Originally created 09/25/05

At the Movies: capsule reviews of new films



Capsule reviews of films opening this week:

"Flightplan" - Jodie Foster's a maybe-crazy, maybe-not mom making a menace of herself on a trans-Atlantic flight in search of the missing 6-year-old daughter the crew insists never came on board with her. The basic story is intriguing, and with Foster and supersonic producer Brian Grazer aboard, there was a real prospect for a high-flying thriller. The filmmakers rounded up a solid supporting cast featuring Peter Sarsgaard, Sean Bean and Erika Christensen. The performances, including that of two-time Academy Award winner Foster, are intense and frantic but evoke little resonance or empathy. German independent director Robert Schwentke makes a technically sturdy Hollywood debut, yet he is able to eke out little more than moments of brooding atmosphere and a few climactic chills from a screenplay by Peter A. Dowling and Billy Ray that moves from implausible to farfetched to absurd. PG-13 for violence and some intense plot material. 97 min. One and a half stars out of four.

- David Germain, AP Movie Writer

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"A History of Violence" - The less you know about this movie before seeing it - and you really should see it - the better. And yet there's so much to say, it's hard not to want to ramble on. So we'll just say this: David Cronenberg's latest twisting thriller probably will appeal to a wider audience than his more daring films like "Naked Lunch" and "Crash," but is no less penetrating in its insights into human nature. The story of an Indiana family whose small-town idyll is shattered by violence offers a searing examination of how far people will go under duress, of the darkness that reveals itself during unexpected circumstances. Performances are uniformly excellent from a beautifully chosen cast, especially Viggo Mortensen as the mild-mannered patriarch (though as his character evolves, he's essentially playing two roles, distinctly and believably); Maria Bello, who plays his wife with powerful understatement; and William Hurt in a brief but scene-stealing cameo as a passively menacing Philadelphia mob boss. R for brutal violence, graphic sexuality, nudity, language and some drug use. 98 min. Three and a half stars out of four.

- Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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"Oliver Twist" - After the devastating emotional rawness of Roman Polanski's Holocaust drama "The Pianist," the director's take on the Charles Dickens classic is an oddly distant and disappointing affair. Other than its rich, technically sumptuous re-creation of 19th century London and a wickedly gnarled performance by Ben Kingsley as den of thieves master Fagin, Polanski's version has little to distinguish it from the many other fine and proper adaptations of the orphan boy's adventures. Barney Clark plays young Oliver, a chin-up survivor struggling to overcome an upbringing among workhouse tyrants, cruel employers and vicious street thugs. Polanski presents a dazzling portrait of the 1830s London slums, yet the drama itself is lackluster. Coming from Polanski, you expect surprises, unconventionality and emotional resonance. You expect, pardon the pun, some real twists. PG-13 for disturbing images. 130 min. Two and a half stars out of four.

- David Germain, AP Movie Writer

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"Roll Bounce" - There's more stuff going on in this '70s roller boogie comedy-drama-romance than there are mirrored panels on a disco ball. Crammed with enough real-life traumas and feel-good turnarounds to fill a couple of after-school specials, the film from director Malcolm D. Lee ("The Best Man," "Undercover Brother") is well-intentioned but wildly uneven. But it does have an undeniable energy during the skating sequences, which feature elaborate choreography - imagine "Breakin'" on wheels. And the artist formerly known as Lil' Bow Wow - who now goes by just Bow Wow- shows he's a confident, natural actor as he emerges from his teens and from earlier, more youthful roles in movies like "Like Mike." Chi McBride and Meagan Good co-star. PG-13 for language and some crude humor. 107 min. Two stars out of four.

- Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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"Daltry Calhoun" - This probably is not the movie that will finally force us to consider Johnny Knoxville as a serious actor - it's too slight, too unfocused. But starring in the title role as a small-town sod salesman who's losing his business while gaining the daughter he hasn't seen in years, Knoxville shows he has planted the seeds for a career that should blossom into something varied and unexpected. Knoxville plays the part with a mix of down-home, good-ol'-boy charm and believable awkwardness, and some of the best scenes are the ones he shares with newcomer Sophie Traub as his daughter, June, a 14-year-old musical prodigy. Elizabeth Banks and Juliette Lewis play the once and future loves of his life, respectively. Both bring some heart to roles that start out as twangy Southern stereotypes. PG-13 for sexual content, drug material and language. 87 min. Two stars out of four.

- Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic