About a Boy (PG-13) It's a long way from American Pie to this compact little charmer about the redemption of a sexual predator, but that's exactly the journey taken by writer-directors Paul and Chris Weitz. About a Boy is based on a 1998 book by popular Brit novelist Nick Hornby (High Fidelity) and boasts a clever, snappy script co-written by Peter Hedges. The best thing about the film, though, is Hugh Grant, whose performance as a shallow skirt-chaser avoids most of the actor's trademark ticks and flutters, and manages to be both winningly narcissistic and sweetly self-deprecating. The core of the film is about the bond that forms between Grant's character and the young boy he's using as a prop to seduce single moms, but the movie is usually smart enough to avoid tugging too hard on our collective heartstrings. Also stars Toni Collette, Rachel Weisz and Nicholas Hoult.
Bad Company (PG-13) More a failed genetic experiment than an actual motion picture, Bad Company is a pathetically clumsy attempt to graft not just two completely different genres, but two actors who should never have appeared in the same film. The wisp of a plot of this lazily scripted sub-generic spy movie — something about terrorists attempting to detonate a nuclear weapon in the U.S. — is really just an excuse to allow Anthony Hopkins and Chris Rock to share screen time. Everyone is saddled with dialogue so cringe-worthy that even Hopkins can barely make it sound classy, and most of the actors are playing stereotypes or outright cartoons (Peter Stormare, as a Russian heavy, is particularly embarrassing). Rock can be very funny in his way (although infrequently here), but he appears ill-at-ease on screen and seems incapable of even carrying the weight of the relatively undemanding dramatic dimensions of his role in Bad Company. The movie gets better toward the end, when the middling comedy and forced star interactions take a back seat to a series of relatively exciting action sequences, but, as is often the case with projects like this, it's too little too late. Also stars Gabriel Macht and John Slattery.
Blade II (R) Wesley Snipes returns as Marvel Comics' hybrid human-vampire super-hero in a sequel that's decidedly scarier — and gorier — than the original. The story, while not exactly elaborate, boasts an interesting enough premise: Blade enters into an uneasy alliance with his arch foes in order to eliminate a deadly new mutant strain of uber-vampires.
The Cat's Meow (PG-13) This semi-successful comeback project for director Peter Bogdanovich (Paper Moon, The Last Picture Show) is loosely based on actual events that took place late in 1924. The film is half-serious and half-humorous as it goes about the business of positing what might have happened during a curious weekend cruise aboard a yacht owned by William Randolph Hearst — a cruise in which one of the guests mysteriously died.
The Bourne Identity (PG-13) Circling around a theme from one of his recent movies, Matt Damon pulls a Talented Mr. Ripley here as a guy attempting to invent an identity for himself. The twist is that Damon's Bourne character doesn't know who he is; he's an amnesiac who also just happens to be a world-class fighter, linguist, escape artist — in fact, he pretty much possesses all the skills of a top-notch spy/sleuth/assassin. Complicating matters is the fact that, even as he tries to reclaim his memory, Damon's being hunted by the ultimate bad guys who appear to be his old bosses — our old pals, the CIA. Franka Potente revisits one of her past roles here too, running just as hard and fast as she did in Run Lola Run, although this time as a sidekick to Damon. Bourne Identity is basically an action movie, but it's an overly murky one that lacks a real sense of urgency or purpose; the film sometimes seems like it would rather be an art movie and unfolds in a way that often feels downright lugubrious, while, in odd contrast, the style is fashionably agitated and easily distracted. Also stars Chris Cooper and Brian Cox as a couple of very good baddies. Opens June 14 at local theaters.
Changing Lanes (R) Ben Affleck and Samuel L. Jackson star as two guys who literally crash into each other in a fender bender that escalates into a strange vendetta. The film is more complex and nuanced than we might imagine in a big-budget film. The only real problem with the lean and edgy story is the slightly flabby treatment given to it by director Roger Michell. Also stars Toni Collette, Sydney Pollack, William Hurt and Amanda Peet.
Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood (PG-13) Written and directed by Callie Khouri (Thelma and Louise), produced by Bonnie Bruckheimer (Beaches) and adapted from a couple of Rebecca Wells novels much cherished by a sizable, almost exclusively female audience, Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood is a consummate chick flick, but not a particularly good movie. The essence of this energetic but overlong, rambling film has to do with a daughter's love-hate relationship with her mother — and, as with so many films that attempt to offer up what amounts to the lighter side of familial dysfunction, Ya-Ya can't quite seem to decide how it really feels about its subject. The movie spends the better part of two hours alternately skewering and romanticizing its central character — a self-centered, substance-abusing mother played as a young woman by Ashley Judd and as an aging matron by Ellen Burstyn — and then resolves all the complicated issues between the woman and her daughter in a final rush of unrepentant mush. What keeps the movie afloat are its appealing performances, particularly from Maggie Smith and Fionnula Flanagan — a Brit and an Irish actress, respectively, offering up pitch-perfect deep South accents, and filling their eccentric, larger-than-life roles right up to the brim. Also stars Sandra Bullock.