VALENTIN (NR) A sweet (sometimes almost unbearably so) coming-of-age tale about a precocious little cross-eyed boy growing up in Buenos Aires in the early '60s. Valentin (Rodrigo Noya) is a cute and wise-beyond-his-years 8-year-old, living with his loving but cranky grandmother (Carmen Maura), and struggling to understand what's going on with all the crazy and difficult adults surrounding him. Valentin befriends them all, though, from the local doctor to the lonely musician across the street to his absent father's ex-girlfriends, and each of the bummed-out adults come under his spell, apparently infected by the adorable tyke's irresistibly upbeat sincerity. There are some nice moments here and bits and pieces of charming local color, but the film doesn't add up to much. Also stars Julieta Cardinali. 1/2
VAN HELSING (PG-13) Even hardcore horror fans aren't likely to find much worthwhile in this bombastic mess in which a pair of fashionably dressed monster slayers (Hugh Jackman and Kate Beckinsale) spend a couple of hours running around like headless chickens, shooting bullets, arrows and stakes at anything that moves. The CGI effects are omnipresent and absolutely awful, and the flesh and blood creatures don't fare much better. The look of Van Helsing is darkly luxurious and faithful in its way to the old Universal horror films on which it's based, but director Stephen Sommers mistakes attractive set design for mood, and his movie is so frenetic it kills any chance for a poetic moment. Also stars David Wenham and Kevin J. O'Connor.
THE VILLAGE (PG-13) Strange creatures lurk in the woods surrounding the little Pennsylvania burg in M. Knight Shyamalan's latest movie. The premise (isolated, ordinary folks encounter things that go bump in the night) sounds more Signs than Sixth Sense, but with Shyamalan you never know. The movie was screened so close to opening day that almost nobody had a chance to review it in a timely fashion, but we'll give the studio the benefit of the doubt and try not to assume this means they know there's something's rotten in Shyamalan Land. Stars Joaquin Phoenix, Sigourney Weaver, Adrien Brody and William Hurt. Opens July 30 at local theaters. (Not Reviewed)
WHITE CHICKS (PG-13) There's nothing funnier than a guy in a dress, right? Unless, of course, it's a black guy in a dress, trying to pass as a white girl. OK, now picture a couple of Wayans Brothers as FBI agents pretending to be a pair of Hilton Sisters clones. Is it funny yet? If your answer is "Not by a long shot," then you're just beginning to scratch the surface of this mind-numbingly dull, extended sketch featuring Marlon and Shawn Wayons impersonating a pair of bubble-headed bimbettes. The only thing of interest about the film is the freakish, barely human look of the "girls" themselves, who would have made a fine addition to the remake of The Stepford Wives. Also stars Jamie King, Frankie Faison, Lochlyn Munro and John Heard.
Reviewed entries by Lance Goldenberg unless otherwise noted.