Selected mini-reviews, rated on a system of 0 to 4 stars, by Rick Groen, Liam Lacey, Kate Taylor and Stephen Cole. Full reviews appeared on the dates indicated.
When Bartleby Gaines (Justin Long) is rejected by every college he applied to, he and his friends construct a website for an imaginary university to fool their crabby parents. Soon, hundreds of kids show up at the phantom hideout, forcing Bartleby to create his own school, a slacker paradise featuring courses such as "Doing Nothing 101." While clearly taking cues from Animal House and other kegger comedies, Accepted fails to make the grade by playing it maddeningly safe. PG (Aug. 18). -- S.C.
Bon Cop Bad Cop ***
This bilingual cop buddy movie stars Colm Feore as an Upper Canada College aesthete teaming up with a hothead Montreal cop (Patrick Huard, who also co-wrote the screenplay) for the investigation of a hockey murder that took place at the Quebec-Ontario boundary. As with all buddy movies, Bon Cop Bad Cop succeeds on the strength of the leads' rapport, and the French-English odd couple is fun together without ever being cute. 14A (Aug. 18) -- S.C.
Brothers of the Head **½
In this pseudo documentary based on a sci-fi tale about Siamese twin brothers plucked from isolation to become punk rockers, directors Keith Fulton and Louis Pepe use concert footage, backstage brawling and staged interviews to lovingly recreate the fading glamour and burgeoning anger of the British music scene in the 1970s. Real-life twins Harry and Luke Treadaway touchingly play the conjoined brothers, but the question remains what all the clever post-modern layering of the film's format actually reveals about their predicament. 14A (Aug. 18) -- K.T.
Clerks II **
In the dozen years since Kevin Smith's generation-marking indie hit about New Jersey buddies, Dante (Brian O'Halloran) and Randall (Jeff Anderson), the two guys have apparently made no progress in their lives. More disappointingly, Smith doesn't seem to have found much new to say either, except that this time it's in colour. Now Dante and Randall are working at Mooby's, a cow-themed fast-food joint. Along with the raunchy humour and smirky cameos (Ben Affleck! Jason Lee!) there's a romantic triangle, as Dante has to choose between his controlling fiancée (Jennifer Schwalbach Smith) who offers a new job, house and chance to get out of New Jersey, or his sexy, salty boss (Rosario Dawson). Oh, the dilemma. 14A (July 21) -- L.L.
Conversations with Other Women ***
Ever since Abel Gance took on Napoleon, directors have used the split-screen technique, but seldom to meaningful effect. Here's the exception -- for once, the device goes beyond gimmickry to perfectly reflect this battle of the sexes and its two warring characters. Played with sub-textual nuance by Helena Bonham Carter and Aaron Eckhart, the Man meets the Woman at a Manhattan wedding reception, and what follows is a seductive dance in dialogue where the steps escalate from flirtation to consummation, but where you're never exactly sure who's leading whom -- at least until the final post-coital twirl. 14A (Aug. 11) -- R.G.
The Descent ***
It begins as a distaff nod to Deliverance, with six women venturing to deepest Appalachia to test their skills against nature's rugged offerings -- this time, into a cave for some serious spelunking. British director Neil Marshall evokes a taut mood of claustrophobic menace, and so fearsome are the cave's natural hazards that you find yourself almost lamenting the second-act turn into horror. In these dank surroundings, the supernatural feels redundant. Still, for those who like their scares served straight up with no ironic chaser, The Descent is a tasty cup of torment. 18A (Aug. 4) -- R.G.
The Illusionist **
For a film meant to float on a gossamer veil of mystery, The Illusionist falls -- or rather flops -- with quite the heavy thud. Set in Vienna circa 1900, with Edward Norton as the title wand-waver and Paul Giamatti as his skeptical debunker, it's an intended piece of magic that plays like a ponderous slab of melodrama, sleight-of-hand gone ham-handed. In the process, a very good cast is buried under the weight of a script whose only trick is a dirty one: it makes acting talent disappear. PG (Aug. 18) -- R.G.
Snakes on a Plane **½
The first Internet joke ever made into a movie, Snakes on a Plane is just ridiculous and depraved enough to excite a cult following among high campers who are eager to enlist in a movie that gets one over on Hollywood. FBI agent Neville Flynn (Samuel L. Jackson) accompanies a witness (Nathan Phillips) to a mob hit from Hawaii to L.A. and is then faced with a jungle-load of poisonous snakes the syndicate boss has slipped onto their plane. The first third of the movie is clunky and rushed. But the remainder of the film provides enough cattle-prod shocks and yucks -- and Jackson's famous epithet -- to keep you howling for the remainder of the flight. 14A (Aug. 18) -- S.C.
Talladega Nights: The Ballad
of Ricky Bobby **½
As they look for laughs among the grease and grits of the NASCAR circuit, the actors are having a lot more fun than the audience. Tripling as co-writer, producer and star, Will Ferrell has assembled a willing cast, presented them with a shoestring for a plot, then encouraged the whole gang to improvise a bunch of scenic knots. Of course, since knots are not a movie, the predictable result is sketchy sketch comedy, all inoffensively balanced on the blunt edge of satire. Some scenes work well enough, others fall dead flat, but everybody's having a damn good time -- sometimes, even us. PG (Aug. 4) -- R.G.
World Trade Center **½
Completely gone are the clouds of conspiracy and the mud of politics and the storm of edits that have typically signalled Oliver Stone's grappling with the dark side of the Manichean equation. Instead, Stone confines his focus to a couple of heroes-turned-victims (Nicolas Cage and Michael Pena) trapped under the tower's collapsed rubble. But after a gripping stage-setter, the movie, like its protagonists, comes to a kinetic halt, wedged between a narrative rock and an emotional hard place. Ultimately, Stone has made a conventional disaster picture that allows his simple dialectical mind a moment of ease. This time, evil is a given, too obvious to show as anything more than a plane's fleeting shadow, hovering above a valley of death where goodness and mercy abound. If the political fallout from the tragedy of 9/11 has assumed tragic dimensions of its own, a myth of pure heroism -- blithely recycled here -- has hardened around the hours of the day itself. As for the years of its lingering aftermath, the myth is mute, as silent as Stone. PG (Aug. 9) -- R.G.
You, Me and Dupree **½
Summer movie-going means a string of formula comedies about slacker boy-men, starring Jack Black, Adam Sandler, Will Ferrell and of course that shaggy dog, Owen Wilson, who stars in this movie as Dupree, the nightmare houseguest of a newlywed couple, Carl and Molly (Matt Dillon and Kate Hudson). Dupree interrupts their sex, stinks up their bathroom and nearly burns down their house. All this is fairly threadbare, but Wilson's paradoxical innocent-and-sleazy persona has an edge of wit and playfulness that's winning and occasionally inspired.PG (July 14) -- L.L.