2 FAST 2 FURIOUS (PG-13) It's hard to imagine that once-respectable director John Singleton is responsible for this tepid time-waster, a sequel so shoddy it makes the idiotic but entertaining original look like Citizen Kane. Former cop and driver extraordinaire Brian O'Connor (blander-than-ever Paul Walker) is back, this time teamed with a fast-talking black buddy (Tyrese) and working undercover to set up a nasty Miami drug lord. The script is mindless, the acting atrocious, and not even the action scenes are particularly exciting (the biggest crowd-pleasers are a couple of cars flying through the air — shots not too far removed from what you'd see on an old Dukes of Hazard rerun). Add some painfully forced repartee between the salt and pepper leads and a hot Latina babe in the wings — whose main credentials seem to be possessing both Gina Gershon's lips and Cindy Crawford's mole — and you've got a near-total bust. Eye candy, pure and simple, but not even particularly good eye candy. Also stars Cole Hauser and Chris "Ludicris" Bridges.
28 DAYS LATER (R) The country's been devastated by a strange virus and small bands of ragtag survivors fight off hordes of snarling, once-human creatures in this horror movie for the New Dark Ages. Despite the occasional burst of warmth and light, 28 Days Later is a fiercely gritty and even ugly affair, made even more so by jittery editing and flat, no-frills look of its digital video footage. Danny Boyle, who hasn't made a film this strong since Trainspotting, draws inspiration from all sorts of horror movies, both classic and contemporary. The debt to George Romero's zombies is unavoidable, of course, as are the nods to the you-are-there video verite approach popularized by The Blair Witch Project. The movie doesn't add much that's new to this mix but, for the most part, it holds its own with the macabre past glories that it references. Many will find the tone a little too faux-hip frenetic (flying in the face of tradition, these zombies move fast), but the raw power and ambitious scale of this blood-drenched journey into the heart of darkness can't be denied. Stars Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Christopher Eccleston, Megan Burns and Brendan Gleeson.
ALEX AND EMMA (PG-13) Inoffensive but dull, drab romantic comedy from Rob Reiner, a director who's done this sort of thing much better in films like When Harry Met Sally. Art imitates life and vice versa when a frazzled writer (Luke Wilson) begins to fall for his spunky but, wouldn't you know it, terribly attractive stenographer (the ever adorable Kate Hudson). Mirror images of the pair begin appearing in the novel-in-progress as romantic sparks supposedly fly both on the page and between the storytellers themselves. The negligible Wilson-Hudson chemistry doesn't make those sparks particularly believable, though, and the jokes are too weak for us to focus our attention elsewhere. As for the story-within-the-story that Wilson's character is writing — it's a badly written bore. And unfortnately Reiner forces us to sit through long, painful stretches of it. Also stars Sophie Marceau and David Paymer.
ANGER MANAGEMENT (PG-13) Another drab installment of recycled humor starring Adam Sandler, the most typecast comic actor of our time. Sandler plays Dave Buznik, a neurotic who struggles to masquerade his angst by being non-confrontational. And after an altercation with a flight attendant, Dave is court ordered to participate in an anger management program. His therapist, Dr. Buddy Rydell (Jack Nicholson), takes an unconventional approach in treating him. Jack Nicholson is the only new element in this formulaic Sandler flick. The plot relies on the same mold as his other films. Reoccurring characters and gags are aplenty. Also stars Marisa Tomei, John Turturro, Kevin Nealon and Woody Harrelson. —Corey Myers
BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM (PG-13) A far more satisfying spin on modern gals grappling with Old World cultural values (and cliches) than My Big Fat Greek Wedding. At the center of the story is Jess (Jesminder to her parents), a nice Indian girl who just wants to follow her dream to play soccer, much to the dismay of dear old mum and dad. Much of what follows is fairly predictable but ultimately winning stuff. Director Gurinder Chadha (Bhaji on the Beach) toys with scores of cliches and conventions, but manages to transcend them all by keeping a firm grip on the bottom line: creating appealing and believable characters, and giving them an interesting and convincing world to live in. The movie gives us a little bit of everything, crossing smoothly from genre to genre and packing all of its elements tightly together in one groovy little package: romantic comedy, coming-of-age drama, sports movie. Stars Parminder Nagra, Keira Knightley, Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Anupam Kher.