Reviews, locations and other info about current movies.

Akeelah and the Bee (PG, 112 minutes) In case you hadn’t noticed, Hollywood is in the midst of a red-hot spelling bee craze. In the wake of Spellbound and… um, Bee Season, comes this drama about an 11-year-old girl from South Los Angeles who tries to make it to the National Spelling Bee. The story is, as expected, cute and inspirational. It’s also predictable, emotionally simplified and filled with clichés. Think The Karate Kid with a little girl taking over for Ralph Macchio, Laurence Fishburn doing the Mr. Miyagi thing, and words instead of crane kicks to the head. (Devin O’Leary) Coming Friday; check local listings

American Dreamz (PG-13, 107 minutes) Paul Weitz (American Pie, About a Boy, In Good Company) delivers this ripe parody of American politics and pop culture. Seems that an unpopular American president (Dennis Quaid) wants a bit of publicity, so he signs on to appear as guest judge for a mega-popular, “American Idol”-style singing contest. Little does he know that Muslim terrorists have seeded the show with a singing suicide bomber. The humor is broad and cartoonish, but Hugh Grant does strike a chord as the show’s mean-spirited host. (D.O.) Playing at Regal Seminole Square Cinema 4

ATL (PG-13, 105 minutes) Four friends prepare for life after high school, each taking a different life path in this rap-fueled inner city drama/comedy. Cast includes assorted rappers-turned-actors like Big Boi, Bone Crusher and Jazze Pha. ATL stands for Atlanta, by the way. (D.O.) Playing at Regal Downtown Mall 6

The Benchwarmers (PG-13, 80 minutes) A trio of dorky dudes (David Spade, Rob Schneider and Napoleon Dynamite’s Jon Heder) try to make up for their pathetic childhoods by forming a three-man baseball team to compete against standard Little League teams. This one’s only funny if you like the lamest of output from Adam Sandler’s drinking buddies. (It’s written by Alan Covert, who gave us the glory of Grandma’s Boy.) (D.O.) Playing at Carmike Cinema 6

Failure to Launch (PG-13, 97 minutes) Matthew McConaughey plays a 30something slacker dude who refuses to move out of his parents’ house. Naturally, Mom and Dad hire a freelance relationship interventionist (a what?) played by Sarah Jessica Parker. See, she tricks men into falling in love with her, so they’ll grow up and move out of their parents’ houses. Then she dumps them. (Where exactly was this career field on high school job day?) Of course, since this is a romantic comedy, our girl actually falls for our guy. Now, all we have to do is wait around for the reveal of the Big Lie, followed by the inevitable Bad Breakup, trailed shortly by the Tearful Public Reunion. Too bad the film’s charismatic stars are wedded to such a generic romcom script. (D.O.) Playing at Regal Downtown Mall 6   

Friends With Money (R, 88 minutes) Filmmaker Nicole Holofcener (Walking and Talking,
Lovely & Amazing) adds her dry-witted observations to another ensemble comedy/drama about modern domestic screw-ups. Jennifer Aniston provides the axle around which this tiny universe revolves. Aniston plays an unambitious single woman working as a house cleaner who finds herself surrounded by successful, married people. Of course, her friends (Joan Cusack, Catherine Keener, Frances McDormand) have their own secret problems balancing career, family and love. Vanity, jealousy and middle-aged ennui are among the keenly observed topics, but the situations don’t seem quite as involving as in Holofcener’s previous projects. (D.O.) Playing at Vinegar Hill Theatre

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (PG-13, 157 minutes) Rabid readers of the Harry Potter books know this is the most epic, action-packed book of the series. That gives filmmakers plenty (too much, really) to concentrate on here. The legendary Triwizard tournament (sort of a magical version of the Olympics) has come to Hogwarts and our boy Harry is, of course, a front-runner to win. In addition to battling fire-breathing dragons, Harry must contend with the return of vicious Lord Voldemort (embodied, finally, by Ralph Fiennes) and (even more horrifying) the onset of puberty. (D.O.) Playing through Thursday at Jefferson Theater

