Originally created 01/22/06

At the Movies: capsule reviews of new films



Capsule reviews of films opening this week:

"Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World" - A self-indulgent, toothless and meandering satire, the film essentially consists of Albert Brooks being himself on cue - that is, neurotically grousing - as he travels to India and Pakistan on a government mission. The title suggests that the movie couldn't be more relevant. And to be fair, it is a clever premise. "What makes you laugh?" writer-director-star Brooks asks strangers over and over as Maya (Sheetal Sheth), his enthusiastic yet comically challenged assistant, takes notes by his side. But he never comes up with an answer, and it almost seems as if that was never his intention anyway, even though he's saddled with crafting a 500-page report of his findings. Brooks has said he was inspired to make this movie after seeing how the world had changed post-Sept. 11 and wondering what role humor still played in it. The few political or religious elements he adds to the film feel cursory and tossed-in, though. PG-13 for drug content and brief strong language. 98 min. One and a half stars out of four.

- Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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"Underworld Evolution" - If "Underworld" wanted to be "The Matrix," then "Underworld Evolution" wants to be "The Matrix Reloaded." Picking up right where the 2003 original (for lack of a better word) left off, this sequel features the same green-gray color scheme, the same metallic tinge and the same self-serious characters over-emoting while running around in black leather dusters, trying to destroy each other. Also back are Kate Beckinsale as Selene, the hottest vampire, like, ever - even hotter than George Hamilton in "Love at First Bite" - Scott Speedman as the vampire-werewolf hybrid Michael, and Len Wiseman, directing them with all the subtlety of a stake to the heart. The centuries-old feud between vampires and werewolves (or "lycans" as they're called here) builds to a deafening crescendo of automatic gunfire, explosions, snarling creatures and gnashing of teeth - and that's even before a helicopter crashes. R for pervasive strong violence and gore, some sexuality/nudity and language. 105 min. One star out of four.

- Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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"Why We Fight" - The title seeks an answer to a question that is all too timely. But as Eugene Jarecki shows in his documentary with often sobering insight, such a discussion would have been relevant at any time over the past half-century. His theory springs from President Eisenhower's 1961 farewell speech, which included the phrase "military-industrial complex." That phrase, and the film as a whole, suggest that war happens not for ideological reasons but for economic ones: War benefits certain corporate interests, regardless of the enemy or the political affiliation of the president in office. It's an intriguing concept, and as Jarecki moves from current and former military officers to Eisenhower's offspring to a father who lost his son on Sept. 11, his film unfolds as a calmer, more thoughtful version of Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11." That same approach, though, too often renders the documentary dry and didactic. PG-13 for disturbing war images and brief language. 99 min. Two and a half stars out of four.

- Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic