FILM ‌ Capsule Reviews 

Opening This Week

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (PG-13) Read the review here.

Walk the Line (PG-13) Read the review here.

Critical Capsules

click to enlarge Philip Seymour Hoffman stars in Capote
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman stars in Capote

Capote (R) Capote isn't really about the murders that shattered the town of Holcomb, Texas, and became the fodder for Truman Capote's legenday novel In Cold Blood. It's about -- although this only slowly becomes clear -- Capote's capacity for self-deception. Director Bennett Miller and screenwriter Dan Futterman brilliantly skitter around the edges of the crime, and Philip Seymour Hoffman doesn't impersonate Capote so much as embody the author so intimately that there is no artifice or actorly showiness in the Capote-isms: the lisping, the dapperness. Mostly, though, we see in Capote's interactions with the people of Holcomb and with the killers what a tough son of a bitch he really is. -- MJ

Chicken Little (G) Corporate mentality wins again! Deciding that no one wants hand-drawn animation any more and forgetting that their last sizable homegrown hit, Lilo and Stitch, was hand-drawn, the suits at Disney decided to make a computer-animated film of their very own. And a joyless affair it is, but that's what happens when you make things by committee. They shot for The Incredibles and didn't even manage Madagascar. Small children will like it. Adults will mostly be thankful it's only 77 minutes long -- and even at that it's outrageously padded. -- KH

Derailed (R) If this would-be thriller and cautionary tale (the wages of adultery are hell -- even if you don't have a pet rabbit) didn't take itself so seriously, it might have been a trash masterpiece. As it stands, it's a slickly made fiasco that thinks it's so clever that it constantly telegraphs its "surprise" ending. Worse, it suffers from major miscasting in Jennifer Aniston. Even with two pounds of eye makeup she still comes off as one half of the Doublemint Twins. She merely looks like she's masquerading as a femme fatale -- probably for a fancy dress Rotarian fundraiser. More amusing than thrilling. -- KH

Doom (PG-13) How do you review a movie like Doom? Why even bother? It's exactly what you think it is -- a noisy, gory, silly movie based on a videogame, populated with disposable characters running around corridors shooting guns and/or being chased and eaten by nasty monsters. At its best, it's an efficient -- albeit cheese-encrusted -- replication of the first-person shooter style of videogame. Its only claim to creativity is the annoying video-game-point-of-view section toward the end --- and, face facts, Uwe Boll already tried that in House of the Dead. When you're stealing from Uwe Boll, you know you're in trouble. -- KH

Elizabethtown (PG-13) Cameron Crowe's latest starts with Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) claiming that anyone can fail, but only a special type of person can create a fiasco. If that's so, then Cameron Crowe is a very special type of person, because this Garden State retread is a fiasco of massive proportions. Long, slow, and disjointed, the movie suffers from a 30-year-old lead who behaves like the teenage protagonist from Crowe's Almost Famous. A few amusing scenes (and some smart applications of rock music) can't salvage this one. -- KH

Flightplan (PG-13) I don't know why they didn't just call this unabashed Hitchcockian rip-off The First-Grader Vanishes, but it's not just sub-Hitch thriller; it also thinks it's a kind of Sixth Sense surprise revelation opus. But the only surprise is that a so-so thriller turns into an unintentionally funny riot of preposterousness that neither Jodie Foster's two-fisted histrionics nor Robert Schwentke's directorial panache can overcome. -- KH

The Fog (PG-13) Another pointless remake of a horror film -- in this case, John Carpenter's The Fog. And, as usual, it's been dumbed-down, made scrupulously PG-13, and aimed solely at fans of teen-centric TV in the casting of Smallville's Tom Welling and Lost's Maggie Grace as the leads. It more or less follows Carpenter's plot, but piles a ridiculous backstory on top, and, worse, has milked the story of most of its scares in favor of notably bloodless "creative deaths" (apparently the malevolent spirits of Antonio Island have been watching old Omen movies). Rarely has the supernatural been this dull. -- KH

Get Rich or Die Tryin' (R) The idea of presenting a gun-toting gangster as a misunderstood youth in search of a father figure is about as dubious as Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson's acting. It will be argued that the story is about the fictionalized version of "50 Cent" overcoming his past through rap music. That might hold water if the songs didn't catalogue and glorify that past -- not to mention that the murderous violence continues right up to the film's final scene of Marcus walking onstage. The fact that the film has the temerity to present him there as a Christ figure only makes the message that much more suspect, despite Jim Sheridan's directorial proficiency. -- KH

Good Night, and Good Luck (PG) George Clooney's remarkable film feels like, a smooth, sardonic smack in the face of today's so-called newspeople, the cinematic equivalent of a withering glare and a disdainful roll of the eyes. Yeah, it's about CBS's Edward R. Murrow and how he took on Sen. Joseph McCarthy's right-wing insanity, but what it's really about is how badly we need a Murrow now. What's most brilliant about it isn't that it ends up serving the very purpose that it suggests no one else is serving -- but that it's so damn cool. -- MJ

In Her Shoes (PG-13) It's totally a chick flick: there's all sorts of stuff about shoes, and there will be some happy tears at the end. But it's the good kind of chick flick, about real women with real problems that other real women can identify with, not the idiot kind that made the term "chick flick" derogatory in the first place. What elevates In Her Shoes to something profound and wise, what's so refreshing is its refusal to be broken it down into clichés and stereotypes. Plus, Toni Collette has always been a goddess and always will be. -- MJ

Jarhead (R) "Welcome to the suck," indeed. Sam (American Beauty) Mendes' Gulf War I film is basically a vacuous study of unlikable people waiting for nothing to happen. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a young cipher who joins the Corps, reads Camus, jerks off, goes to Iraq, goes crazy, and gets drunk -- or perhaps vice versa. As usual, Mendes uses important stuff as material for ramming his empty pretensions to profundity and High Art up our innocent hindquarters. -- Ian Gray

The Legend of Zorro (PG) The Legend of Zorro takes place ten years after the events in Mask of Zorro. This time, a ready-to-retire Zorro (Antonio Banderas) must stop a complicated plot to blow up the people of California. It's not the masterful movie that its predecessor was, but it's still a fun, exciting, gorgeous piece of swashbuckling adventure. Unfortunately, director Martin Campbell waters down the violence to get a more kid-friendly PG-rating. No one is ever stabbed, no one is ever cut, and the movie goes out of its way to find new methods of bonking people on the head. Note to Zorro: Your sword has a pointy tip. Use it. -- KH

North Country (R) The very fact that there's nothing wrong with North Country may be what's wrong with it. It's so efficient at being exactly what it sets out to be that it could become the classic text for a filmmaking class called "Crafting the Message Picture 101" -- as well as a supplementary item for such other courses as "Writing the Perfect Oscar-Bait Speech." It's well-intentioned and very sincere and its story is an important one, but it's also stupefyingly predictable as it treads its well-worn path to its crowd-pleaser ending. -- KH

Prime (PG-13) Uma Thurman is a 37-year-old divorcee. Bryan Greenberg is a 23-year-old wannabe artist. They have lots of sex, the details of which Uma reveals to her therapist, Meryl Streep. Then Uma learns that her therapist is her lover's mother. Oops. Don't get hoodwinked into thinking this is a romantic comedy. It's witless, pointless, puerile, unsexy, and boring. -- Marci Miller

Proof (PG-13) With so much cinematic drek flooding cinemas, it's a relief to encounter a movie like Proof that actually dares to deal with ideas and complex, complicated characters. More ambitious than the previous John Madden-Gwyneth Paltrow collaboration (Shakespeare in Love), this story of a daughter who may or may not have inherited her father's (Anthony Hopkins on auto-pilot) genius -- and his madness -- sometimes betrays its talky origins as a stage play, but it still makes for compelling viewing. -- KH

Saw 2 (R) It's better than the original on almost every level. This does not mean it's any good. Saw 2 is admirable for the efficiency with which is accomplishes its chief purpose: parting horror fans with a few bucks. The problem is that it's an utterly sadistic horror picture that exists for no other reason and has no discernible point or value. But on that level -- limited and possibly loathsome as it is -- it's hard to deny that Saw 2 does what it sets out to do. -- KH

Separate Lies (R) Julian Fellowes is two for two: The English actor's first big screenwriting credit, Gosford Park, netted him an Oscar, and with this directorial debut, he again demonstrates a mastery of British uppercrust dramas. Like the best UK drawing room dilemmas, Separate Lies is more tart than bitter, with Fellowes, the Cambridge-educated son of a diplomat, acquitting himself grandly of cinematic boorishness. -- Raoul Hernandez

The Weather Man (R) It's not a crowd pleaser and it'll never achieve the box-office success of Gore Verbinski's last two films, The Ring and Pirates of the Caribbean. Even so, The Weather Man is a rich and frequently wonderful film anchored by terrific performances from Nicolas Cage, Michael Caine, and newcomer Gemmenne de la Pena. Sometimes darkly funny, but not really the comedy the trailer suggests, it's an atmospheric work about coming to terms with our own limitations and the expectations imposed on us by others that deserves a broader audience than it's likely to get. -- KH

Zathura (PG) Two young boys stumble across a strange board game called "Zathura" and in short order their entire home is flung into space and assaulted by burning, flying rocks. If they want to get back to Earth, they'll have to play their way through Zathura and win. Elf director Jon Favreau's flick is great fun and a visual treat, but it just misses greatness by rote of a flat, confusing narrative. Parents my leave befuddled by the sometimes careless plot and it'll never be considered the family classic that Elf already is, but Zathura will fire up their kids' imaginations. -- JT

Opening This Week

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (PG-13) Reviewed this week on page 36.

