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(1969; unrated; 127 min.) A restored print of Costa-Gavras' classical (and Oscar-winning) political thriller about the assassination of a political leader. Stars Yves Montand and Jean-Louis Trintignant. (RvB)

(PG; 113 min.) Christ, I just figured out how to pronounce "jumanji," and now here comes this sequel with another name designed to take your verbal skills down several hundred points. This one's got kids floating through outer space in their house, and is also based on a book by Chris Van Allsburg. Tim Robbins replaces Robin Williams. (Capsule preview by SP)

During a boring afternoon at their father's house, Walter (Josh Hutcheson) and his pesty younger brother Danny (Jonah Bobo) play an antique wind-up space-rocket game that launches their house into outer space. Soon the two feuding kids are forced to cooperate in order to survive the peril of velociraptorish Zorgons and a killer robot; their only guide is the cryptic cards the "Zathura" game spits out and some guarded advice from a rescued astronaut (Dax Shepherd). It's based on a book that's a sequel to Chris Van Allsburg's Jumanji, and it tells a remarkably similar story. Jon Favreau's kid-friendly direction doesn't spring many surprises for adults, and the moralizing is thick. Tim Robbins, seen at the beginning as the absentee father, drops out of the film shortly. The one girl in the picture (Kristen Stewart) is frozen or otherwise slumbering. It's a little boy's fantasy. The special effects are effective, but they're always supposed to wring such awe out of the audience that the movie gets dead from the load of them. (RvB)

Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman
Full text review.

(1939) The 1939 Zaza is the third version of a famous play concerning the hopeless affair between a songbird (Claudette Colbert) and a married man (Herbert Marshall). Co-starring Bert Lahr, whose next film was The Wizard of Oz. (RvB)

(R; 83 min.) Ondrej Trojan's drama about a resistance fighter (Anne Geisterova) on the run from the Nazis in 1940. She hides as the wife of a farmer in a remote and backward village in the Czech mountains. Nominee for Best Foreign Film of 2003. Unseen by our reviewers. (RvB)

Zero Day
Full text review.

Zero Effect
(R; 120 min.) Not exactly the slick, witty romp it seems intended to be, but neither the overly quirky yawn-fest it could have been, Zero Effect is a low-key, enjoyable comedy/thriller about an eccentric but gifted gumshoe, Darryl Zero (Bill Pullman). A hermit, Zero dispatches legal representative Steve Arlo (Ben Stiller) in his place to meet with clients, the latest of which is blackmail victim and tycoon Gregory Stark (Ryan O'Neal). Pullman gives the socially stunted Zero just enough charisma to make his genius believable; Stiller is well cast as the put-upon straight man. Director Jake Kasdan (son of Lawrence) uses the dank, gray scenery of Portland as an effective backdrop for the shadowy touches of film noir with which he has infused Zero Effect, in both a subtle update and an appealing homage to the genre. (HZ)

Zeus and Roxanne
(PG; 97 min.) Scientist Kathleen Quinlan is working to acclimate Roxanne the dolphin back into the wild when she discovers that Zeus, her neighbor's dog, can communicate with the dolphin and realizes that their unusual "friendship" will garner her a long-coveted research grant. Completing this seaside serendipity is the bonus that Zeus' owner is hairy-chested and widowed musician Steve Guttenberg. Both lonely souls in a tropical paradise, Quinlan and Guttenberg strike up a troubled romance, upon which most of the movie focuses. What dog and dolphin have joined together, let no fear of commitment or rival scientists put asunder, although these impediments are what the harassed couple must endure. The animals are appealing enough, and the movie features some gorgeous coastal scenery and a lung-popping underwater rescue, but if the filmmakers were aiming for a truly interesting romance, Zeus should've tried to set up Roxanne and Flipper. (HZ)

Zhou Yu's Train
(PG-13; 97 min.) High-gloss but occasionally tricky mainland Chinese romance. Zhou Yu (Gong Li) has an uninspiring job painting in a porcelain factory. What her co-workers don't know is that she has another life in the river city of Chungyang (formerly doing business as Chunking). Twice weekly, she takes the train to visit a poet Chen (Tony Leung); during the journey, she catches the attention of Zhang (Honglei Sun), a rural veterinarian. It's obvious these two men represent those different aspects of men in general, one active, one passive; one practical, one creative. "Everybody loves poetry and romance, but in real life it's a different story," Zhang says, underscoring her problem as a woman torn between a diffident and poor poet and a doctor who knows how to cure sick pigs. The part of the lovelorn girl is a much more physical one than Gong Li's previously undertaken. She's still a very stylized, actressy actress—as calculatingly poised and unspontaneous as the studio actresses of the 1940s. Still, she's never really indicated she had a body before. While the love scenes would never crack PG-13, this film must be considered a real smoker in the prudishly run People's Republic. Director Zhou Sun withholds key information, but at the same time he's very mainstream in his treatment of the story, particularly in a poetry reading that's like the birthday party in Stella Dallas. In any case, the film is well photographed, with plentiful sequences on the rails. (RvB)

Ziegfeld Girl
(1941) Three girls, actually: Judy Garland, Lana Turner and Hedy Lamarr, all chosen by the noted producer Florenz Ziegfeld to be bedecked in feathers and arranged on Cyclopean staircases. The girls head off into separate showgirl fates, in between multiple numbers, including "You Stepped Out of a Dream" and "I'm Always Chasing Rainbows." Choreography by Busby Berkeley. (RvB)

The Zodiac
(R) A drama about the serial killer who roamed the Bay Area in the 1960s and '70s.

(PG-13; 97 min.) Retreading ground that Austin Powers has already ably carpeted (twice) with thick, fluffy shag, Zoolander makes a play at the high-camp, cheap-shot market. Ben Stiller stars as Derek Zoolander, a vapid supermodel brainwashed into assassinating the prime minister of Malaysia because insidious forces within the fashion industry aren't happy with his sweatshop-busting ways. It's entertaining to spot the celebrity cameos—David Duchovny is perhaps the most rewarding, playing a former hand model who lays out the conspiracy. Owen Wilson (Bottle Rocket) once again displays his sly comic genius, as Zoolander's rival-cum-ally. (DB; 2001)

It's a little spooky how much my appreciation for Will Ferrell has grown. First Elf, then that brutally funny anti-W. ad spot he did last year for Rock Against Bush, now I find myself buying the Anchorman two-disc set and watching all six hours of extras. That's messed up. I don't know what happened. I used to be just like a normal person, thinking he was that guy from the lame cheerleader skits on SNL. Speaking of Ferrell, he's pretty great as Mugatu, one of three roles he plays in Zoolander. And speaking of SNL, this movie from director/co-writer/star Ben Stiller divides the comedy lovers in its target demographic as much as any of the middle-ground (sub-Blues Brothers, better-than-Superstar) comedies that show has spawned. As a satire of fashion, Zoolander's unbelievably toothless. (Models are dumb? You don't say! Thanks for being the 17 millionth pop-culture vehicle to bring that to my attention.) But at least it's funnier than Pret-A-Porter! Owen Wilson is even better than Ferrell. And some of the absurdist touches—David Bowie and the fashion walk-off, or the orgy, for instance—play to Stiller's comedy strengths. Most people know he created this character for a VH1 awards show, but what he's never just come out and admitted is that Derek Zoolander is a recycling of the two brother characters he did for the Melrose Place parodies on The Ben Stiller Show. Now that shit was funny. (SP; 2005)

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