Chili Palmer, the thug who smooth-talked his way into a job as a film producer in Get Shorty, continues to be the perfect character for John Travolta. Palmer's big, square-shouldered, cigarette-slinging machismo, ice-blue stare, and self-control in the midst of Mexican standoffs are the epitome of "cool." And in the sequel, director F. Gary Gray's Be Cool, he even gets to dance.

But Be Cool is best described as "lukewarm." Like Get Shorty, it has all of the talents it needs to bring things to a rapid boil. But Gray and screenwriter Peter Steinfeld can't take this tepid material to anything more than a simmer. Gray seems unfocused and uninspired, and since his style lacks energy, he fails to muster any in us. The central conflict never convinces us to care.

It's a flimsy story drawn from Elmore Leonard's novel about a girl-group pop singer (Christina Milian) who wants to break free and release her inner diva. Chili Palmer, restless in the movie business, wants to help her find a better future. Furthermore, she can be his ticket to a new career, and provide the lift necessary for a sinking record company managed by his leggy friend Edie Athens (Uma Thurman). But first, Edie and Chili must liberate Linda from a five-year contract. To do that, they'll have to out-talk, outmaneuver, and outwit a heartless management kingpin (Harvey Keitel) and a sleazy manager (Vince Vaughn).

It's easy to imagine how much fun Tarantino, the Coen Brothers, Steven Soderbergh, or even Guy Ritchie would have had with the caper that follows, as slimy businessmen, producers, and even the Russian mafia wrestle for the contract of this promising pop singer. But Gray's approach is to move so lazily and half-heartedly along that a viewer's mind is likely to wander.

My full review is at Christianity Today Movies.

Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) had a good time. "No one should go to Be Cool expecting much depth or consistency in the story line. The fun of this film is in watching the individual components. Elmore Leonard has peopled his novel with a cornucopia of unusual characters which Hollywood, true to form, delights in bringing to life. No one seems to be delighting more than The Rock, who is hysterical."

But Christopher Lyon (Plugged In) did not have a good time. "After 10 years, you've got to wonder who was asking for this sequel. After two hours, viewers will be wondering why they asked for a ticket. Be Cool is the perfect triple threat: stupid, boring and offensive. It's the whole package."

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Annabelle Robertson (Crosswalk) says, "The main message in the film is that the music industry is full of gangsters—like that's a revelation. Everyone is pursuing their dream, and they aren't afraid to shoot someone else—or sleep with their best friend's widow—to get it. Pretty sordid stuff, especially when you add the overwhelming number of profanities and obscenities and a lot of shoot-em-dead violence."

Frederica Matthewes-Green (The National Review) is a fan of Get Shorty, but not its sequel. "Every once in awhile a comedy comes along that is bright and quirky enough that it lingers companionably in the mind a long time after. Get Shorty was one of those movies; the first time I saw it, I spent the ending credits wearing a big grin, thinking back over delicious scenes and wishing I could see more of those characters. Be Cool is a sequel that took ten years in coming, and now the reverse seems to be true: The characters are brassy, loud, and shallow, and there is a lot more of them on display than you really want to see."

Be Cool is leaving most mainstream critics cold.

If you like diaper jokes, The Pacifier is the movie for you!

The new film from the director of A Walk to Remember, Adam Shankman, is a comedy tellingly titled The Pacifier. Vin Diesel plays an undercover agent who ends up investigating the sordid secrets of dirty diapers while attempting to protect the family of an important government scientist.

Yep. Oscar season is truly over.

Mary Lasse (Christianity Today Movies) says, "The Pacifier looks like mindless entertainment. And, well, that's mostly what it is throughout." She says it "begins in all the wrong ways: silly dialogue … cliché s and predictability … and complete abandonment of the 'Show us, don't tell us' policy." But then she says that, halfway through, "either the 12-year-old kid inside me wrestled and defeated my cynical critic within, or the movie actually picked up and got pretty funny the rest of the way."

David DiCerto (Catholic News Service) calls it "embarrassingly unfunny. Clumsily acted and directed, this laugh-free riff on Kindergarten Cop, Daddy Daycare and countless others … reeks more than the many diapers its brooding star changes throughout the film."

