About a Boy (PG-13) It's a long way from American Pie to this compact little charmer about the redemption of a sexual predator, but that's exactly the journey taken by writer-directors Paul and Chris Weitz. About a Boy is based on a 1998 book by popular Brit novelist Nick Hornby (High Fidelity) and boasts a clever, snappy script cowritten by Peter Hedges. The best thing about the film, though, is Hugh Grant, whose performance as a shallow skirt-chaser avoids most of the actor's trademark ticks and flutters, and manages to be both winningly narcissistic and sweetly self-deprecating. The core of the film is about the bond that forms between Grant's character and the young boy he's using as a prop to seduce single moms, but the movie is usually smart enough to avoid tugging too hard on our collective heartstrings. Also stars Toni Collette, Rachel Weisz and Nicholas Hoult.

Australia: Land Beyond Time (PG) One of the most fascinating IMAX documentaries yet, this anything-but-dry history/science lesson unfolds sort of like an Animal Planet look at how life might have developed on another planet. That planet happens to be our own, of course, but when you're talking about Australia, expect the unexpected. The film takes us Down Under to the flattest, driest continent on earth, immerses us in parched, otherworldly landscapes and introduces us to tons of incredibly odd and supremely adaptable animals — from cute koalas and feisty dingoes, to an endless variety of bizarrely shaped lizards, to the amazing and little-understood kangaroo (a creature that can actually will her embryo into a state of suspended animation while she waits for the right moment for its birth). Animal lovers will want to pounce on this one.

Bad Company (PG-13) More a failed genetic experiment than an actual motion picture, Bad Company is a pathetically clumsy attempt to graft not just two completely different genres, but two actors who should never have appeared in the same film. The wisp of a plot of this lazily scripted sub-generic spy movie — something about terrorists attempting to detonate a nuclear weapon in the U.S. — is really just an excuse to allow Anthony Hopkins and Chris Rock to share screen time. Also stars Gabriel Macht and John Slattery.

The Bourne Identity (PG-13) Circling around a theme from one of his recent movies, Matt Damon pulls a Talented Mr. Ripley here as a guy attempting to invent an identity for himself. The twist is that Damon's Bourne character doesn't know who he is; he's an amnesiac who also just happens to be a world-class fighter, linguist, escape artist — in fact, he pretty much possesses all the skills of a top-notch spy/sleuth/assassin. Complicating matters is the fact that, even as he tries to reclaim his memory, Damon's being hunted by the ultimate bad guys who appear to be his old bosses — our old pals, the CIA. Bourne Identity is basically an action movie, but it's an overly murky one that lacks a real sense of urgency or purpose.

Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys (R) Smart and sensitively told tale of budding young rebels sweating it out at Catholic school, and learning about the world the hard way. Based on Chris Fuhrman's coming of age novel by the same title, Altar Boys doesn't get quite far enough under the skins of its teenage characters, but it manages to strike an almost consistently fine balance between sweet and sharp, emotionally charged and amusing. The film never quite transcends its sources, but, at its best, is an engaging dramedy with echoes of everything from Stand By Me to J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye.

Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (PG-13) Written and directed by Callie Khouri (Thelma and Louise), produced by Bonnie Bruckheimer (Beaches) and adapted from a couple of Rebecca Wells novels much cherished by a sizable, almost exclusively female audience, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood is a consummate chick flick, but not a particularly good movie. The essence of this energetic but overlong, rambling film has to do with a daughter's love-hate relationship with her mother — and, as with so many films that attempt to offer up what amounts to the lighter side of familial dysfunction, Ya-Ya can't quite seem to decide how it really feels about its subject. The movie spends the better part of two hours alternately skewering and romanticizing its central character — a self-centered, substance-abusing mother played as a young woman by Ashley Judd and as an aging matron by Ellen Burstyn — and then resolves all the complicated issues between the woman and her daughter in a final rush of unrepentant mush.

Enough (R) This film completely screws up a premise that cries out for a serious celluloid treatment. Director Michael Apted and screenwriter Nicholas Kazan (who penned Reversal of Fortune in another lifetime) aren't interested in exploring such an explosive topic as wife-beating; they're more interested in dolling up star Jennifer Lopez and letting her kick ass in an obvious finale that can be predicted even by those who haven't seen the tell-all trailer.
—Matt Brunson


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