Outtakes

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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

FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER (PG-13) As superhero sagas go, this fledgling franchise has yet to prove its bankability, but that could all change with this new installment, which seems hand-designed for the fanboy crowd (those young-ish male louts who rule the box office). Rise of the Silver Surfer promises to be a geek's paradise, with some of Marvel Comics' most popular creations featured, including the titular silvery one and a beyond-good-and-evil nemesis who devours entire planets simply to exist. Oh yeah, and did we mention Jessica Alba? Also stars Ioan Gruffudd, Chris Evans, Michael Chiklis, Julian McMahon and Kerry Washington. (Not Reviewed)

HAIRSPRAY (PG) John Waters' mildly subversive 1988 film Hairspray became a popular Broadway musical in 2002, and the project now comes full-circle through the looking glass, transformed into the big, bouncy and thoroughly nonthreatening all-singing, all-dancing spectacle currently playing at a multiplex near you. Hairspray takes place in 1962 in Waters' pleasantly seedy home turf of Baltimore, a time and place where the emerging momentum of the youth culture (embodied in the film by big hair and rock 'n' roll) is heading for a showdown with the repressive mores of the old guard, particularly the pervasive racial segregation of the time. Our hero is pudgy, teenaged misfit Tracy Turnblad (newcomer Nikki Blonsky), and Hairspray has good, semi-wholesome fun charting her almost accidental progress from chubby underachiever to unlikely rebel with a cause. The movie looks good, full of groovy colors and some engagingly plotted dance sequences, but the music is an uninspired pastiche of early '60s pop and show tunes, and Hairspray often spells out its messages with far too little humor or subtlety. Also stars John Travolta, Michelle Pfeiffer, Christopher Walken, Amanda Bynes, James Marsden, Queen Latifah, Elijah Kelley, Brittany Snow and Zac Efron. 3 stars

HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX (PG-13) The fifth installment in J.K. Rowling's series about the resilient young magician is considerably darker than its predecessors. Harry (played by Daniel Radcliff), his friends, Dumbledore and the Order of the Phoenix — a secret assembly of dark arts-fighting witches and wizards — are having trouble convincing the magic-practicing public that Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has returned to wreak havoc. It doesn't help that the Ministry of Magic not only denies Voldemort's return but is determined to discredit Harry by any means possible. While filmmaker David Yates (best known for TV dramas like Girl in the Café) gets the dark, gritty ambiance of the story right and reveals Harry's discontent in the most general sense, he fails to deliver the charming magical quality that the other four films possessed and the visually spectacular moments for which the Harry Potter franchise is so well known. British star Imelda Staunton plays loathsome Ministry Agent Dolores Umbridge with great skill and Helena Bonham Carter's cameo as psychotic Azkaban prison escapee Bellatrix Lestrange is quite memorable, but the plot has been oversimplified to such an extent that formerly fleshed-out characters come off as two-dimensional caricatures of themselves. Also stars Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Michael Gambon and Gary Oldman. 2.5 stars —Leilani Polk

KNOCKED UP (R) This is the new one from Judd Apatow, writer-director of the painfully funny The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and although I'm not quite ready to go out on a limb and suggest that Apatow is the Thinking Person's Bobby and Peter Farrelly, Knocked Up feels a lot like what the Farrelly's movies might have been like had their films continued to get better after There's Something About Mary. The unlikely event fueling all the wackiness here is an unwanted pregnancy, the result of a drunken one-night-stand involving dumpy, unemployed pothead Ben (Seth Rogan) and go-getter Jessica Simpson look-alike Alison (Katherine Hegel), classically mismatched characters that a smart script and naturalistic performances help us believe could actually wind up together. Be warned, though. Knocked Up has a split personality, and although the humor here is mainly character-driven and quite clever, it can also be crude enough to make Kevin Smith blush. Also stars Paul Rudd, Leslie Mann and Jonah Hill. 4 stars

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