The Notebook Nick Cassavetes (PG-13) If you're the sort who enjoys shedding tears in darkened theaters, your must-see summer movie has arrived. An amiable old man who goes by the nickname of Duke (James Garner) introduces himself to an Alzheimer's-stricken woman (Gena Rowlands) at the rest home where they both reside. To brighten up her day, he reads her a story from his notebook about two young lovers: lower-class lumberjack/carpenter Noah (Ryan Gosling) and well-bred academic prodigy Allie (Rachel McAdams). The elderly woman doesn't think she knows the man, and yet somehow the story instantly appeals. It will probably be immediately apparent to most viewers what the connection is between the aging twosome and the young lovers in the story, but the movie treats it as a late revelation. Director Nick Cassavetes has inherited some of his father's talent for character study; he also seems to have a slightly better sense of story, having amply embellished Nicholas Sparks' relatively plot-free novel. Total chick flick, but not cloyingly so. Opens Friday, June 25, at multiple locations. (Luke Y. Thompson)
Strayed André Téchiné (unrated) During the Nazi invasion of France, as refugees jam the roads, the odd fighter plane occasionally picks the poor souls off as target practice. Surviving one such attack, widow Odile (Emmanuelle Beart) and her two children encounter seventeen-year-old soldier Yvan (Gaspard Uliel), and they flee together into the woods. Yvan finds the family annoying, but Odile's son bribes him into sticking around to help by offering him a family heirloom watch. When Yvan finds an abandoned house and breaks in, the group decides to hang out there. Yep, they hang out. And hang out some more. Really, that's about all they do. Kinda boring, right? Well, toward the very end of the movie the outside world intervenes, there's an explicit sex scene, and stuff happens to wrap up the, uh, "story," if you can call it that. The setup's a bit reminiscent of The English Patient -- except that Beart's much easier on the eyes and ears than Ralph Fiennes is -- but Strayed is even slower moving, if you can believe it. Opens Friday, June 25, at the Plaza Frontenac. (Luke Y. Thompson)
Two Brothers Jean-Jacques Annaud (PG) Opens Friday, June 25, at multiple locations. Reviewed this issue.
2004 Academy Award Short Films (unrated) This dazzling 90-minute package contains the sort of gifts even devoted moviegoers rarely get to open -- the overlooked, orphan titles that arouse momentary curiosity on Academy Awards night and then promptly vanish. Simply said, the six short films collected here by Apollo Cinema -- 2003 Oscar nominees all -- deserve more attention than their lengths suggest. Australian Adam Elliot's vivid Harvie Krumpet (22 minutes; animated) tells of a hard-luck Everyman redeemed by joy. A Torsion (12 minutes; live action), from Slovenia, shows us the tender encounter between the members of a traveling choir and a farmer who asks for help with his injured cow. Taking a cue from Gogol, Florian Baxmeyer's The Red Jacket (20 minutes; live action) follows the trail of a coat thrown away by a grief-stricken German father as it makes its way to a boy in war-torn Sarajevo. In Chris Hinton's Nibbles (4 minutes; animated), a father takes his sons on an eventful fishing trip in a Canadian forest. There's more, but our allotted space grows, well, short. Opens Friday, June 25, at the Tivoli. (Bill Gallo)
White Chicks Keenen Ivory Wayans (PG-13) Perhaps some day in the distant future, film scholars and academics concerned with race relations will devote papers and lectures and even entire books to Keenen Ivory Wayans' White Chicks, in which two FBI agents, played by Marlon and Shawn Wayans, don Caucasian masks and impersonate white women in order to catch a kidnapper. (Ostensibly this is the plot, though the narrative is so slipshod that to pretend it's about anything at all would be giving it more credit than it's due.) But to even begin to describe White Chicks as offensive would be giving it too much credit; instead of satire, we're treated to diarrhea jokes, dogs dangled from the windows of speeding SUVs and tasteless sobriquets bestowed upon anyone who looks vaguely ethnic. And the Wayans brothers look nothing like human beings in their masks -- except, maybe, women who've undergone radical skin grafting after their entire faces were burned off. Opens Friday, June 25, at multiple locations. (Robert Wilonsky)