COMEDIES VIE ON FATHER'S DAY WEEKEND

The Hangover would appear to have a good shot at staying at the top of the box-office for a third consecutive weekend -- particularly since it's the kind of movie families are likely to take dad to see on Father's Day. Its strongest competitor, it would seem, is the romantic comedy The Proposal, starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds, which might be more appropriate for Mother's Day. Box office prognosticators figure that each of the films should take in around $20 million. Also opening is the Jack Black comedy Year One, which is expected to take in something short of $20 million. Given Sunday's day with dad, it's likely that Disney/Pixar's Up will remain a strong contender as well. While none of those films is likely to take in blockbuster bucks, their combined revenue could very well lift the box office back into the win column after three losing weeks versus last year. Also opening in limited release -- New York and Los Angeles -- is Woody Allen's latest comedy, Whatever Works, starring Larry David.

MOVIE REVIEWS: THE PROPOSAL

It may be a good thing for The Proposal, starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds,that movie audiences are composed -- overwhelmingly -- of the so-called "dating crowd." Older moviegoers are likely to have seen the plot of the movie innumerable times in the past. Besides, the movie itself is a so-called date flick. Lou Lumenick in the New York Post calls it "shamelessly derivative, contrived and predictable." Yet he adds that it is "nonetheless a crowd-pleasing romantic comedy." Carrie Rickey in the Philadelphia Inquirer similarly concludes: "The setup is formula, but Bullock and Reynolds supply surprising fizz and kick." Likewise Liam Lacey in the Toronto Globe and Mail comments that "the two stars invigorate this breezy trifle of a romantic comedy." And Tom Maurstad in the Dallas Morning News describes it as "the moviegoing equivalent of comfort food: You know exactly what you're getting and it's easy, no-fuss fun." Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun Times says that as he watched the plot of the movie begin to unfold he sat "cringing, knowing with uncanny certainty where the story was going." But by the end, he writes, he was won over. "The Proposal recycles a plot that was already old when Tracy and Hepburn were trying it out," he concludes. "You see it coming from a great distance away. As it draws closer, you don't duck out of the way, because it is so cheerfully done, you don't mind being hit by it." In her review in the New York Times, Manohla Dargis begins to describe the plot, then interrupts herself: "You know the rest because you've seen (and read) it many times before," she writes. Dargis is not so congenial as Ebert in summing up the movie, particularly when it comes to Bullock: "She's just another female movie star in need of a vehicle that won't throw her overboard for sexist giggles and laughs." Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal is somewhat kinder to Bullock but remarks that while he watched the movie, he couldn't help thinking, "Why is she demeaning herself with such shoddy goods? She's a talented woman with a faithful following. She has made formula films of varying quality before, and her fans may well swallow this one, but it's a formula for disappointment laced with dismay." Elizabeth Weitzman in the New York Daily News also expresses something approaching sympathy for Bullock's costar, Reynolds, who has spent years "choosing scripts painfully beneath him," she writes. "So it would have been nice if these two had found something worthy of their combined talents. Instead, their mutual inclination towards synthetic Hollywood junk just drags them down together." And Rafer Guzmán in Newsday simply dismisses The Proposal as a movie that "goes everywhere you've already been."

MOVIE REVIEWS: YEAR ONE

Year One , starring Jack Black and Michael Cera,takes place during the time of the cavemen, but several critics suggest the title might well refer to the high-school level of comedy it displays. Claudia Puig in USA Today warns: "No one older than 16 should bother seeing it." Kyle Smith in the New York Post begins his review by writing that the movie "is nowhere near as funny as the ancient-civilization movies I saw in high school: Life of Brian, History of the World Part I, Caligula. Its script isn't worth the papyrus it's inscribed on." Joe Neumaier in the New York Daily News predicts that "the one person who'll be happy after walking out may be Will Ferrell, since Land of the Lost is no longer the only turkey around."

MOVIE REVIEWS: WHATEVER WORKS

For the past two or three decades, reviews of Woody Allen movies -- he continues to turn out about one every year -- have tended to fall into two categories: the ones that say that Allen has lost his comedic touch and the ones that say he is back in winning form. His last film, Vicky Christina Barcelona, fell into the latter category; his newest film, Whatever Works, which opens today (Friday) in New York and Los Angeles, falls into the former. "Whatever Works is one of the least engaging movies ever by the prolific Allen, a real disappointment after the charms of Vicky Christina Barcelona," writes Claudia Puig in USA Today. "It's as distasteful as Barcelona is appealing." Indeed, Allen had been piling up considerable acclaim from critics for the movies he has been making abroad for the past several years. "But Mr. Allen's imagination has returned to Manhattan after that invigorating European sojourn afflicted by an extreme case of jet lag," writes A.O. Scott in the New York Times. Echoing Scott's remarks is Lou Lumenick in the New York Post, who writes: "The Woodman's return to New York after a four-year European sojourn finds him working very familiar territory much less fruitfully than in the past." Part of the problem, say many critics is the performance of Larry David in the starring role as an old misanthropic intellectual. Rafer Guzmán in Newsday remarks that David's acting style "wipes away the vulnerability and sweetness that Allen wrote into the character." And Kenneth Turan in the Los Angeles Times notes that Allen had originally written the script with the late Zero Mostel in mind to play the lead. However, he remarks, "It's not Mostel you will be imagining in this role when you see the film, but Allen himself. There's no doubt that the writer-director's presence would make the script's torrent of dyspeptic lines more palatable than David can." And in the Wall Street Journal Joe Morgenstern sums up the movie in three words: "Whatever Works doesn't."

Cinemark Movie Club