Funny People

Funny People
You can bet that anyone named 'Judd' might have a few heartrending school yard stories to tell. It's not surprising that so many great comedy writers cut their teeth on stage as a way of coming to terms with depression, trauma and the occasionally grim realities of early life. And so it is with writer/director Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old-Virgin, Knocked Up)'s latest screen drama 'Funny People'; a crying-clown tale hidden under layers of dick jokes, allusions and cameos.

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Hooking Up

Hooking Up
If the highlights of your DVD collection include "Porky's" and "American Pie," then "Hooking Up" is just the kind of cinematic sexplay you're looking for. Starring Corey Feldman as a coked-out 25-year-old who abuses his starry-eyed high-school girlfriend Caroline (Alison Whitney), Brian O'Halloran ("Clerks") as a principal blind to his surroundings, and Bronson Pinchot as new teacher trying to fend off the sexual advances of the principal's 15-year-old daughter, "Hooking Up" isn't so much of a plot as it is a week in the life of a number of hormone-stuffed sex-obsessed teenagers.

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Brüno

Brüno
Given the kaleidoscopic venn diagram of contexts in which Bruno can and will inevitably be viewed, it's tough to know precisely where to start, and how far to go when deconstructing Sacha Baron Cohen's new comedy. Like the singular, groundbreaking Borat, it's a balls-out comedy, but it's also a social commentary; it's both the latest movie Cohen appears in, and the big-deal "next effort" from him as a performance artist and lead rather than costar or day-player; and finally, it's a lightning rod for controversy and also a generally innocuous goof on mainstream expectations of him and his character, a flamboyant homosexual. All of which suggests that the film is, or perhaps would necessarily be, richer and more substantive than its predecessor - the sort of galvanizing experience that leaves audiences buzzing, changes minds and perceptions, and transforms the face of entertainment forever.

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Bolt
I'm trying to muster up some enthusiasm for Disney's latest animated film, Bolt. It's cute. It has funny pigeons. My eight-year-old niece is going to like it, especially since Miley Cyrus is involved. It's the first non-Pixar Disney feature produced by John Lasseter, who directed the Toy Story movies and Cars. It's got Hollywood jokes in it, including a director voiced by James Lipton, and a comically pushy agent. And yet I never thrilled to the story or the characters; I wasn't half as amused as I'd been by Kung Fu Panda, a film for kids I saw earlier this year.

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Arctic Blast

Arctic Blast
A US research vessel sits on a calm Antarctic Ocean just 100 miles off the coast of Australia studying the thinning of the ozone. Suddenly a blast of sub zero air strikes the vessel, flash freezing the scientists and crew, bodily fluids turning to ice, skin splitting as ice crystals expand in muscle and tissue – the deaths are horrific and instant…

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Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son

Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son
You get two Big Mommas for the price of one in Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son, where Martin Lawrence’s FBI agent, forever undercover as a girth-challenged woman, passes the torch -- no, make that a fat suit and wig -- to a stepson who joins him in drag. This is not a case of doubling the fun so much as an anxious attempt to revive a franchise running out of gas.

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Upside of Anger

Upside of Anger
Now that Kevin Costner has grown too old to convincingly play a baseball star (even an aging Major Leaguer, as in For Love of the Game), he has progressed logically. In The Upside of Anger, he portrays an ex-Detroit Tiger whose life has deteriorated the further age has taken him from the diamond. It's an effective performance, but only a supporting one. The Upside of Anger belongs to Joan Allen (for whom director/screenwriter Mike Binder developed the project), and there's no way Costner or any of Allen's younger co-stars is going to steal even the most minor scene from her.

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American Psycho

American Psycho
Sight unseen (except by attendees at the 2000 Sundance Film Festival, where the movie premiered), Mary Harron's American Psycho has already become one of the most controversial motion pictures of the year (making it a "must see" for some film-goers). The reason is twofold. The source material for the Mary Harron/Guinevere Turner screenplay is Bret Easton Ellis' incendiary novel, which, upon its publication, was the source of equal parts praise and vilification. Secondly, there is the now-infamous "NC-17" controversy surrounding the film. Like the recently released Black and White, American Psycho was initially slapped with the MPAA's Kiss of Death. Only after re-editing was the classification reduced to the commercially acceptable "R".

