, Nick Nolte
SUMMER'S FUNNIEST FILMS
From the film's uproarious opening moments, featuring trailers for faux films like Scorcher VI ("Here we go again, again") and a pretentious monks-in-love drama called Satan's Alley, it's clear that director and cowriter Ben Stiller is primed to skewer Hollywood like a shish kebab. That's exactly what happens in the outrageously ribald Tropic Thunder
, about a Vietnam War film whose production has spiraled out of control. The fed-up director (Steve Coogan) drops his cast—including a washed-up action star (Stiller), a drug-addicted flatulence comic (Black) and an über-committed Aussie who surgically darkened his skin to play a black soldier (Downey)—into the heart of the jungle for a Blair Witch-style shoot. But soon they're trading gunfire with an actual drug cartel.
's gifted ensemble makes the most of Stiller's acerbic script. In his audacious performance, Downey (right) dodges a host of racial land mines to pull off sublime satire. But not even he can top scene-stealing studio head Cruise (unrecognizable under heavy makeup) in the funniest—and filthiest—role of his career.
Seth Rogen, James Franco, Danny McBride
is a goofy treat—particularly if you, uh, identify with its pothead leads, process server Dale (Rogen, who also cowrote) and his dealer Saul (Franco). When a high-as-usual Dale witnesses a drug lord (Gary Cole) offing his competitor, he and Saul go on the run—packing munchies galore of course. Franco makes Saul the funniest screen stoner since Brad Pitt
's barely-there turn in 1993's True Romance
(he dreamily frets that smoking a particularly potent strain of weed would be "like killing a unicorn"). He and McBride, playing Saul's dim-bulb boss, nab all the choice lines (better luck next time, Rogen). Pineapple
is a novel twist on the stoner comedy—for once, their drug-induced paranoia is actually justified—but my interest waned as it shifted into a violent shoot-'em-up. I'll take Franco's hazy observations over a giant fireball any day.
Amber Tamblyn, America Ferrera, Blake Lively, Alexis Bledel
Just like the lucky jeans, the Sisterhood
quartet swap back and forth, this sequel hasn't changed its fit one bit. So if you enjoyed the 2005 original—I found it obvious but innocuous—you'll feel the same way about part 2. Growing apart as they finish their first year of college, the lifelong pals (all four actresses remain delightful) scatter for the summer. At a Turkish archaeological dig (Lively), a Vermont drama festival (Ferrera), a Manhattan video store (Tamblyn) and a Rhode Island design school (Bledel), they struggle with variations on the same dilemma: Who am I, and more importantly, should I commit to the perfect guy? But then all the subplots are abruptly dropped for a romp in Greece that will leave anyone who saw Mamma Mia!
with a serious case of déjà vu.
The Saturday Night Live
actor, 30, appears in Tropic Thunder
as an assistant to Tom Cruise
(who is hidden under a bald wig and fat suit) and also has a cameo in Pineapple Express
WERE YOU NERVOUS ABOUT WORKING WITH TOM?
I was more excited—less scared—because I'm such a fan. He had a lot to do with the way his character looks. It was fascinating.
YOU PLAY HIS ASSISTANT. WHICH CELEB WOULD YOU WANT TO WORK FOR IN REAL LIFE?
I'd be Jack Black's assistant because he's the most laid-back dude ever, and I wouldn't have to do that much work. It's the best job: I would sit on my ass and do nothing.
WHAT WAS THE PINEAPPLE
So much of my stuff in that is everyone shouting out ideas. I made movies when I was in high school, and it was the same thing. We just didn't know to call it improv. It was just that we were too lazy to write a script!
In this subdued and haunting drama, Homicide: Life on the Street
's Melissa Leo (right) astounds as a trailer mom warily smuggling immigrants from Canada into the U.S. (R)
Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr., Jack Black,