opening this week
Crank (R) A hit man (Jason Statham) goes on an adrenalized rampage after discovering he's been poisoned and has only 24 hours to cure himself, or die trying.
Crossover (PG-13) Noah (Wesley Jonathan) and Tech (Anthony Mackie) are two best friends and talented basketball players with radically different plans for the future. Their interests — Noah's got a scholarship to UCLA while Tech has his sights on an underground street ball championship — bring them both to in Los Angeles, where fate has something in store for both of them.
The Illusionist (PG-13) Reviewed at left.
The Wicker Man (PG-13) Director Neil LaBute offers a remake of Robin Hardy's 1973 classic, in which a mainland sheriff (Nicolas Cage) patroling a nearby island gets caught in a tragic accident involving a mother and her young daughter. The island community offers little in the way of help, even when reports emerge of the girl's miraculous, improbable reappearance.
Accepted (PG-13) The worst thing that can be said about Accepted is that it's thoroughly inconsequential. That's also the best thing that can be said about it. Yes, Justin Long is an agreeable screen presence, but he's not enough to keep this lame, tame comedy afloat for 90 minutes. Since Long can't get into college (the filmmakers apparently never heard of community college), he invents a school to bamboozle his parents, going to extremes like actually setting up a fake campus (in a anused psychiatric hospital) and installing a bogus dean. Never more than mildly funny and often tedious. —Ken Hanke
Barnyard (PG) This anatomically incorrect tale of wild party animals in the barnyard may be the best animated CGI flick of the year. It stands out from the herd with clever action, witty dialogue, a fantastic string of musical numbers, and some good old-fashioned messages about heroism and taking care of others. Cover the eyes of sensitive kids during the scary coyote sequences. Otherwise, it's great fun and little ones will love it. —Marcianne Miller
Beerfest (R) The good news is Beerfest is a little better than comedy troupe Broken Lizard's Super Troopers, considerably better than their Club Dread, and about a million times better than their work on The Dukes of Hazzard. The bad news is it's still pretty dreadful. This is more of the same frat boy humor that garnered them a small, cultish following. It's a non-stop series of drinking gags, drunk gags, and drunken sex gags (go to bed with a hot babe and wake up with M'onique). Toss in some not very funny sex stuff involving Cloris Leachman, and a lot of arbitrary bare breasts -— et voila, you have Beerfest. —KH
How To Eat Fried Worms (PG) New Line's adaptation of a 1972 children's book of the same name by Thomas Rockwell. The word "classic" has been attached to the literary original -- whether truly earned, or simply because the book was taken up by teachers as required reading for their young charges is another matter. The tale of standing up to a bully by eating 10 worms (prepared in various repellent ways) makes for thin stuff spread over 90 minutes. And it seems thinner still under the lackluster direction of Bob Dolman who loads the film with bogus energy and a seemingly endless array of bland and uninteresting imagery, which he smothers in an annoying musical score by Mark and Bob Mothersbaugh. Kids may feel differently, but it's one of the most amateurish essays in excruciating tedium I've encountered in a year that's hardly lacked for tedium. —KH
Idlewild (R) This is fantasy like we like our movies to be, a cinematic phantasmagoria of a dream version of the past — of bootleggers and flappers and gangsters and speakeasies and Josephine Baker-esque barebreasted showgirls in a lush, rich, ridiculously romantic tapestry of sex and violence and friendship and love and music and dancing. Idlewild reconnects the urgent street cred of today's most original pop musicians — rappers — to the urgent street cred of the stylish criminals of the Depression and Prohibition. From its rowdy spiritual energy to its visual grace notes of whimsy, Idlewild is at once timeless and timely, an elegant and elemental little masterwork of The Movies. —Maryann Johanson
The Illusionist (PG-13) There's magic here, genuine movie magic in writer-director Neil Burger's not-quite-indie The Illusionist, reminding you why you fell in love with movies in the first place. The sublime Edward Norton casts a spell as the titular stage conjurer who befuddles audiences with his extraordinary feats — including a skeptical cop (the fantastic Paul Giamatti) and a beautiful aristocrat (the lovely Jessica Biel) in a Vienna at the turn of the 20th century that is half phantasm and half history, creating a cinematic experience that is at once wonderfully mysterious and dreamily romantic. —MJ
Invincible (PG-13) Based on the true story of walk-on Eagles receiver Vince Papale, Invincible approaches football from the perspective of individual achievement rather than team camaraderie. Some might complain that it takes too long to get to the football, but this film isn't as much a football movie as it is an examination of what it takes to have "heart." It's more a character study than a sports film; football is just a bonus. Sports movies are a dime a dozen, but this one raises itself beyond the genre to tell the simple, true story of a man beating the odds through sheer force of will. It's not perfect, but Invincible works well as an uplifting study in hard work, humility, and perseverance.
