by Inlander Staff & r & Batman Begins -- Visionary director Christopher Nolan (Memento) instills a heightened reality to this telling of the Batman tale -- going back to the boyhood horrors that marred Bruce Wayne, taking in the young adult physical training that shaped him and extending to his attempt to save Gotham City and its inhabitants from villainous ruin. Christian Bale is perfect as Bruce Wayne/Batman, as are Michael Caine as Alfred, Gary Oldman as a good cop and Cillian Murphy as the demented Scarecrow. Probably too scary for very young kids, but tremendously exciting movie-making for everyone else. (ES) Rated: PG-13
The Big Lebowski -- Golfers have their Caddyshack and bowlers, God love 'em, have their Big Lebowski. But the Cohen brothers' fractured fable of an out-of-work but loveable waste-oid known as "the Dude" with a penchant for White Russians and serious trouble is much more than simply a bunch of great one-liners strung together. And the performances -- particularly by Jeff Bridges (as the Dude), John Goodman and John Turturro are unforgettable and hilarious. And it only gets better with repeated viewings. At the Garland at midnight on Friday and Saturday. (Mike Corrigan) Rated: R
Bewitched -- The idea is a good one: Instead of just doing a movie version of the popular sitcom about a witch who marries a regular guy, this goofy stab at Hollywood is about the people who are making a new version of the series for TV, with Will Ferrell as the actor playing Darren, and Nicole Kidman in the Samantha role. Shirley MacLaine as Endora is the show-stealer, but everyone's game, and most are good. Some of the length and fluff content could be trimmed, but it'll still please crowds. (ES) PG-13
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory -- Tim Burton's take on the Roald Dahl story, first filmed in 1971, is a little more whimsical and has less of an edge than that film. But the Burton-style story of the poor but happy boy who wins a trip to the mysterious chocolate factory with four horrid kids is so much more imaginative, and brilliantly designed with sets, visual effects and color schemes. Johnny Depp is quirky and troubled as Wonka, and Freddie Highmore is delightful as Charlie. And don't worry -- some of it is creepy. (ES) Rated: PG
Cinderella Man -- Ron Howard has made a good old-fashioned movie about Depression-era fighter James Braddock, in a terrific portrayal by Russell Crowe. His fighting days were hindered due to bad hands, but he scrapped through, providing for his family (Renee Zellweger plays his wife). Look for another winning performance by Paul Giamatti as his manager, along with some brilliant, brutal fight scenes, and loads of heart. (ES) Rated PG-13
Dark Water -- As with both installments of The Ring, Dark Water grew from the mind of Koji Suzuki (whose novel this film is based on) and Hideo Nakata (who directed The Ring films and wrote the Dark Water screenplay). For being hyped as a horror film, however, Dark Water produces very few, if any, real scares. Although there's an attempt to let the mood of the cinematography and emotions of children do all of the scaring, the result is disappointing. (BE) Rated: PG-13
Fantastic Four -- This latest transfer from comic book to film misfires at every step on every level. The plot: Four people have their molecules rearranged after a cosmic storm hits them in outer space, and they come back able to stretch or catch on fire or turn invisible or be ugly. Comic history is rewritten by also placing Victor von Doom onboard. But it's shoddy filmmaking, with hokey effects, a villain that's more angry than villainous, and actors -- especially the pretty but talentless Jessica Alba -- caught standing around waiting to deliver their lines. Anything but fantastic. (ES) Rated PG-13
Fighter Pilot -- What audience does IMAX have in mind for Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag? As we follow Capt. John Stratton, an F-15 Eagle pilot, battling 125 pilots from six nations in the world's largest air war games, the realization settles in that Fighter Pilot works neither as you-are-there documentary, Air Force recruiting film or Top Gun razzle-dazzle. The preparations for and remote monitoring of the fly boys' loop-de-loops are more engaging than the war games themselves -- and that ain't good. (Michael Bowen) Not Rated.
Grand Canyon -- Seen by more than 220 million people and a designated "first stop" at the Grand Canyon Visitor's Center, Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets is an IMAX classic. Segments include a wild whitewater rafting trip, a flight over -- and into -- the canyon's crimson and yellow striated depths and a closer look at Lake Powell. History gets its share here, too, as Grand Canyon examines the earliest native cultures of the area as well as the first European explorers to find it. Not Rated.
