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Opening Films 

by Inlander Staff & r & & r & Talledega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby -- Will Ferrell finally gets a script (which he co-wrote) 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

Barnyard -- Steve Odenkirk, of Kung Pow: Enter the Fist fame, helms the story of Otis, a cow who plays with the idea of revealing animals' biggest secret (that they're just like people). While the movie is being pitched as a wacky anthro animal romp, Odenkirk insists that there are serious themes afoot. Rated PG

Descent -- Including a made-for-TV talkie of that name, there have been four films in the last three years called Descent. What are the odds? Sub-question: What are the odds that this film -- about a spelunking expedition that is cut murderously short by evil cave things -- will be any different than that other film about cave horror (The Cave)? Rated R

Night Listener -- Being a radio host is interesting -- you talk to thousands of people in their cars, homes, kitchens, bedrooms, beds. It's easy to attach an imaginary face -- a best friend -- to the other end of that monologue. So this is going to happen to the Good Morning, Vietnam DJ, Robin Williams. Except that, instead of returning to his old role, he'll be creating an all-new DJ, this time one with relationship issues. He turns to his No. 1 fan, a little boy who might not really be a real boy. Rated R

The Groomsmen -- A decade ago, Ed Burns wrote and directed a great little film (The Brothers McMullen) about a close-knit group of Irish Catholic men who refuse to grow up (like boozy little Peter Pans). You'll be happy to know that, 11 years later, he's still writing about pretty much the same thing. The Groomsmen plots very nearly this same arc, albeit in the context of a groom and his four attendants. No word on whether these gents are Catholics, but Burns' hasn't failed us yet on that front. Rated R

World Trade Center -- Dispensing with his usual conspiracy mania (can it be?), director Oliver Stone confines 9/11 to manageable dimensions: the story of John McLoughlin and Will Jimeno (Nicolas Cage and Michael Pena), two Port Authority police officers buried under rubble and among the last survivors extracted from Ground Zero. Maria Bello and Maggie Gyllenhaal play the cops' wives. Can a hyper-political auteur make an apolitical film? The trailer suggests that Stone has fashioned a hopeful against-all-odds tale, with Nic Cage setting his glare at John Wayne-stolid. Rated PG-13 (opens Aug. 9)

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