Capsule reviews of films opening this week:
"Bee Season" - This family saga has plenty of honey for the brain but little for the heart. Adapted from Myla Goldberg's novel, it's strangled by its literary roots, the characters coming off as facades whose dark, strange actions often feel pointless because we have no true glimpse of their inner lives. The film has sturdy performances from Richard Gere, Juliette Binoche, Max Minghella and newcomer Flora Cross as a sixth-grader whose phenomenal success at spelling bees proves a catalyst for friction in her family. Yet under the direction of filmmakers Scott McGehee and David Siegel, the story is so dour and low-key, it's difficult to care about the characters or their crises. PG-13 for thematic elements, a scene of sensuality and brief strong language. 104 min. Two stars out of four.
"Get Rich or Die Tryin'" - As Eminem's protege, 50 Cent got the entree to rap superstardom and all the automatic wealth, fame and cred that go along with it. But apparently he didn't get any acting lessons. And so the film debut from 50 Cent (real name: Curtis Jackson) plays like a feeble retread of Eminem's film debut "8 Mile" - not just because it's arriving in theaters only three years later and it's so similarly semi-fictional, which it is. Mainly, "Get Rich" proves once again, as in "Glitter," that standing in front of a camera and portraying a thinly veiled version of yourself is harder than it sounds. Eminem pulled it off - even though "8 Mile" was essentially a rap version of "The Karate Kid" - because he had an inescapable charisma, an intensity about him and an innate ability to connect with his audience in a way that was evident even from his earliest music videos. 50, though, has always had a much more low-key vibe, which on the big screen renders him nearly inert. Terrence Howard and Joy Bryant co-star. R for strong violence, pervasive language, drug content, sexuality and nudity. 117 min. One and a half stars out of four.
"Pride & Prejudice" - Forget "Domino." Keira Knightley probably would like to, as would most critics for whom the movie continues to replay in our brains like some deafening psychotic episode. Here she's found the perfect role to showcase her various and formidable talents - her wit, beauty, intelligence and poise - which is all the more impressive when you consider that in playing Elizabeth Bennet, the stubborn, pragmatic Jane Austen heroine, she is taking on a beloved and potentially daunting literary figure. Knightley and Matthew Macfayden as the seemingly arrogant Mr. Darcy bring a totally refreshing take to this classic battle of the sexes under the innovative direction of Joe Wright, who has managed to make a film that's lush without being glossy, technically sophisticated yet accessible. The excellent supporting cast includes Donald Sutherland and Brenda Blethyn as the Bennet girls' parents, Rosamund Pike as eldest sister Jane and Judi Dench, who nearly steals the whole movie in just two scenes as the haughty Lady Catherine de Bourgh. PG for some mild thematic elements. 128 min. Three and a half stars out of four.
"Zathura: A Space Adventure" - You could do a lot worse than take the kids to see this spunky, good-natured family flick that offers plenty of pyrotechnics and a refreshing dynamic of brotherly love-hate from the movie's two endearing child leads. A close cousin to Robin Williams' 1995 hit "Jumanji" (both are adapted from similarly themed children's books by Chris Van Allsburg), "Zathura" is a better picture, relying on heart and hearth instead of the earlier film's suffocating star power and special effects. The story centers on two squabbling brothers (Josh Hutcherson and Jonah Bobo) hurled into outer-space peril while they play a mysterious sci-fi board game found in the basement. Tim Robbins and Dax Shepard co-star, and actor-turned-director Jon Favreau ("Elf") directs. PG for fantasy action and peril, and some language. 101 min. Two and a half stars out of four.
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