Herbie: Fully Loaded -- Dear Hollywood, I have been a faithful movie watcher since I was very little. The images, the sounds, the visions and spectacles that you have created have been the stuff of my sleeping and waking dreams. Your brilliance and creativity have fueled my own imagination for decades. Which, I guess, is why I'm writing. I'm worried about you, Hollywood. I'm worried that you're losing steam, that you've run out of fresh ideas. Case in point: you're remaking every movie or TV series that ever made a dollar, just to make more dollars. A remake of Herbie the Love Bug? Seriously? The original was so nice. Why ruin the original with (admittedly hot) freakin' Lindsay Lohan as a NASCAR wanna-be? Why? I used to worship you, Hollywood. Now you're dead to me. (JS) Rated: G
The Longest Yard -- While this new remake is considerably toned down in terms of both the 1974 original's freewheeling (and hilarious) vulgarities and grim prison violence, director Peter Segal and star Adam Sandler show at least a full understanding of what made the rough-and-tumble original so appealing. Sandler takes over for Reynolds as former pro footballer Paul Crewe, disgraced in a point-shaving debacle and current resident of a Texas penitentiary. Once incarcerated, Crewe is forced by a sadistic warden to recruit the worst of the worst for a Guards versus Cons
football match. (Marc Savlov) Rated: PG-13
Madagascar -- Through odd circumstances, four pampered animal pals at the Central Park Zoo (voices of Chris Rock, Ben Stiller, David Schwimmer, Jada Pinkett Smith) end up on the title island, with no food, no caretakers and no idea what to do. And a huge populace of goofy lemurs doesn't help. Funny sights for the kids, funny dialogue for the adults and an insane performance by Sacha Baron Cohen (Da Ali G Show) as Julian, king of the lemurs. (ES) Rated PG
Mr. & amp; Mrs. Smith -- Beyond its relentless gunfights and car chases -- so many bullets are fired, it feels like a full-blown war -- the only thing Mr. & amp; Mrs. Smith offers its audience is the attractive onscreen union of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. John and Jane Smith are a married couple of hired assassins who have managed to keep their similar occupations concealed from one another until a double-booked hit pits them against each other. The film toys with role reversals and marital therapy, but in the end it falls flat because there's (ironically) no real relationship to work out. (Cole Smithey) Rated: PG-13
Mystery of the Nile -- The cinematography is gorgeous, but this isn't one of IMAX's best efforts. Pasquale Scaturro and Gordon Brown are to be commended for successfully completing a previously impossible feat -- running the entire Nile River -- but the whole thing starts to feel like an episode of Survivor. Still, it's pretty to watch and carries a few IMAX moments. Not Rated
Sin City -- The coolest movie of the year is also the most visionary and the most violent -- though the violence is too outrageous to be offensive. There's also loads of wild action, a stunningly stylized look, and a perfect adaptation of Frank Miller's twisted graphic novel into an insane film. There are three intertwining stories about the denizens of the title locale, with Bruce Willis as a retiring cop, Benicio Del Toro and Clive Owen as bitter, dangerous enemies, a whole gaggle of very tough hookers (Rosario Dawson, Devon Aoki and more) along with plenty of digital magic. Don't overlook Mickey Rourke in a career-high role as the big bruiser Marv. (ES) Rated R
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge the Sith
George Lucas hits his stride with the final chapter. He neatly ties the six films together, ending it on the planet Tatooine, where Episode IV begins. This thing opens with 20 relentless minutes, presents a superb performance by Ian McDiarmid as Chancellor Palpatine, and, for you lightsaber fans, offers multiple thrilling battles with the flashy weapons. Excellent effects all the way through, with a mostly solid story. (ES) Rated PG-13
War of the Worlds -- Steven Spielberg's dream project works on every level but one of the most important ones: the ending. But uncalled-for sappiness aside, this is a terrific piece of filmmaking, with gigantic, often feverishly grisly visual effects sitting comfortably next to a character study of a man (Tom Cruise) who, while trying to figure out how to survive an attack by creatures who are bent on destroying mankind, also must become the father he never was. Wild, believable visuals, a New York nod to 9/11, and solid acting from Cruise. Not to be missed. (ES) Rated PG-13
The Wedding Crashers -- We want the old Owen back -- you know, Dignan, Hansel, Eli Cash. Well, he's still funny, even in his major-release Starsky & amp; Hutch kind of flicks. Just not in that indie, dry kind of funny that made us love him. In Wedding Crashers, Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn are two wild and crazy guys who hit up weddings for free booze, easy action and quick escapes with aliases like Seamus and Chuck. That is until one of them starts to fall for a bridesmaid, and the other is dragged along as the loyal wingman. Rated: R
The new one is smart and funny and action-packed, and it’s bigger and better and sleeker. And Downey does it again, this time ramping up Stark’s arrogant wisecracking, telling anyone who’ll listen (mostly women) that, via the creation of his powerful Iron Man suit, he’s brought years of uninterrupted peace to the world.