Chicken Little (G, 81 minutes) * 1/2 This embarrassingly bad animated feature indicates the sky is falling on Walt Disney Pictures! A story about the quest for a father's love, it's structured in segments to allow commercial breaks. After a Where-to-begin? beginning there's a frenetic sequence of Chicken Little (voiced by Zach Braff) claiming to have been hit by falling sky and becoming a laughingstock. A year later Chicken proves himself on the baseball field to keep his father (Garry Marshall) from being ashamed of him. The real story begins around the halfway point. Something else falls on Chicken Little, and he has a close encounter with the spaceship it fell from. In a borrowing from E.T. a young alien is left behind, and Chicken and his father have to hook him back up with his parents to keep them from destroying Earth. Frequent movie references and often-annoying '70s and '80s songs on the soundtrack are aimed at parents who have to sit through this crap with their kids. The computer-animated characters look like toys and the backgrounds like children's book drawings of theme park settings, so the movie's not even good visually. Supporting characters include Turkey Lurkey, Foxy Loxy and Goosey Loosey. Chicken Little is sucky-wucky.
Doom (R) (NYS) "If it breathes, kill it." Monsters on Mars emerge from human genome research, but can they get past another monster, namely The Rock? Karl Urban and Rosamund Pike co-star as director Andrzej Bartkowiak (Romeo Must Die, Cradle 2 the Grave) tries to take vidgame-based movies to the next level. The setting is the Olduvai Research Station, where the Rapid Response Tactical Squad is fighting to contain the monsters that have been unleashed. Can they do it without your help this time? Will you want to see the movie if you can't shoot anything?
Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story (PG, 105 minutes) ** 1/2 Some genius, looking for a hit movie to copy, decided the only thing Seabiscuit lacked was a kid. So he consulted Google, the lazy screenwriter's best friend, for stories involving children and lame horses that went on to win races. For the first 90 minutes, Dreamer is a soap opera for kids, a heavy and heavy-handed family drama. Then comes the Big Race in hopes that all's well that ends well. Ben Crane (Kurt Russell) owns a Kentucky horse farm without horses. He lives there with wife, Lilly (Elisabeth Shue), and their daughter, Cale (Dakota Fanning). Ben's father (Kris Kristofferson; he and Russell are extremely well cast as father and son) lives next door, but they don't talk much. Ben is bitter about his dreams falling through. He hates having to train horses for a soulless millionaire (David Morse) who races them for an Arab billionaire. When Soñador (Spanish for Dreamer) breaks a leg, Ben quits his job and takes her home. The leg heals, and she winds up running, an 80-1 shot, in the Breeders' Cup Classic. In the "racehorse Rocky" genre Dreamer may be a little more family-friendly than Seabiscuit, but it's not half as good a movie.
Elizabethtown (PG-13, 123 minutes) ** Cameron Crowe did autobiography well in Almost Famous, but here he's showing vacation pictures to a captive audience. His poorly structured screenplay gives us chunks and minimovies instead of a cohesive, flowing narrative. There's a desperate search for a new catchphrase, with possible successors to "Show me the money" and "You had me from hello" thrown at the wall in hopes one will stick. Drew (Orlando Bloom) plays scapegoat after Alec Baldwin's shoe company launches the footwear equivalent of the Edsel and New Coke. Then Drew's father dies and he goes to Kentucky for the body. En route he's chatted up by Claire (Kirsten Dunst), a flight attendant who volunteers her phone number. He calls, and they talk all night in the film's best sequence. After Susan Sarandon does a solo act at the memorial service, a big finale would make a great ending, but there's still the funeral and what plays like a virtual trailer for a better film about a road trip. Bloom is blandly likable, while Dunst's "Southern charm" is rarely Southern or charming. Claire describes Drew and herself as "substitute people," whatever that means. I spent much of Elizabethtown wishing I were watching a substitute movie instead.
Flightplan (PG-13, 88 minutes) ** A month ago a woman was trapped on a plane with a nutcase, in Red Eye. A year ago a woman was told her missing child never existed, in The Forgotten. Three years ago Jodie Foster protected her daughter from an intruder, in Panic Room. Combine the plots to make Flightplan, in which newly widowed Kyle (Foster) searches for her six-year-old daughter on a plane while everyone insists the girl was never there. You can usually trust Foster– and the characters she plays– but not in Flightplan. Kyle's proactive response to her daughter's disappearance makes her unsympathetic. When Air Marshal Peter Sarsgaard finally takes her into custody for endangering the flight, the other 425 passengers applaud. You can't blame them. Maybe Kyle's delusional, and maybe someone is plotting something, but the way she takes charge, she's never helpless for a moment. Flightplan is set on what looks like an airborne cruise ship: a huge, double-decker plane which Kyle's company made (she's a propulsion engineer), that's on a night flight from Berlin to New York. The event that makes the climax cathartic is neither justified nor wise, except by the most specious movie logic, the only kind Flightplan deals in.
The Fog (PG-13, 100 minutes) (NYS) The remake of John Carpenter's 1980 horror flick, memories of which are hazy, stars Tom Welling, Maggie Grace (will they be Lost in Smallville?), Rade Sherbedgia and Selma Blair as residents of Antonio Bay, a Northern California seaside town menaced by weather that's downright evil. It seems the ghosts of dead sailors are involved. That there are no advance screenings makes things even more murky and reduces chances that it will be any good from slim to slimmer. Consider this your warning foghorn.
Good Night, and Good Luck (PG, 93 minutes) *** "We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty.... We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home." That's not a modern-day criticism of the Patriot Act but the words of Edward R. Murrow, one of the last journalists America trusted, in 1954, condemning the tactics of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, whose anti-communist witch hunt ruined hundreds of lives and careers. Murrow (David Strathairn) believed, as some do today, that our civil liberties shouldn't be sacrificed in the interest of "security." The rest of the media were intimidated, but CBS backed Murrow in standing up to McCarthy until the rest of the country followed suit. Murrow's supportive support staff includes producer Fred Friendly (George Clooney) and Shirley (Patricia Clarkson) and Joe (Robert Downey Jr.), whose relationship is gradually revealed in the screenplay's silliest aspect. It's better when it sticks to journalism and politics. Clooney's second film as director is a brilliant docudrama shot in black-and-white (if only to facilitate the seamless insertion of archival footage), which perfectly captures the period. Good Night, and Good Luck provides a great blend of entertainment and information for those too young to remember the era and those old enough to have forgotten it. Hey, that's just about everybody!
A History of Violence (R, 96 minutes) *** Canadian David Cronenberg, who has put more violence on the screen than almost any American since Sam Peckinpah, examines America's fondness for violence in A History of Violence. Or is he just entertaining us? There's a classic movie quality to this re-imagined old Western about a gunslinger who's hung up his guns but has to get them out again when bad men threaten his peaceful life. Once he was Shane, now he's Tom Stall (Viggo Mortensen), who owns an Indiana diner but defends his home turf when he must. Mortensen and Ed Harris could be Kirk Douglas and Richard Widmark 40 years ago, directed by Alfred Hitchcock with his mix of suspense and humor. Maria Bello plays Tom's wife, who's proud when he becomes a hero but later wonders who she's married to. Their son, Jack (Ashton Holmes), is motivated to take on the school bully. The story, based on a graphic novel, takes many turns, but each leads to violence, often of the stomach-churning variety. Tom comforts his young daughter: "There's no such thing as monsters." He knows he's lying because he's got one inside of him, and we know he's lying because we've seen monsters in the movies.
In Her Shoes (PG-13, 130 minutes) *** Philadelphia becomes the City of Sisterly Love (not the Sapphic kind) in In Her Shoes, a refreshingly testosterone-free dramedy directed by Curtis Hanson and adapted by Susannah Grant from Jennifer Weiner's novel. The polar-opposite sisters are responsible (but plain) Rose (Toni Collette) and Maggie (Cameron Diaz), a semi-literate (but pretty), freeloading slut. They complete each other, as people say in movies like this. Rose takes Maggie in when no one else will, until Maggie commits an unpardonable sin and Rose evicts her. Maggie goes to Florida to visit their grandmother, Ella (Shirley MacLaine), in a "retirement community for active seniors." While Maggie grows up and develops self-esteem in Florida, Rose finds romance with Simon (Mark Feuerstein). Diaz shows again that, given a meaty role, she can do more than wiggle, giggle, and jiggle. Collette and MacLaine are their usual superb selves, but the three of them together can't convey enough Jewishness to order a sandwich in a deli, and they're surrounded by the most obviously Jewish supporting cast since Fiddler on the Roof. That point will bother some more than others. Otherwise, In Her Shoes is an overlong but well-crafted feel-good movie for most women and a few good men.
Jarhead (R, 123 minutes) *** Like Three Kings and Tigerland, Jarhead is a postmodern war movie. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as LCpl. Anthony Swofford, whose memoir was the basis for the screenplay. In 1989 the 20-year-old goes through U.S. Marines boot camp at Camp Pendleton. At his permanent station, Swoff's commanding officer, SSgt. Sykes (Jamie Foxx) assigns him to be a scout/sniper, partnered with his best buddy, Cpl. Alan Troy (Peter Sarsgaard). The men spend most of their time masturbating and waiting for Dear John letters from their wives and sweethearts back home, until Iraq invades Kuwait and they're shipped over to protect Saudi oil fields. They spend six months in the desert before the U.S. declares war, then there's a chance they'll go home without firing a shot. Jarhead has a slender storyline and few, if any, characters to care about. As good as the actors are, Swofford feels incomplete and Troy seems vaguely out of place. Few other enlisted men make enough of an impression to be recognizable in the closing credits. Director Sam Mendes creates some great moments, but the whole is less than the sum of its parts. Certainly Jarhead isn't in a league with his American Beauty and Road to Perdition.
The Legend of Zorro (PG, 131 minutes) ** 1/2 The Mask of Zorro was a wonderful surprise. Like the Indiana Jones movies, it made clichés from old Hollywood action movies and serials seem fresh again. The Legend of Zorro recycles clichés from The Mask of Zorro, and they don't seem nearly as fresh. It also strains for contemporary relevance, with Elena (Catherine Zeta-Jones) nagging frequently absent Alejandro (Antonio Banderas), "You're missing your son's entire life." She divorces him and takes up with Armand (Rufus Sewell), a French count who's bought a local winery. We know something's up, but it takes us an hour to find out what. Their son Joaquin (Adrian Alonso), nine, takes after his father, although neither of them realizes it. The Legend of Zorro is set in 1850, when California is voting on whether to become a state, and vicious thugs, tools of the rich, are trying to prevent it. When the people need him, Alejandro becomes Zorro, a 19th-century Batman, and fights evil. If director Martin Campbell and his stars are just going through the motions, they're still pretty impressive motions. The plentiful violence is kept– just barely– to a PG level. There's nothing wrong with The Legend of Zorro. There's nothing new either.
The Longest Yard (PG-13, 109 minutes) ** 1/2 This unnecessary remake of the all-time greatest prison football movie may not be better than the 1974 version, but it's bigger, blacker, louder, gayer, and slightly less violent. Adam Sandler isn't the most believable pro quarterback, even one who left the NFL in disgrace after throwing a game; but he doesn't have to play much football so he's OK. He's Paul Crewe, sent to a Texas penitentiary whose politically ambitious warden (James Cromwell) wants him to help the guards' football team win a championship. Paul assembles a team of prisoners for the guards to practice against, with the help of Caretaker (Chris Rock, who has more and better jokes than Sandler). The biggest and meanest come out to play when they realize they can hit back against the men who have brutalized them for years. Burt Reynolds plays it so straight that he brings the movie down on at least two occasions. Both teams play dirty, though not as dirty as in the R-rated original. The story worked before, and– without major changes– works again, almost as well. Director Peter Segal makes no serious fumbles, but the reasons for the remake were strictly financial (and egotistical, in Sandler's case), not artistic.
March of the Penguins (G, 80 minutes) *** You may never get a better opportunity to observe penguins for 80 minutes. As the great Morgan Freeman narrates, emperor penguins in Antarctica go through their annual cycle. After spending three summer months in the water, they emerge and walk inland to their breeding ground, where the scene resembles a formal singles bar. The "monogamous, sort of" penguins choose mates to whom they will be faithful for the rest of the year. The camera gets so close (we see how during the closing credits) it's almost a third partner in the birds' foreplay. There's no graphic mating footage, but perhaps it will be included in an un-rated DVD for fans of penguin porn. The eggs, laid in June, are transferred to the males for safekeeping while the females walk back to the sea to eat and bring back food for the chicks that hatch in their absence. Family reunions are brief because it's the fathers' turn to go for food. In December the families split up and head for the sea, where the youngsters will remain for four years while the adults repeat their migration next March. It seems inefficient, but it's worked for the penguins for thousands of years.
