Weekend Preview March 23: Six New Releases!

It's probably a coincidence that so many movies are opening wide on a single day, but it kinda feels like a "you and what army?" situation as Hollywood tries to break the hold that 300 has on moviegoers. I've seen five of these six wide releases, and it's hard to see how any of them will smash the Spartans.

Not that there aren't some worthy films here. The Last Mimzy [my review] is my favorite new movie this week -- which surprises me as much as it probably surprises you. It's a charming family film that will delight kids and won't bore parents either, because it doesn't shy away from tough issues or scary moments -- it respects the intelligence of kids and adults, a rare thing in family films. (Only kids will get a kick out of TMNT, though. This is a pointless revisiting of the cartoon fad that I thought had died in the '80s. God, I was bored.)

We've seen the likes of Pride [my review] a thousand times before, but it managed to be moving anyway -- I admit I had to wipe away a few tears as the underdog, underprivileged kids and their coach, triumphed in the end. What sport are they playing? Does it matter?

Shooter gets a marginal pass from me because I find Mark Wahlberg so appealing a screen presence, and because there are some interesting undercurrents at work in the film that suggest that we're finally getting fed up, as a society, with the endemic corruption of our leaders. Alas, the problem is not so easy to solve as Wahlberg finds it: firepower and car chases look cool on the screen but usually get far messier in real ife. And Reign Over Me [my review] gets a marginal thumbs-down from me, which disappoints me greatly: I really wanted to like this one. But Adam Sandler couldn't sell me on the whole grieving-widower thing -- he's just one-note morose. Don Cheadle is always good, though, even if he is stuck with some pretty standard stuff to work with here.

Our Not Screened For Critics film this week is The Hills Have Eyes 2, which is, I think, a particularly bad sign for this one. I actually quite liked last year's Hills Have Eyes, found it quite a bit above the mark in a genre that has sunk to terrible depths of badness in recent years -- it actually had a little bit of something meaningful to say about how we create the monsters that scare us the most. All indications are that such attempts at thoughtfulness amidst the carnage have been abandoned.

In indie/foreign news: The Namesake and The Host are adding a few theaters each, so you may finally find one or both of these two worthy films in your neighborhood this weekend.

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MaryAnn Johanson

author of The Totally Geeky Guide to The Princess Bride

minder of FlickFilosopher.com