Opening Friday, June 22, is the next film that is no doubt destined to top the weekend box office: Evan Almighty . A sort of sequel to 2003's Bruce Almighty , Morgan Freeman is back as God, but Jim Carrey has been replaced by Steve Carell as God's lackey -- uh, Earthly representative, or whatever. Carell is Evan Baxter, a character from Bruce , who has moved from Buffalo to a D.C. suburb, become a Congressman, and is tapped by God to build an ark in preparation for the coming flood. The story probably sounds a little familiar. Rated PG for some mild rude humor and some peril. 110 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek, Minor and the Fortuna.
On the serious movie front, A Mighty Heart features Angelina Jolie as Mariane Pearl, widow of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, who was kidnapped and subsequently killed while working in Pakistan in 2002. Directed by Michael Winterbottom, who is usually associated with more offbeat material such as A Cock and Bull Story , the film is based on Mariane Pearl's memoir, which detailed the fruitless five-week search for Pearl and his kidnappers. Dan Futterman ( Judging Amy ) plays Daniel Pearl. Rated R for language. 110 m. At the Broadway.
Based on the story by Stephen King, 1408 is a horror thriller starring John Cusack as a paranormal researcher who checks into Room 1408 at the Dolphin Hotel, a room reputed to be haunted. Let's see: skeptical scientist versus the supernatural ... what's your guess? Directed by Mikael Håfström ( Derailed ) of Sweden, the film co-stars Samuel L. Jackson and Mary McCormack ( The West Wing ). Rated PG-13 for thematic material including disturbing sequences of violence and terror, frightening images and language. 104 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and the Fortuna.
FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER: The first adaptation of the Marvel Comics story seemed trivial and already tired when it was released in 2005 and, sadly, nothing has improved with The Rise of the Silver Surfer . Even for a comics adaptation, the acting seems sub-standard despite the presence of some normally good people, such as Ioan Gruffudd, who made a great Horatio Hornblower in the TV series. He is much less interesting as "Mr. Fantastic" Reed Richards. Jessica Alba seems to have gone the lip augmentation route rather than have to think about such tedious things as creating a role. To some degree, the narrative restrictions may be strangling this series: Each story has to create situations where the Four can show off their various powers and the villain(s) must be strong enough to create a challenge for the group's abilities. Unfortunately, despite the threatened destruction of Earth in Surfer , other possibly more complex issues are glossed over in favor of CGI, and even the dysfunctional aspects of the Four as a family are used primarily for lame comic purposes. And despite his intellectual prowess, Richards never gets to engage in any sort of mental battles; he simply needs to outwit the dark forces in terms of physics, which he always does after a series of failures. Unsurprisingly, Sue Storm (Alba) gets publicly (if coyly) naked yet again, just as she did in the first film. Surfer begins and ends with wedding ceremonies; in between, the four must figure out how to save the world from a voracious planet-devourer known as Galactus whose representative and homing device is the Silver Surfer (voiced by Laurence Fishburne). The story also shoehorns in Dr. Doom (played by Julian McMahon) who, along with Andre Braugher as General Hager, phones in a "performance." The climactic showdown, presumably the raison d'etre of the film, is a big letdown. The most interesting character in the film is the intergalactic Silver Surfer, who actually has a human motivation for his actions. He looks a bit like an Oscar statuette. Dream on. The film will do well at the box office, but from my perspective it's for fanatic F4 fans only. Rated PG for scenes of action violence, some mild language, innuendo and lip collagen. 102 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and the Fortuna.
