Role Models. “Role Models” is a profane comedy that makes a fatal error in imposing adult humor on a milieu of underage co-stars. Fun-loving Wheeler (Seann William Scott) and cynical Danny (Paul Rudd) are two 20-something slackers whose on-the-job shenanigans as middle-school-visiting energy drink promoters leave them with a choice of spending 30 days in jail or doing 150 hours of Big Brother-style community service. Jane Lynch lands some comic zingers the head of a child mentoring program, where Wheeler and Danny are forced to mentor a couple of pre-teen boys with behavioral problems of their own. (Universal) Rated R. 99 mins. (C )
Soul Men. Bernie Mac’s last film before his untimely death is an irreverent comedy invested with Bernie’s trademark blend of earthy humor. Floyd (Bernie Mac) and Louis (Samuel L. Jackson) haven’t spoken since their days singing together as a duo after the departure of their R&B group’s leader John Legend (Marcus Hooks) 20 years ago. Legend’s passing presents an opportunity for them to reunite for a memorial concert at the Apollo Theater, if only they can make amends and survive a cross-country drive together. There’s a vibe of historic musical authenticity, as the knockabout guys take Floyd’s Cadillac through Memphis while working out a contentious question about who fathered a now-grown singer named Cleo (well-played by Sharon Leal). “Soul Men” is an accidental love letter to the comic genius of Bernie Mac. (Dimension/MGM) Rated R. 103 mins. (A-)
The Changeling. Based on a true story from Los Angeles, circa 1928, Christine Collins (Angelina Jolie) is a hard-working single mother whose 9year-old son is kidnapped. Months pass before the corruption-embattled LAPD delivers Christine an imposter child who is circumcised and three inches shorter than her son. Christine’s protests about the boy’s identity are met with impunity by police captain J.J. Jones (well played by Jeffrey Donovan), who sends her to a psychiatric ward, while radio talk-show minister the Rev. Gustav Briegleb (John Malkovich) jumps to her defense. This Clint Eastwood film is an engrossing drama with a keen line of social commentary. (Universal) Rated R. 141 mins. (B )
Zack and Miri Make a Porno. Kevin Smith hasn’t matured enough to actually make a good comedy, but he has accrued enough casting wisdom to elevate his latest homegrown material with the effervescent Seth Rogan and Elizabeth Banks. Smith’s script follows childhood-pals-turned-roommates Zack (Rogan) and Miri (Banks), whose Pittsburgh existence has fallen below the poverty line. Zack gets a bright idea for the pair to make a porno movie with some financial help from his coffee shop co-worker (Craig Robinson), and soon the team is using the shop as a nighttime movie set. Vulgarities abound and the spotty humor comes and goes like sweat drops on a sauna floor. Brandon Routh and Justin Long steal their scenes as a “couple” of gay porn actors, but it’s Rogan and Banks as would-be lovers unclear on the concept that keeps the movie watchable. (The Weinstein Company) Rated R. 101 mins. (C)
Rocknrolla. For all the cool ‘60s garage rock and Clash songs on this soundtrack, writer/director Guy Ritchie’s latest ode to John Mackenzie’s “The Long Good Friday” (1979) is a discombobulated and sluggish succession of gritty suspense set pieces with only vaguely interesting characters. Gerard Butler plays petty criminal One Two to his partner Mumbles (Idris Elba). The two are engaged in some dicey business regarding a property load, a large sum of cash and a certain stolen painting.
Tom Wilkinson steals the show as crime lord Lenny Cole, busy stealing money hand-over-fist with the help of his flirty-but-thorny accountant Stella (Thandie Newton). The painting—we never get to see it — points to Lenny’s rockstar stepson, Johnny Quid (Toby Kebbell), who represents the film’s title as a trust fund junkie thug who fancies himself a real “RocknRolla.” (Warner Brothers) Rated R. 114 mins. (C)
Saw V. Everything after its gory “pit-and-the-pendulum” opening scare sequence is downhill in the fifth, and potentially last, installment in a horror franchise that has run completely out of steam. Inexplicably, Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) has come back to life since being killed off in “Saw III” to enforce his torture methods of bloody rehabilitation, this time involving five dicey characters implicated in a building fire that killed eight people. What little story there is makes no sense, and the movie ends on a false note without bothering to tie up its dangling plot threads. (Lionsgate) Rated R, 93 mins. (D-)
Pride and Glory. Director Gavin O’Connor’s New York cop-family story (based on a script by Joe Carnahan — “Narc”) doesn’t descend as far into cliche as last year’s “We Own the Night,” but even reliable performances from Jon Voight and Ed Norton can’t redeem it as more than a puffy melodrama set amid police trappings. After four cops are killed during a routine drug bust, patriarch Chief of Detectives Francis Tierney (Voight) demands that his twice-shy-cop son Ray (Norton) solve the case and track down the shooter. Standing in the way of Ray’s Christmastime investigation is his police commander brother (Noah Emmerich), whose wife (Jennifer Ehle) is dying of cancer. Ray’s cop brother-in-law Jimmy (Colin Ferrell) has his own reasons for wanting to blunt Ray’s scrutiny. “Pride and Glory” works better as an actors’ showcase than it does as a well-worn genre thriller. Rated R. 123 mins. (B-)
Max Payne. Doomed from the start due to its videogame-heritage (the translation from game to film never works), “Max Payne” presents a breathless barrage of bullets in a pulpy demon-filled knockoff of “Constantine” (2005). Mark Wahlberg shares some Keanu Reeves-like wooden acting traits with a performance that points up the bag-of-hammersdialogue and sleepy plotting from first-time screenwriter Beau Thorne. Max (Wahlberg) is widowed detective working in the cold-case department of the NYPD when he’s accused of murder before going on a revenge mission to vindicate the unsolved assassination of his wife and child. Thorne attempts to inject some cartoon social satire with a subplot about a diabolical pharmaceutical company selling a hallucination-inducing drug that makes soldiers fearless. Chris “Ludacris” Bridges gets the gong for the worst on-screen performance of the year as cop with very, very little personality. Rated PG-13. 100 mins. (D)
W. Oliver Stone’s unpolished but finely tuned biopic of Western Civilization’s most controversial leader is a straight-ahead dramatized biographical film that pedals between George W. Bush’s misspent youth and his days in office. Josh Brolin is exceptional in a deeply personal portrayal of an ultimately tragic figure. Thandie Newton is spot-on as Condi Rice, and James Cromwell gives a multi-dimensional performance as George Bush Senior. Elizabeth Banks, Richard Dreyfuss, Scott Glenn and Jeffrey Wright are outstanding.
A bizarro musical score goes too far as a satirizing element, but the sheer inertia of Stone’s rigorous efforts to put a cinematic bow on the Bush Administration compensates for the film’s excesses. (Lionsgate) Rated PG-13. 131 mins. (B )