This week's premieres

photo: Continental Film

Underworld - Action/Fantasy by Len Wiseman. The plot details some sort of epic battle for the underworld between a band of vampires and a band of werewolves. It seems that the werewolves have come upon an evil scheme that threatens the vampire race and the rest of the world. So a vampire bounty hunter (Kate Beckinsale) sets out to save her race and humanity from those pesky werewolves. Or something like that. Mostly, it sounds like an excuse for moody, stylised action set to a pounding soundtrack and, most importantly, for Beckinsale (Cold Comfort Farm, Pearl Harbor) to run around in a dominatrix outfit while wielding a gun and showing off her best martial arts moves.

Other movies playing

photo: Continental Film

The Last Samurai (Posledný samuraj) - Action/Drama by Edward Zwick. Nominated for four Academy Awards, most notably a Best Supporting Actor nod for popular Japanese actor Ken Watanabe. Tom Cruise plays Captain Nathan Algren, a hero of the American Civil War enlisted by the Japanese government to train its troops in modern warfare to rid the country of its samurai. But after being taken prisoner by the samurai, Algren begins to understand and appreciate the very culture he was hired to eradicate.

Big Fish (Veľká ryba) - Comedy drama by Tim Burton. The good news is that Burton's latest is a significant improvement over his abysmal Planet of the Apes. The bad news is that it amounts to little more than a mediocre imitation of a great Tim Burton movie (Ed Wood, Pee Wee's Big Adventure, Edward Scissorhands, Batman). Sure, the elements are there: the blur between fantasy and reality, the dark, absurd humour, the carnivalesque tone and characters. But this time out, when the script steers the film towards trite sentimentality, it seems as if Burton's not in on the joke. There are some beautiful images and wonderfully surreal characters, but they are merely like happy accidents on the way to a cruelly predetermined fate.

photo: Itafilm

The Rundown (Vitajte v džungli) - Action adventure by Peter Berg. The plot sounds boring: A bounty hunter goes into the Brazilian rainforest to retrieve a wealthy businessman's son, but things become complicated when a precious, highly sought after statue comes into the picture. It is the improbable cast that makes this one seem interesting: former pro wrestler The Rock, Rosario Dawson (The 25th Hour), Ewen Bremner (Trainspotting), and the incomparable Christopher Walken.

The School of Rock (Škola rocku) - Comedy by Richard Linklater. The eclectic Linklater (Slacker, Dazed and Confused, Waking Life), who dabbles in experimentalism as well as mainstream Hollywoodism, revisits the latter with The School of Rock. Jack Black (High Fidelity, Shallow Hal) stars as a rock musician kicked out of his band on the eve of a Battle of the Bands competition. In debt and anxious to prove his ex-bandmates wrong, he takes a job as a substitute teacher at a conservative private elementary school. Unbeknownst to the faculty and parents, he and his students form a rock band that aims to win the competition. With Linklater at the helm, it is likely that Black finally has a starring role to match his manic talent.

photo: SPI International

Scary Movie 3- Comedy by David Zucker. Veteran spoof filmmaker Zucker (Airplane!, The Naked Gun) takes over the Scary Movie franchise from Keenen Ivory Wayans. Once again, its purpose is to make fun of as many contemporary movies as possible. It attacks its major targets of The Ring, Signs, 8 Mile, and The Matrix with a large cast of the talented (Queen Latifah, Leslie Nielsen), the untalented (Pamela Anderson, Jenny McCarthy), and the questionably talented (Charlie Sheen). Expect lots of pointless celebrity cameos and what the Motion Picture Association of America calls "pervasive crude and sexual humour".

Stuck on You (Bratia ako sa patrí) - Comedy by Bobby and Peter Farrelly. Stuck on You almost succeeds in spite of itself. It is not a great movie by any means, but it provides more evidence that the Farrelly brothers might have one in them. The brothers have a penchant for obvious lowbrow humour that is only intermittently funny. If it were kept in check, they might get audiences to join them in loving, and not simply laughing at, their ridiculous characters. As it is, conjoined twins Bob (Matt Damon) and Walt (Greg Kinnear) are ultimately more sympathetic than funny (though they're meant to be both). Unfortunately, the characters and situations that surround them frequently undercut the film's more lofty leanings. One of the two love interests, played by Eva Mendes, basically amounts to a pair of breast implants. Cher plays herself for laughs, but only occasionally earns them. Bob's and Walt's hometown friends offer nothing more than a series of bad jokes. On the other hand, as Walt's dubious, geriatric Hollywood agent, character actor Seymour Cassel is fantastic and steals every scene he's in. If the movie managed to remain at his level and combine it with the compassion it so clearly strives for (and sometimes achieves), the Farrellys would be onto something. Maybe next time.

Prepared by Jonathan Knapp

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