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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 19, 2006

Some little movies likely to please

 •  Summer screen scene

By Chris Hewitt
Knight Ridder News Service

Jack Black, as a wrestling priest, shows off his fighting form in "Nacho Libre," the new film from "Napoleon Dynamite" director Jared Hess.

Paramount Pictures

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Just because a film is a so-called blockbuster doesn't mean it's good. Here are five films to look forward to and not because they cost a gazillion dollars to make.

"A Prairie Home Companion": It's not quite fair to say I'm anticipating "Prairie Home," since I've seen it and I already know it's good. I'm looking forward to seeing it again. The second time, I won't have to worry about the negligible plot and can concentrate on the glorious music and the superhuman way Meryl Streep turns the cartoony part of a ditzy singer into something noble, melancholy and hopeful. Opens June 9.

"Nacho Libre": There are a few reasons an upcoming movie gets my attention: a terrific director, an actor with interesting taste, a story that sounds intriguing or a perfect storm that whips up all those elements. That's the case here. I loved Jared Hess' "Napoleon Dynamite," and the role of a priest who becomes a wrestler sounds perfect for Jack Black's manic talents. The plot the priest takes to the mat to save some orphans has a sweetly doofy ring to it, which I'm hoping means Hess' "Nacho" dips into "Naploeon" territory again. Opens June 16.

"Harsh Times": I don't know a lot about "Harsh Times," and I plan to keep it that way. It's directed by David Ayer, who wrote the smart "Dark Blue," and it stars Christian Bale, who seems to be attracted to intelligent, disturbing material (if you missed him in "The Machinist," I encourage you to finish reading this story while walking to the video store). Like "Dark Blue," in which Kurt Russell was a dirty cop, it's a drama about crime coming between friends. Opens in late June.

"Wordplay": Somewhere, some graduate student is probably laboring on a thesis about why words make such fine source material for documentaries. Meanwhile, we just keep getting to enjoy such movies as "Spellbound" (spelling bees), "Word Wars" (Scrabble championships) and this portrait of the guy who creates the New York Times crossword puzzles. I don't even do crossword puzzles, but I'm already hooked. Opens June 16.

"A Scanner Darkly": We can put money down that it'll be the most original-looking film of the summer, since it's made with the same wiggle-mation technique director Richard Linklater used for "Waking Life": He shoots the film normally, then animators outline it and color it in. Linklater ("Before Sunset," "School of Rock") is one of our most consistent filmmakers, and I'm anxious to see if Winona Ryder can still act. Especially when she has to act with Keanu Reeves. Opens July 14.