Walk the Line (PG-13) Read the review here.

Critical Capsules

click to enlarge Philip Seymour Hoffman stars in Capote
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman stars in Capote

Capote (R) Capote isn't really about the murders that shattered the town of Holcomb, Texas, and became the fodder for Truman Capote's legenday novel In Cold Blood. It's about -- although this only slowly becomes clear -- Capote's capacity for self-deception. Director Bennett Miller and screenwriter Dan Futterman brilliantly skitter around the edges of the crime, and Philip Seymour Hoffman doesn't impersonate Capote so much as embody the author so intimately that there is no artifice or actorly showiness in the Capote-isms: the lisping, the dapperness. Mostly, though, we see in Capote's interactions with the people of Holcomb and with the killers what a tough son of a bitch he really is. -- MJ

Chicken Little (G) Corporate mentality wins again! Deciding that no one wants hand-drawn animation any more and forgetting that their last sizable homegrown hit, Lilo and Stitch, was hand-drawn, the suits at Disney decided to make a computer-animated film of their very own. And a joyless affair it is, but that's what happens when you make things by committee. They shot for The Incredibles and didn't even manage Madagascar. Small children will like it. Adults will mostly be thankful it's only 77 minutes long -- and even at that it's outrageously padded. -- KH

Derailed (R) If this would-be thriller and cautionary tale (the wages of adultery are hell -- even if you don't have a pet rabbit) didn't take itself so seriously, it might have been a trash masterpiece. As it stands, it's a slickly made fiasco that thinks it's so clever that it constantly telegraphs its "surprise" ending. Worse, it suffers from major miscasting in Jennifer Aniston. Even with two pounds of eye makeup she still comes off as one half of the Doublemint Twins. She merely looks like she's masquerading as a femme fatale -- probably for a fancy dress Rotarian fundraiser. More amusing than thrilling. -- KH

Doom (PG-13) How do you review a movie like Doom? Why even bother? It's exactly what you think it is -- a noisy, gory, silly movie based on a videogame, populated with disposable characters running around corridors shooting guns and/or being chased and eaten by nasty monsters. At its best, it's an efficient -- albeit cheese-encrusted -- replication of the first-person shooter style of videogame. Its only claim to creativity is the annoying video-game-point-of-view section toward the end --- and, face facts, Uwe Boll already tried that in House of the Dead. When you're stealing from Uwe Boll, you know you're in trouble. -- KH

Elizabethtown (PG-13) Cameron Crowe's latest starts with Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) claiming that anyone can fail, but only a special type of person can create a fiasco. If that's so, then Cameron Crowe is a very special type of person, because this Garden State retread is a fiasco of massive proportions. Long, slow, and disjointed, the movie suffers from a 30-year-old lead who behaves like the teenage protagonist from Crowe's Almost Famous. A few amusing scenes (and some smart applications of rock music) can't salvage this one. -- KH

Flightplan (PG-13) I don't know why they didn't just call this unabashed Hitchcockian rip-off The First-Grader Vanishes, but it's not just sub-Hitch thriller; it also thinks it's a kind of Sixth Sense surprise revelation opus. But the only surprise is that a so-so thriller turns into an unintentionally funny riot of preposterousness that neither Jodie Foster's two-fisted histrionics nor Robert Schwentke's directorial panache can overcome. -- KH

The Fog (PG-13) Another pointless remake of a horror film -- in this case, John Carpenter's The Fog. And, as usual, it's been dumbed-down, made scrupulously PG-13, and aimed solely at fans of teen-centric TV in the casting of Smallville's Tom Welling and Lost's Maggie Grace as the leads. It more or less follows Carpenter's plot, but piles a ridiculous backstory on top, and, worse, has milked the story of most of its scares in favor of notably bloodless "creative deaths" (apparently the malevolent spirits of Antonio Island have been watching old Omen movies). Rarely has the supernatural been this dull. -- KH

Get Rich or Die Tryin' (R) The idea of presenting a gun-toting gangster as a misunderstood youth in search of a father figure is about as dubious as Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson's acting. It will be argued that the story is about the fictionalized version of "50 Cent" overcoming his past through rap music. That might hold water if the songs didn't catalogue and glorify that past -- not to mention that the murderous violence continues right up to the film's final scene of Marcus walking onstage. The fact that the film has the temerity to present him there as a Christ figure only makes the message that much more suspect, despite Jim Sheridan's directorial proficiency. -- KH

Good Night, and Good Luck (PG) George Clooney's remarkable film feels like, a smooth, sardonic smack in the face of today's so-called newspeople, the cinematic equivalent of a withering glare and a disdainful roll of the eyes. Yeah, it's about CBS's Edward R. Murrow and how he took on Sen. Joseph McCarthy's right-wing insanity, but what it's really about is how badly we need a Murrow now. What's most brilliant about it isn't that it ends up serving the very purpose that it suggests no one else is serving -- but that it's so damn cool. -- MJ

In Her Shoes (PG-13) It's totally a chick flick: there's all sorts of stuff about shoes, and there will be some happy tears at the end. But it's the good kind of chick flick, about real women with real problems that other real women can identify with, not the idiot kind that made the term "chick flick" derogatory in the first place. What elevates In Her Shoes to something profound and wise, what's so refreshing is its refusal to be broken it down into clichés and stereotypes. Plus, Toni Collette has always been a goddess and always will be. -- MJ

Jarhead (R) "Welcome to the suck," indeed. Sam (American Beauty) Mendes' Gulf War I film is basically a vacuous study of unlikable people waiting for nothing to happen. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a young cipher who joins the Corps, reads Camus, jerks off, goes to Iraq, goes crazy, and gets drunk -- or perhaps vice versa. As usual, Mendes uses important stuff as material for ramming his empty pretensions to profundity and High Art up our innocent hindquarters. -- Ian Gray

The Legend of Zorro (PG) The Legend of Zorro takes place ten years after the events in Mask of Zorro. This time, a ready-to-retire Zorro (Antonio Banderas) must stop a complicated plot to blow up the people of California. It's not the masterful movie that its predecessor was, but it's still a fun, exciting, gorgeous piece of swashbuckling adventure. Unfortunately, director Martin Campbell waters down the violence to get a more kid-friendly PG-rating. No one is ever stabbed, no one is ever cut, and the movie goes out of its way to find new methods of bonking people on the head. Note to Zorro: Your sword has a pointy tip. Use it. -- KH

North Country (R) The very fact that there's nothing wrong with North Country may be what's wrong with it. It's so efficient at being exactly what it sets out to be that it could become the classic text for a filmmaking class called "Crafting the Message Picture 101" -- as well as a supplementary item for such other courses as "Writing the Perfect Oscar-Bait Speech." It's well-intentioned and very sincere and its story is an important one, but it's also stupefyingly predictable as it treads its well-worn path to its crowd-pleaser ending. -- KH

Prime (PG-13) Uma Thurman is a 37-year-old divorcee. Bryan Greenberg is a 23-year-old wannabe artist. They have lots of sex, the details of which Uma reveals to her therapist, Meryl Streep. Then Uma learns that her therapist is her lover's mother. Oops. Don't get hoodwinked into thinking this is a romantic comedy. It's witless, pointless, puerile, unsexy, and boring. -- Marci Miller

Proof (PG-13) With so much cinematic drek flooding cinemas, it's a relief to encounter a movie like Proof that actually dares to deal with ideas and complex, complicated characters. More ambitious than the previous John Madden-Gwyneth Paltrow collaboration (Shakespeare in Love), this story of a daughter who may or may not have inherited her father's (Anthony Hopkins on auto-pilot) genius -- and his madness -- sometimes betrays its talky origins as a stage play, but it still makes for compelling viewing. -- KH

Saw 2 (R) It's better than the original on almost every level. This does not mean it's any good. Saw 2 is admirable for the efficiency with which is accomplishes its chief purpose: parting horror fans with a few bucks. The problem is that it's an utterly sadistic horror picture that exists for no other reason and has no discernible point or value. But on that level -- limited and possibly loathsome as it is -- it's hard to deny that Saw 2 does what it sets out to do. -- KH

Separate Lies (R) Julian Fellowes is two for two: The English actor's first big screenwriting credit, Gosford Park, netted him an Oscar, and with this directorial debut, he again demonstrates a mastery of British uppercrust dramas. Like the best UK drawing room dilemmas, Separate Lies is more tart than bitter, with Fellowes, the Cambridge-educated son of a diplomat, acquitting himself grandly of cinematic boorishness. -- Raoul Hernandez

The Weather Man (R) It's not a crowd pleaser and it'll never achieve the box-office success of Gore Verbinski's last two films, The Ring and Pirates of the Caribbean. Even so, The Weather Man is a rich and frequently wonderful film anchored by terrific performances from Nicolas Cage, Michael Caine, and newcomer Gemmenne de la Pena. Sometimes darkly funny, but not really the comedy the trailer suggests, it's an atmospheric work about coming to terms with our own limitations and the expectations imposed on us by others that deserves a broader audience than it's likely to get. -- KH

Zathura (PG) Two young boys stumble across a strange board game called "Zathura" and in short order their entire home is flung into space and assaulted by burning, flying rocks. If they want to get back to Earth, they'll have to play their way through Zathura and win. Elf director Jon Favreau's flick is great fun and a visual treat, but it just misses greatness by rote of a flat, confusing narrative. Parents my leave befuddled by the sometimes careless plot and it'll never be considered the family classic that Elf already is, but Zathura will fire up their kids' imaginations. -- JT

Opening This Week

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (PG-13) Reviewed this week on page 36.

Walk the Line (PG-13) Read the review here.

Critical Capsules

click to enlarge Philip Seymour Hoffman stars in Capote
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman stars in Capote

Capote (R) Capote isn't really about the murders that shattered the town of Holcomb, Texas, and became the fodder for Truman Capote's legenday novel In Cold Blood. It's about -- although this only slowly becomes clear -- Capote's capacity for self-deception. Director Bennett Miller and screenwriter Dan Futterman brilliantly skitter around the edges of the crime, and Philip Seymour Hoffman doesn't impersonate Capote so much as embody the author so intimately that there is no artifice or actorly showiness in the Capote-isms: the lisping, the dapperness. Mostly, though, we see in Capote's interactions with the people of Holcomb and with the killers what a tough son of a bitch he really is. -- MJ

Chicken Little (G) Corporate mentality wins again! Deciding that no one wants hand-drawn animation any more and forgetting that their last sizable homegrown hit, Lilo and Stitch, was hand-drawn, the suits at Disney decided to make a computer-animated film of their very own. And a joyless affair it is, but that's what happens when you make things by committee. They shot for The Incredibles and didn't even manage Madagascar. Small children will like it. Adults will mostly be thankful it's only 77 minutes long -- and even at that it's outrageously padded. -- KH

Derailed (R) If this would-be thriller and cautionary tale (the wages of adultery are hell -- even if you don't have a pet rabbit) didn't take itself so seriously, it might have been a trash masterpiece. As it stands, it's a slickly made fiasco that thinks it's so clever that it constantly telegraphs its "surprise" ending. Worse, it suffers from major miscasting in Jennifer Aniston. Even with two pounds of eye makeup she still comes off as one half of the Doublemint Twins. She merely looks like she's masquerading as a femme fatale -- probably for a fancy dress Rotarian fundraiser. More amusing than thrilling. -- KH

Doom (PG-13) How do you review a movie like Doom? Why even bother? It's exactly what you think it is -- a noisy, gory, silly movie based on a videogame, populated with disposable characters running around corridors shooting guns and/or being chased and eaten by nasty monsters. At its best, it's an efficient -- albeit cheese-encrusted -- replication of the first-person shooter style of videogame. Its only claim to creativity is the annoying video-game-point-of-view section toward the end --- and, face facts, Uwe Boll already tried that in House of the Dead. When you're stealing from Uwe Boll, you know you're in trouble. -- KH

Elizabethtown (PG-13) Cameron Crowe's latest starts with Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) claiming that anyone can fail, but only a special type of person can create a fiasco. If that's so, then Cameron Crowe is a very special type of person, because this Garden State retread is a fiasco of massive proportions. Long, slow, and disjointed, the movie suffers from a 30-year-old lead who behaves like the teenage protagonist from Crowe's Almost Famous. A few amusing scenes (and some smart applications of rock music) can't salvage this one. -- KH

Flightplan (PG-13) I don't know why they didn't just call this unabashed Hitchcockian rip-off The First-Grader Vanishes, but it's not just sub-Hitch thriller; it also thinks it's a kind of Sixth Sense surprise revelation opus. But the only surprise is that a so-so thriller turns into an unintentionally funny riot of preposterousness that neither Jodie Foster's two-fisted histrionics nor Robert Schwentke's directorial panache can overcome. -- KH

The Fog (PG-13) Another pointless remake of a horror film -- in this case, John Carpenter's The Fog. And, as usual, it's been dumbed-down, made scrupulously PG-13, and aimed solely at fans of teen-centric TV in the casting of Smallville's Tom Welling and Lost's Maggie Grace as the leads. It more or less follows Carpenter's plot, but piles a ridiculous backstory on top, and, worse, has milked the story of most of its scares in favor of notably bloodless "creative deaths" (apparently the malevolent spirits of Antonio Island have been watching old Omen movies). Rarely has the supernatural been this dull. -- KH

Get Rich or Die Tryin' (R) The idea of presenting a gun-toting gangster as a misunderstood youth in search of a father figure is about as dubious as Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson's acting. It will be argued that the story is about the fictionalized version of "50 Cent" overcoming his past through rap music. That might hold water if the songs didn't catalogue and glorify that past -- not to mention that the murderous violence continues right up to the film's final scene of Marcus walking onstage. The fact that the film has the temerity to present him there as a Christ figure only makes the message that much more suspect, despite Jim Sheridan's directorial proficiency. -- KH

Good Night, and Good Luck (PG) George Clooney's remarkable film feels like, a smooth, sardonic smack in the face of today's so-called newspeople, the cinematic equivalent of a withering glare and a disdainful roll of the eyes. Yeah, it's about CBS's Edward R. Murrow and how he took on Sen. Joseph McCarthy's right-wing insanity, but what it's really about is how badly we need a Murrow now. What's most brilliant about it isn't that it ends up serving the very purpose that it suggests no one else is serving -- but that it's so damn cool. -- MJ

In Her Shoes (PG-13) It's totally a chick flick: there's all sorts of stuff about shoes, and there will be some happy tears at the end. But it's the good kind of chick flick, about real women with real problems that other real women can identify with, not the idiot kind that made the term "chick flick" derogatory in the first place. What elevates In Her Shoes to something profound and wise, what's so refreshing is its refusal to be broken it down into clichés and stereotypes. Plus, Toni Collette has always been a goddess and always will be. -- MJ

Jarhead (R) "Welcome to the suck," indeed. Sam (American Beauty) Mendes' Gulf War I film is basically a vacuous study of unlikable people waiting for nothing to happen. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a young cipher who joins the Corps, reads Camus, jerks off, goes to Iraq, goes crazy, and gets drunk -- or perhaps vice versa. As usual, Mendes uses important stuff as material for ramming his empty pretensions to profundity and High Art up our innocent hindquarters. -- Ian Gray

The Legend of Zorro (PG) The Legend of Zorro takes place ten years after the events in Mask of Zorro. This time, a ready-to-retire Zorro (Antonio Banderas) must stop a complicated plot to blow up the people of California. It's not the masterful movie that its predecessor was, but it's still a fun, exciting, gorgeous piece of swashbuckling adventure. Unfortunately, director Martin Campbell waters down the violence to get a more kid-friendly PG-rating. No one is ever stabbed, no one is ever cut, and the movie goes out of its way to find new methods of bonking people on the head. Note to Zorro: Your sword has a pointy tip. Use it. -- KH

North Country (R) The very fact that there's nothing wrong with North Country may be what's wrong with it. It's so efficient at being exactly what it sets out to be that it could become the classic text for a filmmaking class called "Crafting the Message Picture 101" -- as well as a supplementary item for such other courses as "Writing the Perfect Oscar-Bait Speech." It's well-intentioned and very sincere and its story is an important one, but it's also stupefyingly predictable as it treads its well-worn path to its crowd-pleaser ending. -- KH

Prime (PG-13) Uma Thurman is a 37-year-old divorcee. Bryan Greenberg is a 23-year-old wannabe artist. They have lots of sex, the details of which Uma reveals to her therapist, Meryl Streep. Then Uma learns that her therapist is her lover's mother. Oops. Don't get hoodwinked into thinking this is a romantic comedy. It's witless, pointless, puerile, unsexy, and boring. -- Marci Miller

Proof (PG-13) With so much cinematic drek flooding cinemas, it's a relief to encounter a movie like Proof that actually dares to deal with ideas and complex, complicated characters. More ambitious than the previous John Madden-Gwyneth Paltrow collaboration (Shakespeare in Love), this story of a daughter who may or may not have inherited her father's (Anthony Hopkins on auto-pilot) genius -- and his madness -- sometimes betrays its talky origins as a stage play, but it still makes for compelling viewing. -- KH

Saw 2 (R) It's better than the original on almost every level. This does not mean it's any good. Saw 2 is admirable for the efficiency with which is accomplishes its chief purpose: parting horror fans with a few bucks. The problem is that it's an utterly sadistic horror picture that exists for no other reason and has no discernible point or value. But on that level -- limited and possibly loathsome as it is -- it's hard to deny that Saw 2 does what it sets out to do. -- KH

Separate Lies (R) Julian Fellowes is two for two: The English actor's first big screenwriting credit, Gosford Park, netted him an Oscar, and with this directorial debut, he again demonstrates a mastery of British uppercrust dramas. Like the best UK drawing room dilemmas, Separate Lies is more tart than bitter, with Fellowes, the Cambridge-educated son of a diplomat, acquitting himself grandly of cinematic boorishness. -- Raoul Hernandez

The Weather Man (R) It's not a crowd pleaser and it'll never achieve the box-office success of Gore Verbinski's last two films, The Ring and Pirates of the Caribbean. Even so, The Weather Man is a rich and frequently wonderful film anchored by terrific performances from Nicolas Cage, Michael Caine, and newcomer Gemmenne de la Pena. Sometimes darkly funny, but not really the comedy the trailer suggests, it's an atmospheric work about coming to terms with our own limitations and the expectations imposed on us by others that deserves a broader audience than it's likely to get. -- KH

Zathura (PG) Two young boys stumble across a strange board game called "Zathura" and in short order their entire home is flung into space and assaulted by burning, flying rocks. If they want to get back to Earth, they'll have to play their way through Zathura and win. Elf director Jon Favreau's flick is great fun and a visual treat, but it just misses greatness by rote of a flat, confusing narrative. Parents my leave befuddled by the sometimes careless plot and it'll never be considered the family classic that Elf already is, but Zathura will fire up their kids' imaginations. -- JT

Opening This Week

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (PG-13) Reviewed this week on page 36.

Walk the Line (PG-13) Read the review here.

Critical Capsules

click to enlarge Philip Seymour Hoffman stars in Capote
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman stars in Capote

Capote (R) Capote isn't really about the murders that shattered the town of Holcomb, Texas, and became the fodder for Truman Capote's legenday novel In Cold Blood. It's about -- although this only slowly becomes clear -- Capote's capacity for self-deception. Director Bennett Miller and screenwriter Dan Futterman brilliantly skitter around the edges of the crime, and Philip Seymour Hoffman doesn't impersonate Capote so much as embody the author so intimately that there is no artifice or actorly showiness in the Capote-isms: the lisping, the dapperness. Mostly, though, we see in Capote's interactions with the people of Holcomb and with the killers what a tough son of a bitch he really is. -- MJ

Chicken Little (G) Corporate mentality wins again! Deciding that no one wants hand-drawn animation any more and forgetting that their last sizable homegrown hit, Lilo and Stitch, was hand-drawn, the suits at Disney decided to make a computer-animated film of their very own. And a joyless affair it is, but that's what happens when you make things by committee. They shot for The Incredibles and didn't even manage Madagascar. Small children will like it. Adults will mostly be thankful it's only 77 minutes long -- and even at that it's outrageously padded. -- KH

Derailed (R) If this would-be thriller and cautionary tale (the wages of adultery are hell -- even if you don't have a pet rabbit) didn't take itself so seriously, it might have been a trash masterpiece. As it stands, it's a slickly made fiasco that thinks it's so clever that it constantly telegraphs its "surprise" ending. Worse, it suffers from major miscasting in Jennifer Aniston. Even with two pounds of eye makeup she still comes off as one half of the Doublemint Twins. She merely looks like she's masquerading as a femme fatale -- probably for a fancy dress Rotarian fundraiser. More amusing than thrilling. -- KH

Doom (PG-13) How do you review a movie like Doom? Why even bother? It's exactly what you think it is -- a noisy, gory, silly movie based on a videogame, populated with disposable characters running around corridors shooting guns and/or being chased and eaten by nasty monsters. At its best, it's an efficient -- albeit cheese-encrusted -- replication of the first-person shooter style of videogame. Its only claim to creativity is the annoying video-game-point-of-view section toward the end --- and, face facts, Uwe Boll already tried that in House of the Dead. When you're stealing from Uwe Boll, you know you're in trouble. -- KH

Elizabethtown (PG-13) Cameron Crowe's latest starts with Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) claiming that anyone can fail, but only a special type of person can create a fiasco. If that's so, then Cameron Crowe is a very special type of person, because this Garden State retread is a fiasco of massive proportions. Long, slow, and disjointed, the movie suffers from a 30-year-old lead who behaves like the teenage protagonist from Crowe's Almost Famous. A few amusing scenes (and some smart applications of rock music) can't salvage this one. -- KH

Flightplan (PG-13) I don't know why they didn't just call this unabashed Hitchcockian rip-off The First-Grader Vanishes, but it's not just sub-Hitch thriller; it also thinks it's a kind of Sixth Sense surprise revelation opus. But the only surprise is that a so-so thriller turns into an unintentionally funny riot of preposterousness that neither Jodie Foster's two-fisted histrionics nor Robert Schwentke's directorial panache can overcome. -- KH

The Fog (PG-13) Another pointless remake of a horror film -- in this case, John Carpenter's The Fog. And, as usual, it's been dumbed-down, made scrupulously PG-13, and aimed solely at fans of teen-centric TV in the casting of Smallville's Tom Welling and Lost's Maggie Grace as the leads. It more or less follows Carpenter's plot, but piles a ridiculous backstory on top, and, worse, has milked the story of most of its scares in favor of notably bloodless "creative deaths" (apparently the malevolent spirits of Antonio Island have been watching old Omen movies). Rarely has the supernatural been this dull. -- KH

Get Rich or Die Tryin' (R) The idea of presenting a gun-toting gangster as a misunderstood youth in search of a father figure is about as dubious as Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson's acting. It will be argued that the story is about the fictionalized version of "50 Cent" overcoming his past through rap music. That might hold water if the songs didn't catalogue and glorify that past -- not to mention that the murderous violence continues right up to the film's final scene of Marcus walking onstage. The fact that the film has the temerity to present him there as a Christ figure only makes the message that much more suspect, despite Jim Sheridan's directorial proficiency. -- KH

Good Night, and Good Luck (PG) George Clooney's remarkable film feels like, a smooth, sardonic smack in the face of today's so-called newspeople, the cinematic equivalent of a withering glare and a disdainful roll of the eyes. Yeah, it's about CBS's Edward R. Murrow and how he took on Sen. Joseph McCarthy's right-wing insanity, but what it's really about is how badly we need a Murrow now. What's most brilliant about it isn't that it ends up serving the very purpose that it suggests no one else is serving -- but that it's so damn cool. -- MJ

In Her Shoes (PG-13) It's totally a chick flick: there's all sorts of stuff about shoes, and there will be some happy tears at the end. But it's the good kind of chick flick, about real women with real problems that other real women can identify with, not the idiot kind that made the term "chick flick" derogatory in the first place. What elevates In Her Shoes to something profound and wise, what's so refreshing is its refusal to be broken it down into clichés and stereotypes. Plus, Toni Collette has always been a goddess and always will be. -- MJ

Jarhead (R) "Welcome to the suck," indeed. Sam (American Beauty) Mendes' Gulf War I film is basically a vacuous study of unlikable people waiting for nothing to happen. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a young cipher who joins the Corps, reads Camus, jerks off, goes to Iraq, goes crazy, and gets drunk -- or perhaps vice versa. As usual, Mendes uses important stuff as material for ramming his empty pretensions to profundity and High Art up our innocent hindquarters. -- Ian Gray

The Legend of Zorro (PG) The Legend of Zorro takes place ten years after the events in Mask of Zorro. This time, a ready-to-retire Zorro (Antonio Banderas) must stop a complicated plot to blow up the people of California. It's not the masterful movie that its predecessor was, but it's still a fun, exciting, gorgeous piece of swashbuckling adventure. Unfortunately, director Martin Campbell waters down the violence to get a more kid-friendly PG-rating. No one is ever stabbed, no one is ever cut, and the movie goes out of its way to find new methods of bonking people on the head. Note to Zorro: Your sword has a pointy tip. Use it. -- KH

North Country (R) The very fact that there's nothing wrong with North Country may be what's wrong with it. It's so efficient at being exactly what it sets out to be that it could become the classic text for a filmmaking class called "Crafting the Message Picture 101" -- as well as a supplementary item for such other courses as "Writing the Perfect Oscar-Bait Speech." It's well-intentioned and very sincere and its story is an important one, but it's also stupefyingly predictable as it treads its well-worn path to its crowd-pleaser ending. -- KH

Prime (PG-13) Uma Thurman is a 37-year-old divorcee. Bryan Greenberg is a 23-year-old wannabe artist. They have lots of sex, the details of which Uma reveals to her therapist, Meryl Streep. Then Uma learns that her therapist is her lover's mother. Oops. Don't get hoodwinked into thinking this is a romantic comedy. It's witless, pointless, puerile, unsexy, and boring. -- Marci Miller

Proof (PG-13) With so much cinematic drek flooding cinemas, it's a relief to encounter a movie like Proof that actually dares to deal with ideas and complex, complicated characters. More ambitious than the previous John Madden-Gwyneth Paltrow collaboration (Shakespeare in Love), this story of a daughter who may or may not have inherited her father's (Anthony Hopkins on auto-pilot) genius -- and his madness -- sometimes betrays its talky origins as a stage play, but it still makes for compelling viewing. -- KH

