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Broken Flowers, Four Brothers

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BROKEN FLOWERS Winner of the Grand Jury Prize at Cannes, Jim Jarmusch's latest takes Bill Murray's accidental tourist from Lost In Translation and drops him into About Schmidt Americana territory. Here, Murray plays Don Johnston, whose catatonic existence receives a much-needed jolt when he learns he may have a son he never knew about. He embarks on a road trip to locate the mother -- the candidates are played by Sharon Stone, Jessica Lange, Tilda Swinton and Frances Conroy -- but as he moves from woman to woman, the mystery of the son becomes almost incidental; more prominent is the manner in which the hostilities increase the further he travels, as if by opening the door to his past ever wider, he risks permanent damage to the roiling emotions he's kept bottled up. This is a movie of wry humor and wry observations, and because Jarmusch never feels the need to spell out every character nuance or tie up every narrative thread, it's certain to strike many viewers as much ado about nothing. But for those who appreciate the delicacy with which Jarmusch can spin a tale, the film will seem like that proverbial rose by any other name. 3.5 stars.

THE BROTHERS GRIMM Terry Gilliam, the former Monty Python member whose peculiar brand of genius doesn't always translate comfortably to his motion picture endeavors, has concocted an overstuffed boondoggle that's miles removed from the mind-bending highs of Brazil or Twelve Monkeys. Wrestling with a muddled screenplay by Ehren Kruger (The Ring Two), Gilliam has created a noisy and nonsensical eyesore that quickly morphs from a movie into an endurance test. Matt Damon and Heath Ledger are cast adrift as the title characters, con artists whose ability to fool the local yokels of Germany with their fabricated yarns gets put to the test once they encounter genuine monsters. A bright idea threatens to surface every now and then, but it's quickly bludgeoned to death by the rest of this fractured fairy tale. 1 star.

THE DUKES OF HAZZARD Airing from 1979 to 1985, the TV series The Dukes of Hazzard was created for people who had trouble following the plotlines of Three's Company. Inspired by the glut of so-called "hick flicks" that dominated drive-ins throughout the 1970s, the program was primarily an excuse to showcase good ol' boy shenanigans and plenty of car collisions. This film version follows suit, with cousins Bo, Luke and Daisy Duke (Johnny Knoxville, Sean William Scott and Jessica Simpson) trying to prevent corrupt Boss Hogg (Burt Reynolds) from running Hazzard County into the ground. A sequence in which Bo and Luke drive through Atlanta suggests that the film could have worked as a clever reimagining in which the coarseness of the Old South repeatedly bumps up against the sensibilities of the New South, but this promise quickly dissipates to allow more room for the usual mix of lame slapstick and smash'n'crash auto theatrics. 1.5 stars.

THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN The summer's most unexpected surprise, The 40-Year-Old Virgin mixes honest sentiment and raunchy humor in a manner that's more satisfying than in just about any comparable modern comedy, including Wedding Crashers -- in fact, not since There's Something About Mary has a movie combined these disparate elements so seamlessly. Steve Carell plays Andy, a man-child who sports an impressive collection of comic books and action figures, rides a bicycle to work every day, and never has even come close to knowing the joys of a relationship, let alone the attendant carnal pleasures. His co-workers (Paul Rudd, Romany Malco and Seth Rogen) make it their mission in life to hook Andy up; he eventually bumps into a few prospects, the most promising being a single mom (excellent Catherine Keener). Carell and director Judd Apatow (who collaborated on the script) take their time developing all the principal players but never shirk on the laughs. 3.5 stars.

FOUR BROTHERS John Singleton helms this standard revenge flick that was a lot more fun when John Wayne and Dean Martin tackled the basic premise in The Sons of Katie Elder. The brothers of the title are Bobby (Mark Wahlberg), Angel (Tyrese Gibson), Jeremiah (Andre Benjamin) and Jack (Garrett Hedlund), raised by a foster home provider (Fionnula Flanagan) after nobody else wanted them. Now grown up, the lads return to their Detroit home after they learn that their mom was killed during a convenience store holdup. But as the siblings snoop around, they realize that she wasn't an innocent bystander but the target of a planned hit. The four lead actors establish an easygoing camaraderie, but that isn't enough to overcome silly supporting characters, a hard-to-swallow plotline and a ludicrous climax set on a frozen lake. This is also the sort of movie where a villain's ruthlessness is established in short-hand by the fact that he swipes a fat kid's candy bar! 2 stars.

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