Upcoming Releases

THE GRUDGE 2 (R) Black-haired, dripping-wet ghost-girls may already be yesterday's news in Asia, but they're still hot stuff (for the moment, at least) in the megaplexes of America. This latest dose of Japanese horror, remade Hollywood-style, amplifies the original Grudge's tale of a supernatural curse that seems to strike at random, causing people to die in the grip of a powerful rage. Stars Amber Tamblyn, Jennifer Beals, Edison Chen, Eve Gordon and Sarah Michelle Gellar. Opens Oct. 13 at local theaters. (Not Reviewed)

MAN OF THE YEAR (PG-13) Robin Williams as the president of the United States? Be afraid! Be very afraid! Barry Levinson is the director here, reportedly working in a Wag the Dog-lite mode, with Williams as a talk show host who stumbles into the nation's highest office. Also stars Christopher Walken, Laura Linney, Lewis Black and Jeff Goldblum. Opens Oct. 13 at local theaters. (Not Reviewed)


ALL THE KING'S MEN (PG-13) Sean Penn is phenomenal, but just about everything else is wrong in All the Kings Men. Penn stars as Willie Stark (a thinly veiled stand-in for legendary Louisiana Governor Huey P. Long), a well-meaning but shrewd populist who connects with his fellow "redneck hicks," largely through the power of passionate oratory, to the point where he achieves something approaching absolute power and is in turn corrupted absolutely. The film's problems begin and end with its actors, an ensemble that looks great on paper, but that is, almost to an individual, horribly miscast. Three of the movie's prime roles go to Brits (Jude Law, Kate Winslet and Anthony Hopkins) and their attempts at Southern American accents are dubious at best, abominable at worst (Hopkins doesn't even appear to be going through the motions). Stars Sean Penn, Jude Law, James Gandolfini, Kate Winslet, Anthony Hopkins, Patricia Clarkson and Mark Ruffalo. 2 stars

THE BLACK DAHLIA (R) A lush homage to all things noir, De Palma's film takes as its springboard James Ellroy's fictionalized account of one of L.A.'s most famous unsolved crimes — the grisly 1947 murder of aspiring actress Elizabeth "Betty" Short — and then proceeds to pump up the darkness to nearly operatic proportions. The Black Dahlia unfolds in an opulently decadent, morally cracked L.A. At the center of the movie is a triangle consisting of the two investigating homicide detectives — a pair of former boxers nicknamed "Fire" and "Ice" (Josh Hartnett and Aaron Eckhart) — and the beautiful hooker-turned-homemaker (Scarlett Johansson) who is their mutual object of desire. The movie practically disappears in its own frantic convolutions by the end, but it hardly matters. De Palma is in top form here, with several brilliantly choreographed set pieces establishing the tone, and a monochromatic palette (by master cinematographer Vilmos Zsigmond) that's about as close as a color film can get to black-and-white. Stars Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson, Aaron Eckhart, Hilary Swank and Mia Kirshner. 3.5 stars

EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH (PG-13) A slacker (Dane Cook) barely working at a Wal-Mart-like megastore has the hots for the cute new employee who looks a lot like Jessica Simpson (Jessica Simpson). The catch is that he's been told she'll only date guys who win the store's coveted "Employee of the Month" award, causing radical changes in slacker-boy's behavior. Also stars Andy Dick, Dax Shepard and Efren Ramirez. Not Reviewed)

EVERYONE'S HERO (G) Although it's mostly significant for being the final project of the late Christopher Reeve, Everyone's Hero offers amusing, non-threatening fun that will primarily be appreciated by kids young enough to think Home Alone is the funniest thing on the planet. The titular hero is none other than Babe Ruth himself (voiced by Brian Dennehy), and the film recounts the efforts of a plucky young 10-year-old (Jake T. Austin) to recover and return the Babe's beloved, recently stolen bat. This being an animated children's movie, it turns out that the famous bat can talk, as can a stray baseball the kid finds along the way, and the threesome (boy, bat and ball) soon become fast friends and teach one other valuable life lessons — in between shenanigans. The movie gets away with its anachronistically wholesome, ultra-idealistic feel by setting itself in a kinder, gentler America of the 1930s (where even the bums are apparently cute, clean and well-fed), and the humor here, though frequently physical in nature, is similarly less aggressive and irreverent than what we're used to in our kids' movies these days. You could do worse. Also featuring the voices of William H. Macy, Rob Reiner, Raven-Symone and Whoopi Goldberg. 3 stars

FLYBOYS (PG-13) Intrepid young American James Franco and a handful of his fellow countrymen join the beleaguered French flying forces struggling to stave off the Germans during World War I. This is being billed as the first WWI aviation film in over 40 years. Also stars Jean Reno, Martin Henderson and David Ellison. (Not Reviewed)

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