Saw 2 (R) It's better than the original on almost every level. This does not mean it's any good. Saw 2 is admirable for the efficiency with which is accomplishes its chief purpose: parting horror fans with a few bucks. The problem is that it's an utterly sadistic horror picture that exists for no other reason and has no discernible point or value. But on that level -- limited and possibly loathsome as it is -- it's hard to deny that Saw 2 does what it sets out to do. -- KH

Separate Lies (R) Julian Fellowes is two for two: The English actor's first big screenwriting credit, Gosford Park, netted him an Oscar, and with this directorial debut, he again demonstrates a mastery of British uppercrust dramas. Like the best UK drawing room dilemmas, Separate Lies is more tart than bitter, with Fellowes, the Cambridge-educated son of a diplomat, acquitting himself grandly of cinematic boorishness. -- Raoul Hernandez

The Weather Man (R) It's not a crowd pleaser and it'll never achieve the box-office success of Gore Verbinski's last two films, The Ring and Pirates of the Caribbean. Even so, The Weather Man is a rich and frequently wonderful film anchored by terrific performances from Nicolas Cage, Michael Caine, and newcomer Gemmenne de la Pena. Sometimes darkly funny, but not really the comedy the trailer suggests, it's an atmospheric work about coming to terms with our own limitations and the expectations imposed on us by others that deserves a broader audience than it's likely to get. -- KH

Zathura (PG) Two young boys stumble across a strange board game called "Zathura" and in short order their entire home is flung into space and assaulted by burning, flying rocks. If they want to get back to Earth, they'll have to play their way through Zathura and win. Elf director Jon Favreau's flick is great fun and a visual treat, but it just misses greatness by rote of a flat, confusing narrative. Parents my leave befuddled by the sometimes careless plot and it'll never be considered the family classic that Elf already is, but Zathura will fire up their kids' imaginations. -- JT

Opening This Week

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (PG-13) Reviewed this week on page 36.

Walk the Line (PG-13) Read the review here.

Critical Capsules

click to enlarge Philip Seymour Hoffman stars in Capote
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman stars in Capote

Capote (R) Capote isn't really about the murders that shattered the town of Holcomb, Texas, and became the fodder for Truman Capote's legenday novel In Cold Blood. It's about -- although this only slowly becomes clear -- Capote's capacity for self-deception. Director Bennett Miller and screenwriter Dan Futterman brilliantly skitter around the edges of the crime, and Philip Seymour Hoffman doesn't impersonate Capote so much as embody the author so intimately that there is no artifice or actorly showiness in the Capote-isms: the lisping, the dapperness. Mostly, though, we see in Capote's interactions with the people of Holcomb and with the killers what a tough son of a bitch he really is. -- MJ

Chicken Little (G) Corporate mentality wins again! Deciding that no one wants hand-drawn animation any more and forgetting that their last sizable homegrown hit, Lilo and Stitch, was hand-drawn, the suits at Disney decided to make a computer-animated film of their very own. And a joyless affair it is, but that's what happens when you make things by committee. They shot for The Incredibles and didn't even manage Madagascar. Small children will like it. Adults will mostly be thankful it's only 77 minutes long -- and even at that it's outrageously padded. -- KH

Derailed (R) If this would-be thriller and cautionary tale (the wages of adultery are hell -- even if you don't have a pet rabbit) didn't take itself so seriously, it might have been a trash masterpiece. As it stands, it's a slickly made fiasco that thinks it's so clever that it constantly telegraphs its "surprise" ending. Worse, it suffers from major miscasting in Jennifer Aniston. Even with two pounds of eye makeup she still comes off as one half of the Doublemint Twins. She merely looks like she's masquerading as a femme fatale -- probably for a fancy dress Rotarian fundraiser. More amusing than thrilling. -- KH

Doom (PG-13) How do you review a movie like Doom? Why even bother? It's exactly what you think it is -- a noisy, gory, silly movie based on a videogame, populated with disposable characters running around corridors shooting guns and/or being chased and eaten by nasty monsters. At its best, it's an efficient -- albeit cheese-encrusted -- replication of the first-person shooter style of videogame. Its only claim to creativity is the annoying video-game-point-of-view section toward the end --- and, face facts, Uwe Boll already tried that in House of the Dead. When you're stealing from Uwe Boll, you know you're in trouble. -- KH

Elizabethtown (PG-13) Cameron Crowe's latest starts with Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) claiming that anyone can fail, but only a special type of person can create a fiasco. If that's so, then Cameron Crowe is a very special type of person, because this Garden State retread is a fiasco of massive proportions. Long, slow, and disjointed, the movie suffers from a 30-year-old lead who behaves like the teenage protagonist from Crowe's Almost Famous. A few amusing scenes (and some smart applications of rock music) can't salvage this one. -- KH

Flightplan (PG-13) I don't know why they didn't just call this unabashed Hitchcockian rip-off The First-Grader Vanishes, but it's not just sub-Hitch thriller; it also thinks it's a kind of Sixth Sense surprise revelation opus. But the only surprise is that a so-so thriller turns into an unintentionally funny riot of preposterousness that neither Jodie Foster's two-fisted histrionics nor Robert Schwentke's directorial panache can overcome. -- KH

The Fog (PG-13) Another pointless remake of a horror film -- in this case, John Carpenter's The Fog. And, as usual, it's been dumbed-down, made scrupulously PG-13, and aimed solely at fans of teen-centric TV in the casting of Smallville's Tom Welling and Lost's Maggie Grace as the leads. It more or less follows Carpenter's plot, but piles a ridiculous backstory on top, and, worse, has milked the story of most of its scares in favor of notably bloodless "creative deaths" (apparently the malevolent spirits of Antonio Island have been watching old Omen movies). Rarely has the supernatural been this dull. -- KH

Get Rich or Die Tryin' (R) The idea of presenting a gun-toting gangster as a misunderstood youth in search of a father figure is about as dubious as Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson's acting. It will be argued that the story is about the fictionalized version of "50 Cent" overcoming his past through rap music. That might hold water if the songs didn't catalogue and glorify that past -- not to mention that the murderous violence continues right up to the film's final scene of Marcus walking onstage. The fact that the film has the temerity to present him there as a Christ figure only makes the message that much more suspect, despite Jim Sheridan's directorial proficiency. -- KH

Good Night, and Good Luck (PG) George Clooney's remarkable film feels like, a smooth, sardonic smack in the face of today's so-called newspeople, the cinematic equivalent of a withering glare and a disdainful roll of the eyes. Yeah, it's about CBS's Edward R. Murrow and how he took on Sen. Joseph McCarthy's right-wing insanity, but what it's really about is how badly we need a Murrow now. What's most brilliant about it isn't that it ends up serving the very purpose that it suggests no one else is serving -- but that it's so damn cool. -- MJ

In Her Shoes (PG-13) It's totally a chick flick: there's all sorts of stuff about shoes, and there will be some happy tears at the end. But it's the good kind of chick flick, about real women with real problems that other real women can identify with, not the idiot kind that made the term "chick flick" derogatory in the first place. What elevates In Her Shoes to something profound and wise, what's so refreshing is its refusal to be broken it down into clichés and stereotypes. Plus, Toni Collette has always been a goddess and always will be. -- MJ

Jarhead (R) "Welcome to the suck," indeed. Sam (American Beauty) Mendes' Gulf War I film is basically a vacuous study of unlikable people waiting for nothing to happen. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a young cipher who joins the Corps, reads Camus, jerks off, goes to Iraq, goes crazy, and gets drunk -- or perhaps vice versa. As usual, Mendes uses important stuff as material for ramming his empty pretensions to profundity and High Art up our innocent hindquarters. -- Ian Gray

The Legend of Zorro (PG) The Legend of Zorro takes place ten years after the events in Mask of Zorro. This time, a ready-to-retire Zorro (Antonio Banderas) must stop a complicated plot to blow up the people of California. It's not the masterful movie that its predecessor was, but it's still a fun, exciting, gorgeous piece of swashbuckling adventure. Unfortunately, director Martin Campbell waters down the violence to get a more kid-friendly PG-rating. No one is ever stabbed, no one is ever cut, and the movie goes out of its way to find new methods of bonking people on the head. Note to Zorro: Your sword has a pointy tip. Use it. -- KH

North Country (R) The very fact that there's nothing wrong with North Country may be what's wrong with it. It's so efficient at being exactly what it sets out to be that it could become the classic text for a filmmaking class called "Crafting the Message Picture 101" -- as well as a supplementary item for such other courses as "Writing the Perfect Oscar-Bait Speech." It's well-intentioned and very sincere and its story is an important one, but it's also stupefyingly predictable as it treads its well-worn path to its crowd-pleaser ending. -- KH

Prime (PG-13) Uma Thurman is a 37-year-old divorcee. Bryan Greenberg is a 23-year-old wannabe artist. They have lots of sex, the details of which Uma reveals to her therapist, Meryl Streep. Then Uma learns that her therapist is her lover's mother. Oops. Don't get hoodwinked into thinking this is a romantic comedy. It's witless, pointless, puerile, unsexy, and boring. -- Marci Miller

