Ed Johnson-Ott

It happens every year. The studios release several films on the last weekend of summer, hoping to rake in big bucks from audiences enjoying three days off work courtesy of Labor Day. But it doesn't happen. Instead, filmgoers ignore the new stuff and use the weekend to catch up on movies they had intended to see, but never got around to. Need some alone time? Go see Ashlee Simpson in 'Undiscovered.'

There are four national releases this year. The big surprise is that one of them really looks good. The Constant Gardener, a thriller starring Ralph Fiennes and Rachel Weisz, is a spy thriller/romance from City of God director Fernando Meirelles. Reviews for the film have been positively glowing.

The other national releases appear to be typical end-of-summer fare. The Transporter 2 is a sequel to the surprisingly good action flick from 2002. Underclassman is a teen comedy starring some guy doing a Chris Tucker impression. And A Sound of Thunder is a sci-fi action film that has sat on the shelf for two years.

Given the strong reviews for The Constant Gardener and the fanbase for The Transporter 2, it is possible that filmgoers will opt for new stuff this weekend. But the odds are that the trend will continue and consumers will play catch-up over the three days. With that in mind, here's my


ON A DATE: Your best bet is The 40-Year-Old Virgin, a hilarious comedy that's very raunchy, but surprisingly sweet. Wedding Crashers is another funny R-rated comedy, but judging from its immense box office receipts, it appears that most of you have already seen it. The thriller Red Eye is a good bet - you can snuggle during the intense parts. For die-hard romantic comedy fans, Must Love Dogs is still playing. The film is nothing but a series of genre clichés, but the cast is exceedingly likable.

OUT WITH A GROUP AFTER THE COOK-OUT: Once again, the top picks are The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Red Eye. Remember, the best thing you can do for your group is steer them away from ill-advised choices, like The Cave, which is just a dim Alien rip-off; or Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo, which is probably too juvenile for most of your group; or the disjointed fantasy, The Brothers Grimm, which simply isn't any fun.

YOU AND YOUR STONER BUDDIES: Four Brothers is a solid revenge flick, dude. If that sounds too difficult, try Supercross, which is basically a stunt show with a plot tacked on. You can ignore the story - just like the writers did - and gaze at the trick driving.

MOM, DAD AND THE KIDS: The hugely popular documentary March of the Penguins is a good choice, but you've probably already seen it. Try the live-action Disney comedy Sky High instead. The kids will get a kick out the tale of social politics at a high school for superheroes, while the adults can savor the film's resemblance to live-action Disney comedies from the '60s. Heck, it even stars Kurt Russell!

USING YOUR SENIOR DISCOUNT: The Great Raid is a based-on-fact war story, one of those "they don't make them like that anymore" movies. March of the Penguins is also good, though one of you will likely complain that you can see plenty of animal documentaries like this on cable for free.

ON THE RUN FROM THE POLICE: Try the Ashlee Simpson comedy, Undiscovered. No one will look for you in there.

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