The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
SCI-FI
Martin Freeman, Mos Def, Sam Rockwell, Zooey Deschanel
[STARS 1.5]

If Monty Python had ever blasted off into space, this offbeat comedy might have resulted. Only it would have been funnier. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which began life as a British radio series created by writer Douglas Adams in 1978 (followed by multiple novels and a BBC TV show), is the kind of whimsical film you keep wanting to like more and laugh at louder. But its sluggish pacing and barely coherent plot make it a tough slog enlivened by the rare bright spot (love those singing dolphins).

English everyman Arthur Dent (Freeman) wakes one morning to learn that his best pal (Def) is an alien and that Earth is about to be blown to smithereens to make way for an intergalactic freeway. In short order the bathrobe-wearing Dent hitches a ride on a spaceship, falls in love with the only other remaining Earthling (the always endearing Deschanel) and finds the meaning of life. While the movie may appeal to ardent fans of earlier incarnations of Hitchhiker, newcomers to the cult will be left scratching their heads at this muddled mess. (PG)

ACTION

Ice Cube, Samuel L. Jackson
[STARS 2]

Feeling the need to see a car commercial? Turn off your television and scoot on down to the multiplex to catch this latest boys-and-their-noisy-toys extravaganza, in which a fleet of Fords, including a souped-up F-150 truck, a Mustang and a Cobra Concept car, play nearly as prominent a role as a glowering Cube.

XXX: State of the Union is a sequel, sort of, to 2002's XXX, a film in which Vin Diesel was supposed to establish himself as the James Bond of the MTV generation. Well, Diesel's character is gone (dead, we learn) and the curmudgeonly Cube is his replacement as Darius Stone, a special ops agent who's in prison after being court-martialed. When a secret government bunker is attacked, Augustus Gibbons (Jackson), the M of this series, recruits Stone to serve as the new Agent XXX. "Sounds like a porno star," Stone mutters.

The plot, some hooey about a possible coup to overthrow the President (Peter Strauss), is mostly an excuse for some well-executed chases, explosions, firepower and comic asides by Stone just before he offs someone. Call it eye and ear candy for guys. (PG-13)

DRAMA

Jae Hee, Lee Seung-yeon

CRITIC'S CHOICE
[STARS 3]

America has no lock on alienated youth. The nearly silent hero of this fascinating Korean love story is a well-educated young man (Jae) who zips around urban neighborhoods on his motorcycle, breaking into unoccupied houses and apartments. Once inside, he bathes, noshes, models the absent homeowner's clothes and takes photos of himself alongside their objets d'art. He never makes off with so much as a ballpoint pen, though. That is, until he steals the heart of a mistreated wife (Lee) when he breaks into her luxe house under the misimpression that it's empty.

Written and directed by Kim Ki-duk (Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...Spring), 3-Iron is by turns violent, comic, touching and spiritual—and always intriguing. This film, alongside last year's Spring, clearly marks Kim as a rising star among the busy pack of impressive new Korean moviemakers. (R)

Another Road Home [STARS 3]

A hopeful note on the conundrum that is Israeli-Palestinian relations is sounded in an emotionally rich documentary by Israeli-born Jewish filmmaker Danae Elon. She tracks down and befriends, in Paterson, N.J., the adult sons of the Arab man who served as her caretaker when she was growing up in Jerusalem. (Not rated)

King's Ransom [STARS 1]

A rancid comedy about a millionaire businessman (Anthony Anderson) who plots his own kidnapping. To borrow one of its own lines, the movie has been "dipped in stupid." (PG-13)

Ladies in Lavender [STARS 2]

Great Dames Judi Dench and Maggie Smith pair for an endearing, albeit slight, English drama about elderly sisters who aid a handsome Polish shipwreck survivor. (PG-13)

Meet the Fockers ($29.98)
Movie: [STARS 2.5]
Extras: [STARS 3]

While no comic masterpiece, this broad sequel to 2000's Meet the Parents gets a major lift from the first-time onscreen pairing of Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand as the overly demonstrative parents of Greg Focker (Ben Stiller).
Extras: Generous helpings of amusing deleted scenes and bloopers. (PG-13)

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events ($19.95)
Movie: [STARS 3]
Extras: [STARS 3.5]

Three orphans try to evade their evil guardian (Jim Carrey) in a solid film adaptation of the macabre kids' book series.
Extras: Fully loaded, with nifty behind-the-scenes looks (including Carrey's costume tests) and outtakes. (PG)

  • Contributors:
  • Leah Rozen.