Drumline. Charles Stone III. Like the similar, funnier Bring It On, Drumline is intent on proving that marching-band members are genuine athletes. Fair enough: The boot-camp-style physical training they go through onscreen will come as an eye-opener to some. Also similar to its cinematic cheerleader predecessor is the notion that at this school, no one cares about the football team; it's the marching band that goes to state contests, but even the band's been on a losing streak lately. The triumph of long shots over adversity is a popular theme, and as a hook it's serviceable. The problem is that sooner or later, you're going to have to watch -- and listen to -- many scenes of a teen brass band performing renditions of soul songs. The "hero" is an inner-city kid in an Atlanta college out to save the band program, but he's so cocky and unlikable for most of the movie that he doesn't make a great case to non-band fans. If you were ever in marching band, you'll love this; if not, stay far away. Opens Friday, December 13, at multiple locations. (LYT)
El Crimen del Padre Amaro. Carlos Carrera. Opens Friday, December 13, at the Plaza Frontenac. Reviewed this issue.
The Grey Zone. This exceedingly graphic Holocaust drama concerns the Auschwitz Sonderkommando, a special squad of Jewish prisoners who, in exchange for better food and a few extra months of life, escorted their fellow Jews into the gas chambers, then cremated their corpses. It was a pact made with the devil. Actor Tim Blake Nelson wrote and directed this harrowing fact-based story (from his own play) which concerns the efforts of several Kommando members to save one young girl, as if somehow this will erase their complicity in the deaths of thousands of others. Nelson has directed his actors -- including David Arquette, Steve Buscemi and Daniel Benzali (no, this isn't a joke) -- to speak in David Mamet-like cadence, all short, choppy sentences and staccato rhythms. It's a terrible mistake! The film highlights the worst in human nature but also raises important moral questions, forcing viewers to question what they might have done in similar circumstances. Russell Lee Fine's camera work is exceptional. He shows us what hell must look like. Opens Friday, December 13, at the Plaza Frontenac. (JO)
The Hot Chick. Tom Brady. Rob Schneider's latest look-at-me-I'm-so-cute comedy features the star bumbling around half-clad in Christina Aguilera's Goodwill donations. He plays a revolting petty thief who magically swaps bodies with a petulant high-school cheerleader (Rachel McAdams), sparking roughly a bazillion gags about how funny it is to have a penis. To counterbalance, there's exactly one fizzling gag about having to use tampons, but who knows -- maybe first-time director Tom Brady (who co-scripted both this and The Animal with Schneider) is saving that laff-riot for the sequel. Zany little Schneider has a way with the gestures and 'tude of ignorant teendom, but his apparent loathing of "girl-isms" overshadows the humor, transforming the rather unfunny movie into a public therapy session. A mind of overcooked pasta and a stomach of iron may get you through it, but it really is worth considering how desperately you need cheap chuckles while executive producer Adam Sandler and his favorite charity case laugh all the way to the bank. Opens Friday, December 13, at multiple locations. (GW)
Maid in Manhattan. Wayne Wang. Opens Friday, December 13, at multiple locations. Reviewed this issue.
Star Trek: Nemesis. Stuart Baird. The Enterprise is sent to the planet Romulus, where a new praetor, Shinzon, appears to want to negotiate peace with the Federation. But his real goal -- surprise, surprise -- is the destruction of Earth. Opens Friday, December 13, at multiple locations. NR