Capsule reviews of films opening this week:
"Batman Begins" - Some of the same sorts of revelations about the evolution of Darth Vader that give "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith" a sense of geeky adolescent wonder surface in this prequel, too: the joy of discovering how Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) develops the Batcave, the Batsuit and the Batmobile (rendered here like a gas-guzzling Hummer, nothing like the sleek Corvette-style Batmobile in which Michael Keaton tooled around the streets of Gotham back in 1989). But except for a few quips from the formidable supporting cast - including Michael Caine as an ideal Alfred the butler and Morgan Freeman as Bruce's equivalent of Q from the James Bond films - "Batman Begins" is suffocatingly self-serious. Yes, the Dark Knight is supposed to be a tormented soul, having witnessed his parents' murder and used that guilt and anger as the inspiration for his nighttime forays into vigilante justice. It's hard to tell that "Batman Begins" began with Christopher Nolan, the mastermind behind "Memento," one of the most inventive films in recent memory. As director and co-writer (with David S. Goyer), Nolan takes an admirable stab at developing a character-driven drama, only to give in to generic action-movie conventions with a blinding, deafening, explosion-laden finale that could have capped off any number of interchangeable Jerry Bruckheimer flicks. PG-13 for intense action violence, disturbing images and some thematic element. 137 min. Two stars out of four.
- Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic
"The Perfect Man" - Heather Locklear's stunning looks and winsome personality remain in full bloom, though the filmmakers try to dull her down a bit by making her a single mom working in a bakery who has some desperate emotional bent for hooking up with losers. Even so, the woman you see on screen should have men lined up around the block. That's the first fatal flaw to this romantic trifle that stars Hilary Duff as Locklear's teenage daughter, who tries to salve her mom's romantic pangs by creating an ideal - but fictional - beau. The second fatal flaw: Director Mark Rosman delivers a toxic buzz of sweetness that Duff's teen gal fans might lap up, while all others suffer through a prolonged sugar fit. The latest dose of Duff fluff is essentially a series of gags and scenarios that range from implausible to outlandish. Chris Noth co-stars. PG for some mildly suggestive content. 100 min. Two stars out of four.
- David Germain, AP Movie Writer