CAPSULE REVIEWS 

Opening this week

28 Weeks Later (R) Danny Boyle and his team are back, but Mr. Boyle has ceded the director’s chair to Juan Carlos Fresnadillo. Six months after London was struck by the rage virus, the city is being carefully repopulated by the U.S. Army. Though under quarantine, a carrier of the virus is admitted to the city and unknowingly causes a second deadly outbreak.

Delta Farce (PG-13) Three pals head off for a weekend of beer drinking beer and gun shooting, only to be misidentified as Army Reservists and loaded on to a plane headed for Iraq. Further mistakes are made as the trio is ejected somewhere over Mexico, crash-landing in the middle of a village that’s run by a local warlord.

Georgia Rule (R) A rebellious young woman (Lindsay Lohan) is hauled off by her mom (Felicity Huffman) for a summer with her grandmother (Jane Fonda).

Home of the Brave (R) At the end of their respective assignments in Iraq, four American soldiers look to complete a final mission, to bring medical supplies to a remote village. Ambushed, the unit suffers heavy losses, and the survivors are then forced to try and readjust to life at home.

Critical Capsules

Are We Done Yet? (PG) The real question is whether or not Ice Cube’s film career is done yet. Certainly whatever edge he had is out the window. Despite being supposedly based on 1948’s Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House, director Steve Carr’s latest effort bears almost no resemblance to that film. In reality, it’s just an unfunny, lamebrained sequel to Cube’s equally unfunny Are We There Yet?, inflicted on us last year. The main difference here is that Cube as a standard sitcom family man is no longer just a stooge for two smart-mouthed kids but a stooge for all comers. Throw in a few gags about a city guy in the country and a creepy local jack of all trades (John C. McGinley), and you have the perfect recipe for tedium. —Ken Hanke

Blades of Glory (R) Have you seen Anchorman? How about Talladega Nights? Then you’ve seen Blades of Glory. Will Ferrell and Jon Heder star as rival figure skaters who are banned for life from the sport, only to find a loophole which will allow them to compete as a pair. Ferrell does his patented “Hey, look at me, I’m funny” shtick, and Heder seems to be forever trapped in his Napoleon Dynamite persona. There are a handful of amusing gags, but little that will stay with you once you leave the theatre. —Justin Souther

The Condemned (R) Easily the best of the WWE movies to date, though that’s saying astonishingly little. Pro wrestler Steve “Stone Cold” Austin stars in this actioner from World Wrestling Entertainment Films. The film follows a group of convicts forced to fight to the death so their exploits can be broadcast over the internet. No prizes for guessing the outcome, though your jaw may drop when things stop dead for some preaching about the evils of violence — only to dredge up 20 more minutes of that evil as entertainment. Austin doesn’t embarrass himself, but is wisely never called upon to do more than look grim. Brit character actor Vinnie Jones, on the other hand, has charisma to spare, and again proves that he should be making better movies than this. —Justin Souther

Disturbia (PG-13) If nothing else D.J. Caruso’s Disturbia serves as an object lesson: if you set your goals low enough, you stand a fair chance of reaching them. Assuming that reasonably competent mediocrity was the goal here, Caruso and company have succeeded wildly. There are absolutely no surprises in Disturbia. It is exactly as advertised: a teen-centric variation on Rear Window with a hero under house arrest, a goofy best friend, a girlfriend, a disbelieving mom, unsympathetic cops, and a guy next door who’s a serial killer. It ultimately turns into a Freddy Krueger-lite affair. Fairly efficient at what it does, but nothing exciting. —Ken Hanke

Fracture (PG-13) Essentially a cat and mouse game a la Silence of the Lambs between stars Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling. Wealthy Ted Crawford (Hopkins) has discovered that wife Jennifer (Embeth Davidtz) is unfaithful. So he shoots her (though only enough to put her in a coma), hands over the weapon, confesses to the crime -— and then proceeds to prove how he couldn’t have done it, making a monkey out of hotshot assistant D.A. Willy Beachum (Gosling). It’s entertaining, but it’s also just Hopkins in one of his super intellect roles pitting his giant brain against a seemingly lesser adversary. Gosling even sports a Clarice Starling accent. —Ken Hanke

Grindhouse (R) There’s one-half of a great movie here. Unfortunately, it’s not Quentin Tarantino’s. In an audacious move, Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez partnered to create this sprawling three-plus-hour homage to the kind of exploitation schlock that used to adorn the screens of grindhouse theatres and drive-ins back in the 1970s. The movie is actually a double feature (including faux trailers by the guest directors) of Rodriguez’s splattery zombie flick Planet Terror and Tarantino’s female revenge saga Death Proof. Both are done in crashingly bad taste, but only Rodriguez is completely successful. His entry is fast, funny, absurd, and gross, while Tarantino’s ultimately sinks itself in endless Tarantino-esque dialogues. —Ken Hanke

Hot Fuzz (R) From the wildly witty guys who wrote 2004’s Shaun of the Dead — writer-star Simon Pegg and writer-director Edgar Wright — comes Hott Fuzz, and not a moment too soon. There was a palpable sense with Shaun that Pegg and Wright had, in their first feature film, instantly established a signature style, and Fuzz confirms that. It’s its own unique creature — a sendup of buddy cop movies, with no supernatural elements whatsoever — but it’s just as visually lively, just as crammed full of clever and literate wordplay, just as screamingly hilarious as Shaun of the Dead was. —MaryAnn Johanson

In the Land of Women (PG-13) Another Kasdan kid tries his hand at filmmaking. This time it’s Jonathan, with a fairly serious comedy-drama that wants to be Garden State and In Her Shoes, too — and a bit like dad’s Big Chill while it’s at it. (A sub-Big Chill soundtrack doesn’t help it.) Unfortunately, this story of a young man (Adam Brody) nursing a broken heart by going to Michigan to care for his grandmother (Olympia Dukakis) isn’t any of those films, and its Lifetime-style drama about his involvement with the dysfunctional family across the street doesn’t change that. Nice to look at, and stars Brody, Dukakis, Kristen Stewart, and Meg Ryan handle it well, but it’d play better on cable. —Ken Hanke

The Invisible (PG-13) Neither a horror picture nor a mystery, despite its tagline, “How do you solve a murder when the victim is you?” (The one horrific scene in the trailer isn’t even in the movie.) Instead, The Invisible is a romantic fantasy propped up with typical life lessons about unlikable characters becoming less unlikable by the end. Troubled teen (Margarita Levieva) thinks snotty rich kid (Justin Chatwin) turned her in for a jewel robbery, so she and her gang beat him up and leave him for dead. Ah, but he’s really in limbo and has to get someone to find him and get help before he goes to the other side — a neat trick, since no one can see or hear him and Lassie’s nowhere in sight. Chances are you won’t care what side of limbo he ends up on. —Ken Hanke

Kickin’ It Old Skool (PG-13) First-time director Harvey Glazer and TV writers Trace Slobotkin, Josh Siegal, and Dylan Morgan have conspired with the breathtakingly untalented Jamie Kennedy to create a brand new genre — the laugh-free comedy. You might think that after Kennedy proved himself capable of emptying every theatres nationwide with Malibu’s Most Wanted and Son of the Mask, someone would have said, “Enough!” But, no, he’s back as a break-dancer who awakens from 20 years in a coma so he can enter a dance contest, win the girl and save the old homestead. The pathetic ending will have you on the edge of your seat — literally, ready to spring from the theatre as soon as possible. —Ken Hanke

Lucky You (PG-13) When I first saw that Curtis Hanson’s long-delayed Lucky You was opening against Spider-Man 3, I thought those responsible for such a suicidal move must have been nuts. Having seen it, I still think they’re nuts. It’s not torture per se, but it is distressingly inconsequential. Eric Bana is a charming compulsive gambler with daddy issues. Robert Duvall is a charming compulsive gambler with son issues. Drew Barrymore is the world’s dumbest would-be chanteuse. Poker is played — lots of it — and predictable drama ensues. Sleep may well ensue, too. —Ken Hanke

