-13) Nathan Lane, Matthew Broderick, Uma Thurman. The film adaptation of the 2001 musical based on the 1968 Mel Brooks film about crooked Broadway producers turns out to be an entertaining and charming work of song-and-dance; not quite classic, but certainly a great way to spend an evening. It's more or less the stage musical translated directly to screen, but that works out quite nicely. Stick around through the end credits; you don't want to miss a great extended Easter egg. - PFPP The Ringer (PG-13) Johnny Knoxville, W. Earl Brown, Brian Cox, Katherine Heigl, Jed Rees. Tepid comedy from the Farrelly Brothers. The film wants to be both funny and sweet, but fails to pull off either. 100 minutes. - EJO Rumor Has It (PG-13) Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Costner, Shirley MacLaine, Mark Ruffalo. A mostly pleasant little romantic comedy with an intriguing premise that starts off fairly well, but quickly loses its way, only to sputter out at the end of its 96 minute run time. Advertisements for the film make it look like one of the juicier comedic offerings of the season, but the finished product is inconsequential. Jennifer Aniston plays an engaged woman who discovers that her grandmother (Shirley MacLaine) was the inspiration for the Mrs. Robinson character in The Graduate. Kevin Costner plays the man who was seduced by Mrs. Robinson. He also bedded her daughter. Uh-oh. The cast is good, especially MacLaine, but the movie is merely amusing. 96 minutes. - EJO The Squid and the Whale (R) Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Jesse Eisenberg, Owen Kline, Halley Feiffer. The Berkman family is coming apart. So what makes this film different from all the other ones about endangered families? The members of this particular Brooklyn family are distinct, colorful - but believable - individuals. Patriarch Bernard (Daniels) is an author, writing teacher and windbag obsessed with himself. Wife Joan (Linney) is just gaining recognition as an up-and-coming writer. She is also quite fond of her tennis instructor (Billy Baldwin). Sixteen-year-old Walt (Eisenberg) tries to pass off Pink Floyd's "Hey You" as his own hit in the school talent show, and 12-year-old Frank (Kline) has just discovered sex. Together, they are sometimes funny and consistently entertaining. 81 minutes. - EJO Tristan and Isolde (PG-13) James Franco, Sophia Myles, Rufus Sewell, David O'Hara, Henry Cavill. In the medieval legend of Tristan and Isolde, young lovers become doomed against the forces of royal politics. English knight Tristan wins the hand of the daughter of the Irish King, but the love threatens the truce between their two countries. 125 minutes. Syriana (R) George Clooney, Matt Damon, Jeffrey Wright, Chris Cooper, William Hurt, Mazhar Munir. Stephen Gagham, who wrote Traffic, is the screenplay writer and director of Syriana, a multilayered geopolitical thriller based on the book by Robert Baer. Critical response to the movie has been rapturous, which you may want to bear in mind when I tell you that I found the movie overcomplicated and emotionally distant. Oh, and glib. There are many interesting moments and a few of the major scenes play out well, but for most of the film, I was too busy trying to remember who was who and how they related with each other to fully experience the movie. Either Syriana is overly dense or I am. 127 minutes. - EJO

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