Movie Guide

New in Theaters
End of the Spear (PG-13)

Director: Jim Hanon. With Louie Leonardo, Chad Allen, Chase Ellison. (111 min.)

In 1956, five American missionaries landed a small plane in the unchartered bends of the Amazon River in an attempt to befriend the reclusive Waodani tribe. Within days the party was brutally slain. This extraordinary true story of atonement and forgiveness traces the spiritual evolution of Mincayani, one of the leaders of the massacre, and that of his people when the wives of those missionaries bravely venture into the Ecuadorean rain forest to preach the gospel. Director Jim Hanon's companion piece to "Beyond the Gates of Splendor," his documentary about the same story, is filmed with the handsomeness of a National Geographic magazine, but the overbearing score feels intrusive in such a pristine setting. The drama's occasional maudlin notes, too, seem at odds with an otherwise naturalistic tone. Though the final steps in Mincayani's awakening are crudely sketched, the film's conclusion will stir even the nondevout. Grade: B+
- Stephen Humphries

How to Eat Your Watermelon in White Company (And Enjoy It) (Unrated)

Director: Joe Angio. With Spike Lee, Mario Van Peebles. (85 min.)

Recommended: Oscars: 10 family films the Academy loved

Melvin Van Peebles gets the idolatrous treatment in this documentary by first-time director Joe Angio that traces his subject's career as San Francisco cable-car conductor, rap pioneer, filmmaker, Broadway producer, stockbroker, and all-around womanizer. Van Peebles is best known for his 1971 movie about a renegade pimp in the South, which he wrote, directed, starred in, wrote the music for, and edited. Angio credits that film with ushering in the so-called blaxploitation movie cycle, but is that really something to champion? Grade: B- (Showing at Film Forum in New York)
- Peter Rainer

Why We Fight (PG-13)

Director: Eugene Jarecki. With John McCain, William Kristol, Gore Vidal. (98 min.)

The title of Eugene Jarecki's documentary "Why We Fight" is ironic. During World War II, Frank Capra made a series of highly patriotic films with the same title celebrating the valor of the Allied mission. Jarecki has an altogether different agenda: He wants to show us how the military-industrial complex, a term coined by President Eisenhower in his farewell speech, has taken charge of American foreign policy and turned the government into a cabal of profiteers. In addition to the usual pontificators like Gore Vidal, whose world weariness has assumed Olympian proportions, the director provides interviews with such right-wing counterparts as Richard Perle and William Kristol. Nobody is allowed much time to develop an argument. Grade: B
- P.R.

("Underworld: Evolution," starring Kate Beckinsale, Bill Nighy, and Derek Jacobi, was not screened for critics.)

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