Meet the Robinsons (G) Mildly diverting at best. The hook for this animated sci-fi flick lies in its “Real D” 3-D presentation, at least in theatres that support the format. The effect — a polarized process rather than anaglyphic 3-D — is indeed impressive and makes the film a pleasant novelty. What it doesn’t do is offer much appeal for anyone past the age of experiencing a major loss of social status unless he or she gets the tie-in lunchbox. Anyone else is apt to find the film a lightweight, overstuffed, and undercooked trifle. —Ken Hanke

The Namesake (PG-13) If you’re not a basketcase of sobby, sloppy tears of sadness and joy by the end of The Namesake, then I don’t know what’s wrong with you. It’s about one young Indian couple and how they dread to watch their American-born children grow up thoroughly American. But it’s really about that compromise that all parents and children negotiate that allows youngsters to be themselves while also honoring all that their ancestors have given them. And it is magnificent, as you would expect from filmmaker Mira Nair (Monsoon Wedding, Vanity Fair), whose perceptive eye for the tiny, overwhelming moments that make up a life once again creates a tapestry of emotion that is both delicate and gut-wrenching, and that haunts you long after the film is over. —MaryAnn Johanson

Next (PG-13) Despite a title that suggests the saga of a man sitting in a barber shop waiting for an empty chair, Next is actually a preposterous sci-fi yarn from a Philip K. Dick story that asks viewers to accept 1) that Nicolas Cage can see two minutes into the future and 2) that Jessica Biel would sleep with him. Talk about science fiction. Ever since Ridley Scott scored with an adaptation of a Dick story by making Blade Runner, studios have been crazy for Dick (so to speak), trying mostly in vain to duplicate Scott’s success. This one is no better or worse than most, though it may be funnier, especially with its German-accented French-speaking Russian bad guys with a nuclear warhead at the center of things. —Ken Hanke

Perfect Stranger (PG-13) Here I was, expecting a big-screen version of the old Bronson Pinchot TV series Perfect Strangers and instead I get Halle Berry and Bruce Willis IMing each other (carefully saying aloud everything they type for all the illiterates in the audience), in what is supposed to be a sexy thriller. Problem is, it’s neither sexy nor thrilling. Berry’s a hotshot reporter out to prove that Willis murdered her best friend, meaning of course that she has to seduce him (this is obviously how reporters do things). The big deal — besides the teaming of two stars with zero chemistry — is supposed to be the film’s trick ending, which is not only preposterous, but renders the first 90 minutes meaningless. —Justin Souther

Spider-Man 3 (PG-13) Had Spider-Man and Spider-Man 2 not raised the bar so high, it’s likely that Sam Raimi’s third effort might have felt like something … more. Unfortunately, it makes the sequel mistakes the second installment refused to make, and ends up straying from the stuff that made its predecessors soar. The plot’s overloaded with conflicts and villains and bloated with action where the earlier films wisely focused on Peter Parker’s heart and soul as much as Spidey’s superpowers. The problems of two people may not amount to a hill of beans, but they’re what made us fall in love with Peter and Mary Jane — not CGI wizardry that creates a guy who breaks apart into chunks. In the wake of two near-masterpieces in their genre, mere satisfying summer entertainment somehow seems like a huge disappointment. —Scott Renshaw

Vacancy (PG-13) To hell with marriage counseling. According to director Nimrod Antal and screenwriter Mark L. Smith, nothing will fix a failed marriage faster than trapping the battling couple in a Roach Motel (“couples check in but they don’t check out”) where they’re slated to star in a snuff movie. Apart from paying for otherwise decent actors Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale, the costs here had to be virtually nonexistent. Less gory and, thankfully, less inclined toward torture porn than so much modern “horror,” Vacancy is fairly effective at what it does. The problem is it doesn’t do anything you haven’t seen before. —Ken Hanke

Year of the Dog (PG-13) If you took everything I dislike about indie filmmaking, packed it into one tube, and gave it a good squeeze, Mike White’s Year of the Dog would shoot out. It’s all there: forced quirkiness, faux profundity, annoying musical score, overbearingly arch performances, unlikeable characters you’re supposed to like, etc. Molly Shannon plays a drab office worker, who becomes unhinged when her dog dies. So of course she becomes an animal rights activist with a penchant for forging checks and forcing her views on others. This is supposed to be charming, and she’s supposed to have found herself. It isn’t and she hasn’t. —Ken Hanke


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