Reign Over Me
Opens Fri March 23
With Reign Over Me, Adam Sandler continues his increasingly ill-advised attempt to evolve from SNL's Opera Man to Respected Actor. Best to sigh now and get it over with: Sandler plays New Yorker Charlie Fineman, whose supermodel wife and too-cute daughters died on 9/11. Ever since, he's gone all sorts of crazy/sad, doing nothing but riding his motor scooter around NY, listening to vinyl, playing his PlayStation, and refusing to admit he even remembers his family. Throughout, Sandler either shouts belligerently or mumbles pathetically, hanging his face slack beneath stubble and mussed-up hair; his Charlie is basically a severely hung-over Happy Gilmore.
Enter Charlie's college roommate, Alan Johnson (Don Cheadle, who should know better); their friendship rekindled, Alan tries to get Charlie help from a friendly shrink (Liv Tyler, the least believable psychiatrist ever). By the time Reign Over Me has finished wallowing in post-9/11 mopiness, it's covered all the bases: melodramatic breakdowns, a suicide attempt, hammy platitudes about the value of friends and/or family, approximately 800 watery-eyed monologues, a trip to a clichéd insane asylum, and an even more clichéd courtroom showdown. At one point, Jada Pinkett Smith, as Alan's wife, bewilderingly characterizes Charlie as being "caught up in a world of pain, thick like quicksand." By the final close-up of Sandler's quivering face, the audience knows exactly what she means. ERIK HENRIKSEN
Opens Fri March 23
It's 1973, and Terrence Howard (quite possibly my favorite actor) is Jim Ellis, a former college swimmer resignedly employed at a decaying Philadelphia rec center. Hidden beneath mountains of garbage and sadness and feces (okay, maybe not feces), he finds the center's ancient swimming pool, and sets out to teach the local boys some new tricks.
The all-white swim fans are not pleased. "Grumble, grumble, grumble," they say. "You guys aren't the Harlem Globetrotters?" "It must be some kind of a protest march!" I think you know what's next: (SPOILER ALERT!) resilience, redemption, and the triumph of the human spirit.
Hey, America! When are you guys going to get tired of the triumph of the human fucking spirit? I could give a shit about the human spirit. I could give a shit about an evil drug dealer, symbolic slow claps, and rote, after-school-special morality. On the other hand, I will watch (and love) Terrence Howard in anything: even when he's paddling through a patently uninspired script; even when he's vanquishing evil drug dealers with theretofore unmentioned kung-fu skills; and even when he's crying the two corniest and most meaningful tears ever cried. Is he wearing some adorable '70s shorts? Okay then.
We're done here. LINDY WEST
Opens Fri March 23
BANG! BANG! Mark Wahlberg plays the awesomely named Bob Lee Swagger, a government sharpshooter who earns his pay sniping the turbans off eeevil foreigners. Until, that is, Swagger's buddy dies ("NOOOOOOO!"), which inspires Marky Mark to retreat to an isolated cabin, grow a mighty ponytail, and read The 9/11 Commission Report. Cue an eeevil Danny Glover, who woos Marky Mark for one final sniping gig—BUT IT'S A SETUP! Framed by the no-good government, Marky Mark aims (heh) to get himself some revenge. Or, as he puts it: "I'm gonna burn their playhouse down!" (If you're guessing this involves a lot of heads exploding from sniper bullets, you're right.) BANG! BANG!
If you haven't figured it out already, Shooter is pretty much entirely awesome, filled with slow-mo shots of Marky Mark striding purposefully toward the camera against a background of either a huge US flag (at the start of the movie) or the flames of a giant explosion (latter half). Other great parts include: Swagger passing out from doing whip-its, limbs getting blown off, even more heads exploding (BANG! BANG!), a script that appears to have been written by a bunch of drunken libertarians at an NRA meeting, and the burning down of various playhouses. Yes! BANG! BANG! ERIK HENRIKSEN