The Man. (PG-13) This isn't so much a movie as a parody of one, the kind of thing people in movies about the movie business pitch as outrageous, inept ideas when going for the cheap and quick giggle. Only in fake movies do people float the notion of pairing Samuel L. Jackson and Eugene Levy, with the former as an angry Detroit cop out to avenge the death of his crooked partner and the latter as a Midwest dental-equipment salesman in town to make a speech who winds up riding shotgun with Jackson. God knows that would never happen at a real movie studio in the real world. No way, unh-unh. Except, of course, just this one time. What's truly galling about The Man is how its creators, and former SCTV cast member Levy, come from backgrounds that would suggest they know better than to make such slipshod dreck. Indeed, this is the very kind of lame-brained folly Levy and his SCTV cohorts used to mock on their old show; now it's how he makes rent. (Wilonsky)
9 Songs. (Not Rated) Reviewed in this issue.
2046. (R) Hong Kong director Wong Kar Wai's sequel to In the Mood for Love, an overrated 2000 melodrama about a chaste love affair between a man and woman whose spouses are having an affair. The far superior 2046 concerns the man from the first film, a sad-eyed and rather heartless womanizer (played again by the wonderful Tony Leung Chiu Wai) who can't fall in love since his own heart was broken. The various women in his life include Ziyi Zhang and Gong Li. All the actors are solid, and the film is stunning to look at; color, composition, and framing play as important a role in storytelling as does dialogue or plot. Seeing the first film is not essential for enjoying -- or understanding -- this one, although it would help to know its basic outline. If In the Mood was about longing and loss, this one is about longing, loss, and memory. (Jean Oppenheimer)
An Unfinished Life. (R) Like director Lasse Hallström's last two Miramax films, this is the tale of an itinerant single parent (Jennifer Lopez) with a precocious daughter (Becca Gardner), who comes to a small town to make a clean break with the recent past, only to end up finally confronting emotional issues, in the process helping the townspeople deal with theirs as well. Lopez plays Jean Gilkyson, widow of Griffin Gilkyson, who was the son of Einar (Robert Redford). Ten years after surviving the car crash that killed her husband, Jean is escaping her abusive boyfriend Gary (Damian Lewis) and runs with her daughter to Einar's house, where the young girl can meet her grandfather for the first time. Problem is that Grandpa hates Mom because he blames her for killing his son. Fortunately, Grandpa hates wife-beaters even more. There's also a bear lurking, which is, like, a metaphor. Lopez' fake southern accent is godawful, and the sentimentality is thick, but Redford rises above all that in his first real grumpy-old-man role. (Thompson)