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"Crank"

Hit man Chev Chelios (Jason Statham) awakes to discover that he has been drugged with a synthetic poison that will kill him in "about an hour." It's a fate, he soon learns, that can only temporarily be held at bay by keeping his adrenaline pumping. Unfortunately, Sandra Bullock isn't driving this bus. Chelios is his own driver, keeping his foot hard on the gas, recklessly racing to stay alive and exact revenge on his killer. To keep his heart pumping, Chelios snorts cocaine off a bathroom floor, has sex in the middle of L.A.'s Chinatown, sticks his hand in a waffle iron - and most curiously - headbangs to Billy Ray Cyrus. But "Crank," like Chelios, is pulled downward by its nihilistic rush for a rush. Writer-directors Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor play Chelios' manic, pointless rage for a gleefully violent romp, stomping on anything and everything along the way, including the life an old woman's parrot. If Statham ("Snatch," "The Transporter") is going to ascend to the big leagues of action stardom, he has the talent to do it without sacrificing everything for the sake of a quick pulse. R for strong violence, pervasive language, sexuality, nudity and drug use. 83 minutes. One star out of four.

- Jake Coyle, AP Entertainment Writer

"World Trade Center"

There isn't a single gratuitous minute in Oliver Stone's film, which recreates the endless hours in which two Port Authority police officers (Nicolas Cage and Michael Pena) were trapped beneath the rubble of the twin towers on Sept. 11 and tracks the panic of their family and friends who waited anxiously for news of their rescue. But it's also the safest film Stone has ever made. This is a director you expect to grab hold of an historical event - as he has with the Vietnam War in "Platoon" and the Kennedy assassination in "JFK" - and shake it tirelessly until some meaning falls out, some perspective that perhaps we hadn't cared or dared to consider. What Stone has come up with here is an exceptionally crafted, strongly acted, high-end made-for-TV movie. It's visceral and intense, exceedingly faithful in its depiction of the fear and chaos, the ash and smoke, that enveloped New York that day. And yet it provides no insight, offers no political statement, doesn't even begin to broach the subject of terrorism. Maria Bello and Maggie Gyllenhaal give beautiful, moving performances as the officers' wives. PG-13 for intense and emotional content, some disturbing images and language. 129 min. Three stars out of four.

- Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

"Beerfest"

The comedy troupe Broken Lizard's tale of extreme beer drinking plays out like a college kegger that gets off to a bad start but picks up steam as the suds flow. The movie's dreadful at the outset, without a laugh in sight, but slowly improves as the troupe manages some genuinely funny jokes and sight gags. The five-man team behind the cop spoof "Super Troopers" again writes and stars: Jay Chandrasekhar (who also directs), Erik Stolhanske, Paul Soter, Kevin Heffernan and Steve Lemme. The thin plot centers on two brothers (Stolhanske and Soter) who stumble on a secret beer-consumption competition in Munich and enlist three pals (Chandrasekhar, Heffernan and Lemme) for a team to challenge their hated German cousins. Cloris Leachman, Juergen Prochnow and Mo'Nique co-star. R for pervasive crude and sexual content, language, nudity and substance abuse. 112 min. Two stars out of four.

- David Germain, AP Movie Writer

"How to Eat Fried Worms"

An engaging, lighthearted family film that's a lot tastier than its title implies. The movie has victims taking on bullies, something we all can relate to. It's got a parent-approved message of tolerance and understanding that's not too sappy for children to appreciate. It's got a passel of goofy kids with weird names and distinctive faces whose idiosyncrasies would make them fit right in on any grade-school playground. It's got a good dose of humor that's cute without being overly sentimental. And for the kid in all of us clamoring to be yucked out, it's got worms: gross ones, icky ones, pan-fried ones, microwaved ones. Writer-director Bob Dolman's adaptation of Thomas Rockwell's novel stars Luke Benward as the new kid at school, whose encounter with a bully (Adam Hicks) lands him in a bet over whether he can eat 10 worms in a single day. PG for mild bullying and some crude humor. 84 min. Three stars out of four.

- David German, AP Movie Writer

"Accepted"

So maybe this isn't the most original movie in the world. It's a little like "Animal House," a little like "Revenge of the Nerds" and a lot like "Old School." It calls to mind elements of "Real Genius," "National Lampoon's Van Wilder" and "PCU," which starred a then-unknown Jeremy Piven and seems to be playing somewhere on cable television 24 hours a day - even though it came out in 1994. And maybe its premise isn't the most plausible: A bunch of slackers and weirdoes form their own college, where "liberal" doesn't even begin to describe the liberal arts education. Doesn't matter. "Accepted" is a lot more fun than you'd expect from a comedy coming out in the dead of summer. Directed by Steve Pink from a script by Adam Cooper, Bill Collage and Mark Perez, and featuring a performance from the infinitely likable up-and-comer Justin Long, the film has a certain subversive elan that keeps it light on its feet - until the very end, that is, when it turns self-righteous and takes itself way too seriously. Blake Lively, Jonah Hill and Lewis Black co-star. PG-13 for language, sexual material and drug content. 92 min. Two and a half stars out of four.

- Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

"The Illusionist"

This period piece about the power of magic lacks just that. The magic of romance, drama, longing and faith generally is missing in director Neil Burger's tale of a love triangle involving a magician, a noblewoman and the heir to the Austrian throne. Burger crafts a movie with a sumptuous visual palette but little heart, the characters detached and cold-blooded. It's no surprise that an inscrutable poker-face such as Edward Norton plays the title role as such a closed-book. It's quite a sleight of hand, though, for a film to thoroughly constrain a co-star as expressive as Paul Giamatti into a character so aloof he barely registers emotionally. Norton plays a magician in 1900 Vienna at odds with the crown prince (Rufus Sewell) and the police inspector (Giamatti) charged with debunking the prestidigitator's amazing illusions. Jessica Biel co-stars as the magician's childhood flame, now the jealous prince's fiance. PG-13 for some sexuality and violence. 109 min. Two stars out of four.

- David Germain, AP Movie Writer

"The Wicker Man"

There's a deliriously delightful weird streak that runs through this, at least for a while, with Nicolas Cage as a cop investigating the disappearance of a child from a creepy, private island in Washington's Puget Sound. Apparently these people are into all kinds of pagan rituals, and Cage's character has arrived in time for the harvest festival. So there he is running around, banging on doors with a gun in his hand, yanking the piggy and bunny masks off the faces of cherubic little blond girls in search of the one who's gone missing. It's wild, really - and before it spirals into irretrievably ridiculous territory toward the end, it can even be fun, just because the mystery gets so bizarre. The wildest part of all, though, is that Neil LaBute wrote and directed "The Wicker Man" (a remake of a critically acclaimed 1973 British thriller), that besides Cage it stars Ellen Burstyn and Frances Conroy, and that nevertheless the film wasn't shown to critics before opening day. It's never scary or suspenseful, but it might just be the greatest bad movie of the year. PG-13 for disturbing images and violence, language and thematic issues. 103 min. One and half stars out of four.

- Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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