North Country (R, 126 minutes) *** Add New Zealand's Niki Caro (Whale Rider) to the list of foreign directors who have showed, in their American debuts, they "get" our country better than a lot of natives. As with Norma Rae, Silkwood, Erin Brockovich and other films about (usually real) women who changed the world as reluctant crusaders, North Country gives its star a showcase that should lead at least to an Oscar nomination. Battered Josey Aimes (Charlize Theron) takes her kids and leaves. She goes to work in a Northern Minnesota iron mine where the men, worried about more competition for fewer jobs, aren't happy about women in their workplace. They express their hostility through pranks and jokes that should be good-natured but aren't. When Josey reports them, the reprisals become even more vicious. She contacts attorney Bill White (Woody Harrelson), who has the brainstorm that if they make it a class action, it could be a precedent-setter and win him invaluable publicity. But they must persuade the other women, who'd rather have unpleasant jobs than none at all, to break ranks with the men... The eventual turning point may make the film seem formulaic, but it's cathartic and emotionally stirring, making Caro two for two.
Prime (PG-13, 105 minutes) ** 1/2 A bad Meryl Streep performance comes along less frequently than Halley's Comet. Get out your telescope. Trying to be broad and subtle at the same time, Streep strains her acting muscles as visibly as if she were doing heavy drama. Prime combines a romance and a comedy that don't fit together. The romance is sweet, natural, and often believable between Rafi (Uma Thurman), 37, and Dave (Bryan Greenberg), 23. It's hard to swallow the coincidence that Lisa (Streep), Rafi's therapist, is also Dave's mother, but harder to believe that when Lisa finds out she doesn't end the doctor-patient relationship on the spot. It drags a good romance down to the level of a bad comedy. Aside from Lisa's interference (the traditional Jewish mother doesn't want her son marrying outside the faith), Dave takes the blame for most of the couple's problems, as if director Ben Younger (Boiler Room) had a lot of guilt to get rid of in writing the screenplay. Nice bits of dialogue, good comic moments and Thurman and Greenberg are reason enough to see Prime if you're in the mood for a romantic movie. Just be prepared to be jolted out of the mood with alarming frequency.
The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio (PG-13, 99 minutes) ** 1/2 Julianne Moore returns to the 1950s (Far from Heaven, The Hours) in Jane Anderson's film, adapted from the memoir by Terry "Tuff" Ryan, one of the 10 children of Moore's character, Evelyn Ryan. In the 1950s, entering a contest often required skills, such as writing advertising slogans or jingles or short essays. Evelyn excels at "contesting," winning whatever the Ryans need. This is great for the family but hard on the ego of the nominal breadwinner, Kelly (Woody Harrelson). Having his wife provide what he can't is emasculating, and he spends most of his money on alcohol. (He's a mean drunk.) While Kelly's loathsome behavior is understandable, it's not excusable, but the '50s were stand-by-your-man time, and divorce is never an option for Evelyn, who does her best to preserve Kelly's illusion that he's supporting the family. She maintains a maddeningly positive outlook. It's a tough call whether to recommend The Prize Winner of Defiance, Ohio. It must be good to have evoked such a strong emotional response from me, but that doesn't mean I'd want to subject anyone else to it. If you're sensitive to women's issues be warned that The Prize Winner... is too true to be fun.
Proof (PG-13, 100 minutes) *** Gwyneth Paltrow, reteamed with her Shakespeare in Love director, John Madden, is gunning for another Oscar, this time without an accent. Adapted from David Auburn's play, Proof is about mathematics and mental illness and a woman who thinks she inherited both from her late father, Robert (Anthony Hopkins), whose mind started going around her age, 27. Catherine (Paltrow), who may also be a brilliant mathematician, looked after him for his last five years, including a relatively lucid year in the middle. Her older sister, Claire (Hope Davis), wants to move Catherine to New York to keep an eye on her. Hal (Jake Gyllenhaal), Robert's former student and Catherine's new lover, is going through the notebooks Robert filled in his last years. One contains a revolutionary mathematical proof, but it's not immediately clear whether it's Robert's work or Catherine's. The script hasn't completely escaped its stage origins; some jumping around between past, present and fantasy becomes confusing; and an intended climactic revelation won't surprise anyone. But this multifaceted drama is often moving and funny, and Paltrow and Davis are well matched as mismatched sisters. Catherine recalls first meeting Hal: "I thought you seemed not boring." That's how I felt about Proof.
