The Ex. (PG-13) When career slacker Tom (Zach Braff) gets fired from his latest job, he packs up his wife Sofia (Amanda Peet) and their newborn kid and trades life in the Big Apple for the calming pleasures of small-town Ohio Sherwood Anderson country. There, he takes up his sad-sack father-in-law (Charles Grodin) on the offer of an "assistant associate creative" position in a new-agey advertising company, only to find himself under the thumb of Sofia's paraplegic former high school classmate (and possible ex-flame), Chip (Jason Bateman), a seemingly benevolent cripple who's really Machiavelli on wheels. That's an inspired starting place for a farce, and director Jesse Peretz (working from a sometimes tasteless, often insidiously funny script by first-time screenwriters David Guion and Michael Handelman) has a knack for casting the kind of bright comic talent Amy Adams, Donal Logue, Mia Farrow, and Paul Rudd round out the ensemble who more or less just have to show up. The movie is Bateman's to steal, however, and he does early and often, whether reenacting an old high school cheerleading routine or trying to seduce Sofia by showing her the money shot from one of his favorite movies: Coming Home. (Scott Foundas) KEN, RON, STCH
Georgia Rule. (R) Reviewed in this issue. (Ella Taylor) ARN, CPP, DP, GL, J14, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, TS12
Salon. (PG-13) "What makes a beauty shop so great is that it really is a microcosm of society," intones an earnest voiceover at the beginning of The Salon. Indeed. The denizens of this eponymous inner-city beauty shop, helmed by Vivica A. Fox, are a panoply of multicultural stereotypes, from a fat black woman who scarfs doughnuts, to a flamboyant (but secretly insecure!) gay man, to a Chinese manicurist whose mispronunciation of the word "election" is just hilarious. Most cringe-inducing of all is the token white chick who insists on initiating a discussion about spanking, "or whoopin', as you guys call it." Or maybe it's the "hos" who are sporadically chased across the screen by their pimp. (Where's Al Sharpton's decency parade when you need it?) OK, no, it's definitely the bug-eyed homeless guy who prances around outside the salon, cackling wildly and mumbling in gibberish. You get the idea. Only a heady cocktail of apathy and boredom could explain so many gratuitous girlfriends and sistas. Writer-director Mark Brown, he of the Barbershop franchise, also has an inexplicable fondness for close-ups that cut off the tops of the actors' heads unfortunate in a movie about hair. (Julia Wallace) J14, RON, STCL
28 Weeks Later. (R) Reviewed in this issue. (Nathan Lee) ARN, CGX, DP, EG, GL, J14, KEN, MR, OF, RON, STCH, STCL, TV, TS12
Waitress. (PG-13) Impossible though it is to watch Adrienne Shelly's posthumously released comedy without thinking of the actress-writer-director's gruesome murder last November (the indie stalwart was killed by a construction worker in her New York office), it's unclear what kind of notices Waitress would have received had she not died such an appalling death. In the long run, Shelly will probably be remembered more as Hal Hartley's beautiful muse in Trust and The Unbelievable Truth than as the filmmaker who, while pregnant with her daughter, dreamed up this amiable confection about maternal ambivalence and female liberation. Shelly has the kind of seraphic face part baby, part siren that you can't imagine turning 40. Yet here she is, unselfishly sidelined, along with a game Cheryl Hines, as a dimbulb-waitress sidekick to the main attraction: Keri Russell as a reluctantly pregnant piemaker wavering between an abusive husband (a very good Jeremy Sisto) and her married gynecologist (Nathan Fillion) while taking sage counsel from a grumpy old geezer with soft innards, played by none other than Andy Griffith. Washed in a honeyed 1950s glow, Waitress has a mildly puckish way with outlandish baked goods and pert dialogue, but the movie is memorable largely for the contrast between its innocent sweetness and the savagery of its maker's premature death. (Taylor) PF
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