Proof (PG-13) With so much cinematic drek flooding cinemas, it's a relief to encounter a movie like Proof that actually dares to deal with ideas and complex, complicated characters. More ambitious than the previous John Madden-Gwyneth Paltrow collaboration (Shakespeare in Love), this story of a daughter who may or may not have inherited her father's (Anthony Hopkins on auto-pilot) genius -- and his madness -- sometimes betrays its talky origins as a stage play, but it still makes for compelling viewing. -- KH

Saw 2 (R) It's better than the original on almost every level. This does not mean it's any good. Saw 2 is admirable for the efficiency with which is accomplishes its chief purpose: parting horror fans with a few bucks. The problem is that it's an utterly sadistic horror picture that exists for no other reason and has no discernible point or value. But on that level -- limited and possibly loathsome as it is -- it's hard to deny that Saw 2 does what it sets out to do. -- KH

Separate Lies (R) Julian Fellowes is two for two: The English actor's first big screenwriting credit, Gosford Park, netted him an Oscar, and with this directorial debut, he again demonstrates a mastery of British uppercrust dramas. Like the best UK drawing room dilemmas, Separate Lies is more tart than bitter, with Fellowes, the Cambridge-educated son of a diplomat, acquitting himself grandly of cinematic boorishness. -- Raoul Hernandez

The Weather Man (R) It's not a crowd pleaser and it'll never achieve the box-office success of Gore Verbinski's last two films, The Ring and Pirates of the Caribbean. Even so, The Weather Man is a rich and frequently wonderful film anchored by terrific performances from Nicolas Cage, Michael Caine, and newcomer Gemmenne de la Pena. Sometimes darkly funny, but not really the comedy the trailer suggests, it's an atmospheric work about coming to terms with our own limitations and the expectations imposed on us by others that deserves a broader audience than it's likely to get. -- KH

Zathura (PG) Two young boys stumble across a strange board game called "Zathura" and in short order their entire home is flung into space and assaulted by burning, flying rocks. If they want to get back to Earth, they'll have to play their way through Zathura and win. Elf director Jon Favreau's flick is great fun and a visual treat, but it just misses greatness by rote of a flat, confusing narrative. Parents my leave befuddled by the sometimes careless plot and it'll never be considered the family classic that Elf already is, but Zathura will fire up their kids' imaginations. -- JT

Opening This Week

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (PG-13) Reviewed this week on page 36.

Walk the Line (PG-13) Read the review here.

Critical Capsules

click to enlarge Philip Seymour Hoffman stars in Capote
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman stars in Capote

Capote (R) Capote isn't really about the murders that shattered the town of Holcomb, Texas, and became the fodder for Truman Capote's legenday novel In Cold Blood. It's about -- although this only slowly becomes clear -- Capote's capacity for self-deception. Director Bennett Miller and screenwriter Dan Futterman brilliantly skitter around the edges of the crime, and Philip Seymour Hoffman doesn't impersonate Capote so much as embody the author so intimately that there is no artifice or actorly showiness in the Capote-isms: the lisping, the dapperness. Mostly, though, we see in Capote's interactions with the people of Holcomb and with the killers what a tough son of a bitch he really is. -- MJ

Chicken Little (G) Corporate mentality wins again! Deciding that no one wants hand-drawn animation any more and forgetting that their last sizable homegrown hit, Lilo and Stitch, was hand-drawn, the suits at Disney decided to make a computer-animated film of their very own. And a joyless affair it is, but that's what happens when you make things by committee. They shot for The Incredibles and didn't even manage Madagascar. Small children will like it. Adults will mostly be thankful it's only 77 minutes long -- and even at that it's outrageously padded. -- KH

Derailed (R) If this would-be thriller and cautionary tale (the wages of adultery are hell -- even if you don't have a pet rabbit) didn't take itself so seriously, it might have been a trash masterpiece. As it stands, it's a slickly made fiasco that thinks it's so clever that it constantly telegraphs its "surprise" ending. Worse, it suffers from major miscasting in Jennifer Aniston. Even with two pounds of eye makeup she still comes off as one half of the Doublemint Twins. She merely looks like she's masquerading as a femme fatale -- probably for a fancy dress Rotarian fundraiser. More amusing than thrilling. -- KH

Doom (PG-13) How do you review a movie like Doom? Why even bother? It's exactly what you think it is -- a noisy, gory, silly movie based on a videogame, populated with disposable characters running around corridors shooting guns and/or being chased and eaten by nasty monsters. At its best, it's an efficient -- albeit cheese-encrusted -- replication of the first-person shooter style of videogame. Its only claim to creativity is the annoying video-game-point-of-view section toward the end --- and, face facts, Uwe Boll already tried that in House of the Dead. When you're stealing from Uwe Boll, you know you're in trouble. -- KH

Elizabethtown (PG-13) Cameron Crowe's latest starts with Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) claiming that anyone can fail, but only a special type of person can create a fiasco. If that's so, then Cameron Crowe is a very special type of person, because this Garden State retread is a fiasco of massive proportions. Long, slow, and disjointed, the movie suffers from a 30-year-old lead who behaves like the teenage protagonist from Crowe's Almost Famous. A few amusing scenes (and some smart applications of rock music) can't salvage this one. -- KH

Flightplan (PG-13) I don't know why they didn't just call this unabashed Hitchcockian rip-off The First-Grader Vanishes, but it's not just sub-Hitch thriller; it also thinks it's a kind of Sixth Sense surprise revelation opus. But the only surprise is that a so-so thriller turns into an unintentionally funny riot of preposterousness that neither Jodie Foster's two-fisted histrionics nor Robert Schwentke's directorial panache can overcome. -- KH

The Fog (PG-13) Another pointless remake of a horror film -- in this case, John Carpenter's The Fog. And, as usual, it's been dumbed-down, made scrupulously PG-13, and aimed solely at fans of teen-centric TV in the casting of Smallville's Tom Welling and Lost's Maggie Grace as the leads. It more or less follows Carpenter's plot, but piles a ridiculous backstory on top, and, worse, has milked the story of most of its scares in favor of notably bloodless "creative deaths" (apparently the malevolent spirits of Antonio Island have been watching old Omen movies). Rarely has the supernatural been this dull. -- KH

Get Rich or Die Tryin' (R) The idea of presenting a gun-toting gangster as a misunderstood youth in search of a father figure is about as dubious as Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson's acting. It will be argued that the story is about the fictionalized version of "50 Cent" overcoming his past through rap music. That might hold water if the songs didn't catalogue and glorify that past -- not to mention that the murderous violence continues right up to the film's final scene of Marcus walking onstage. The fact that the film has the temerity to present him there as a Christ figure only makes the message that much more suspect, despite Jim Sheridan's directorial proficiency. -- KH

Good Night, and Good Luck (PG) George Clooney's remarkable film feels like, a smooth, sardonic smack in the face of today's so-called newspeople, the cinematic equivalent of a withering glare and a disdainful roll of the eyes. Yeah, it's about CBS's Edward R. Murrow and how he took on Sen. Joseph McCarthy's right-wing insanity, but what it's really about is how badly we need a Murrow now. What's most brilliant about it isn't that it ends up serving the very purpose that it suggests no one else is serving -- but that it's so damn cool. -- MJ

In Her Shoes (PG-13) It's totally a chick flick: there's all sorts of stuff about shoes, and there will be some happy tears at the end. But it's the good kind of chick flick, about real women with real problems that other real women can identify with, not the idiot kind that made the term "chick flick" derogatory in the first place. What elevates In Her Shoes to something profound and wise, what's so refreshing is its refusal to be broken it down into clichés and stereotypes. Plus, Toni Collette has always been a goddess and always will be. -- MJ

Jarhead (R) "Welcome to the suck," indeed. Sam (American Beauty) Mendes' Gulf War I film is basically a vacuous study of unlikable people waiting for nothing to happen. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a young cipher who joins the Corps, reads Camus, jerks off, goes to Iraq, goes crazy, and gets drunk -- or perhaps vice versa. As usual, Mendes uses important stuff as material for ramming his empty pretensions to profundity and High Art up our innocent hindquarters. -- Ian Gray

The Legend of Zorro (PG) The Legend of Zorro takes place ten years after the events in Mask of Zorro. This time, a ready-to-retire Zorro (Antonio Banderas) must stop a complicated plot to blow up the people of California. It's not the masterful movie that its predecessor was, but it's still a fun, exciting, gorgeous piece of swashbuckling adventure. Unfortunately, director Martin Campbell waters down the violence to get a more kid-friendly PG-rating. No one is ever stabbed, no one is ever cut, and the movie goes out of its way to find new methods of bonking people on the head. Note to Zorro: Your sword has a pointy tip. Use it. -- KH

North Country (R) The very fact that there's nothing wrong with North Country may be what's wrong with it. It's so efficient at being exactly what it sets out to be that it could become the classic text for a filmmaking class called "Crafting the Message Picture 101" -- as well as a supplementary item for such other courses as "Writing the Perfect Oscar-Bait Speech." It's well-intentioned and very sincere and its story is an important one, but it's also stupefyingly predictable as it treads its well-worn path to its crowd-pleaser ending. -- KH

