Opening this week
America’s Iliad: The Siege of Charleston (NR) Gilded Age Films and Friends of the Hunley present two free screenings of a new feature documentary film, narrated by Tom Berenger, about the political events that led up to the Civil War and the military campaign directed against Charleston, S.C. (The Sottile Theatre, 44 George St. Sat. April 14 at 8 p.m., $15; Sun. April 15 at 3 p.m., Free.)
Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters (R) An action epic that explores the origins of the Aqua Teen Hunger Force (better known as Master Shake, Frylock, and Meatwad,) who somehow become pitted in a battle over an immortal piece of exercise equipment.
Disturbia (PG-13) A teened-down version of Hitchcock’s Rear Window, written by the guy behind Red-Eye. A teen (Shia LaBeouf) living under house arrest becomes convinced his neighbor (David Morse) is a serial killer.
MacGillivray Freeman’s The Alps (NR) The makers of IMAX’s Everest tackle another high-altitude adventure, this one about Europe’s greatest mountain range and one man’s quest to climb the infamous north face of the Eiger.
Pathfinder (R) A Viking boy (Karl Urban) is left behind after his clan battles a Native American tribe. Raised within the tribe, he ultimately becomes their savoir in a fight against the Norsemen.
Perfect Stranger (PG-13) A journalist (Halley Berry) goes undercover to ferret out businessman Harrison
Hill (Bruce Willis) as her best friend’s killer. Posing as one of his temps, she enters into a game of online
300 (R) Yes, 300 is great to look at (though its burnished golds and CGI’d settings begin to feel like watching a series of production sketches long before the movie ends). But there’s not a hint of humanity in the evil Persians, as the demonized enemy. It’s also alarmingly homophobic, which is a pretty strange approach for a movie that’s non-stop beefcake. And, for that matter, it’s neither terribly exciting, nor involving, since it never gives us a single character to care about, and as soon as it’s set up the action, it’s merely repetitive. It is loud, however. —Ken Hanke
Are We Done Yet? (PG) The real question is whether 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
Bridge To Terabitha (PG) Based on the Katherine Paterson children’s novel of the same name, Bridge to Terabithia follows two preteen outcasts (aren’t they all?) as they attempt to escape the realities of growing up by creating their own imaginary fantasy world. More a human drama about loss and guilt than the fantasy epic it’s being billed as, it’s a rare family film that does exactly what it sets out to do, and does it fairly well. Terabithia manages to be pleasant and well-intentioned without being saccharine — and also has enough sense to praise creativity and imagination above all else. — Justin Souther
Firehouse Dog (PG) Largely harmless and likely to keep a youngster happily occupied for a couple of hours. Anyone above the age of eight, though, will find little merit in this boorish, clichéd excuse for a family comedy. Hollywood star dog, Rexxx (played by a quartet of canines named Arwen, Frodo, Rohan, and Strider, leading one to assume Bilbo had worms), gets lost when a stunt goes wrong and winds up as the mascot of rundown fire department, where, of course, he learns to be a “real” dog and saves the day. Embarrassing attempts at broad comedy don’t help, while scenes where Rexxx shits into a stew — or is offered three painted lady poodles to have his way with — make us wonder who the real audience is supposed to be. —Juston Souther
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 hours 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 untimately sinks itself in endless Tarantino-esque dialogues. —Ken Hanke
The Last Mimzy (PG) This film adaptation of Lewis Padgett’s 1943 short story “All Mimsy Were the Borogroves” (the title’s taken from Lewis Carroll’s “Jabberwocky”) is so insubstantial it threatens to evaporate right off the screen. I don’t reject the idea of New Age sci-fi -— in fact, a sequel called Mimzy Vs. Ramtha might work — but it doesn’t really work here, largely because it’s never clear how serious these elements are. What’s left is a sci-fi flick about saving the future via some advanced teaching toys. Strictly for the grade-school set. —Ken Hanke
The Lookout (PG-13) Screenwriter Scott Frank (Minority Report) turns writer-director with this character-driven crime thriller about a young man (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) with brain damage who’s coerced into helping a gang of crooks rob the bank where he works as a janitor. The results are not only an auspicious directorial debut for Frank, but one of the few truly intelligent movies out right now. The characters — save for the purely evil head of the gang (Greg Dunham) — are well defined and recognizably human, the plot well-developed and believable, and the performances are first rate throughout. Joseph Gordon-Levitt is remarkably good in the lead, and he’s matched every step of the way by Jeff Daniels as his wry-humored blind friend. Catch it quick. Miramax has dumped the film in a time slot where it’s bound to disappear in a flash. —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
The Reaping (R) “What hath God wrought?” ask the posters for The Reaping. Better we should ask what hath Warner Bros. and (gasp) double Oscar-winner Hilary Swank wrought. Swank plays a professional debunker of “miracles,” who meets her match when the 10 plagues of Exodus start afflicting a backwater town in Louisiana. Incredibly, it’s even sillier than it sounds, rife with preposterously overwrought performances from all concerned, a comedically serious Mulligan’s stew of rip-offs from other, better, horror movies. —Ken Hanke
Reign Over Me (R) In Reign Over Me, Sandler plays a New Yorker whose wife and three daughters died in one of the hijacked planes on Sept. 11, 2001. In a movie with a tragically serious undercurrent, Sandler’s like an eight-year-old playing emotional dress-up in clothes that are way too big for him. In a sense, that makes him the perfect leading man for writer/director Mike Binder, whose movies are often amusing, but it makes this one an incredibly awkward viewing experience — because, in case I hadn’t already mentioned it, he’s using a national tragedy as the backdrop for his punch lines. The overriding sensibility that permeates Reign Over Me (apart from Don Cheadle’s charming performance) is lack of control over the material. —Scott Renshaw
Shooter (R) A solid performance from Mark Wahlberg and stylish direction from Antoine Fuqua can’t disguise the fact that Shooter is just an acceptable actioner laboring under the delusion that it’s something altogether more important — which perhaps explains why it’s 20 minutes too long and ends at least three times. Wahlberg plays an embittered ex-Marine sharpshooter who’s tricked into being the fall-guy for a presidential assassination attempt (whoops!), which sends him on the lam and off to prove his innocence, even if that requires blowing up half of America. This odd attempt to create a liberal-minded revenge fantasy never really jells, but it’s not unwatchable. —Ken Hanke
TMNT (PG) Early ‘90s pop culture icons the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles make their return to the big screen, this time entirely digitized. While it does a good job of capturing the spirit of the whole deal, the movie quickly turns into a generic retread. It’s the same excruciatingly lame one-liners, the same action sequences, the same inter-Turtle relationships, even the same catch phrases — except this time with 18 years of age added on. If you’re a still a fan, you’re likely to find this film entertaining and faithful to its predecessors. If you never gave a damn in the first place, this newest incarnation is unlikely to make you a believer. —Justin Souther