Little Miss Sunshine (R) Hilarious and heartrending. A family of dysfuctional poster-people, in constant battle with one another over absolutely everything, climb into into a VW van for a drive of hundreds of miles in order to get young Olive (Abigail Breslin) to the Little Miss Sunshine competition, to which she has been invited at the last minute. What's more, they have to not kill one another in spite of the many disasters they encounter. This is my absolute favorite movie of the year so far, and not because, in the end, it holds up for well-deserved ridicule the obscenity of "beauty pageants" for little girls, though it does do that, in a surprising, brilliant, and laugh-out-loud way. Little Miss Sunshine is my favorite movie of the year for all the little touches along the literal and figurative road it takes to get there. Any absurdity — and there's plenty — is more than trumped by raw emotional power. —MJ
Material Girls (PG) Like the migration of geese, Material Girls seems to have become part of an annual occurrence: the push to turn former teen sensation Hilary Duff into a honest to goodness adult actress. The movie isn't as atrocious as it could have been (or maybe should have been), but it is hampered by the lack of the one thing the aforementioned geese have: a sense of direction. Makeup company heiresses, Tanzie (Hilary Duff) and Eva (Hilary's sister Haylie) lose their fortune, owing to dad's botched testing of a face cream. The sisters then manage to burn down their mansion and have their Mercedes stolen within the span of an hour (hasn't anyone heard of Allstate?). How will they cope and regain their status? The movie is all over the map without any obvious sign that anyone knows what it ought to be, and so it ends up being a lot of nothing. —Justin Souther
Snakes on a Plane (R) Can a bad movie that deliberately sets out to be a bad movie rightly be called a good movie? If that movie is the much-anticipated Snakes on a Plane, then the answer is yes. Forget all those big-budget blockbusters this summer; this unassuming $33 million production is more fun than all those bloated bores put together. Deliberately preposterous, the film is upfront about its silliness with its story of an attempt to bump off the witness to a mob killing by infesting a plane with 400-plus venomous vipers as an alternative to trying to get a hit man with a gun on board. Of course, the plan hasn't taken into account the presence of the coolest man on the planet Samuel L. Jackson as the coolest FBI agent of all time. It's deliberately cheesy, loads of fun, the snake effects are no better than they have to be — and, yes, Jackson perfectly delivers the one line you've been waiting to hear. —KH
Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (PG-13) It's impossible to watch Talladega Nights without thinking of 2004's Anchorman, because they're essentially the same film. Both were directed and written by Adam McKay, with scripting help from star Will Ferrell. Talladega Nights may have cars instead of news reporting, but it uses the same scattershot approach to comedy: a random collection of semi-improvised sketches tied together by a loose plot. The only real difference between the two movies is that in Talladega the plot is even thinner, and Ferrell's stock car racer Ricky Bobby doesn't have a comedic punchline like Steve Carell. Ferrell is back in rare form, doing the things that made him a box office mega-star in the first place, and John C. Reilly is money as his best friend Cal. The cast's comedic improvisation carries the film, but the script could have used a good detailing. —Joshua Tyler
World Trade Center (PG-13) Oliver Stone's insidiously godawful, ostensibly apolitical 9/11 exploitation picture requires its audience to retreat into a sort of amnesiac amber. Forget today's bloody headlines, it urges us, or how neoconservatives repurposed the tragedy of 9/11 as the long-lusted-after excuse to attack a nation that had zippo to do with the atrocity itself. Nominally about the undeniable courage and endurance of two New York Port Authority cops trapped beneath the collapsed towers (the otherwise exemplary Nicolas Cage and Michael Peña), the film's point of view is informed by equal parts inchoate self-righteousness, relentless Christian imagery, and impotent fist-shaking. Otherwise, World Trade Center accomplishes one amazing thing — it makes 9/11 boring. —Ian Grey
You, Me and Dupree (PG-13) Owen Wilson's Randy Dupree has a talent for turning loafing and mooching into something Zen. But only in the movies is that kind of thing adorable and charming. In reality, you'd kick him out of your life if you didn't actually kill him first, especially if he pulled any of the truly thoughtless and inconsiderate crap Dupree dumps on Carl (Matt Dillon) and his new wife, Molly (Kate Hudson), when he crashes at their lovely new home. What first-time screenwriter Mike LeSieur and directors Anthony and Joe Russo have made is Click for grownups: no fart jokes, no potty-mouthed kids wiseassing their elders, no fat suits, no pratfalls, just great humor in a story that's warm and natural and organic. —MJ