Prime (PG-13) Uma Thurman is a 37-year-old divorcee. Bryan Greenberg is a 23-year-old wannabe artist. They have lots of sex, the details of which Uma reveals to her therapist, Meryl Streep. Then Uma learns that her therapist is her lover's mother. Oops. Don't get hoodwinked into thinking this is a romantic comedy. It's witless, pointless, puerile, unsexy, and boring. -- Marci Miller

Proof (PG-13) With so much cinematic drek flooding cinemas, it's a relief to encounter a movie like Proof that actually dares to deal with ideas and complex, complicated characters. More ambitious than the previous John Madden-Gwyneth Paltrow collaboration (Shakespeare in Love), this story of a daughter who may or may not have inherited her father's (Anthony Hopkins on auto-pilot) genius -- and his madness -- sometimes betrays its talky origins as a stage play, but it still makes for compelling viewing. -- KH

Saw 2 (R) It's better than the original on almost every level. This does not mean it's any good. Saw 2 is admirable for the efficiency with which is accomplishes its chief purpose: parting horror fans with a few bucks. The problem is that it's an utterly sadistic horror picture that exists for no other reason and has no discernible point or value. But on that level -- limited and possibly loathsome as it is -- it's hard to deny that Saw 2 does what it sets out to do. -- KH

Separate Lies (R) Julian Fellowes is two for two: The English actor's first big screenwriting credit, Gosford Park, netted him an Oscar, and with this directorial debut, he again demonstrates a mastery of British uppercrust dramas. Like the best UK drawing room dilemmas, Separate Lies is more tart than bitter, with Fellowes, the Cambridge-educated son of a diplomat, acquitting himself grandly of cinematic boorishness. -- Raoul Hernandez

The Weather Man (R) It's not a crowd pleaser and it'll never achieve the box-office success of Gore Verbinski's last two films, The Ring and Pirates of the Caribbean. Even so, The Weather Man is a rich and frequently wonderful film anchored by terrific performances from Nicolas Cage, Michael Caine, and newcomer Gemmenne de la Pena. Sometimes darkly funny, but not really the comedy the trailer suggests, it's an atmospheric work about coming to terms with our own limitations and the expectations imposed on us by others that deserves a broader audience than it's likely to get. -- KH

Zathura (PG) Two young boys stumble across a strange board game called "Zathura" and in short order their entire home is flung into space and assaulted by burning, flying rocks. If they want to get back to Earth, they'll have to play their way through Zathura and win. Elf director Jon Favreau's flick is great fun and a visual treat, but it just misses greatness by rote of a flat, confusing narrative. Parents my leave befuddled by the sometimes careless plot and it'll never be considered the family classic that Elf already is, but Zathura will fire up their kids' imaginations. -- JT

Opening This Week

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (PG-13) Reviewed this week on page 36.

Walk the Line (PG-13) Read the review here.

Critical Capsules

click to enlarge Philip Seymour Hoffman stars in Capote
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman stars in Capote

Capote (R) Capote isn't really about the murders that shattered the town of Holcomb, Texas, and became the fodder for Truman Capote's legenday novel In Cold Blood. It's about -- although this only slowly becomes clear -- Capote's capacity for self-deception. Director Bennett Miller and screenwriter Dan Futterman brilliantly skitter around the edges of the crime, and Philip Seymour Hoffman doesn't impersonate Capote so much as embody the author so intimately that there is no artifice or actorly showiness in the Capote-isms: the lisping, the dapperness. Mostly, though, we see in Capote's interactions with the people of Holcomb and with the killers what a tough son of a bitch he really is. -- MJ

Chicken Little (G) Corporate mentality wins again! Deciding that no one wants hand-drawn animation any more and forgetting that their last sizable homegrown hit, Lilo and Stitch, was hand-drawn, the suits at Disney decided to make a computer-animated film of their very own. And a joyless affair it is, but that's what happens when you make things by committee. They shot for The Incredibles and didn't even manage Madagascar. Small children will like it. Adults will mostly be thankful it's only 77 minutes long -- and even at that it's outrageously padded. -- KH

Derailed (R) If this would-be thriller and cautionary tale (the wages of adultery are hell -- even if you don't have a pet rabbit) didn't take itself so seriously, it might have been a trash masterpiece. As it stands, it's a slickly made fiasco that thinks it's so clever that it constantly telegraphs its "surprise" ending. Worse, it suffers from major miscasting in Jennifer Aniston. Even with two pounds of eye makeup she still comes off as one half of the Doublemint Twins. She merely looks like she's masquerading as a femme fatale -- probably for a fancy dress Rotarian fundraiser. More amusing than thrilling. -- KH

Doom (PG-13) How do you review a movie like Doom? Why even bother? It's exactly what you think it is -- a noisy, gory, silly movie based on a videogame, populated with disposable characters running around corridors shooting guns and/or being chased and eaten by nasty monsters. At its best, it's an efficient -- albeit cheese-encrusted -- replication of the first-person shooter style of videogame. Its only claim to creativity is the annoying video-game-point-of-view section toward the end --- and, face facts, Uwe Boll already tried that in House of the Dead. When you're stealing from Uwe Boll, you know you're in trouble. -- KH

Elizabethtown (PG-13) Cameron Crowe's latest starts with Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) claiming that anyone can fail, but only a special type of person can create a fiasco. If that's so, then Cameron Crowe is a very special type of person, because this Garden State retread is a fiasco of massive proportions. Long, slow, and disjointed, the movie suffers from a 30-year-old lead who behaves like the teenage protagonist from Crowe's Almost Famous. A few amusing scenes (and some smart applications of rock music) can't salvage this one. -- KH

Flightplan (PG-13) I don't know why they didn't just call this unabashed Hitchcockian rip-off The First-Grader Vanishes, but it's not just sub-Hitch thriller; it also thinks it's a kind of Sixth Sense surprise revelation opus. But the only surprise is that a so-so thriller turns into an unintentionally funny riot of preposterousness that neither Jodie Foster's two-fisted histrionics nor Robert Schwentke's directorial panache can overcome. -- KH

The Fog (PG-13) Another pointless remake of a horror film -- in this case, John Carpenter's The Fog. And, as usual, it's been dumbed-down, made scrupulously PG-13, and aimed solely at fans of teen-centric TV in the casting of Smallville's Tom Welling and Lost's Maggie Grace as the leads. It more or less follows Carpenter's plot, but piles a ridiculous backstory on top, and, worse, has milked the story of most of its scares in favor of notably bloodless "creative deaths" (apparently the malevolent spirits of Antonio Island have been watching old Omen movies). Rarely has the supernatural been this dull. -- KH

Get Rich or Die Tryin' (R) The idea of presenting a gun-toting gangster as a misunderstood youth in search of a father figure is about as dubious as Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson's acting. It will be argued that the story is about the fictionalized version of "50 Cent" overcoming his past through rap music. That might hold water if the songs didn't catalogue and glorify that past -- not to mention that the murderous violence continues right up to the film's final scene of Marcus walking onstage. The fact that the film has the temerity to present him there as a Christ figure only makes the message that much more suspect, despite Jim Sheridan's directorial proficiency. -- KH

Good Night, and Good Luck (PG) George Clooney's remarkable film feels like, a smooth, sardonic smack in the face of today's so-called newspeople, the cinematic equivalent of a withering glare and a disdainful roll of the eyes. Yeah, it's about CBS's Edward R. Murrow and how he took on Sen. Joseph McCarthy's right-wing insanity, but what it's really about is how badly we need a Murrow now. What's most brilliant about it isn't that it ends up serving the very purpose that it suggests no one else is serving -- but that it's so damn cool. -- MJ

In Her Shoes (PG-13) It's totally a chick flick: there's all sorts of stuff about shoes, and there will be some happy tears at the end. But it's the good kind of chick flick, about real women with real problems that other real women can identify with, not the idiot kind that made the term "chick flick" derogatory in the first place. What elevates In Her Shoes to something profound and wise, what's so refreshing is its refusal to be broken it down into clichés and stereotypes. Plus, Toni Collette has always been a goddess and always will be. -- MJ

Jarhead (R) "Welcome to the suck," indeed. Sam (American Beauty) Mendes' Gulf War I film is basically a vacuous study of unlikable people waiting for nothing to happen. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a young cipher who joins the Corps, reads Camus, jerks off, goes to Iraq, goes crazy, and gets drunk -- or perhaps vice versa. As usual, Mendes uses important stuff as material for ramming his empty pretensions to profundity and High Art up our innocent hindquarters. -- Ian Gray

The Legend of Zorro (PG) The Legend of Zorro takes place ten years after the events in Mask of Zorro. This time, a ready-to-retire Zorro (Antonio Banderas) must stop a complicated plot to blow up the people of California. It's not the masterful movie that its predecessor was, but it's still a fun, exciting, gorgeous piece of swashbuckling adventure. Unfortunately, director Martin Campbell waters down the violence to get a more kid-friendly PG-rating. No one is ever stabbed, no one is ever cut, and the movie goes out of its way to find new methods of bonking people on the head. Note to Zorro: Your sword has a pointy tip. Use it. -- KH

