Originally created 02/05/06

At the Movies: capsule reviews of new films



Capsule reviews of films opening this week:

"A Good Woman" - Fabulous clothes, luxurious settings and Oscar Wilde's bon mots dripping from the mouths of the idle rich. Sounds like all the makings for a delightful, devilish escape. Unfortunately, some of Wilde's words land with a thud, as many of the film's stars are distractingly miscast. Helen Hunt as a notorious femme fatale? Scarlett Johansson as an innocent newlywed? It's hard to accept all around. Based on Wilde's play "Lady Windermere's Fan," the film moves the romance and scandal to 1930 on the Amalfi coast. Hunt's Mrs. Erlynne has traveled there in search of her latest wealthy man to latch onto, and finds the handsome, much younger Robert Windermere (Mark Umbers), who's recently married the idealistic Meg (Johansson). Everyone sits around gossiping about everyone else because, as one character puts it, "My own business bores me. I much prefer other people's." Tom Wilkinson is lovely and sad, though, as a rich older man who genuinely loves Mrs. Erlynne for who she is. PG for thematic material, sensuality and language. 93 min. Two stars out of four.

- Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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"Manderlay" - To get riled up by Lars von Trier's latest film would be to validate him. It would suggest that he has a point, and that it's lucid, and that he has argued it convincingly. With the second film in his trilogy indicting America - a country the Danish writer-director still has not been to and never intends to visit - he seems to be saying something about race relations, but what? That blacks still function essentially as slaves and that whites remain intent on keeping them there? Certainly his ideas cannot be that overly simplistic (and fundamentally misguided) and yet they feel as abstract as the film's setting: a sparse, open soundstage with just a few pieces of furniture and outlines on the floor in place of sets, just like its predecessor, 2004's "Dogville." Taking over for Nicole Kidman, Bryce Dallas Howard stars as an idealistic young woman who finds slavery still exists at an Alabama plantation in the 1930s and tries to right the wrongs these people have suffered. Howard does show great subtlety and strength in just her second leading role. Not rated but contains language, violence, nudity and sexual situations. 139 min. One and a half stars out of four.

- Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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"Something New" - Here's a movie that actually lives up to its title: a romantic comedy that's both romantic and funny and not nearly as formulaic as so many films of the genre unfortunately tend to be. It's not perfect: Director Sanaa Hamri and writer Kriss Turner get a bit obvious with some of their dialogue and imagery. A woman literally lets her hair down as an indication that she's loosening up. But the debut film from both women shows a refreshing approach to a premise (an interracial romance), characters (total opposites) and a city (Los Angeles) that we've seen many times before. Sanaa Lathan stars as an uptight workaholic on the verge of making partner at her high-powered accounting firm. She also happens to be black. Simon Baker plays an easygoing landscape architect with whom she's set up on a blind date. He also happens to be white. Alfre Woodard, Blair Underwood and Donald Faison co-star. PG-13 for sexual references. 100 min. Two and a half stars out of four.

- Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic