THE WEDDING DATE (PG-13) A romantic comedy that's really neither, starring Debra Messing as a single gal who hires a male escort to be her pretend boyfriend at her younger sister's wedding. This is one of those My Big Fat Best Friend's Wedding movies that seems to think anytime you give an audience a celebration attended by lots of neurotic friends and family, instant hilarity will ensue, but that's anything but the case here. Awful does not necessarily mean adorable (or interesting), and The Wedding Date features some of the more brutally miscalculated so-icky-they're-supposed-to-be-endearing relatives since Spanglish, including a couple of oblivious airheads who instantaneously gain 60 IQ points and break character just in time for their big, character-defining speeches, and then go right back to being drooling idiots again. Messing and her fake boyfriend (Dermot Mulroney) fall for each other, of course, but the movie is so flabby and unconvincing that we wouldn't even have been aware of the falling sparks if the horribly manipulative soundtrack hadn't already announced it as a fait accompli. Also stars Holland Taylor.
WHITE NOISE (PG-13) Sounds like a supernatural thriller of the week, in which a dead person and a surviving spouse attempt to communicate with each other across the void. A long missing-in-action Michael Keaton stars, but don't expect too much. Also stars Deborah Unger. (Not Reviewed)
THE WOODSMAN (NR) There are no easy answers, no suggestions of some miraculous cure waiting in the wings for the guilt-ridden pedophile at the heart of The Woodsman - a brave artistic decision that's bound to frustrate even the most sophisticated viewers and possibly enrage others. In its mostly quiet, deliberately paced way, the movie simply observes its recently paroled subject, Walter (a slow-burning and almost painfully intense Kevin Bacon), struggling to overcome his nature as he begins the process of picking up the pieces of what might loosely be called his life. There are a handful of minor characters here and some non-essential sub-plots, but The Woodsman is at its best when nothing much is really happening, in a strict, story-driven sense - when the movie is simply recording Walter wrestling with his considerable demons. The Woodsman admirably refrains from passing judgment, but it's not beyond stretching metaphors to encourage us to see Walter as a kind of Holy/Unholy Trinity all wrapped up in one tightly wound bundle of nerves - he's rescuer, wolf and Red Riding Hood, a conflicted hero who has to slay his own big, bad self in order to free the innocent lamb waiting inside. As human goods go, Walter's about as damaged as they come, but the last thing The Woodsman wants is for us to see him as a demon; even if his nature repels us, the film makes it surprisingly easy to be moved by the efforts of this tortured and confused man to understand himself, by his desire for transformation. Also stars Kyra Sedgwick, Benjamin Bratt and Eve.
Reviewed entries by Lance Goldenberg unless otherwise noted.