Saw II (R, 93 minutes) *** At the beginning of Saw II, "Jigsaw" promises, "There will be blood." Well, duh, why else would all those people be watching the screen? Jigsaw, (John) (Tobin Bell) is more than just an executioner ex machina this time, but still sets up situations in which people will kill themselves or each other. The pre-title sequence illustrates his MO, with his prisoner forced to perform surgery on himself if he's to keep a "death mask" from snapping shut and killing him. ohn pulls Det. Eric Mathews (Donnie Wahlberg) into the game by trapping his teen son, Daniel (Erik Knudsen), in a house with seven other people, all breathing a deadly nerve agent that will kill them in two hours if they can't find the hidden antidotes. Eric locates John, who, dying of cancer, isn't bothered by threats of punishment. They watch on video monitors what's happening to Daniel and the other involuntary gamesters, including Amanda (Shawnee Smith), who claims to have survived a previous bout with Jigsaw; and Xavier (Franky G), a macho jerk who's definitely not a team player. One day the Saw series will wear out its welcome, but the second verse is as good as the first.
Separate Lies (R, 85 minutes) ** 1/2 Possibly the best scene of Separate Lies features dialogue paraphrased from the movie Cabaret as Anne Manning (Emily Watson) tells husband James (Tom Wilkinson) she's having an affair with wealthy ne'er-do-well Bill Bule (Rupert Everett). A link between Noel Coward and Jerry Springer, Separate Lies is closer to Coward, where people discuss their differences politely over a glass of sherry or cup of tea, than Springer, where they resolve things by screaming profanities and throwing punches at each other. Julian Fellowes, whose Gosford Park screenplay was overrated, adapted Separate Lies from a novel and makes his directorial debut with the film. It's not bad, but it's not great either. It starts promisingly with a man being thrown from his bicycle. We don't see how, but the shot has visceral impact. As we get to know the central characters, we learn how they were involved in the accident and its coverup. Once that mystery has been solved the film's suspense relies on two lesser questions: Will the police learn the truth and be able to prove it? and will the Mannings' marriage survive? Fellowes' characters become somewhat tedious, even though the solid performances of Wilkinson and Watson keep the film watchable.
Shopgirl (R, 107 minutes) ** 1/2 Mirabelle (Claire Danes) sells gloves at Saks. One pair she sells is delivered to her apartment with a dinner invitation. Well, a man who can drop $145 for gloves should be good for an awesome meal; and Ray Porter (Steve Martin) looks harmless, even though he's old enough to be her father's older brother. Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman) is weird, grungy and poor, but sweet. Mirabelle drops him for Ray, even though Ray tells her, "We should keep our options open." The options seem clear to Mirabelle. Jeremy can't give her anything but love; Ray can give her everything but love. If she were smart she would hold onto both, but Mirabelle does what most women would: she picks one man, hoping to change him. Ray has more money than God's accountant and knows how to please a woman but not how to commit to one. Mirabelle thinks he'll come to love her; he thinks he just loves to come and will use her for sex until one of them tires of the arrangement. Schwartzman handles most of the film's comedy. Adapting his own novella, Martin has tried to be more clever than funny but is ultimately not enough of either.
The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (PG, 120 minutes) *** Four fine young actresses inhabit the leading roles in the screen version of Ann Brashares' novel about 16-year-old lifelong friends spending their first summer apart. It's a four-gone conclusion that going their separate ways will help them grow as individuals. The story begins as they discover a pair of magical jeans that fits all four of them perfectly, even though they're very different shapes and sizes. They decide to share the jeans in weekly shifts. Bridget (Blake Lively) goes to soccer camp in Mexico. Carmen (America Ferrera) visits her neglectful father (Bradley Whitford) in South Carolina. Lena (Alexis Bledel) spends the summer with her grandparents on the Greek island of Santorini. Tibby (Amber Tamblyn), staying home in Bethesda, Maryland, picks up a disciple of sorts, one with a more positive outlook, in 12-year-old Bailey (Jenna Boyd, yet another fine young actress). Something good happens to each of them as they take giant steps toward becoming the women they're going to be, but not without some tears; if you have a problem with sentiment in movies, you're advised to see something else. Sisterhood should be enjoyed by anyone who is or ever was a teenage girl, even in a past life.
Stay (R, 99 minutes) ** Think there should be a sequel to The Sixth Sense called Non-Sense? Have I got a movie for you! Stay lets you know too quickly it won't make sense until it's over, if then. What happens in the meantime isn't worth the wait. Psychiatrist Sam Foster (Ewan McGregor) tries to help troubled college student Henry Letham (Ryan Gosling, emulating the Brando and Dean performances of the 1950s ineffectively), who correctly predicts a hailstorm on a sunny day, then announces his intent to kill himself at midnight Saturday, his 21st birthday. Sam lives with Lila (Naomi Watts), a former patient who attempted suicide, so he's especially responsive to such threats. The youth disappears, and Sam searches New York City for him, meeting his "dead" mother and his "dead" dog. Is Sam having a breakdown? Are he and Henry the same person? Is this all a dream? These are some of the possibilities that may occur to you as you try to figure it all out. Director Marc Forster is more concerned with style than substance, so Stay looks good, with plenty of glass and chrome and tricky, computer-assisted transitions between scenes. The movie is pretentious without much to be pretentious about.
