24 Hour Party People (NR) One of the better rock 'n' roll movies of the last few decades, and certainly the definitive film about the Manchester music scene of the punk and post-punk era (actually, it's the only one). 24 Hour Party People is a sly, self-mocking ball of pomo energy that should be as much fun and as interesting for the uninitiated as it is for diehards who know everything there is to know about bands like the Buzzcocks and New Order. Mixing archival footage of seminal bands from the '70s and '80s with expertly shot fake scenes, the film depicts the rise and fall of a scene that bloomed with the likes of the great Joy Division and then exploded into the empty, self-destructive excess of Happy Mondays and their ilk. Our guide into the fray is real life rock impresario and journalist Tony Wilson (wonderfully played by Steve Coogan) a bastion of droll wit who rightfully tells us, I'm a minor character in my own story. It's true, in that this isn't a movie about any one character, but rather about a city and the music that it spawned. Director Michael Winterbottom offers proof positive that, from Welcome to Sarajevo to Wonderland to The Claim, this is a man who has never made the same film twice. Also stars Andy Serkis, Shirley Henderson and Sean Harris as a monumentally tortured Ian Curtis. Tentatively opens Sept. 20 at Channelside. Call theatre to confirm.
Austin Powers in Goldmember (PG-13) The least fabulous of all the Powers entries to date but still good, disposable fun. Goldmember is really just a loosely connected series of gags, routines and set pieces (not that the other two movies weren't) with much of the humor coming off as more raunchy and obsessively screwier than ever. As usual, Dr. Evil and Mini-Me steal the show, although Myers gets off a few good licks with the latest addition to his roster of villains, the revolting and thoroughly irritating title character. Stars Mike Myers, Beyonce Knowles, Michael York and Seth Green.
Australia: Land Beyond Time (PG) 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. Animal lovers will want to pounce on this one.
Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (R) What happens when an immovable object meets an unstoppable force? Antonio Banderas and Lucy Liu square off as secret agents supremo. Also stars Ray Park. Opens Sept. 20 at local theaters.
The Banger Sisters (R) Susan Sarandon and Goldie Hawn star in this comedy/drama about two former rock groupies and best friends who reunite after 20 years. One has remained a wild woman; the other has turned conservative. Also stars Geoffrey Rush.
Barbershop (PG-13) Ice Cube stars in this mediocre yarn about barbershop camaraderie. Cube (Calvin) is bequeathed the shop by his late father. As a struggling entrepreneur, he loses sight of the humbling culture that encompasses the business. Calvin's desperation leads to dubious means to pay past-due rent. Interwoven throughout the main plot is an ATM heist carried out by two clumsy criminals whose shenanigans seem more like filler than a true subplot. Calvin's employees, on the other hand, provide the bulk of amusement with their conflicting personalities. Also stars Cedric the Entertainer, Eve, Sean Patrick Thomas and Michael Ealy. —Corey Myers
Blood Work (R) Clint Eastwood's latest is a workmanlike and wholly unremarkable thriller about a retired FBI agent with a brand new heart transplant and a serial killer on his tail. Also starring Jeff Daniels, Anjelica Huston, Wanda De Jesus and Tina Lifford.
Blue Crush (PG-13) For all its faults, this is one surf movie that takes its cue more from Bruce Brown's Endless Summer than from Baywatch. Offering a glimpse into the lives of a group of young female surfers in Oahu, Blue Crush is a fairly interesting movie when it's just following its characters around. When the film attempts to tell us a story — something about finding love, regaining your confidence and becoming the best darned surfer in the word — it's predictable, shallow and not very good. Stars Kate Bosworth, Michelle Rodriguez, Matthew Davis and Sanoe Lake.
City by the Sea (PG-13) Coincidences and emotional baggage are piled on to predictably numbing effect in City by the Sea, director Michael Caton-Jones workmanlike tale of crime, urban decay and familial dysfunction. Robert De Niro stars as a Manhattan cop who moved away from the now deteriorating community of Long Beach when his marriage went bad. Now, many years later, De Niro's character is emotionally distant to his current girlfriend (Frances McDormand) and investigating a murder in which it just so happens the primary suspect is none other than his estranged, junkie son (James Franco). Also stars Eliza Dushku.