This Week at the Movies

Upcoming Releases

BECOMING JANE (PG) A very Miramaxian-sounding mish-mash of period-drama fact and fiction, zeroing in on a young Jane Austen (Anne Hathaway) becoming involved in a romantic encounter that shapes the books she'll eventually write and the writer she'll eventually become. Also stars James McAvoy, Julie Walters, James Cromwell, Maggie Smith and Jjoe Anderson. Opens Aug. 3 at local theaters. (Not Reviewed)

HOT ROD (PG-13) Saturday Night Live comedian-du-jour/performance artist/digital filmmaker Andy Samberg stars as a klutzy amateur stuntman who needs to raise big bucks fast to pay for a heart transplant for his disapproving father. In case you were wondering, it's a comedy. Also stars Ian McShane, Isla Fisher, Jorma Taccone and Bill Hader. Opens Aug. 3 at local theaters. (Not Reviewed)

UNDERDOG (PG) Yet another vintage Saturday morning cartoon comes wagging its tail all the way to the big screen. Everyone's favorite talking, super-powered beagle protects truth, justice and a really cute cocker spaniel, with Jason Lee providing the canine hero's voice — a casting coup reeking of pomo irony and undoubtedly dreamed up by the same geniuses who put Bill Murray and Garfield together. Also stars Patrick Warburton, Amy Adams, Peter Dinklage and Jim Belushi. Opens Aug. 3 at local theaters. (Not Reviewed)


1408 (PG-13) Paranormal investigator and confirmed skeptic Mike Enslin (John Cusack) meets his match when he checks in the titular room at a Manhattan hotel and finds all hell literally breaking loose. Based on a short story by Stephen King, 1408 is a welcome change from the Saw/Hostel splatterfests currently in vogue, but the film's approach isn't exactly old-school psychological-horror either. Director Mikael Hafstrom throws a steady stream of somewhat incongruous elements at the wall hoping something will stick, and while there's plenty of eerie atmosphere and surreal visions here, there are also lots of cheap tricks, with the equivalent of somebody jumping out of a closet and yelling "Boo!" every few minutes. Cusack is on screen nearly every moment here, and he's quite good, but the film is a mixed bag — for better or worse, a spot-on translation of King's compulsively watchable and eminently disposable style. Also stars Samuel L. Jackson and Mary McCormack. 3 stars

EAGLE VS. SHARK (R) Lily and Jarrod (Loren Horsley and Jemain Clement), the aging uber-geeks around whom Eagle vs. Shark revolves, are both are easily pushing 30 (the movie never bothers to pin down their ages), but everything about them reeks of junior high school, a stage of life these emotionally stunted nerds seem doomed to forever repeat. Imagine Napoleon Dynamite a decade older, but none the wiser, and you begin to get the picture. No, actually that's the whole picture here — from the deliberately static Napoleon Dynamite-esque set-ups and camerawork, to the general sense of mundane absurdity, to the characters' all-pervasive awkwardness and inability to express themselves. Eagle vs. Shark works overtime dishing up its forced brand of whimsy — bouncy pop ballads play incessantly, and cute claymation sequences provide segues between scenes — but the overall sense imparted by the movie is of watching a retread, and writer-director Taika Waititi can never seem to decide whether he wants to mock his characters or make them endearing. Also stars Brian Sergent, Craig Hall and Joel Tobeck. 2 stars

EVAN ALMIGHTY (PG-13) A sequel to Bruce Almighty minus Jim Carrey, in which Steve Carell goes all Noah-esque when God (Morgan Freeman) tells him to build an ark. Also stars Lauren Graham, Wanda Sykes, John Goodman and Steve Oedekerk. (Not Reviewed)

EVENING (PG-13) A chick flick with a serious pedigree, Evening offers up Vanessa Redgrave as an aging, ailing matriarch whose deathbed dreams revolve around a balmy weekend many decades past with her first great love. As flesh and consciousness slip into a place of pure memory (which is where the movie mostly occurs), Redgrave relates her tale to her grown daughters (Toni Collette and real-life Redgrave offspring Natasha Richardson), but mostly to herself. Claire Danes plays Redgrave's younger self (and though they look nothing alike, both women have the commanding presences to make this a good casting choice), who finds romance at a friend's wedding nearly a century ago. The object of Redgrave/Danes' affection is Patrick Wilson (who performed a similar function recently in Little Children), but then again, it seems like just about everybody is in love with this golden boy — from the soon-to-be-bride (Mamie Gummer) to her possibly-gay brother (Hugh Dancy). The entire movie basically just becomes a waiting game for the sparks to fly, which they eventually do (although not in particularly spectacular or even interesting fashion). There's plenty of estrogen-laced star-power here, and the performances are uniformly solid (with one truly remarkable scene between Redgrave and Meryl Streep that's alone worth the admission price), but the material is nothing special. Also stars Glenn Close, Mamie Gummer and Eileen Atkins. 2.5 stars

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