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Director: Liam Lynch. With Jack Black, Kyle Gass, Tim Robbins, Ben Stiller. (93 min.)
Jack Black is wildly talented and I bow to no one in my admiration for his performance – that's right, performance – in "The School of Rock." He's a real actor. But his choice of material leaves a lot to be desired. I can understand his wanting to make "King Kong," but "Nacho Libre" was a dismal affair and "Tenacious D" isn't much better. Black and Kyle Gass started their acoustic/heavy metal rock music comedy act back in the late 1980s. Gold albums and HBO shorts followed, now this. Still, any movie featuring Jack Black with an appearance by Sasquatch is not a total loss, and, for those who care, we learn the origin of the group's name. The answer is not for the faint-hearted. Grade: C
Sex/Nudity: 9 scenes of innuendo/nudity. Violence: 6 scenes, including child abuse and bullying. Profanity: 144 instances, including 120 harsh. Drugs/Alcohol/Tobacco: 11 scenes, including drug use.
Director: Darren Aronofsky. With Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, Ellen Burstyn. (93 min.)
The only startling thing about "The Fountain" is the fact that it got made. You certainly can't fault Warner Brothers for playing it safe with this phantasmagoric head-trip flick. On the other hand, some risks should be avoided. Just because "The Fountain" is different doesn't mean it's good. In fact, it's borderline unwatchable, though this hasn't prevented the Oscar buzz from buzzing. Hugh Jackman, acting in three separate guises, plays a man trying to save his dying wife (Rachel Weisz, who in real life is married to Aronofsky). His journey takes him from 16th-century Spain, as a conquistador searching for the Fountain of Youth, to the 26th century as an astronaut. In between, he's a modern-day scientist. Far out, man. Grade: D+
Sex/Nudity: 2 scenes; 1 with innuendo; 1 with implied sex. Violence: 7 scenes, including fights, torture, and graphic self-flagellation. Profanity: 5 instances, including 1 harsh. Drugs/Alcohol/Tobacco: 1 drinking scene.
Director: Martin Campbell. With Daniel Craig, Judi Dench, Mads Mikkelsen, Eva Green. (144 min.)
"Casino Royale" unveils Craig as the new James Bond, and, except for Sean Connery, he's the best. The new film, based on Ian Fleming's first 007 book, gets back to basics. Although the novel has been updated, it's still about how Bond debuted as Bond. Craig makes you aware of something that the Bond series, in its pursuit of steamy sex and cartoon action, quickly lost sight of: 007 is a killer. That's what he's licensed to do. Further evidence of a paradigm shift: Bond falls in love with the Bond Girl (Green). Bond's first mission pits him against Le Chiffre (Mikkelsen), banker to the world's terrorists. By bringing "Casino Royale" into the age of global terrorism, director Campbell risks turning the Bond franchise into a real-world fright show instead of an escape hatch for our action fantasies. But in the end, it's still Bond, James Bond. Grade: B+
Sex/Nudity: 9 instances, including 5 with innuendo and 3 scenes of implied sex. Violence: 22 instances, including torture and explosions. Profanity: 13 mild expressions. Drugs/Alcohol/Tobacco: 10 scenes with drinking.