Michael Elliott (Movie Parables) notes, "By doing this film, Vin Diesel proves what many have suspected: He may be an action star but he's not much of an actor. Granted, he's not given much to work with. The screenplay is painfully simple and formulaic." Elliott also observes that the death of a certain character seems to have very little effect on other characters close to him.

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Marcus Yoars (Plugged In) defends the film: "This is one of those movies critics love to hate. Granted, it's a bit silly and largely uninspired, but The Pacifier isn't completely ineffective. Moms are valued. Discipline is trumpeted. Love and respect are linked. Traitors are loathed. And the good guys win. Besides, who wants to miss watching ex-bouncer Vin Diesel use tongs to change a diaper?"

(Um … I do!)

Annabelle Robertson (Crosswalk) says it's "pretty much a rehashed version of films we've already seen, like Kindergarten Cop and Mr. Nanny. However, for the audience it is targeting, it works." Robertson concludes, "The best thing about The Pacifier is how it honors the military, showing just how competent, skilled and useful that training can be and is, while also highlighting the importance of family, friendships and love, as a counterbalance."

So perhaps the movie isn't a complete waste of time. Perhaps The Pacifier is worth sucking on for a couple of hours. You decide.

Mainstream critics are refusing to accept The Pacifier.

The Jacket only fits some critics

The Jacket, the new psychological thriller from director John Maybury, stars Adrien Brody, who has unfortunately become more famous for his Oscar-night kissing shenanigans than for the role that won him an Oscar. Brody plays a military veteran so seriously damaged that he can't even take one day at a time. That's because time has become jumbled for him, and he's zigzagging between past, present, and future, trying to make the right moves in order to save the lives of his loved ones.

The film thrills viewers with nerve-wracking twists that involve amnesia, experimental drugs, and something called a "body drawer." And then there's another volatile element capable of causing great civil unrest … Keira Knightley (Pirates of the Caribbean).

Stefan Ulstein (Christianity Today Movies) says, "The Jacket is a solid attempt to wrestle with some big questions. The cast is exemplary and the premise and script are well reasoned and artful. Somehow, though, it doesn't quite come together as promised."

Adam R. Holz (Plugged In) says that the time-travel element makes the film confusing. "The film's confusion of genres goes too far and makes for an uneven ride at best. It's as if The Jacket can't decide what it really wants to be when it grows up, and as a result it ends up underperforming across the board. What is clear, however, is the film's harsh, R-rated content. The ending's momentary glimmer of light and meaning simply cannot penetrate such a bleak and hopeless atmosphere."

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Annabelle Robertson (Crosswalk) says it offers "positive messages. On the one hand, it gives a negative portrait of the Gulf War and what happens to soldiers after they come home. It also portrays Dr. Becker as a church-going, praying Christian … which many Christians will find incredibly offensive—the usual stereotype of an evil Christian, taken to an extreme. On the other hand, the film shows the importance of parents on a child's life. You might [also] uncover an additional message about death and life … that even though we might be in the darkest, most lonely of places, controlled by evil people, there is always hope."

Mainstream critics are almost evenly split on The Jacket.

More reviews of recent releases

Hitch:Josh Hurst (Reveal) says Hitch "may not be exactly what the doctor ordered, but at least it's a step in the right direction. Great art it isn't, but smart writing and warm performances ensure that it is at least solid entertainment, a great date movie that should appeal to members of both sexes."

Diary of a Mad Black Woman:Denny Wayman and Hal Conklin (Cinema in Focus) say, "The film's weaving together of faith and life is refreshing. Without being preachy, and with a bawdy humor that balances the seriousness of the topics and religious messages, Perry presents a moral tale. The story is elevated not only by enjoyable gospel music but also by a proclamation of the power of God to heal us from addictions, abusive behaviors, angry revenge and powerlessness. This is a message that can deliver us all from being mad at life."

Man of the House: Marvin Olasky (World) says, "It's hard to waste Tommy Lee Jones, $40 million, and filmic use of the University of Texas grounds and insignia, but Man of the House does so."

The Merchant of Venice: Josh Hurst (Reveal) raves, "Not only does it succeed as a big-screen adaptation of a great work of literature, but also as a masterfully wrought period piece, a compelling drama, and a vehicle for profound spiritual exploration."