Dir. Chris Koch; writ. Greg Glienna; feat. Jason Lee, Julia Stiles, Selma Blair, James Brolin, Shawn Hatosy, Julie Hagerty (PG-13)

Please welcome Jason Lee's second vehicle as a poor shmo who works for his fiancée's macho father, and who, when circumstances/ desires/fears get the better of good judgment, puts his imminent marriage in jeopardy ... wackiness ensues.

A Guy Thing, like Stealing Harvard, is all about gags, although this time the gags work (for the most part), and don't involve Tom Green. You'll probably leave smiling, but, as after the proverbial Chinese dinner, an hour later you'll want something more substantial. I can't begrudge Lee the work - like Harvard, Guy Thing isn't completely stupid or mean-spirited, and it tries to entertain. But I'd rather see less interesting talents wasted on this kind of romantic-comedy tripe. JM


Dir. Dennis Dugan; writ. Jay Scherick, David Ronn; feat. Martin Lawrence, Steve Zahn, Colm Feore, Eric Roberts, Bill Duke, Timothy Busfield (PG-13)

Many of us have come to expect little good from a Martin Lawrence movie. At best, the filth that spews out of the man's mouth might be so wildly entertaining that you walk out of the theater with a memorable line or two. National Security is no different from the rest of Lawrence's mainstream vehicles: The plot gives rise to unlikely events that setup the supporting black and white cast to receive the brunt of the angry little man's racial remarks.

This film simultaneously follows a bland buddy-cop format, which allows for excessive car chases, shoot-out scenes, great big things blowing up, and, of course, enables victimization of The Black Man at the hands of a white cop. But it does have some funny moments that redeem the ridiculous plot and showcase Lawrence's comic timing, which (unlike his judgment regarding which topics will appeal to multi-ethnic audiences) is right on. WK


Dir: Douglas McGrath; writ. McGrath, based on the novel by Charles Dickens; feat. Charlie Hunnam, Romola Garai, Tom Courtenay, Christopher Plummer, Anne Hathaway, Jim Broadbent, Jamie Bell, Juliet Stevenson, Nathan Lane (PG)

Charles Dickens, who died 25 years before cinema was invented, was the greatest screenwriter of the 19th century. In the early decades of the 20th, filmmakers turned again and again to Great Expectations, A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities, and other Dickens works for bustling plots, colorful characters, and expired copyrights. The very experience of going to the movies, of sitting in a darkened room powerless to control clashes between virtue and vice enacted before our eyes, is Dickensian; the popular bard of abused orphans and benevolence triumphant left his mark on Hollywood as much as on London.

Douglas McGrath's adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby is the fourth version of Dickens' third novel brought to the big screen. There have also been four TV versions. There will surely be more, not because no one has gotten it right, but because the material remains so ripe for drama. When his improvident father suddenly dies, Nicholas Nickleby (Hunnam), 19, is suddenly forced to make his way through a ruthless world. His rapacious, malicious Uncle Ralph sends him off to Yorkshire, to an academic inferno called Dotheboys Hall, where a hideous sadist named Wackford Squeers terrorizes a band of hapless boys. Through all the twists of a gloriously implausible plot, Nicholas maintains and propagates his innocence, his author's belief that: "Happiness is a gift."

A package of exuberant performances, particularly by Christopher Plummer as Ralph Nickleby, Jim Broadbent as Squeers, Tom Courtenay as Newman Noggs, and Nathan Lane as an irrepressible thespian named Vincent Crummles, this production is a gift. "People who wish to be thought of as good are always weak," claims Ralph, and Dickens' saints tend to be wimps, his villains creatures of awesome energy. His characters divide between those who embrace life in all its messy complexity and those who would constrain it - "Subdue your appetites, and you've conquered human nature," says Squeers. This generous production is lavish with emotion, but it sheds no tears for Squeers. SGK



Santikos Embassy 14
281 @ Bitters, 614-8977
Dinner: 7pm; Screening: 8pm, $25 for Texas Public Radio members, $30 for non-members

Dir. William A. Wellman; writ. John Monk Saunders, Louis D. Lighton, Hope Loring; feat. Clara Bow, Charles "Buddy" Rogers, Richard Arlen, Gary Cooper (pre-ratings)

Incredible flying sequences, impressive battle scenes, a little hardcore pathos at the end - but for all its achievements and accolades, Wings is still empty, sentimental propaganda on the level of Pearl Harbor.

Jack and David, both from a small town and in love with the same girl, go off to fly bi-planes against the Germans in World War I. Rivals at first, but friends after they brawl, Jack and David end up in the same squadron, on the same dawn patrol. The main action of the movie covers just one battle, and the silly surrounding story perhaps justifies those forty-five minutes of marvelous recreations.

Wings was shot in San Antonio, and was the first film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. But, even looking only at the realm of silent movies, this is hardly a paragon of the form. JM


Santikos Embassy Oaks Theatres
281 @ Bitters
7pm, Jan 29

The Jewish Community Center presents the Project Greenlight film Stolen Summer by Pete Jones. Reservations are required since limited space is available.
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