by Inlander Staff & r & An Unfinished Life -- About a Wyoming ranch owner, his crippled ranch hand, his estranged daughter-in-law, his granddaughter and all their baggage, this film seems tailor-made for director Lasse Hallstr & ouml;m. It's just the kind of plot-free character drama he has done so well in the past (What's Eating Gilbert Grape and Chocolat), but not even he, helped along by a couple good performances, can raise the film above its made-for-TV source material. (LB) Rated PG-13

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 his attempt to save Gotham City 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. (ES) Rated PG-13

Broken Flowers -- Bill Murray puts on the blank stare to play a lonely, middle-aged Lothario who finds out that he fathered a son almost 20 years earlier. A road trip to find out who the mother is results in a series of low-key misadventures. Great performances from Sharon Stone as an ex, and Jeffrey Wright as a mystery-loving neighbor. Murray is spot-on, but he's done this role a few too many times. (ES) Rated R

The Brothers Grimm -- Terry Gilliam has always been attracted to projects that twist reality to achieve fantasy. A Van Helsing for bookworms, The Brothers Grimm is given a rich historical context in which to meditate on the place of folklore in daily life. Gilliam understands that the Grimms' tales, though allegorical, were once sacred and part of day-to-day reality. To honor that, the mystical and the mundane aren't set at odds, but mingled to create a rich, zany cartoon Gothic. (LB) Rated PG-13

The Constant Gardener -- The John le Carre book about big government and pharmaceutical companies in deadly cahoots makes for an intriguing movie, and both Ralph Fiennes as a grieving husband and Rachel Weisz as his troublemaking and soon murdered wife give great performances. But the film is all over the place in layering mystery upon mystery, and in not providing enough character development. (ES) Rated R

The Cave -- "Beneath heaven lies hell. Beneath hell lies The Cave." What does that even mean? It means a group of expert spelunkers spelunk a scosch too far this time around. Rated 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 boy who wins a trip to the mysterious chocolate factory with four horrid kids is so much more imaginative, and brilliantly designed. Johnny Depp is quirky and troubled as Wonka. (ES) Rated: PG

The Duke of Hazzard -- Luke and Bo (Johnny Knoxville and Seann William Scott), TV's good ol' boys of the early 1980s, make a fine transition to the screen in this ridiculously plotted, action-packed and often hilarious tale of mayhem in current-day backwoods Georgia. The two leads are terrific, as is Burt Reynolds, in delicious overacting mode as dastardly Boss Hogg. Lots of fun, with raunchy overtones. But Jessica Simpson, flashing her smile and other attributes, should stick to singing. (ES) Rated PG-13

The Exorcism of Emiky Rose -- It's the first courtroom horror movie since that scene at the beginning of Ghost Busters 2. We think it's been far too long, frankly. The Catholic Church publicly acknowledges a case of demon possession and sends their crack exorcist in to take care of the afflicted young woman. She dies, and the rest of the film is told from the subsequent trial of the priest. The best part, say the film's creators, is that it's based on a true story. Yes, and so was The Amityville Horror. (LB) Rated PG-13

Fighter Pilot -- 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. (Michael Bowen) Not Rated.

The 40-Year-Old Virgin -- Andy Stitzer is a virgin at 40. It's not as if he hasn't tried to get laid, but after a few dismal attempts when he was younger, it became the albatross around his neck. The longer he went without it, the harder it became to pursue it, until, he says, he just gave up. The question preceding this movie has been whether or not Steve Carell can carry his first leading role. Now it seems clear that he can. Rated R (JS)

Four Brothers -- In Four Brothers, Singleton tries to build a Boyz n' tha Hood type monument to street life in Detroit, one of the poorest cities in America. He never lays the proper groundwork, though, and the film becomes a stupid, meandering exaltation of violence and vigilantism, rather than a cautionary tale against it. (LB) Rated R

Grand Canyon -- Another descriptively titled IMAX visual event. Not plot, no characters, just the soothing baritone of whoever is narrating. You'll learn new things about the canyon's geological makeup, the first nations people who originally called it home, and the explorers who discovered it and subsequently drove the Indians out. Unrated

The Great Raid -- For a film that starts with so much emotion and ends with so much action, there isn't much going on in the middle. A group of Rangers is sent to rescue 500 Americans from a Japanese POW camp in the waning days of World War II. But they all move and talk in something akin to slow motion. (ES) Rated R

