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American Dreamz (PG-13)

Directed by Paul Weitz

Universal

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While this latest offering from Paul Weitz, director of American Pie and About a Boy, was a pretty good-sized bomb when released in theaters earlier this year, it plays out a very entertaining, almost-too-smart-for-its-own-good satire on the current state of American culture. The affable Hugh Grant is the host and producer of an "American Idol"-style show called American Dreamz that, in an effort to keep ratings bolstered, organizes a face-off between a celebrity-hungry Southern starlet (Mandy Moore) and an inept terrorist (Sam Golzari) who loves show tunes. And they're both judged by the dumb-as-rocks President of the United States, played by Dennis Quaid. In the end, it's actually a very funny, good-hearted spin at topical black comedy. Louis Fowler

Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story (R)

Directed by Michael Winterbottom

Newmarket Films / *Under the Radar

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Laurence Sterne's period novel The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, is pretty-much best described as the most unfilmable novel of all-time. Not really a story as much as a series of humorous digressions, this English classic has disgusted many a lit professor. British comedian Steve Coogan gives an adaptation the ol' Oxford try to nearly astounding results only to have the high concept plummet. The movie starts out a faithful, if rapid-fire, telling of the birth of Tristram Shandy, with such a flair for the unaccountability of the story that you might think you have a new comedy classic on your hands. Unfortunately, about 20 minutes in, the plot is abandoned to tell the story of the people making the film, a pratfall from which it never recovers. Louis Fowler

Don't Answer the Phone (NR)

Directed by Robert Hammer

Brentwood Home Video

For pure '70s/early '80s sleaze value, it didn't get much better than this release. Don't Answer the Phone is a scuzzy little 180-degree affair that'll leave you wanting to take a shower afterward if only to scrub off any excess filth from viewing. The story follows a character simply known as "the Strangler," a psycho Vietnam vet who, per his title, strangles women with pantyhose. And this is when he's not making a living as a nudie photog. Burly character-actor Nicholas Worth shines in this Taxi Driver rip-off, oozing greasy dread off the screen. It's a dark, sick little tale that's a freaky trip all the way. Certainly worth a viewing. Louis Fowler

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