Nearing Grace

dir. Rosenthal

Opens Fri Oct 13

Various Theaters

High school kids are ugly and stupid. They're immature and, if they date at all, they tend to botch it up miserably. Except in Hollywood, of course, where the adolescents have porcelain features and discuss their rich, complicated love lives with the studied calm of wizened gurus. Which brings us to films like the abominably dull Nearing Grace.

Twenty-three-year-old Gregory Smith plays high school senior Henry, whose mom has recently died. His biker dad (David Morse) drinks a lot and listens to Bob Dylan to cope with the pain. His best friend, Merna (the 23-year-old Ashley Johnson), is in love with him, and he with her, but instead of wooing her, Henry wastes his time lusting after sexy, manipulative Grace (26-year-old Jordana Brewster). And... that's about it. Two hours of what I just wrote, without a single interesting or unexpected story development. All the actors act exactly the age they are, and the film's glossy, '70s-era production values make them look like Ph.D. candidates. It would be silly and sad to watch these adults pretend to be high schoolers—but they don't even pretend, so we just have to take the script's word that Nearing Grace really is about teenagers. Oh, and even though it was shot in Portland, it's set in New Jersey. Woo-hoo. JUSTIN W. SANDERS

Man of the Year

dir. Levinson

Opens Fri Oct 13

Various Theaters

Lately, Robin Williams just makes me sad. Look through a list of his films and you'll see he's been in a lot of shit (Patch Adams, Flubber, and RV)—but remember when he was in Good Morning, Vietnam, Insomnia, and One Hour Photo? Maybe it's okay to like him again now that the legitimately good Man of the Year is out. Full of pithy rants about America's fractured political system, Man of the Year teams a kinder, gentler Williams with director Barry Levinson (Good Morning, Vietnam) for a film that doesn't disappoint.

Tom Dobbs (Williams) is a wildly popular late-night TV comedian who skewers politicians for a living—in other words, he's pretty much Jon Stewart of The Daily Show. One night Dobbs quips that maybe he should run for president; pleased as punch by his idea, that's exactly what he does. With a grassroots campaign full of typical Williams bombast, Dobbs manages to win.

With sets awash in brilliant shades of red, blue, and green (get it?), this film walks the line between comedy and wish fulfillment. Ignore the stupid John Grisham help-an-evil-corporation-is-after-me subplot, and you'll find that Man of the Year truly satisfies every fantasy you've entertained about the end of the Bush regime—and it does it with humor and aplomb. That said, if you do decide to like Robin Williams again, be forewarned: Mrs. Doubtfire 2 is currently in production. COURTNEY FERGUSON

Keeping Mum

dir. Johnson

Opens Fri Oct 13

Fox Tower

Patrick Swayze rips off most of his clothes about an hour into Keeping Mum, and he looks good for his age

I could drone on about this film's Psycho-ish portrayal of a murderous old lady who's righting the wrongs of a sleepy English village, but let's face it: You'd be bored. Because every time Hollywood makes films about "sleepy English villages," they make them nauseatingly boring.

When you're done throwing up, you can bore yourself further watching Rowan Atkinson rehash the inept English vicar role he's already done a million times when really, he's only any good as Mr. Bean. What? You want more puke-inducing boringness? Okay, fine: Kristin Scott Thomas attempts to replace the loss of her English Patient-era good looks with a limp run-through as Mr. Bean's stay-at-home wife. There you go.

So, walk into this movie 45 minutes after it's started, catch a glimpse of Swayze's physique, and then, at around minute 62, leave. You'll get a great eyeful of Mr. Dirty Dancing, and you'll be spared enough monotony to kill a horse. MATT DAVIS