Movie Guide

By , Film critic of The Christian Science Monitor

New in theaters
Friends With Money (R)

Director: Nicole Holofcener. With Joan Cusack, Frances McDormand, Catherine Keener, Jennifer Aniston. (88 min.)

The cast is terrific, the movie isn't. Cusack, McDormand, Keener, and Aniston star as longtime friends who are trying to balance out issues of money and happiness. Aniston is the unmarried, low-earning member of the quartet, and the concern she sparks in the others leads to a lot of rambling laughing-through-tears discussions and soggy seriocomic escapades. It all plays like the pilot for a series that wasn't picked up. Grade: C

Take the Lead (PG-13)

Director: Liz Friedlander. With Antonio Banderas, Ray Liotta. (108 min.)

Recommended: Default

Antonio Banderas stars as the real-life Pierre Dulaine, the Manhattan dance teacher who brought ballroom dancing to New York's inner-city schools. Director Liz Friedlander is a veteran music-video and commercial director, and it shows. Every scene in her movie is a "sell." Capitalizing on the documentary "Mad Hot Ballroom," "Take the Lead" mixes classical dance with hip-hop gyrations and features perhaps the most scrubbed set of delinquents since "West Side Story." Banderas cuts a romantic figure, but the film is pure hokum. Grade: C

(Neither "The Benchwarmers" nor "Phat Girlz" were screened for critics.)

Still in Release
Ice Age: The Meltdown (PG)

Director: Carlos Saldanha. With the voices of Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary, Queen Latifah. (90 min.)

Sequels are usually made for no other reason than commercial expediency, but I remember thinking when I saw the first "Ice Age" that I wouldn't mind spending more time with Sid the sloth (Leguizamo), Manny the woolly mammoth (Romano), Diego the saber-toothed tiger (Leary), and especially the prehistoric squirrel, Scrat. In "Ice Age: The Meltdown," the welcomed warming of the climate has resulted in an unfortunate consequence: A glacial dam holding back oceans of water is threatening to break and flood the valley. The overall look of this second film is cooler and crisper than the first. Grade: B+

Inside Man (R)

Director: Spike Lee. With Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Jodie Foster. (129 min.)

Even with these stars and this director, do we really need another bank robbery heist flick? Lee pulls off a nice switcheroo at the end, but there's nothing terribly dynamic about the film. Sidney Lumet's "Dog Day Afternoon," which only looks better with the years, took its cue from the energy of New York. "Inside Man" takes its cue mostly from other movies. Grade: B-

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