Ladies in Lavender -- This one's for the fellas. Psych! Featuring no less than two dames of the British Empire (Judi Dench and Maggie Smith), the film is about sisters idling their golden years away in Cornwall on the eve of World War II. The hullabaloo on the continent doesn't ruffle their feathers much, but when a mysterious stranger washes up on the beach, the two sisters get all a-twitter. (LB) Rated PG-13

The Man -- Samuel Jackson plays -- what else? -- a hard-talking, streetwise black fellow (in this case, also, a policeman). Eugene Levy plays -- what else? -- a nerdy, buttoned-down Jewish fellow (in this case, also, a dental supply salesman). Apparently Levy is mistaken for a drug dealer -- which is absurd, you know, 'cause it's Eugene Levy -- which means hilarity is supposed to ensue, but probably doesn't. The Man promises to signal a perfectly terrible end to a summer of bad, race-driven, fish-out-of-water comedies. Thank God it's almost over. (LB) Rated PG-13 (of course)

March of the Penguins -- The emperor penguin's glossy plumage and gently curving beak takes on a regal aspect in Luc Jacquet's lovingly and painstakingly directed documentary. In fact, the penguins become heroes of an epic character: brave, if not fearless, and stalwart fools for love. A film as absorbing and incredible as any man-made phantasmagoria you'll find in the multiplex this summer, and it's all real. Rated G (MI)

Red Eye -- There's tension right from the start, much of it coming from the frighteningly blue eyes of Cillian Murphy (Batman Begins) as he turns from charming stranger to menacing seat-mate of Rachel McAdams on a late-night flight from Texas to Florida. If she doesn't help him with his evil plot, he'll have her father killed. There's even more nerve-racking fun after the plane lands. (ES) Rated PG-13

The Skeleton Key -- Kate Hudson (mercifully) leaves the romantic comedies behind for a while as she takes up hospice work with an aging couple (John Hurt and Gena Rowlands) inside their creepy bayou mansion. Voodoo, old school scares and Peter Sarsgaard (Shattered Glass) round out this supernatural thriller. Rated PG-13 (SB)

Sky High -- Will Stronghold is a powerless kid with superhero parents (Captain Stronghold and Jetstream), attending a school for kids with extraordinary superpowers. So how's he to manage the embarrassment of being a mere sidekick while negotiating all the problems normal kids go through? Rated PG

A Sound of Thunder -- Having already sparked a million imitations and spoofs, Ray Bradbury's famous short story, "A Sound of Thunder," is finally getting a proper big-screen treatment. Ed Burns is a scientist and, it seems, a tour guide for the near future's hottest fad among the idle rich: time travel. Problem is -- and pulp sci-fi has been telling us this for years -- messing with the past can change the future. Luckily, though (and inexplicably) the change comes gradually, allowing the crew to figure out what insect they stepped on, or what fungus they killed, thereby restoring the course of evolution. (LB) Rated PG-13

Transporter 2 -- For all its gimmicky mayhem, Transporter 2 is a marked improvement over the original. Still, midway through, you begin to wonder what all the hubbub's about. After all, if the hero has no fatal flaw, then what's the point? Apart from cutting a stylishly bloody swath across the screen and looking flash as the Clash while pummeling the less sartorially inclined into so much hamburger, there's not much to this knight errant. (MS) Rated PG-13

Underclassman -- Nick Cannon goes undercover with rich, white party kids at a prep school to catch a killer. Cannon is charming enough to float some edgy jokes at Biff and Muffy. Perhaps years from now graduate students will defend Cannon's work here as a modern interpretation of trickster lore; maybe they'll call it subversive and brilliant. Until then, the movie feels a lot like Guess Who's Coming to the O.C. With a Lethal Weapon 2? (Marrit Ingman) Rated PG-13

War of the Worlds -- Steven Spielberg's dream project works on every level but one: the ending. But uncalled-for sappiness aside, this is a terrific film, with gigantic 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. (ES) Rated PG-13

Wedding Crashers -- Owen Wilson and Vince Vaughn make a very good comedy team. Wilson isn't so much an actor as a personality: He offers the same tousle-haired puppy-dog vulnerability in all his movies. In contrast, Vaughn (Dodgeball) is manic. They're guys who will live, hedonistically, forever. But just when you think that'll be all, it turns out to be a charming romantic comedy. (MB) Rated R

Summer Parkways @ South Hill

June 14-20
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