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Capsule reviews of films playing the week of April 22

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THE GOLDEN BOYS Between them, David Carradine, Rip Torn and Bruce Dern have racked up 147 years of screen time, and The Golden Boys capitalizes on that vast pool of experience by allowing these veteran performers full rein to work their movie mojo. It's impossible to recommend this piffle to anyone who doesn't possess an ounce of interest in these accomplished thespians or the filmic heritage from which they draw, but seniors and cinema buffs might derive some modest measure of pleasure from the end result. Working from a 1904 novel by Joseph C. Lincoln titled Cap'n Eri: A Story of the Coast, this centers on three septuagenerian sea captains sharing a Cape Cod home. Deciding that they need a woman to look after them – but unwilling to pay for a housekeeper – the crusty trio decides that one of them must immediately find a wife. Captain Zeb (Carradine) and Captain Perez (Dern) are let off the hook when Captain Jerry (Torn) loses the coin toss, but once the chosen woman – the sensible, middle-aged Martha (Mariel Hemingway) – enters their lives, the other two men find themselves captivated by her charm and intelligence. Charles Durning, looking shockingly frail at 86, turns up as a God-fearing man who believes actions speak louder than words, while John Savage, the spring chicken among the males at the age of 59, appears as a city slicker who wants to introduce (gasp!) rum to this quiet community. Other characters flutter in and out of the story, but really, all that matters here is the triumvirate heading the cast. These three vets are a delight to watch, even if the movie around them remains soggy. **1/2

THE GREAT BUCK HOWARD John Malkovich's greatest performance will probably always remain his turn as, well, John Malkovich in Spike Jonze's Being John Malkovich, but that's not to say this versatile actor isn't always adding memorable bits to an increasingly impressive portfolio. Thanks to writer-director Sean McGinly, Malkovich triumphs again, this time portraying the title role in The Great Buck Howard. A slight yet satisfying show-biz tale that occasionally recalls such similar works as Broadway Danny Rose and My Favorite Year, this focuses on Troy (Colin Hanks), a young man who quits law school in order to find out what he really wants to do with his life. As he tries to figure it out, he takes a job as the road manager for Buck Howard, a temperamental mentalist who's convinced that his comeback rests just around the corner. As portrayed by Malkovich, Buck is a man who's by turns sympathetic, cruel, charming and egotistical. It's a socko piece of acting, and while the likable Hanks is rarely more than adequate, Emily Blunt comes along (playing a no-nonsense publicist) and more than holds her own with a sly, charming performance. From narcissistic entertainers to overzealous fans, The Great Buck Howard has something to say about almost everyone positioned up and down the chain of command. This expose is more congenial than acidic, but it's difficult not to like any movie in which a character states, "My college roommate was managing a multimillion dollar hedge fund, and here I was, helping Buck Howard with his benefit starring Gary Coleman and the guy from the Police Academy movies." ***

HE'S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU This long-on-the-shelf comedy-drama is a muddled he-said-she-said yarn that, even in this supposedly enlightened age, manages to reduce most of its characters (male and female) to the most base stereotypes. Based on the bestseller by Greg Behrendt and Liz Tuccillo, it centers on nine Baltimore residents all looking for love or sex or some combination thereof. Unfortunately, most of these characters are either self-centered dipshits (e.g. Justin Long's emotionless player, Bradley Cooper's philandering husband) or emotional retards (Ginnifer Goodwin's whiny nerd, Jennifer Aniston's marriage-manipulating girlfriend). Jennifer Connelly (as Cooper's patient wife) and Ben Affleck (as Aniston's devoted boyfriend) arguably fare best, though that probably has as much to do with their characters (more tolerable than the rest) as with their performances. *1/2

I LOVE YOU, MAN Like most films in the Judd Apatow vein (the man himself wasn't involved with this project, but the principal players are all veterans of his works), this attempts to strike a desirable balance between sweet sincerity and risqué raunch. Yet perhaps more than any of the other films (Knocked Up, Superbad, etc.), it frequently pulls back when it reaches the edge of vulgarity. (That's not to say the picture doesn't fully deserve its R rating: With its ample selection of crude language, no one will be mistaking it for Mary Poppins.) Paul Rudd (in a disarming performance) stars as Peter Klaven, a nice guy who's always put his energy into his relationships with women. Because of this, he doesn't have a single male friend, so after he proposes to his girlfriend Zooey (immensely appealing Rashida Jones) and realizes he has no one to serve as his best man at their wedding, he sets out on a mission to find an eligible dude. His first few "dates" are disastrous, but he eventually meets Sydney Fife (Jason Segel), who's his complete opposite: disheveled in appearance, able to converse openly about sex, and completely comfortable in his own guy-skin. It's after Sydney's first appearance that I Love You, Man had the potential to self-destruct, as most filmmakers would turn Sydney into a complete creep or psychopath, a walking nightmare fueled by booze and testosterone. Yet while he does often come across as boorish, he's allowed to remain a fundamentally ordinary guy, and an often decent one at that. Unlike some of the other sweet-and-sour comedies of modern times, this one doesn't provide much in the way of large belly laughs. But it's pleasurable enough to paste a smile on the face for the majority of its running time. ***

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