Annapolis (PG-13) James Franco, Tyrese Gibson, Jordana Brewster, Donnie Wahlberg, Chi McBride. When he won a coveted admission spot to the Naval Academy at Annapolis, local kid Jake Huard (Franco) thought all his dreams had come true - but his battle to become the man he wants to be is only just beginning. Now, uncertain if a regular kid from a poor blue-collar family can fit into the Academy's pressure-cooker atmosphere, and barely making the grade as a freshman "plebe," Jake has one last shot at proving he has what it takes. With nothing left to lose, he decides to enter the notoriously fierce Navy boxing competition known as the Brigade Championships - and face off against his arch-nemesis, Midshipman Lt. Cole (Gibson). 108 minutes.
Big Momma's House 2 (PG-13) Martin Lawrence, Elton LeBlanc, Nia Long, Michelle Parylak, Marisol Nichols. The slapstick adventures of master-of-disguise, FBI special agent Malcolm Turner (Lawrence), continue. This time he must go undercover as Big Momma to nail his ex-partner's murderer. While undercover in the house of the suspected criminal, Malcolm grows attached to the suspect's three children. 99 minutes.
Bubble (R) Debbie Doebereiner, Dustin James Ashley, Misty Dawn Wilkins, Omar Cowan, Laurie Lee. From Steven Soderbergh. An unlikely love triangle is born at a doll factory in a small Midwestern town fallen on hard times. Lonely and isolated, longtime employees Martha and Kyle have become friends by default in spite of their drastic age difference, but their dynamic is upset by the arrival of a new worker: young, attractive single mother Rose. As Martha grows increasingly wary about Rose's dubious character, she discovers Kyle and Rose are developing a relationship of their own. One morning, Rose is found dead, strangled in her own home. An investigation begins, one that will call into question our established assumptions about these characters and life in their small town. 73 minutes.
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. Julian the hit man, Danny the ordinary American businessman, find that while they have nothing in common, they both need each other in ways they never knew they would. 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.
Nanny McPhee (PG) Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Angela Lansbury, Kelly MacDonald, Thomas Sangster. In this fable for kids, magical Nanny McPhee (Thompson) enters the household of the recently widowed Mr. Brown (Firth) and attempts to tame his seven exceedingly ill-behaved children. The children, led by the oldest boy Simon (Sangster), have managed to drive away 17 previous nannies and are certain that they will have no trouble with this one. But as Nanny McPhee takes control, they begin to notice that their vile behavior now leads swiftly and magically to rather startling consequences. 98 minutes.
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.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (PG) Johnny Depp, Freddie Highmore, Helena Bonham Carter, David Kelly, Noah Taylor. The Tim Burton family hit, now on the giant-screen at the IMAX Theater in the Indiana State Museum. 120 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
End of the Spear (PG-13) Louie Leonardo, Chad Allen, Jack Guzman, Christina Souza, Chase Ellison. A savage killer from a remote Amazon tribe becomes grandfather to the grandchildren of the North American man he killed. 111 minutes.
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.
Hoodwinked (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
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
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 New World (PG-13) Colin Farrell, Michael Greyeyes, Christopher Plummer, August Schellenberg, Wes Studi. Terrence Malick once again explores cultural schisms in mesmerizing, heartbreaking ways, with the environment itself - trees, wind, water - as much a character as his human actors. This time, he re-imagines the relationship between Capt. John Smith (Farrell) and Pocahontas (Kilcher) in Jamestown in 1607 (and beyond). It's not fair, though: the Naturals (as the English called them) are at home in the wild, at one with nature, while the pasty white Englishmen are soon nothing but bags of pitiable bones. Beware: You may not only be inspired to turn off your cell phone, you may end up throwing it away. 135 minutes. - Jim Poyser
The Producers (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
Underworld: Evolution (R) Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Bill Nighy, Tony Curran, Derek Jacobi. The sequel to the 2002 underground hit of vampires and werewolves at war comes straight on the heels of another vampire apocalypse flick, BloodRayne. It's considerably more competently carried out than that particular disaster, and yet somehow less entertaining. Underworld's biggest problem is that it has no sense of fun. This movie wants to be important, dammit, even if the filmmakers have no idea what their point is. The main purpose of these movies is to artfully display the latex-clad heroine kicking ass in slo-mo, which Beckinsale does quite well in her role as a gunslinging vampire trying to stave off the end of the world, but it's undermined by the dead seriousness. The Byzantine backstory is so vast it takes about a half dozen flashbacks to recap, and even then it makes next to no sense, and by the end it doesn't even go anywhere. Just a couple of superheroes, a couple of supermonsters and ultraviolence. Works well enough, I suppose, but when you go in with more subplots than Traffic you sort of expect them to pay off somehow. 106 minutes. - Paul F. P. Pogue