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by Inlander Staff & r & ALL THE KING'S MEN


Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men, which sees past partisanship, isn't a great political novel just because it refuses to over-simplify American politicking. It's a layered story of an idealist turned cynical (a politician) told from the perspective of a cynic who shows flashes of idealism (a newspaper reporter). No screenplay could match the novel's metaphor-heavy, hard-boiled prose, though Zaillian's script knows how to tell a story using visual shorthand. (MB) Rated PG-13





THE BLACK DAHLIA


The excellent, based-on-fact James Ellroy novel about the grisly murder of a beautiful wannabe actress (Mia Kirshner) in late-1940s L.A. starts off as a terrific film adaptation, then gets four flat tires as it suddenly grows to overly melodramatic proportions, needlessly adding in plot elements that didn't exist in the book. Good acting from Josh Hartnett and Aaron Eckhart as two cop partners, and from Hillary Swank as a mysterious rich gal. But Scarlett Johansson once again overacts. (ES) Rated R





Bugs!


Tiny bugs get the biggest screen in town, in this story of a praying mantis and a butterfly who inhabit a shack on the edge of a rainforest. The creepy crawlies are live action, providing a welcome break from this past summer's CGI onslaught. Judi Dench narrates. (Imax, Not Rated)








THE COVENANT


In this man-witches-meet-drug-references high-school-dude flick, awesome supernatural powers are juxtaposed with heroin, but not for any greater moral purpose. It's merely the synergistic intersection of (a) an absolutely necessary devil's bargain (what makes you strong kills you); and (b) the co-opting of drug jargon to make a threadbare conceit (power-mad high schoolers) sexy. Renny Harlin, one of the few remaining practitioners of the cloyingly phallic hard rock montage sets, directs. No wonder it's a decade and a half behind the cinematic times. (LB) Rated PG-13





EVERYONE'S HERO


Everyone's hero is a small but scrappy baseball-loving New York youth (named Yankee) who embarks on a journey to retrieve a stolen bat and thus clear his (working-class, obviously) father's name?! He has a talking baseball for a sidekick?! How delightfully American! Rated G





FLYBOYS


World War I France, just before the U.S. joined in the fray, young American lads who went over to fight against the Germans for the French, mainly because they got to hit the skies in the then-newfangled things called airplanes -- that's the setting and story. The film runs about a half-hour too long, and features too many CGI shots, as well as an unnecessary romantic angle, but there's some excitement, and the ever-scowling James Franco actually smiles a couple of times. (ES) Rated PG-13





GRIDIRON GANG


All right, here's some complicated arithmetic, but see if you can follow along with me. We're going to combine some terms to see where it gets us: The Rock + prison + football + troubled minors (low self-esteem + no one to believe in them) = World Wrestling Entertainment + The Longest Yard + Bad News Bears = best sports flick ever? Hmm, we must've forgot to carry the one or something... so... Worst Sports Movie ever? That looks a little better... Rated PG-13





HOLLYWOODLAND


This is the true, mystery-shrouded story about the death of George Reeves, the actor who played Superman on the 1950s TV series. Was it suicide or murder? That's the question, and it's investigated by a sleazy but smooth private detective (Adrien Brody), who can't seem to connect any of the myriad puzzle pieces. With Diane Lane as a jealous lover, Bob Hoskins as a powerful studio executive and, in possibly his best role to date, Ben Affleck as Reeves. (ES) Rated R








THE ILLUSIONIST


A complex story simply told, it's the tale of a magician pulling rank and class to get the girl. Cleanly crafted, subtly acted and dulcetly shot, it's a film so conspicuously evocative of time and place you forget, for long stretches, it was made in a cinematic world run by overwrought CGI. (LB) Rated PG-13








Invincible


The latest in an endless series of true "inspirational" sports stories that Hollywood likes to pump out with regularity. The Philadelphia Eagles suck so bad they decide to hold open tryouts. Enter 30-year-old Vince, a schoolteacher and bartender who knows how to catch and run and save the day at every local sandlot football game with the guys. It won't surprise anyone that he tries out and survives cut after cut and ... well, there's no point in giving away an ending that everyone will know is coming well before they sit down. Sometimes formula works, but not very often. And Invincible is certainly no Friday Night Lights. (ES) Rated PG





JACKASS: NUMBER TWO


Is there any reason for even a capsule review of Jackass? Hell, you all know what you're getting into here. It starts with a running of the bulls ... in suburbia. There are stunts involving branding, fishing, bees, bicycles, snakes, genitalia, water and Bam Margera's mother. There's even a bit titled "How to Milk a Horse" (at which you will become queasy). There is vomiting. There is a great song called "All My Friends Are Dead." The film is sick, twisted -- and funny as hell. (ES) Rated R





JET LI'S FEARLESS


Wu Xia meets Orientalism in this wire fu flick about the only dude in China who can stop western forces from breaking the Chinese spirit following their trade influence on Chinese main. Presumably placed in the run-up to the Boxer rebellion (though clearly in some parallel dimension where dudes can fly), Fearless is Li taking on the forces of Western oppression one bear wrestler at a time. It's amazing that the nationalistic pride derived from kung fu bouts would be able to wrest an entire nation from its opium addiction. Three cheers for revisionist history! Rated PG-13





THE LAST KISS


Michael (Zach Braff) and Jenna (Jacinda Barrett) are at the center of this dramedy about the Peter Pan ideals of the modern twentysomething. Since we're supposed to identify with these people, the film's success hinges on screenwriter Paul Haggis' ability to walk between inchoate universality and alienating specificity, a fundamental compromise of storytelling. While the satellite characters are interesting (I'd love to watch a film about Jenna's parents, or Michael's loser buddies), Michael and Jenna are complete ciphers, and the film bogs down in indeterminacy. (LB) Rated R





Little Miss Sunshine


A roadtrip in which six not-so-different family members are forced into a VW bus and made to fight out their differences en route to a state beauty pageant, Little Miss Sunshine is about the contemporary American archetypes that make much of our country such a deeply unhappy place. It's a good film, but an incomplete one. (LB) Rated R





OPEN SEASON


A truly vapid buddy flick about an urban (read: African-American-sounding) grizzly (Martin Lawrence, who's become rich feeding ignorant white people their own racial misperceptions) and his reluctant friendship with a white-tail deer (Ashton Kutcher). Open Season is less a film with a plot than a series of sight gags and one-liners floating down a poorly depicted, generally forgettable river. (LB) Rated PG





PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: DEAD MAN'S CHEST


Cast, director and writers are back for the midsection of the raucous trilogy about Captain Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp), William Turner (Orlando Bloom) and Elizabeth Swann (Keira Knightley). This time, everyone is after Sparrow, including the ghostly Davy Jones (Bill Nighy) who wants to swallow his soul. Depp overdoes it to perfection, and all is set up beautifully for next year's conclusion, which will feature Keith Richards as Depp's dad. (ES) Rated PG-13





TALLADEGA NIGHTS: THE BALLAD OF RICKY BOBBY


Will Ferrell finally gets a script that's worthy of his comic talents. He plays the title character, a loose cannon on the NASCAR circuit who becomes a star, falls upon hard times, then must attempt a comeback. But he's up against a former partner (John C. Reilly), a smarmy French challenger (Sacha Baron Cohen), and a newly developed fear of speed. Lots of exciting racetrack scenarios and raucous humor. (ES) Rated PG-13





WIRED TO WIN


A kind of meditation on the mental components of physical success, the film uses an upcoming touchstone, the Tour de France, as a way to get people thinking about the way our brains work in conjunction with our bodies. (LB) Unrated

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