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BUBBA HO-TEP
Directed by Don Coscarelli, Vitagraph Opens September 26, Angelika

A self-consciously cornball horror film set firmly in Joe Bob Briggs/Fangoriaterritory, Bubba Ho-Tepsqueezes one final gasp of inspiration from the haggard comedy workhorse of Elvis-survival kitsch. Consigned to a Panhandle nursing home, the real Elvis Presley (Evil Deadicon Bruce Campbell) has been impersonating one of his own impersonators since his faked death. When an ancient Egyptian soul-sucking demon arrives in the form of a Texas-sized cockroach, Elvis teams with fellow grumpus Jack (unembarrassed Ossie Davis), who thinks he's JFK turned black, to fight the Lovecraftian menace. Campbell's King is the stuff of 50 million stand-up routines, spun into a cranky, bitter monologuist, à la Southern-fried Raymond Chandler. Ho-Tepis surprisingly low on action until its walker-and-wheelchair deathmatch, opting instead for Campbell's musings on aging. Though unpainfully entertaining, its greatest dose of otherworldly mojo must have been spent warding off straight-to-video status. —Ed Halter


THE RUNDOWN
Directed by Peter Berg,
Universal
Opens September 26

To call this action gambit formulaic is to sell it short: The Rundownruns down more formulas than a month's worth of complimentary premium cable service. The Rock plays Beck, a bookie's strongarm who dreams of opening his own restaurant. (Hey, it worked for Rocco.) He's sent on a final mission to bring the boss's wayward son home from Brazil, which, as you might expect, doesn't go as planned. Young Bookie Jr. (Seann William Scott), a guerrilla with a heart of gold (Rosario Dawson), and a leering white slaver (Christopher Walken) lead our hero into a series of Amazonian adventures that play like Indiana Jones in Sergio Leone-land with Sonny Chiba as master of ceremonies. The Rock displays an intriguing hangdog vulnerability early on, but this is quickly cast aside in favor of his more familiar eyebrow calisthenics and body slams. —Mark Holcomb


7 YEAR ZIGZAG
Directed by Richard Green,
Next Step
Opens September 26, Quad

Narrating in compulsive rhymed couplets, actor-crooner-voice-over staple Richard Green self-mythologizes his life from the late '70s to the early '80s, when he dreamed of making not one but two movies. The more "commercial" of the pitches is (possibly) ripped off for the magnificent Xanadu, so Green imagines that funding a new club consecrated to a damp swing revival will fund the more "artistic" project. The very raw video of that venue going belly-up on opening night is, strangely, the most gripping stuff—Green, saucer-eyed, cokey, frying in flop sweat, gives the viewer the shrill thrill of being in someone else's nightmare. But the songs? Swung, man, swung. —Edward Crouse


LUTHER
Directed by Eric Till,
RS Entertainment
Opens September 26, AMC Empire

Martin Luther's life remains a mystery. How did this rude monk, prey to depression and satanic hallucinations, change the course of history? Lutheroffers scant illumination, for the big brown eyes that served Joseph Fiennes so well in Elizabethare little help with the spirit of Reformation. This biopic follows Luther from the rain-soaked field where he promises himself to God to the moment when he nails 95 Theses to a church door in Wittenberg, through his subsequent papal inquisitions and beyond. Sir Peter Ustinov lends his world-weary charm as Frederick the Wise, Luther's great protector; Bruno Ganz brings remarkable tenderness to his role as the young monk's spiritual mentor. The screenwriters flirt with the idea of Luther's mental derangement, but their monk is more a product of ideology than a flesh-and-blood creature, too gentle and good to have overturned the world. —Leslie Camhi


COLD CREEK MANOR
Directed by Mike Figgis
Touchstone, in release

Not exactly Leaving New York, Mike Figgis's tale of upstate real-estate horror follows the city-slick Tilsons as they relocate from soul-killing Gotham to the more literally lethal Massie manse. Dennis Quaid is the documentarian paterfamilias, whose next project is to reconstruct his new home's old ghosts; his rat-race-escaping spouse (Sharon Stone) turns up in togs that had audience members sighing with—well, it's hard to say. The atmosphere is initially menacing, all sinister hammers, discomfiting Polaroids, and serpent infestations. (Anytime you move into a town where Juliette Lewis steps out of a gas station, you know you're in trouble.) But as the Massie black sheep (Stephen Dorff) loses his temper on the installment plan, CCM's dissipated endgame borrows soggily from The Ring, resulting in something that wouldn't make it past the first script meeting for Scary Movie 4. —Ed Park


UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN
Written and directed by Audrey Wells
Touchstone, opens September 26

A sickly-sweet scented candle of a movie, UTTSturns the pure consumption porn that was Frances Mayes's 1997 renovation-travel-cooking memoir into something altogether more offensive. While the real Mayes tackled her tumbledown Italian villa with the help of a new lover, Diane Lane portrays a desperately lonely divorcée who practically has to beg a local bartender to sleep with her. The delights of true friendship, the charms of the landscape, and yes, a kitten may each substitute temporarily for romance, but the point of all these healing festivities can only be landing another man. With a sunflower motif more predictable than a desk calendar and some egregious Fellini references, the visuals are as dozy as the insights; only Sandra Oh, as the wisecracking lesbian Asian pregnant best friend, provides a bright spot. Get this sidekick her own sitcom! —Anya Kamenetz

 
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