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Baghead

Baghead
The marketing goal with Baghead is to turn it into another The Blair Witch Project: a horror film where the terror is more psychological than physical and where the characters spend a lot more time chatting and arguing than running for their lives. The problem with Baghead isn't that it's cheaply made but that it's sloppily composed. Even under the most undiscriminating scrutiny, its logic doesn't hold up. The acting varies from awful to sub-par. And the direction celebrates the film's low budget. Baghead contains individual moments that work effectively but, when assembled into a whole, everything crumbles like a poorly stacked house of cards.

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Pitch Black

Pitch Black
It's Vin Diesel week! Suddenly, this largely unknown actor, whose only significant credits were a part in Saving Private Ryan and some voice work in The Iron Giant (as the title character), is a hot commodity with significant roles in two films opening the same day. Diesel fans are strongly advised to see both Boiler Room and Pitch Black, as they show different aspects of the actor's range. In Boiler Room, he's a regular guy working a regular job. In Pitch Black, he goes into full Arnold Schwarzenegger mode, flexing his muscles, grunting, and uttering the occasional one liner. It's not an especially challenging part, but Diesel handles it with aplomb.

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Freedomland

Freedomland
Freedomland is one of an increasingly endangered species: the adult movie that's about something. By "something," I mean a serious issue - the kind of thing films shy away from for fear of alienating viewers. Underneath the trappings of a police procedural, Freedomland opens a gateway to the simmering cauldron of racial/social inequality that exists across the urban landscape of this country, where people are treated differently because of the color of their skin or their lack of spending clout. Events in the movie are as fictional as the locale in which they transpire (Dempsey, NJ), but they bear an uncanny resemblance to recent news stories. It's unclear whether writer Richard Price drew from the headlines in drafting his story, or whether Freedomland shows prescience.

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Downfall

Downfall
Downfall is the third major filmed account of Hitler's final ten days, following in the distant wake of 1973's Hitler: The Last Ten Days and 1981's The Bunker. A superior production to both of the earlier movies, Downfall is a windfall for anyone who, like me, is fascinated by stories from World War II. The first internationally released German production to feature Hitler as a central figure, Oliver Hirschbiegel's film has been criticized in some circles as presenting a portrait of the Fuhrer that is "too sympathetic." In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. As portrayed in a powerhouse performance by Bruno Ganz, Hitler comes across as a petty, demented figure who spews bile as he rants and raves. The lone exception is an establishing scene in 1942 (when Hitler chooses a secretary), where he appears almost grandfatherly. Other than that, he is shown to be a conscienceless, hateful madman who believes his people deserve to die because they are no longer fit to live.

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Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot

Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot
By-the-book macho Los Angeles supercop Joe Bamowski played by Stallone gets his high-pressure life on the edge complicated by his overprotective visiting elderly mother (Getty). The obscenely preposterous bad sitcom plot has him partnering up with her to investigate a smarmy crime lord (Rees). Along the way his mom teaches him to open up to the woman he loves (Jobeth Williams), another cop who happens to be his superior.

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Headspace

Headspace
25-year-old Alex Borden is handsome, charming, and intelligent. In fact, he may be too smart for his own good as his life is swiftly becoming a living hell. Alexs nightmare begins when he meets Harry, a mysterious artist and chess-master. Alex becomes alarmed when his intellect mysteriously begins to grow, and so do the horrors that invade his nightmares, and soon his waking hours. Long-suppressed memories surface and Alex must face the terrors of his violent past, a vanished older brother, a father who abandoned both his sons, and a mother who was viciously murdered. The visions intensify and he begins to experience intense headaches that ultimately cause him to blackout. But it is only the beginning of Alexs calamity. Friends and neighbors are disappearing, and people are whispering rumors of a serial killer. Menaced from all sides by the forces of evil, Alex must overcome his past and contain his own deadly urges so he can hopefully discover what demons, both real and imagined, are stalking him.

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Kids in America

Kids in America
A diverse group of high school students band together to peacefully stick it to their overbearing principal.

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Man of the West

Man of the West
On his way to hire a schoolteacher, a homesteader is left a hundred miles from anywhere when the train he is on is robbed. With him are an attractive dancehall girl and an untrustworthy gambler and he decides to get shelter nearby from outlaw relatives he used to run with. They dont trust him and he loathes them but they decide he can help them with one last bank job.

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