Two for the Money (R, 123 minutes) ** 1/2 Al Pacino has spent his middle age playing mentors and father figures. The latest recipient of his quasi-paternal guidance is Matthew McConaughey. The setting is the $200 billion-a-year world of sports gambling. It's illegal in 49 states, but Walter Abrams (Pacino) just advises gamblers for a piece of their winnings. That's legal. Former footballer Brandon Lang (McConaughey) can pick winners, and Walter recruits him. Brandon quickly develops an ambiguous mutual attraction with Toni (Rene Russo), Walter's wife. Walter decides immediately to build his empire around Brandon; having a bad heart, he's planning to leave it to him. He gives Brandon a makeover, from hick to slick, and his predictions go up to 80, then 100 percent, before starting the inevitable downturn. A reformed gambler, Walter hands out business cards at Gamblers Anonymous meetings for a cheap, out-of-character laugh. His self-destructive streak is such that any luck at all on his part is next to miraculous. So is Toni's loyalty when he uses her as a stake in his game. Gambling can be a great topic for a movie, but this one, as the title promises, is about the money, not the game. Its primary audience should be accountants.
Waiting (R, 93 minutes) (NYS) Ryan Reynolds, who's been buff in his last couple pictures but would look like an actor only if he stood next to Freddie Prinze Jr., stars as one of the horny guys and gals serving in a chain restaurant, in a loud, crude comedy. Reynolds works with Justin Long, sleeps with Anna Faris (they'll do it again next month in Just Friends) and others. He begins to question his dead-end life when he learns a former high school classmate is making good money as an electrical engineer, so this may classify as a coming-of-age tale. Rob McKittrick wrote and directed.
Wallace & Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (G, 85 minutes) *** The eccentric, cheese-loving inventor and his faithful dog from Nick Park's clay-animated shorts A Close Shave and The Wrong Trousers have made a feature that should expand their fan base exponentially. It's British but not too British and funny but not– okay, maybe it is too funny. Lovers of 1930s horror classics will appreciate the homage in this tongue-in-cheeky tale of the consequences of tampering with nature. Gromit is the silent partner who gets Wallace (voice: Peter Sallis) out of one jam after another. As Anti-Pesto, a humane pest control company, they catch rabbits who threaten their neighbors' gardens and pen them in their own cellar, feeding them well. Wallace designs a mind control device to make rabbits stop craving veggies, but creates a monster, specifically a were-rabbit that grows huge, hairy, and hungry under the moon. Wallace is smitten with Lady Tottington (Helena Bonham Carter), whose suitor Victor (Ralph Fiennes) is a hunter who deals with rabbits the old-fashioned way. It's the week of the annual giant vegetable competition, when everyone's obsessed with their prize plants. Curse of the Were-Rabbit isn't quite in a league with Chicken Run, but it's leagues ahead of most of 2005's animated features.
The Weather Man (R, 101 minutes) *** David Spritz (Nicolas Cage) forecasts the weather on Chicago television, but his personal life is stormy. The way his mind works explains why his life doesn't. When he's recognized in public, it's not clear who Dave likes less, the people who ask for autographs or those who throw fast food at him. Dave may have a shot at going national, which will mean moving to New York and quadrupling his income. But his estranged wife (Hope Davis), with whom he still hopes to reconcile, has a boyfriend. Their 15-year-old son (Nicholas Hoult) has been in rehab, and a counselor (Gil Bellows) is maintaining an unhealthy interest in his progress. Their plus-sized 12-year-old daughter (Gemmenne de la Peña) has picked up the nickname "Cameltoe" because of the way her too-tight clothing fits. Dave's Pulitzer Prize-winning father (Michael Caine) loves his son even if he doesn't understand or appreciate him, but then Dave learns he has a terminal illness. Dave waits to hear from New York, his father waits to die, and everything else keeps getting worse. Cage isn't afraid to make Dave unlikable, but you won't hate him either, because there's at least a spritz of Dave in all of us.