David Gordon Green made a Judd Apatow-engineered leap from indie-film darling to hitmaker with Pineapple Express (Sony), but the film's real auteur is undoubtedly Seth Rogen, who co-wrote the script and oozes shaggy stoner charm as a loveable slacker who witnesses a murder and goes on the run alongside dealer pal James Franco. Thanks to Rogen and Green, the phrase "smash-hit stoner action movie" is an oxymoron no more
Along with his brother Jerry and Jim Abrahams, director David Zucker made the definitive gag-a-second spoof in Airplane!, but the format doesn't adapt well to the right-wing political satire of Zucker's An American Carol (Universal). Gathering the few Republicans he can find in Hollywood—Kelsey Grammer, Jon Voight, and Robert Davi among them—Zucker retools Charle Dickens' A Christmas Carol by having the ghosts of George Patton, George Washington, and JFK kick around an America-hating documentary filmmaker (Kevin Farley) modeled after Michael Moore. Our political discourse has rarely been more debased
There's promise in the story of a 13-year-girl of Iraqi descent coming of age in a repressive, predatory suburban world, but under the eye of American Beauty writer-director Alan Ball, Towelhead (Warner Bros.) became a lead-footed issue-movie supreme. It's not enough for Ball simply to observe young Summer Bishil as she finds her way through this treacherous terrain; he also feels compelled to tackle big themes like racism, suburban hypocrisy, Gulf Wars I and II, and pedophilia. Much like Crash, the film is so anxious to cover the sociopolitical bases that it loses all credibility in the effort
Feeling nostalgic for 1994 for some reason? Then The Wackness (Sony) is the movie for you. With impressive particularity, Jonathan Levine's Sundance buzz-magnet gets the look and tone of Giuliani's New York down cold, from the hip-hop-laden soundtrack to the general vibe of fear and loathing in a city undergoing massive changes. But the film lacks a center: Josh Peck's affable drug-pusher isn't an action-oriented guy, and his passivity makes him a bore. That leaves Ben Kingsley (as Peck's psychiatrist and best customer) and Olivia Thirlby (as his would-be girlfriend) to pick up the considerable slack
It's the end of the world, and Vin Diesel has a mission to perform. And if you can make any more sense of Babylon A.D.'s (Fox) plot, then you probably wrote it.