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Capsule reviews of films playing the week of June 15 

BIG MOMMAS: LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON Big Mommas: Like Father, Like Son isn't like Some Like It Hot; instead, it's like every other witless sequel meant to prolong the life cycle of a flailing franchise. Like it or not, the fact remains that there's not much to like here, and it only escapes a bomb rating because it's more irritating than offensive — like an ant crawling across a countertop rather than a roach roosting in the cereal box. The second sequel to the 2000 box office hit Big Momma's House, this finds Martin Lawrence again cast as FBI agent Malcolm Turner, donning the wig and fat suit once more to elude some Russian mobsters. The added, uh, hilarity comes with the notion that Malcolm's stepson Trent (Brandon T. Jackson) must also disguise himself as a female — in his case, a student named Charmaine. Together, Madea — excuse me, Big Momma — and Charmaine head to an all-girls arts school to uncover some evidence that will put away the criminals on their trail. Big Momma gets romantically wooed by a hefty caretaker (Faizon Love) who's into hefty women, Charmaine ogles the young ladies as they strip down to their undies, and everyone involved dutifully collects their paychecks while hoping for better luck the next time out. *1/2

BRIDESMAIDS Bridesmaids can't maintain a high level of hilarity over the course of its 125 minutes, but when its game is on, it ranks among the funnier endeavors of the past few years. Judd Apatow is one of its producers, and the film certainly falls in line more with his brand of product — raunchy comedies that often reveal unexpected depths (e.g. The 40-Year-Old Virgin) — than with the usual formulaic rom-coms with female protagonists and wedding themes (e.g. the abysmal Something Borrowed). But let's be quick to steer most of the credit away from Apatow — and even director Paul Feig — and place it where it clearly belongs: at the feet of Kristen Wiig. The talented comedienne has perked up many a movie in supporting roles, and she's sensational in her largest part to date. Working from a screenplay she co-wrote with Annie Mumolo, she plays Annie, who's been chosen by her lifelong best friend Lillian (Maya Rudolph) to serve as her maid of honor. But Annie feels increasingly threatened by the presence of Lllian's new friend, the lovely and wealthy Helen (Rose Byrne), and matters soon get awkward and out-of-hand. Wiig possesses the same sort of brashness that the likes of Madeline Kahn and Bette Midler used to display in comedies, yet her more delicate features allow her to smoothly apply the brakes and ease back into the more vulnerable aspects of her characterization. As expected, the film contains a smattering of gross-out gags, yet while some are undeniably funny, they can't compete with the moments in which the laughs stem mostly from Wiig's genuine comic chops, whether it's the perfect scene involving a microphone stand-off or the sequence in which she unwisely mixes booze and pills while aboard an airplane. Granted, the actress has been around for years, but with Bridesmaids, it's not exactly inappropriate to declare that a star is born. ***

EVERYTHING MUST GO This adaptation of a Raymond Carver short story ("Why Don't You Dance?") is a gem — perhaps more of a diamond in the rough than a polished jewel, but still. Will Ferrell stars as Nick Halsey, a relapsed alcoholic who loses his job, his wife and his house all on the same day. Locked out of the home he shared with his spouse (who's temporarily living at an undisclosed location) and low on cash because she froze all their assets, Nick parks himself on the front lawn, guzzling beer while surrounded by all the possessions she chucked out along with him. Only two people in the neighborhood bother socializing with him: Samantha (an excellent Rebecca Hall), a pregnant woman whose husband is always away, and Kenny (promising newcomer Christopher Jordan Wallace), a portly boy fighting boredom since his mom's up the street working as a caretaker. Nick's AA sponsor, a cop (Michael Pena), informs him that he can't live on his lawn, but he can legally remain there for a couple of days if he holds a yard sale. So with the help of Kenny, Nick starts selling his cherished possessions, all the while attempting to come to grips with his present situation and future uncertainty. While it's true that a better actor might have knocked the rich role of Nick Halsey out of the park, Ferrell is nevertheless fine in the part, allowing us to largely forget the baggage that his clownish canon can't help but bring to the project. It's a smart career move on his part, and it will be interesting to see if he's able to build on it. Yet the real discovery here is writer-director Dan Rush, making impressive debuts in both capacities. From little moments that sneak up and surprise you to climactic confrontations that don't always go down as expected, he shapes the material into something memorable and meaningful. ***1/2

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  • On Saturday, Oct. 21, hundreds gathered at Camp North End on Statesville Avenue for Charlotte's first black alternative music festival. We captured some of the bands in action on stage, but mostly we surveyed the grounds as fans, families, vendors and more lounged around the sprawling, colorful Camp North End site. It was a great day of music, food, fun, and sweet, autumn sunshine. (Photos by Mark Kemp)
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