DEUCE BIGALOW: EUROPEAN GIGOLO (R, 77 minutes)
Lord knows, I've tried to love Rob Schneider, giving him the benefit of the doubt (and what may well be the best reviews of his life) for "Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo" and "The Animal," two crude comedies that at least managed to elicit a few hearty, if lowbrow, laughs. Up to now, my appreciation of the actor was due in no small measure to his trademark genial-loser persona, which seemed to apologize for itself even as it flaunted its silliness. But do I really need to see, as we do in the sequel, "Deuce Bigalow: European Gigolo," a woman with a penis for a nose "sneezing" into someone's soup and then watch that soup get eaten? Or, worse yet, to imagine that same character's strange endowment getting stuck in another woman's tracheotomy hole? (Thankfully, this occurs off-camera.) Maybe I'm getting too old for this stuff, but the new film -- which follows retired male "prosti-dude" Deuce's (Schneider) efforts to clear his former pimp's (Eddie Griffin) name when the manager is accused of murder by the Amsterdam police -- feels less like a celebration of anarchic smut than a joyless entry in a gross-out contest designed for the (presumably) stoned teenage male fans of body-part and body-fluid humor. Sure, I laughed. (What can I say? I'm weak.) But afterward I felt used and dirty in a way I never had before. As he did in the first "Deuce Bigalow" film, Schneider's character talks a lot about how his customers want more than a piece of meat. With this latest exercise in cynicism, however, it's not Deuce's satisfied clientele, but the audience, that gets the shaft. Contains obscenity, partial nudity, crude humor, sex and drug use and comic violence. Area theaters.
-- Michael O'Sullivan
THE GREAT RAID (R, 132 minutes)
Acting like a big-screen epic but coming across more like a cable TV extravaganza, this movie (directed by John Dahl) is an informative account of one of modern history's boldest and inspiring rescue missions. In World War II, American forces led a successful mission into a remote corner of the Philippines, where more than 500 prisoners of war had been held near a village called Cabanatuan for three years. They saved the prisoners from their brutal Japanese captors, who had denied them medicine, fed them sparsely and killed POWs without hesitation. As the movie shows, the determined leadership of ailing commanding officer Major Gibson (a gaunt, almost gargoylish Joseph Fiennes) and the secret supplies of medicine smuggled into the camp by nurse Margaret Utinsky (Connie Nielsen) keep the POWs' morale relatively strong. This is a movie for people more interested in the subject matter than its dramatic presentation. The story, adapted from Hampton Sides's book "Ghost Soldiers" as well as William B. Breuer's "The Great Raid on Cabanatuan," is unnecessarily lengthy. The dialogue is not exactly spit-polish perfect. A central friendship between Gibson and imprisoned Captain Prince (James Franco) is fair to middling. And the central romance (which is actually an unrealized attraction between Gibson and Utinsky) is lame formula indeed. The most touching part of the entire film occurs in the epilogue when we see footage of the real participants after the rescue. In a matter of minutes, this small section touches you in ways the movie just can't muster. Contains war violence, obscenity and atrocities. Area theaters.
-- Desson Thomson
9 SONGS (Unrated, 67 minutes)
It goes something like this. A British glaciologist named Matt (Kieran O'Brien) meets an American woman, Lisa (Margo Stilley), at a concert in London. They watch the show. Then they go to his house, and they have sex. Then, days later or something, they go to another concert (seemingly filmed in the same location and seemingly on the same night), and they have more sex. And then, it's time for another concert. And more sex. Want to know how many more times this happens? Look at the title. Never did sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll seem more shopworn and routine. It's enough to make you put in extra hours at the office. Director Michael Winterbottom, who has made some powerful films (such as "In This World" and "24 Hour Party People"), seems to have no interesting reason to have made this movie. A few aerial shots of the Antarctic as Matt flies over are nothing but arty window dressing for the bed bouncing that follows. The conversations between our enthusiastic lovers amount to banality. And speaking of hollow reflection, you have to wonder what went on in Winterbottom's head as he "wrote" the script. How about doing this scene in the bathtub? And I reckon we could throw in a little bondage for the other one. Hmm, we could have them do it in the kitchen, too. Oh, the profound questions that artists grapple with every day. Contains graphic sex, obscenity and drug use. At Landmark's E Street Cinema.
-- Desson Thomson
NOVEMBER (R, 88 minutes)
The best thing about this psychological exploration is its star, Courteney Cox. The former "Friends" star turns in a fine performance that's Monica-free as a photographer whose boyfriend (James LeGros) is killed in a convenience store holdup. Shot in a little more than two weeks on digital video, the movie has a grainy, atmospheric quality that does induce a mood of surreal disturbance. Basically structured in three acts, the film is like a bloody "Groundhog Day" as the store's robbery is replayed multiple times with varying details and outcomes. Cox's strong presence intrigues enough to make you interested in finding out what's really happening, but the film's plodding pace, minimalist plot and convoluted is-it-real-or-not feints and twists may leave you more interested in how much longer you have to sit through it. In one scene, a detective investigating the shooting comments on some photos that pertain to the case: "It's a shame. They're almost too arty for their own good." The same can easily be said about "November." Contains gun violence, bloody shootings and a few profanities. At Cineplex Odeon Shirlington and Regal Gallery Place.
-- Curt Fields
THE SKELETON KEY (PG-13, 104 minutes)
Freaky people with their eyes rolled back in their heads? Check. Clanging noises in the middle of the night? Check. Locked doors that lead to rooms filled with spooky supernatural secrets? Oh, triple-check. Yes, as voodoo-themed thrillers go, "The Skeleton Key" delivers on all formulaic counts, except one: It never serves up any truly nightmare-inspiring scares. Still, even though it elicits as many giggles as gasps, "Key" isn't such a bad little movie. Kate Hudson bravely allows her mascara to run repeatedly in her role as Caroline Ellis, a live-in caretaker to stroke victim Ben Devereaux (John Hurt), who happens to live in a creepy mansion in the swampy outskirts of New Orleans with his overprotective wife, Violet (Gena Rowlands). Immediately, Caroline senses something weird about the place. All the mirrors have been removed from the walls. Ben's bedsheets have the words "Help Me" scrawled across them. And to paraphrase the lyrics of Carlos Santana, it appears the Devereauxs have got a black magic attic. Like almost every psychological horror flick spawned from Hollywood these days -- from "The Forgotten" to "Hide and Seek" to 2001's exceptional "The Others" -- "The Skeleton Key" creates a mood of general foreboding, sprinkles in a few spine-straightening jolts, then caps it all off with a twist ending that, in this case, viewers may not see coming. It's all ultimately made watchable by the exceptional cast, which includes the reliably compelling Peter Sarsgaard, and a story that, despite some unsavory racial undertones, holds the audience's interest even when it veers toward the downright silly. It's the sort of movie that will make a great Friday night rental when it hits DVD shelves in a few months. As to whether it's worth catching in theaters, well, you'll just have to decide whether the spirits move you. Contains violence, disturbing images and some partial nudity. Area theaters.
-- Jen Chaney