Rock Star
Mark Wahlberg, Jennifer Aniston, Dominic West, Timothy Spall

No, you can't always get what you want, but Chris Cole (Wahlberg) certainly does in the breezily enjoyable Rock Star. Starting as a heavy-metal wannabe, he gets the chance to live his macho fantasy as a leather-clad lead singer strutting across arena stages. This, however, is a cautionary tale about rock's excesses, and Cole eventually discovers that his dreams of stardom were more satisfying in front of the mirror than on a real stage.

Energetically directed by Stephen Herek (Holy Man), Star is a plain tale told simply, but with a winning sense of humor. It's the mid-'80s, and Cole lives with his parents in working-class Pittsburgh, fixing copying machines by day and singing with a "tribute" band that performs note-for-note copies of songs by Steel Dragon (loosely based on Judas Priest). "Isn't the rock-star fantasy something you're supposed to grow out of when you're 14?" needles Cole's brother, a cop. But Cole, aided by Emily (Aniston), his longtime girlfriend and manager, perseveres and eventually gets a call from Dragon to replace the band's departing vocalist. Soon he's wallowing in the rock and roll life: partying hard, trashing hotel rooms and fending off (sometimes) enthusiastic groupies. Marginalized, humiliated and bored, Emily takes a hike, telling him, "I'm not leaving you, but I am leaving this."

This Is Spinal Tap still reigns as the ultimate heavy-metal send-up, but Star has its moments, particularly in showing Dragon's cynical commodi-fication of Cole. Star requires sitting through multiple mediocre, ersatz heavy-metal tunes (including one written by ex-Van Halen lead singer Sammy Hagar), and its characters too often speak in dialogue that feels underlined in yellow Hi-Liter. But it is as innocuously likable as bubble-gum pop. Wahlberg, making up for his zombie turn in Planet of the Apes, ably shows his Everyman's limitations and failings without condescending to the character. Aniston demonstrates a tart way with a line, making the most of what is actually a supporting role.(R)
Bottom Line: Fun gig

Two Can Play That Game
Vivica A. Fox, Morris Chestnut, Anthony Anderson, Bobby Brown

A shapely, stylish advertising exec addresses viewers directly: "Seems like every woman I know is having man trouble," says Shante Smith (Fox). She doesn't count herself among them. Rather, Smith is counseling her gal-pals on how to fix their love lives—"Kick him to the curb" is her favorite piece of advice—until she catches her own attorney beau (Chestnut) stepping out on her.

Two Can Play That Game is a predictable comedy about the war between the sexes. Both sides are under the impression that there's an unwritten set of rules, most of 'em harsh, that must be adhered to when dealing with an errant flame. "When your man messes up, no matter how small it is, you have to punish him," Smith pronounces. This trifling movie exists merely as a showcase for the fetching Fox (Soul Food). Whether crooking her finger in a man's direction, dancing up a storm with her girlfriends or simply sashaying down a hallway, she has oomph to spare. Chestnut simply replays a similar character he created in last spring's The Brothers. Bobby Brown, in a small part as one of the other women's steadies, barely registers other than as being toothy. (R)
Bottom Line: Consider forfeiting

A Matter of Taste
Bernard Giraudeau, Jean-Pierre Lorit, Florence Thomassin, Charles Berling

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Millionaires are allowed their eccentricities, but tycoon Frederic Delamont's are excessive. Upon taking a liking to Nicolas (Lorit), a waiter in an elegant Paris restaurant, Delamont hires the younger man for a hefty salary, telling him, "I want you to be my taster." The job indeed involves tasting the fat cat's food, but it also soon comes to mean absorbing and assuming the older man's taste preferences in clothes, homes and women.

We know from the opening scenes of this intriguing, French-language film that Nicolas will end up killing Delamont. But the draw to this taut psychological thriller is discovering what drives him to murder, and the nature of the perverse game that the older man is playing. Director Bernard Rapp (Limited Edition) expertly delineates the shifting balance of power between the two, as Delamont and Nicolas both unravel upon realizing that neither can become the other.(Not rated)

Bottom Line: Full of flavor