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(PG-13; 116 min.) American submariners (led by Matthew McConaughey and Harvey Keitel) board a crippled Nazi U-boat, capture its Enigma coding machine and fight their way home. U-571 is bad historythe British had done most of the work breaking the Germans' codes and capturing their encryption devices before the U.S. entered the warand it's not as well written and acted as the combat classics it quotes. But it goes boom, and it goes pow, and it really is spectacular and exciting. (BC)
This sort of Car Cultureenge of the Nerds for the elementary school set reminds that high school has nothing on grade school as the original social viper pit. Locally produced and filmed in a number of South Bay locations (including the backdoor of Bella Mia restaurant in downtown San Jose), this independent kids' film offers a coming-of-age tale as seen through the eyes of Lloyd (Todd Bosley), an awkward young misfit almost unanimously shunned at school for being "ugly"of course, the cruel behavior of Lloyd's classmates offers the story's only true ugliness. Through a couple of genuine friends, and with the assistance of a local magic store owner (Tom Arnold), Lloyd learns to fight back in his own way and embrace his misfit status, to the approbation of most of the student body. As in a lot of children's fare, there's an exaggerated perspective here sure to please kidsteachers are either cartoonish bullies or condescending milquetoastsbut The Ugly Kid also offers something of an adult's-eye-view of grammar school, with grown-ups sharing a few things with the class obviously intended for parental laughs, such as a P.E. coach's observations about the cafeteria-food menu at school fundraisers, or the soft-spoken, New Agey special education teacher (Taylor Negron) too-brightly announcing he has "trouble with depression." Fortunately, there's enough goofing and pratfalling here to keep the kids giggling through most of the grown-up gags. (HZ)
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(R; 115 min.) Ironically, Peter Fonda's comeback role seems the antithesis of his rebel biker from 1969's Easy Rider. Captain America's superheroism stemmed from waving his freak-flag highUlee's an independent businessman who protects his family from sex, drugs and rock & roll. Like Easy Rider, Ulee's Gold is a Western in disguise: Fonda's Ulee is a loner saddled with past demons (the death of his wife, a stint in Vietnam) who's called upon to rescue a helpless woman (his drug-addicted daughter-in-law). Writer/director Victor Nuñez (Ruby in Paradise) proves adept at managing the film's visual details, but ultimately, Ulee's Gold mines familiar territory, being yet another Southern tale of an emotionally challenged man-child whose work ethic and old-fashioned values win out over all else. (RN)
(PG-13; 88 min.) The 10th film of 2006 to be withheld from critics, this nearly incomprehensible guilty pleasure is actually a great deal of fun. Milla Jovovich stars as the stylishly sexy heroine in a skin-tight, midriff-revealing costume, who kills hundreds of faceless bad guys with karate kicks, broadswords and automatic firearms. Her goal is to save a young clone (Cameron Bright) that carries a deadly virus within his bloodstream. Director Kurt Wimmer (Equilibrium) coats everything in a retouched, digital sheen making characters look less human. But he also sustains his action shots a few beats longer than most, creates a strikingly insulated color scheme and hits a nonpretentious tone that allows for unintentional, infectious silliness. William Fichtner co-stars as the archetypal introverted science nerd. (JMA)
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(1963; unrated; 91 min.) Jacques Demy made "popular operas," of which the newly restored The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is the best. The film is set in the small French town at the end of the 1950s. Guy (Nino Castelnuovo) loves Genevieve (Catherine Deneuve), but they are torn apart by the Algerian war. When Guy returns years later, he must choose between the memory of his first love and his new feelings for Madeleine (Ellen Farner). The essential Frenchiness of The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is part of its devastating charm. Certainly, the real France has its own appeal, but The Umbrellas of Cherbourg epitomizesin the way John Ford's The Searchers epitomizes the American West--what France ought to look like. (RvB)