"The Benchwarmers" Puerile, inane and filled with gross-out humor, "The Benchwarmers" is a comedy, ostensibly aimed at preteen nerds, that will only seem funny to children interested in picking boogers. Rob Schneider, David Spade and Jon Heder are three developmentally arrested adults who form a three-man baseball team to take on Little League teams. Jon Lovitz plays a nerd-turned-billionaire who finances the three goofballs after they rescue his son from a group of bullies. "The Benchwarmers" is an exploitation comedy that reeks of everything nauseating about underachievers, regardless of their age. (PG-13) 85 min. * Cole Smithey
"Inside Man" Since bankrupting his film production company with dreadful movies like "Bamboozled" and "She Hate Me," Spike Lee has been reduced to a Hollywood gun-for-hire, here creating a blasé and muddy suspense police drama. Clive Owen plays Dalton Russell, a bank-robbing mastermind who holds 50 New Yorkers hostage in an enormous downtown bank owned by a former Nazi profiteer (well played by Christopher Plummer). Denzel Washington plays a hostage negotiator assigned to resolve the crisis. Screenwriter Russell Gewirtz mistakenly emancipates much of the story's potential suspense by revealing the fate of Dalton's hostages in early flashback segments. However, it's Spike Lee who commits the film to utter mediocrity with ballad-tempo music, an equally dragging cadence from the actors and poor attempts at visual flourish. (R) 128 min. ** C.S.
"Kinky Boots" Wry Britishisms abound in this working-class rave-up story about a hesitant shoe factory heir who transforms his failing English Midlands factory into a maker of sexy fetish boots designed by a visionary cross-dressing nightclub performer (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Ejiofor is commanding in his performance, much like Tim Curry's famed cross-dressing singer role in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Unfortunately, the movie falls short of its obvious dramatic goals because of the shallow depths of its characters, and it's hamstrung by a limited script. (PG-13) 107 min. **I C.S.
"Mission: Impossible III" "Mission: Impossible III" is a perfect summer blockbuster movie, no irony intended. From its failed-experiment opening sequence to its sharp dialogue, exotic locations and pure spectacle, the high-test action picture brilliantly exploits a classic Hitchcockian MacGuffin. Tom Cruise excels like an all-star athlete in executing the bulk of the film's impressive stunts while surrounded by a stellar ensemble cast. Writer/director J.J. Abrams achieves something of a minor masterpiece with a postmodern sense of humor and hypnotic infatuation with maintaining multiple layers of emotional and physical suspense in nearly every scene. Fans of the original television series will appreciate Abrams' diligent attention to the series' trademark disguises, clever gadgets and essential self-destructing mission tape. (PG-13) 126 min. *** C.S.
"Poseidon From Wolfgang Petersen's majestic 360-degree pan of the enormous modern-day luxury cruise ship that will be capsized by a 150-foot tidal wave to his deliberately gloomy closing shot, "Poseidon" is a nerve-wracking thrill ride. All fears of the film being yet another abysmal Hollywood remake are waved aside as character traits are economically mapped out in the moments before the film's pivotal New Year's Eve disaster. A better-than-average script helps Petersen ("Das Boot") create the claustrophobic, debris-filled environment that a handful of characters try to escape. The extraordinary thing about the movie is its deductive ability to capture the duality of fleeing passengers, who are at times selfish and selfless. The film shows these are both qualities exhibited by anyone in a desperate situation. (PG-13) 100 min. **** C.S.
"R.V." Director Barry Sonnenfeld ("Men in Black") brings his keen eye for stylized visual comedy to this amusing Robin Williams vehicle about a man taking his family on a disaster-filled vacation. Under threat of losing his job, Bob (Williams) switches the destination from Hawaii to Colorado so that he can participate in a furtive pitch meeting with potential clients without losing his family's trust. Bob's oversized rented RV provides a cabinful of comic possibilities as the family encounters a glomming band of full-time RVers called the Gornickes. Williams hasn't been this funny in many moons, or movies. (PG) 102 min. *** C.S.
"Stick It" A message of competitive independence permeates debut director Jessica Bendinger's spunky teen drama/comedy about a headstrong gymnast-disguised-as-rebel who learns to embrace and make good of her talents. As the girls' gymnastics coach, Jeff Bridges gives a well-rounded performance that helps Bendinger (screenwriter on "Bring It On") create a feel-good movie bristling with sincerity. (PG-13) 105 min. ***> C.S.
"United 93" Many people who saw the A&E network's recent "Flight 93" must be wondering whether Paul Greengrass's "United 93" is different enough, and good enough, to warrant putting themselves through another painful retelling of that plane's agonizing story. There are, indeed, many inevitable similarities. But while the made-for-television film took the more obvious, sentimentalizing tack of focusing on the heart-rending phone calls of passengers to their families, Greengrass sticks resolutely to the men and women who had a direct hand in the unfolding tragedy. The result is a brilliant and harrowing document of human beings facing down unanticipated terrors with a steadfastness that is all the more moving for being completely believable. (R) 111 min. *****
"The Wild" Obvious plot similarities to Dreamworks' "Madagascar" aside, this is a far superior CG animated story about a group of New York zoo animals who go for an unexpected boat trip to an African jungle. Disney produced this story about Samson the Lion (voiced by Kiefer Sutherland), who has convinced his lion cub son and the rest of the zoo animals of his mythic experiences in the wild. The king of the zoo wears his mighty roar like a badge of honor that his little cub can barely hope to emulate with his slight whimper of a howl. When the forlorn cub steals away from the zoo in a shipping container, Samson and his best friend, a squirrel named Benny (Jim Belushi), are joined by a koala bear, a giraffe and a goofy anaconda to rescue him from the wilds of Africa. (G) 85 min. *** C.S.
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