STEAMBOY

Hapless accountant Albert (Kevin James) is so frantically smitten with his firm's star client that he hires Hitch (Will Smith), who has a gift for helping Manhattan nerds land the women of their dreams. The problem is, Hitch himself keeps going all gooey around Sara (Eva Mendes), a love-leery gossip columnist. The film moves in fits and starts, and is way too long, but it may prove memorable, if only for the sweet, marvelously inventive performance of Kevin James. (CW) (Countywide)

French director Florent Siri's first English-language feature wears its influences on its sleeve. Only instead of the aesthetics of the contemporary video-game universe, Hostage plants its roots firmly in two earlier cinematic eras: hard-boiled 1950s noirs and 1970s grindhouse thrillers. The result—a crude, violent home-invasion drama—isn't particularly tasteful or finely crafted, but it has a pulpy intensity that grabs you early on and rarely lets go. The movie feels like the pushing of a much-needed reset button, both for the action genre and for its floundering star, Bruce Willis, who hasn't seemed this human and vulnerable since the original Die Hard. (SF) (Countywide)

Paul (Don Cheadle, wonderful), a Hutu, manages a swanky hotel in Rwanda while remaining oblivious to the rising Hutu-led genocide against the Tutsis—which his wife and their children happen to be. When the violence surges to his front door, Paul is forced into the role of hero. Director Terry George, working from a script he co-wrote, hooks viewers by having us ride shotgun to Paul's awakening consciousness. The film, based on true lives and events, aims unequivocally to break your heart, and it does. (EH) (AMCFullerton;EdwardsParkPlace,Irvine)

Tim Fywell's follow-your-bliss teen-skater charmer about two daughters (Michelle Trachtenberg and Hayden Panettiere) pressured into career plans they don't want treats female achievement with such respect, one almost forgives the malice of its portrayal of single mothers as rabid stage moms. Joan Cusack and Kim Cattrall bring some nice ambiguity to their thankless roles as the mothers, while pintsize Kirsten Olson and punked-out Julianna Cannarozzo, both professional skaters, leaven this Disney sugarplum with much-needed wit. But the movie's real subject, wittily handled by writer Hadley Davis, is the ardent loyalties and competitive bitchery of the figure-skating subculture. (ET) (Countywide)

This second animated feature written and directed by The Iron Giant's Brad Bird, about a family of superheroes living incognito in the suburbs, isn't just a wisecracking Pixar parody of a world-rescuing adventure thriller. It's the real thing. So much so that scenes of the family members fighting as one on a jungle island, when their various clashing superpowers finally begin to rhyme and reinforce one another, carry a stronger sense of their bonds of affection than the standard sitcom scenes around the dinner table. (DC) (Captain'sFamily,Brea)

Writer-director Paul Weitz's corporate comedy begins as a canny skewering of the modern workplace, with Dennis Quaid as a veteran ad exec demoted to make room for a cocky upstart (Topher Grace). But the movie's satire ultimately feels facile and obvious, and by the time Grace invites himself over to Quaid's place for dinner and starts making googly eyes with Daddy's college-age girl (Scarlett Johansson), the whole thing has devolved from softball to cornball. (SF) (Captain'sFamily,BreaandSantaAna;RegalFoothillTowneCenter,FoothillRanch)

Suffering from amnesia after being shot in the head during the first Gulf War, Jack Stark (Adrien Brody) returns home, is wrongly accused of murdering a cop and is sent to a psych hospital run by a doctor who locks him in a mortuary drawer for hours on end. Employing a nails-on-a-chalkboard sound design and a relentless, staccato-edited visual scheme, director John Maybury's work is suitably unnerving, but leaves one feeling beaten senseless by reel two. (CW) (AMCattheBlock,Orange)

Tommy Lee Jones plays Roland, a Texas Ranger assigned to protect a squad of college cheerleaders who've witnessed a murder and are now being hunted by the killer. It's dull going, despite two nice courtship scenes between Jones and Anne Archer, whose grounding, radiant presence restores, however briefly, a trademark twinkle to the eye of a bored leading man. (CW) (EdwardsAnaheimHills;RegalFoothillTowneCenter,FoothillRanch)

Jay Roach's sequel to his popular Ben Stiller comedy Meet the Parents feels like a big-budget Dharma & Greg episode with toilet jokes. Prospective in-laws Robert De Niro and Blythe Danner, as tight-assed WASPs, interact predictably with the Stiller character's folks, Roz and Bernie Focker, played by Barbra Streisand and Dustin Hoffman as unbuttoned Jewish-hippie stereotypes. The desperation is occasionally leavened by the charm of the star cast: De Niro does incredulous disgust better than anyone on Earth, and entire sequences here are choreographed to inspire his slow burn. In the next installment he should play a movie critic. (DC) (Captain'sFamily,Brea)

Clint Eastwood's 25th film as director is one of his very best: a masterful, classically constructed boxing drama that views the sport as a metaphor for the wounds we suffer in life, in and out of the ring. In his most emotionally unguarded performance to date, Eastwood plays veteran fight trainer Frankie Dunn, who grudgingly takes an upstart female fighter (the extraordinary Hilary Swank) under his wing, and bonds with her in a way he never did with his own estranged daughter. At times, the movie throws blind-siding counterpunches of brutality and tenderness, but Eastwood navigates them with the cool confidence of a champion who knows when to step forward and when to lean back. (SF) (Countywide)

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