Report Card

September 21, 2006

The Black Dahlia

What It's About: Top cops Aaron Eckhart and Josh Hartnett try to solve the instantly infamous case of a would-be starlet whose murder seemed to sum up the sick soul of post-World War II L.A.

Rated: R

The Scoop: Brian De Palma, the director, imbues the imagery with an obsessive grandeur even as the narrative falls apart. But the result is still a wan, unsatisfying follow-up to the great L.A. Confidential.

Grade: B-

Gridiron Gang

What it's about: The Rock plays the real life juvenile probation officer who molded some of the toughest residents at Camp Kilpatrick, a "last chance" facility for underage felons, into a football team.

Rated: PG-13

The Scoop: With so much reality at the core, poignancy and danger should suffuse everything that happens on screen. The problem is, the moviemakers have shaped the material to follow the beats and rhythms of underdog sports movies, not life.

Grade: C+

Half Nelson

What it's about: Ryan Gosling plays a gifted Brooklyn middle-school teacher and girls basketball coach whose cocaine addiction has begun to wreak havoc on his classroom genius.

Rated: R

The Scoop: The freshness of the storytelling, the vividness of the milieu, and above all the performances make this a must see.

Grade: A-

Hollywoodland

What it's about: A down-on-his-luck private eye (Adrien Brody) tries to solve the mystery of the supposed suicide of Superman actor George Reeves.

Rated R

The scoop: Ben Affleck is surprisingly good as Reeves, but the rest of the cast seems to be play-acting in a film that's not nearly as intriguing as it thinks it is.

Grade: C+

Idlewild

What it's about: Andre Benjamin and Antwan A. Patton (better known as Andre 3000 and Big Boi of OutKast) sing and dance through this drama set in a Depression-era speakeasy.

Rated: R

The scoop: Despite some musical anomalies (was there really hip-hop in the 1930s?), the movie's got a great groove and is directed with great energy and passion by Bryan Barber.

Sun score: B

The Illusionist

What it's about: A low-born magician (Edward Norton) rises to the heights of fame in turn-of-last-century Vienna and upsets the romantic plans and political support of the Crown Prince Leopold.

Rated: PG-13

The scoop: This flight of fancy stays aloft on the power of its atmosphere and its acting, from Norton, Jessica Biel and especially Paul Giamatti.

Grade: B

Invincible

What it's about: Mark Wahlberg plays Vince Papale, a working-class schlub who actually got to play for his beloved Philadelphia Eagles for a few years in the mid-'70s.

Rated: PG

The scoop: Although another in a growing list of inspirational, real-life sports stories released by Disney in recent years, Invincible uses the formula to great effect.

Sun score: B

The Last Kiss

What it's about: Zach Braff stars as Michael, who's not happy about leaving his carefree 20s behind. Jacinda Barrett is his pregnant girlfriend, and Rachel Bilson is the 19-year-old who catches his eye.

Rated R

The scoop: The low-key genius of The Last Kiss is that it doesn't make Michael a lout, a bore or even an unreformable party animal. He's just a young guy with a good heart, a good head and a great girlfriend - normally the stuff of which movie heroes are made.

Grade: B+

Little Miss Sunshine

What it's about: The madcap Hoover clan (Greg Kinnear, Toni Collette, Steve Carell, Paul Dano, Alan Arkin) unites to get the youngest Hoover (Abigail Breslin) to the Little Miss Sunshine contest.

Rated R

The scoop: The action, the direction (by Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris) and the writing (by Michael Arndt) bring it the warmth as well as the madness of a crazy quilt.

Grade: A

Snakes on a Plane

What it's about: Snakes on a plane.

Rated: R

The scoop: There's plenty of giddy fun as Samuel L. Jackson, Juliana Margulies and a bunch of second-tier stars amount to an all-you-can-eat buffet for a bunch of poisonous snakes on a plane.

Grade: B

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