NANCY DREW: Sitting in a theatre waiting for the screening of Nancy Drew surrounded by a group of young girls and some mothers (presumably), I was convinced I was in the wrong place. When the film actually began, nothing initially changed my feeling of unease. The story looked as though it was going to be a feature-length riff on "Can a sincere, serious, plucky, bright retro-dressing teen sleuth from the idyllic all-white small town of River Heights solve a mystery in big, bad, fashion-conscious, multi-ethnic Hollywood?" Well, of course she can, and much as she does with the Mean Girls of the Hollywood high school she attends, Nancy grew on me. Emma Roberts, who is just 16 herself, seemed at first too bland for the independent Nancy who, in the series, runs the household while bringing down the bad guys and dealing with lovelorn Ned in her spare time. But as the film progressed, I grew to admire Roberts' steadfast and consistent portrayal of Nancy, particularly when the story allowed Nancy to exhibit her famous pluckiness. I also found the situation interesting. Displaced from River Heights to Hollywood because of her father's (Tate Donovan) business interests, Nancy discovers that the house they are renting belonged to a movie star whose death-by-drowning 25 years earlier has never been satisfactorily explained. Despite promising her father that she would do no sleuthing (too dangerous), Nancy goes to work in the midst of distractions provided by those mean high school girls, the attentions of the diminutive Corky (Josh Flitter), little brother to one of the girls, ghostly appearances in her temporary home and the unexpected arrival of Ned (Max Thieriot). While the film updates the story, it does give the viewer touches of the historical Nancy in her dress (from her mother's patterns), stills that look a bit like the original book illustrations, and the small convertible Nancy drives. Nancy may be a little too sincere (her fashion becomes known in Hollywood as "the New Sincerity"), Corky a tad too irritating and the villain a bit too obvious, but in the end this was a mostly entertaining film. Does it appeal to its target audience? I caught up with a young girl and her mother in the lobby who had just seen the film and asked the daughter what she thought. I got a noncommittal "It was okay." But, then, she was responding to a stranger and a codger to boot. Rated PG for mild violence, thematic elements and brief language. 109 m. At The Movies, Mill Creek and the Fortuna.
THE VALET:*The Valet* is a delectable French soufflé; it is enjoyable while experiencing it but it will be forgotten a day later. The film is a descendant of the classic French bedroom farce, as practiced by Georges Feydeau for example, but is also a barbed satire about the wealthy. The film begins on a seemingly discordant note as a Chuck Berry song plays under the opening credits, but the song actually sets up the film's style nicely. It seems that billionaire businessman Pierre Levasseur (the wonderful Daniel Auteuil) has been having an affair with drop-dead gorgeous super-model Elena Simonsen (Alice Taglioni) for two years, but now it's show time: Divorce your wife or it's all over. Unluckily for Pierre, his wife Christine (an icily excellent Kristen Scott Thomas) owns 60 percent of their corporation. Meanwhile, the valet of the title, François Pignon (Gad Elmaleh), has just had his offer of marriage rejected by putative girlfriend Émilie (Virginie Ledoyen), who is more concerned with her bookstore and her debts. In a farcical sort of coincidence, Pierre's sleazebag lawyer Mr. Foix (Richard Berry) hires François to pretend to live with Elena as her boyfriend to throw off suspicion on Pierre. How will all of this work out? Well, it's a comedy, so the joy is in watching the cascading events, the unlikely but humorous narrative turns, the fine acting by the whole cast and the poetic justice meted out by the end of the story. The Valet is an enjoyable way to spend an hour and a half, particularly when your stomach is full of oysters. Rated PG-13 for sexual content and language. 95 m. At the Broadway.
HOSTEL 2. They kill your brain first. At the Broadway.
KNOCKED UP. In J. Apatow's latest comedy of manners, no-account schlub makes gorgeous TV star pregnant. They marry. At The Movies, the Minor, Mill Creek and the Fortuna.
MR. BROOKS. K. Costner is a serial killer; W. Hurt is his imaginary friend; Demi Moore is the hot cop who pursues them. They all live in Portland. At the Broadway.
OCEAN'S THIRTEEN: G. Clooney, B. Pitt, M. Damon, A. Pacino, D. Cheadle, E. Gould, B. Mac, E. Izzard, E. Barkin, etc., etc. Rated PG-13. 132 m. At Mill Creek, Broadway and the Minor.
PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S END . The action moves to Singapore where Davy Jones (Nighy) and Capt. Jack (Depp) continue their battle, with the profession of piracy in danger of extinction. Rated PG-13. 178 m. At the Broadway, Mill Creek and the Fortuna.
SHREK THE THIRD. When the lovable ogre is crowned King he tries to find someone more suitable for the role. Voices by M. Myers, C. Diaz, E. Murphy, A. Banderas. Rated PG. 102 m. At The Movies and Mill Creek.
SPIDER-MAN 3. The web-slinger (T. Maguire) tussles with baddies and wrestles internal demons. Rated PG-13. 150 m. At The Movies.
SURF'S UP. Penguins surf, kids delight. Animated blockbuster. At The Movies, Mill Creek, the Minor and the Fortuna.
WAITRESS. Pregnant working woman with abusive husband seeks a way out. Rated PG-13. 117 m. At the Broadway.