Flick picks and pans
For a full listing of movies and showtimes, see the movie listings in this A&E section.ACCEPTED: So maybe this isnt the most original movie in the world. Its a little like Animal House, a little like Revenge of the Nerds and a lot like Old School. It calls to mind elements of Real Genius, National Lampoons Van Wilder and PCU, which starred a then-unknown Jeremy Piven and seems to be playing somewhere on cable television 24 hours a day even though it came out in 1994. And maybe its premise isnt the most plausible: A bunch of slackers and weirdoes form their own college, where liberal doesnt even begin to describe the liberal arts education. Doesnt matter. Accepted is a lot more fun than youd expect from a comedy coming out in the dead of summer. Directed by Steve Pink from a script by Adam Cooper, Bill Collage and Mark Perez, and featuring a performance from the infinitely likable up-and-comer Justin Long, the film has a certain subversive elan that keeps it light on its feet until the very end, that is, when it turns self-righteous and takes itself way too seriously. Blake Lively, Jonah Hill and Lewis Black co-star. PG-13 for language, sexual material and drug content. 92 min. Two and a half stars out of four. (Lemire, AP)BARNYARD: Theyre all essentially interchangeable by now, you know these animated movies with talking animals. Or insects. Or cars. Its hard enough for adults to tell the difference between them, but for kids, who are supposed to be the target audience, this years flock of such films must be boggling their young minds. Which, in this case, is a pity. Because Barnyard actually has a clever concept (the animals walk upright, talk and hang out like humans when the farmer isnt around) and it handles such sensitive topics as birth and death with unexpected grace. The all-star cast (because certainly these films cant be voiced by no-names anymore) includes Kevin James, whos charismatic as the irresponsible Otis the cow, Courteney Cox as a pregnant cow whos new to the farm, Danny Glover as the wise, old mule and Sam Elliott as the cow whos in charge of the group. From writer-director Steve Oedekerk, who has amassed one of the more eclectic filmographies in Hollywood lately between his involvement with this, Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius, Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls and Patch Adams. Classified: PG for some mild peril and rude humor. Running time: 83 minutes. Rated: Two and a half stars out of four. (Lemire, AP)BEERFEST: Nothing works in the latest Broken Lizard comedy. The script is less than juvenile and totally nonsensical. The acting is atrocious, and theres no comedic timing. Its as if a bunch of self-absorbed frat boys turned on a camera and then forgot to hire an editor to finish the whole thing properly. Classified: R. Running time: 110 minutes. Rating: One-half star. (Zwecker, Universal Press Syndicate)CRANK: Jason Statham plays a hit man whose attempt to quit the business results in his being poisoned, and he has only an hour to live. With Amy Smart, Efren Ramirez, Jose Pablo Cantillo, Jay Xcala, Carlos Sanz and Keone Young. Written and directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor. R for strong violence, pervasive language, sexuality, nudity and drug use. (Los Angeles Times)AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH: Global warming is real, and unless it is reversed, the planet will pass a tipping point in about 10 years and start a slide into the destruction of civilization. Al Gore says this is not his opinion, but the consensus of 100 percent of the scientists who have studied the subject. It is not a political issue, Gore says, but a moral issue. This documentary, skillfully directed by David Guggenheim, is not the boring lecture you might expect, but fascinating and relentless. In 39 years I have never written these words in a movie review, but here they are: You owe it to yourself to see this film. Classified: PG. Running time: 120 minutes. Rating: Four stars. (Ebert, Universal Press Syndicate).THE ILLUSIONIST: This period piece about the power of magic lacks just that. The magic of romance, drama, longing and faith generally is missing in director Neil Burgers tale of a love triangle involving a magician, a noblewoman and the heir to the Austrian throne. Burger crafts a movie with a sumptuous visual palette but little heart, the characters detached and cold-blooded. Its no surprise that an inscrutable poker-face such as Edward Norton plays the title role as such a closed-book. Its quite a sleight of hand, though, for a film to thoroughly constrain a co-star as expressive as Paul Giamatti into a character so aloof he barely registers emotionally. Norton plays a magician in 1900 Vienna at odds with the crown prince (Rufus Sewell) and the police inspector (Giamatti) charged with debunking the prestidigitators amazing illusions. Jessica Biel co-stars as the magicians childhood flame, now the jealous princes fiance. Classified: PG-13. Running time: 110 minutes. Rating: Two stars out of four. (Germain, AP)INVINCIBLE: Its a great story. And it has the added benefit of being (mostly) true. In 1976, at the start of his first year as the Philadelphia Eagles head coach, Dick Vermeil issued an open call to anyone who wanted to try out for the team. Hundreds showed up. One guy made it: Vince Papale, a lifelong Eagles fan who happened to be at a crossroads at age 30, but who also happened to possess explosive athletic abilities and even greater heart. The aptly titled Invincible is his story or rather, its inspired by his story. And, like its predecessors The Rookie and Miracle, its remarkably un-Disneyfied for a Disney movie. Longtime cinematographer Ericson Core (The Fast and the Furious), who directs for the first time and also shot the film, and screenwriter Brad Gann take a stripped-down look at Papales unlikely pro football career and at the economic hardships Papale and his friends endured in working-class South Philly in the 1970s. And in Mark Wahlberg, himself a product of a poor upbringing in South Boston, Core has the ideal star. Greg Kinnear plays the young Vermeil, with the increasingly versatile Elizabeth Banks co-starring as Papales future wife. Classified: PG for sports action and some mild language. Running time: 108 minutes. Rated: Three stars out of four. (Lemire, AP)LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE: Back in the day, Public Enemy urged us, Dont believe the hype. Here, you should just ignore the hype entirely, tune out the buzz thats been building steadily for this movie since it was picked up at the Sundance Film Festival in January for a record $10.5 million. Just buckle up and go along for the ride. The road trip comedy subverts the genre (a welcome change a few months after the lame RV) and instead offers a surprising mix of dark humor and heart, with rich performances from a strong cast. Whats even more amazing is that this is the first feature from husband-and-wife directors Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris, as well as screenwriter Michael Arndt. A family of losers in a society obsessed with winning packs up the VW bus and heads to Southern California for the garishly oversexualized Little Miss Sunshine pageant, where the sweetly awkward youngest child (Abigail Breslin) plans to compete. Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Steve Carell, Alan Arkin and Paul Dano help her get there. Classified: R for language, some sex and drug content. Running time: 99 minutes. Rated: Three and a half stars out of four. (Lemire, AP)TALLADEGA NIGHTS: THE BALLAD OF RICKY BOBBY: Ricky Bobby goes straight, then he turns left. Then he goes straight, then he turns left again. Around and around, over and over. Such is life in NASCAR, but its also true of this auto racing comedy. Like the sport it spoofs, the movie has its thrilling moments but mostly feels repetitive its constantly moving but never really goes anywhere. Its also just too much like Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy or at least its trying to be, but comes up short. Same star (Will Ferrell), same director (Adam McKay), same writers (Ferrell and McKay again). Same basic character (a fervently clueless doofus whos unflappably confident in his abilities), same plot (hes at the top of his game but experiences a downfall at the hands of a new rival), same outcome (he returns to the top of his game having gained perhaps a smidgen of humility, if that). John C. Reilly and Sacha Baron Cohen co-star. Classified: PG-13 for crude and sexual humor, language, drug references and brief comic violence. Running time: 97 minutes. Rated: Two stars out of four. (Lemire, AP)THE WICKER MAN: Neil LaButes update of the spooky 1973 thriller scripted by Anthony Shaffer about a remote community in the grip of pagan ritual. With Nicolas Cage, Ellen Burstyn, Kate Beahan. PG-13 for disturbing images and violence, language and thematic issues. (Los Angeles Times)WORLD TRADE CENTER: There isnt a single gratuitous minute in Oliver Stones film, which recreates the endless hours in which two Port Authority police officers (Nicolas Cage and Michael Pena) were trapped beneath the rubble of the twin towers on Sept. 11 and tracks the panic of their family and friends who waited anxiously for news of their rescue. But its also the safest film Stone has ever made. This is a director you expect to grab hold of an historical event as he has with the Vietnam War in Platoon and the Kennedy assassination in JFK and shake it tirelessly until some meaning falls out, some perspective that perhaps we hadnt cared or dared to consider. What Stone has come up with here is an exceptionally crafted, strongly acted, high-end made-for-TV movie. Its visceral and intense, exceedingly faithful in its depiction of the fear and chaos, the ash and smoke, that enveloped New York that day. And yet it provides no insight, offers no political statement, doesnt even begin to broach the subject of terrorism. Maria Bello and Maggie Gyllenhaal give beautiful, moving performances as the officers wives. Classified: PG-13 for intense and emotional content, some disturbing images and language. Running time: 129 minutes. Rated: Three stars out of four. (Lemire, AP)
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