'The Goods' never gets started
courtesy pf Paramount Vantage, Used car salesman Don Ready (Jeremy Piven, center) can talk his way out of anything, including smoking on a plane.

Associated Press

'The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard'

Rated R for sexual content, nudity, pervasive language and some drug material. Running time: 90 minutes. One star out of four.

Enduring the soul-sucking process of buying a used car is bad enough.

Watching a movie about soulless used-car salesmen is even worse — especially when it's a comedy that strains desperately for raunchy, politically incorrect laughs. In theory, the pieces were there for something more inspired.

The large ensemble cast features Jeremy Piven, David Koechner, Ving Rhames, Ed Helms, Tony Hale and Ken Jeong.

A lot of improv supposedly went on, as well, as you might expect in a movie from Will Ferrell and Adam McKay's Gary Sanchez Productions. After all, these are the people behind "Anchorman” and "Talladega Nights.” But this time, except for a couple of amusing lines here and there, the results just feel flat and generally unpleasant

Piven, as hotshot used-car salesman Don "The Goods” Ready, is essentially doing a variation on his cocky, fast-talking Ari Gold character from "Entourage” — which is pretty much all we've seen him do for years now.

Don is the leader of a brash crew of mercenaries (played by Koechner, Rhames and Kathryn Hahn) who are hired to travel from town to town, moving cars off flailing lots. Their latest stop is Temecula in Southern California, where they have to help sell 141 cars over the three-day July 4 weekend.

'The Time Traveler's Wife'

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, brief disturbing images, nudity and sexuality. 107 min. Two stars out of four.

So let's try to get this straight, here.

Eric Bana plays a guy named Henry who can travel through time, only he can't control where or when he goes.

He also can't control how he gets back, except for when he tries certain tricks to place himself in a state of mind to time travel. Even then there's no way to guarantee which version of Henry will show up: the same one who left or a younger or older version of himself.

The only constant seems to be that when he shows up at his destination, he's always naked. (Somehow, Henry has found time between all his travels to hit the gym.) Hunky as he is, he'd be a frustrating guy to fall in love with, or even date.

 But Rachel McAdams' character, Clare, must be made of stronger stuff than the rest of us, because not only does she tolerate Henry's pesky inconsistency, she believes he's her destiny, and that he has been since the first time she saw him as a precocious 6-year-old girl.

Maybe it's more plausible on the written page — or maybe you just have to be a hopeless romantic, and willing to shut off the part of your brain that craves logic, to enjoy this. But strangely, in the script from Bruce Joel Rubin (an Oscar winner for "Ghost”), the time-travel gimmick supersedes any sort of substance, depth or character development.

'District 9'

Rated R for bloody violence and pervasive language. 113 min. Three and a half stars out of four.

The mysterious signs have been out there for weeks, months even: On billboards, benches and bus stops featuring crude cartoon alien drawings, they've warned us of non-humans, they've urged us to remain separate.

They're ads for the enormously buzzed-about "District 9,” and thankfully, given their ubiquity, all the hype is justified. This is one intense, intelligent, well-crafted action movie — one that dazzles the eye with seamless special effects but also makes you think without preaching.

Like the excellent "Moon” from earlier this summer, "District 9” has the aesthetic trappings of science fiction but it's really more of a character drama, an examination of how a man responds when he's forced to confront his identity.

Aliens who arrived in their spaceship more than 20 years ago have now been quarantined in cramped and dangerous slums; the nerdy bureaucrat charged with moving them to new quarters (the tremendous Sharlto Copley) is transformed in the process.

What's amazing is that this visceral yet philosophically sophisticated film is the first feature from commercial and music-video director Neill Blomkamp, who co-wrote the script with Terri Tatchell. (Peter Jackson is the big name attached to this refreshingly star-free project — he's one of the producers.)

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