Ice Age: The Meltdown (PG, 90 minutes) Gee, that was a pretty short ice age. Seems that
the Earth is now warming back up again, and our heroes, the mastodon, the saber-toothed tiger, the sloth and the squirrel thing, must find a new home to live in. Queen Latifah, Jay Leno and Seann William Scott add their voices to the cast this time around. If your kids were entertained by the first one, they’ll be entertained by this one. (D.O.) Playing at Carmike Cinema 6

Inside Man (R, 129 minutes) Spike Lee tries his hand at a more mainstream thriller with this intermittently successful heist drama. A gang of bank robbers led by Clive Owen takes over a bank in Manhattan. Hostage negotiator Denzel Washington is called in to handle the situation. Naturally, there are lots of twists and turns along the way as the bank robbers scheme to get out with the dough. Do they have a secret plan? Will it be patently obvious to most viewers? Washington does good work (and Jodie Foster drops by for a short time), but Lee isn’t quite prepared for this sort of adrenaline-filled cinema. At least he avoids some of the more egregious genre clichés. (D.O.) Playing at Regal Seminole Square Cinema 4
Lucky Number Slevin (R, 109 minutes) Scotsman Paul McGuigan (Gangster No. 1) contributes this crazed crime story about a case of mistaken identity that leaves a down-on-his luck slob (Josh Hartnett) stuck in the middle of a gang war between Ben Kingsley and Morgan Freeman (scary). To make matters worse, he’s being pursued by an infamous assassin (Bruce Willis). Our boy Slevin’s situation is slightly ameliorated by the attentions of Lucy Liu, but the body count continues to rise. At times the film becomes wrapped up in its own twisty cleverness—which is wedged somewhere between the filmy smartness of Hitchcock and the showy self-awareness of Tarantino. Still, it’s a hell of zippy ride. (D.O.) Playing at Regal Downtown Mall 6

RV (PG) Steve Martin must have been busy, because it’s fallen to Robin Williams to star in this pathetic, plotless excuse for a “family” comedy. Williams stars as a hapless dad who tries to pass off a business trip to Colorado as a family vacation. Along the way, the annoying clan has lots of wacky misadventures in a rented RV. That’s it, folks. Williams was starting to get annoying on screen, now he’s just sad. Go rent National Lampoon’s Vacation instead. It’s pretty much the same movie, only 20 times funnier. (D.O.) Coming Friday; check local listings

Scary Movie 4 (PG-13) David Zucker (who pioneered this sort of spoofy genre back in 1980 with Airplane!) returns for yet another outing in the Scary Movie franchise. Anna Faris returns as well as the intrepid reporter trying to find out why so many wacky things are happening. There are send-ups of Saw, The Grudge, War of the Worlds, and others too numerous to count. Expect plenty of cameos as well, including a fairly clever sequence involving Shaquille O’Neal and Dr. Phil. The rest revolves around the usual lowbrow sex and potty humor that the kids so dearly love. (D.O.) Playing at Carmike Cinema 6

The Sentinel (PG-13) Kiefer Sutherland, taking time off from his TV gig as a government agent in a frantic race to save the president from assassination, signs on for this theatrical thriller as a government agent in a frantic race to save the president from assassination. Michael Douglas is Sutherland’s foil and former mentor, a disgraced special agent to the White House, who is being framed in the murderous conspiracy (or is he?). Eva Longoria (“Desperate Housewives”) tags along for eye candy. (D.O.) Playing at Regal Seminole Square Cinema 4

She’s the Man (PG-13, 105 minutes) Although it’s based loosely on Shakespeare’s Twelfth
Night, this teen romcom probably owes more to the immortal ‘80s comedy Just One of the Guys (what, you didn’t have Showtime in 1986?). Amanda Bynes (from Nickelodeon’s “The Amanda Show”) stars as a teen who dreams of plaing soccer. Naturally, when her brother heads off to London for a couple of weeks, she disguises herself as him and starts attending his elite prep school dressed in drag. Over the course of this preposterous charade, she falls in love with one of her teammates, setting off a series of hopelessly tangled love affairs. (Seriously, rent Just One of the Guys from Netflix. (D.O.) Playing at Regal Downtown Mall 6

Silent Hill (R) For those of you who already have BloodRayne and Doom on DVD (or, more likely, PSP), here’s the latest videogame to make the leap to the silver screen. Radha Mitchell (Pitch Black) stars as a woman searching for her sick daughter in the creepy, fog-enshrouded environs of a mysteriously deserted town. (Deserted, of course, except for all the demons, monsters, ghosts and what-have-you.) At least Uwe Boll (Alone in the Dark, House of the Dead, BloodRayne) is not involved. French director Christophe Gans (Brotherhood of the Wolf) lends some polish to the rather predictable goings on. (D.O.) Playing at Carmike Cinema 6

Take the Lead (PG-13, 108 minutes) Antonio Banderas is a ballroom-dance instructor who teaches a group of inner-city rejects how to glide through life’s difficulties in this hip-hop remake of Dangerous Minds. Banderas seems capable of generating heat, but the movie, for some strange reason, clamps a chastity belt on him, focusing instead on those detention students. (Kent Williams) Playing at Carmike Cinema 6

Thank You for Smoking (R, 92 minutes) Based on Christopher Buckley’s satiric novel about a tobacco-industry lobbyist (Aaron Eckhart) who seems to feel good about what he does for a living, Jason Reitman’s refreshingly un-PC film lets both sides of the smoking/anti-smoking debate have it with both barrels. Encompassing a trip to Hollywood as well as a kidnapping, the movie gives off a caffeinated buzz, capturing the book’s slightly giddy tone. (K.W.) Playing at Regal Downtown Mall 6

United 93 (R, 90 minutes) Whether people are actually ready to watch dramas about the events of 9/11 remains to be seen. Director Paul Greengrass (The Bourne Supremacy) keeps it pretty close to the vest with this film about the doomed passengers of United flight No. 93 (the ones who provided Bush with his “Let’s roll!” catchphrase). A cast of unknowns dutifully acts out the events of that tragic day in real time, providing not so much dramatic insight as unflinching re-creation. You witnessed it on the news, you relived it in the TV movie Flight 93. Now, you can see it some more. (D.O.) Coming Friday; check local listings

V for Vendetta (R, 132 minutes) This adaptation of the cult comic book by Alan Moore and David Lloyd comes to us courtesy of writers/producers the Wachowski brothers. Don’t let the lingering funk of The Matrix Revolutions scare you off, though. This tight, dystopian thriller is a must-see for comic book fans. Hugo Weaving (The Lord of the Rings) plays a mysterious masked figure named V, who seeks to overthrow a totalitarian government in near-future London. Natalie Portman plays the poor waif who gets caught in our anti-hero’s complex plot. The dialogue is, of course, sluggish and ultraphilosophical (it comes courtesy of the Wachowskis, after all), but the plot is timely and the action is adrenalized. (D.O.) Playing at Regal Downtown Mall 6

Walk the Line (PG-13, 136 minutes) Joaquin Phoenix gives everything he can to the role of country music legend Johnny Cash, even going so far as to sing his own tunes. Oscar winner Reese Witherspoon follows close behind as Cash’s longtime love June Carter. The romantic/contentious relationship between Cash and Carter is effectively the highlight of the film and plays off some good chemistry between Phoenix and Witherspoon. At the end of the day, though, the film is a conventional biopic that takes a bit too much mystery out of one of music’s darkest outlaws. (D.O.) Playing through Thursday at Jefferson Theater

The Wild (G, 94 minutes) Despite the fact that this computer-animated toon features a group of animals (including a lion and a giraffe) escaping from the New York City Zoo and making a madcap trek to the wilds of Africa, Disney would like to inform you that this is nothing like last year’s Madagascar. Which, of course, it is. The voice cast (including Kiefer Sutherland, Janeane Garofalo, Eddie Izzard and William Shatner) has fun at least, and there are enough fart jokes to keep the kids laughing. (D.O.) Playing at Regal Semionole Square Cinema 4

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