North Country (R) The very fact that there's nothing wrong with North Country may be what's wrong with it. It's so efficient at being exactly what it sets out to be that it could become the classic text for a filmmaking class called "Crafting the Message Picture 101" -- as well as a supplementary item for such other courses as "Writing the Perfect Oscar-Bait Speech." It's well-intentioned and very sincere and its story is an important one, but it's also stupefyingly predictable as it treads its well-worn path to its crowd-pleaser ending. -- KH

Prime (PG-13) Uma Thurman is a 37-year-old divorcee. Bryan Greenberg is a 23-year-old wannabe artist. They have lots of sex, the details of which Uma reveals to her therapist, Meryl Streep. Then Uma learns that her therapist is her lover's mother. Oops. Don't get hoodwinked into thinking this is a romantic comedy. It's witless, pointless, puerile, unsexy, and boring. -- Marci Miller

Proof (PG-13) With so much cinematic drek flooding cinemas, it's a relief to encounter a movie like Proof that actually dares to deal with ideas and complex, complicated characters. More ambitious than the previous John Madden-Gwyneth Paltrow collaboration (Shakespeare in Love), this story of a daughter who may or may not have inherited her father's (Anthony Hopkins on auto-pilot) genius -- and his madness -- sometimes betrays its talky origins as a stage play, but it still makes for compelling viewing. -- KH

Saw 2 (R) It's better than the original on almost every level. This does not mean it's any good. Saw 2 is admirable for the efficiency with which is accomplishes its chief purpose: parting horror fans with a few bucks. The problem is that it's an utterly sadistic horror picture that exists for no other reason and has no discernible point or value. But on that level -- limited and possibly loathsome as it is -- it's hard to deny that Saw 2 does what it sets out to do. -- KH

Separate Lies (R) Julian Fellowes is two for two: The English actor's first big screenwriting credit, Gosford Park, netted him an Oscar, and with this directorial debut, he again demonstrates a mastery of British uppercrust dramas. Like the best UK drawing room dilemmas, Separate Lies is more tart than bitter, with Fellowes, the Cambridge-educated son of a diplomat, acquitting himself grandly of cinematic boorishness. -- Raoul Hernandez

The Weather Man (R) It's not a crowd pleaser and it'll never achieve the box-office success of Gore Verbinski's last two films, The Ring and Pirates of the Caribbean. Even so, The Weather Man is a rich and frequently wonderful film anchored by terrific performances from Nicolas Cage, Michael Caine, and newcomer Gemmenne de la Pena. Sometimes darkly funny, but not really the comedy the trailer suggests, it's an atmospheric work about coming to terms with our own limitations and the expectations imposed on us by others that deserves a broader audience than it's likely to get. -- KH

Zathura (PG) Two young boys stumble across a strange board game called "Zathura" and in short order their entire home is flung into space and assaulted by burning, flying rocks. If they want to get back to Earth, they'll have to play their way through Zathura and win. Elf director Jon Favreau's flick is great fun and a visual treat, but it just misses greatness by rote of a flat, confusing narrative. Parents my leave befuddled by the sometimes careless plot and it'll never be considered the family classic that Elf already is, but Zathura will fire up their kids' imaginations. -- JT

Opening This Week

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (PG-13) Reviewed this week on page 36.

Walk the Line (PG-13) Read the review here.

Critical Capsules

click to enlarge Philip Seymour Hoffman stars in Capote
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman stars in Capote

Capote (R) Capote isn't really about the murders that shattered the town of Holcomb, Texas, and became the fodder for Truman Capote's legenday novel In Cold Blood. It's about -- although this only slowly becomes clear -- Capote's capacity for self-deception. Director Bennett Miller and screenwriter Dan Futterman brilliantly skitter around the edges of the crime, and Philip Seymour Hoffman doesn't impersonate Capote so much as embody the author so intimately that there is no artifice or actorly showiness in the Capote-isms: the lisping, the dapperness. Mostly, though, we see in Capote's interactions with the people of Holcomb and with the killers what a tough son of a bitch he really is. -- MJ

Chicken Little (G) Corporate mentality wins again! Deciding that no one wants hand-drawn animation any more and forgetting that their last sizable homegrown hit, Lilo and Stitch, was hand-drawn, the suits at Disney decided to make a computer-animated film of their very own. And a joyless affair it is, but that's what happens when you make things by committee. They shot for The Incredibles and didn't even manage Madagascar. Small children will like it. Adults will mostly be thankful it's only 77 minutes long -- and even at that it's outrageously padded. -- KH

Derailed (R) If this would-be thriller and cautionary tale (the wages of adultery are hell -- even if you don't have a pet rabbit) didn't take itself so seriously, it might have been a trash masterpiece. As it stands, it's a slickly made fiasco that thinks it's so clever that it constantly telegraphs its "surprise" ending. Worse, it suffers from major miscasting in Jennifer Aniston. Even with two pounds of eye makeup she still comes off as one half of the Doublemint Twins. She merely looks like she's masquerading as a femme fatale -- probably for a fancy dress Rotarian fundraiser. More amusing than thrilling. -- KH

Doom (PG-13) How do you review a movie like Doom? Why even bother? It's exactly what you think it is -- a noisy, gory, silly movie based on a videogame, populated with disposable characters running around corridors shooting guns and/or being chased and eaten by nasty monsters. At its best, it's an efficient -- albeit cheese-encrusted -- replication of the first-person shooter style of videogame. Its only claim to creativity is the annoying video-game-point-of-view section toward the end --- and, face facts, Uwe Boll already tried that in House of the Dead. When you're stealing from Uwe Boll, you know you're in trouble. -- KH

Elizabethtown (PG-13) Cameron Crowe's latest starts with Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) claiming that anyone can fail, but only a special type of person can create a fiasco. If that's so, then Cameron Crowe is a very special type of person, because this Garden State retread is a fiasco of massive proportions. Long, slow, and disjointed, the movie suffers from a 30-year-old lead who behaves like the teenage protagonist from Crowe's Almost Famous. A few amusing scenes (and some smart applications of rock music) can't salvage this one. -- KH

Flightplan (PG-13) I don't know why they didn't just call this unabashed Hitchcockian rip-off The First-Grader Vanishes, but it's not just sub-Hitch thriller; it also thinks it's a kind of Sixth Sense surprise revelation opus. But the only surprise is that a so-so thriller turns into an unintentionally funny riot of preposterousness that neither Jodie Foster's two-fisted histrionics nor Robert Schwentke's directorial panache can overcome. -- KH

The Fog (PG-13) Another pointless remake of a horror film -- in this case, John Carpenter's The Fog. And, as usual, it's been dumbed-down, made scrupulously PG-13, and aimed solely at fans of teen-centric TV in the casting of Smallville's Tom Welling and Lost's Maggie Grace as the leads. It more or less follows Carpenter's plot, but piles a ridiculous backstory on top, and, worse, has milked the story of most of its scares in favor of notably bloodless "creative deaths" (apparently the malevolent spirits of Antonio Island have been watching old Omen movies). Rarely has the supernatural been this dull. -- KH

Get Rich or Die Tryin' (R) The idea of presenting a gun-toting gangster as a misunderstood youth in search of a father figure is about as dubious as Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson's acting. It will be argued that the story is about the fictionalized version of "50 Cent" overcoming his past through rap music. That might hold water if the songs didn't catalogue and glorify that past -- not to mention that the murderous violence continues right up to the film's final scene of Marcus walking onstage. The fact that the film has the temerity to present him there as a Christ figure only makes the message that much more suspect, despite Jim Sheridan's directorial proficiency. -- KH

Good Night, and Good Luck (PG) George Clooney's remarkable film feels like, a smooth, sardonic smack in the face of today's so-called newspeople, the cinematic equivalent of a withering glare and a disdainful roll of the eyes. Yeah, it's about CBS's Edward R. Murrow and how he took on Sen. Joseph McCarthy's right-wing insanity, but what it's really about is how badly we need a Murrow now. What's most brilliant about it isn't that it ends up serving the very purpose that it suggests no one else is serving -- but that it's so damn cool. -- MJ

In Her Shoes (PG-13) It's totally a chick flick: there's all sorts of stuff about shoes, and there will be some happy tears at the end. But it's the good kind of chick flick, about real women with real problems that other real women can identify with, not the idiot kind that made the term "chick flick" derogatory in the first place. What elevates In Her Shoes to something profound and wise, what's so refreshing is its refusal to be broken it down into clichés and stereotypes. Plus, Toni Collette has always been a goddess and always will be. -- MJ

Jarhead (R) "Welcome to the suck," indeed. Sam (American Beauty) Mendes' Gulf War I film is basically a vacuous study of unlikable people waiting for nothing to happen. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a young cipher who joins the Corps, reads Camus, jerks off, goes to Iraq, goes crazy, and gets drunk -- or perhaps vice versa. As usual, Mendes uses important stuff as material for ramming his empty pretensions to profundity and High Art up our innocent hindquarters. -- Ian Gray

The Legend of Zorro (PG) The Legend of Zorro takes place ten years after the events in Mask of Zorro. This time, a ready-to-retire Zorro (Antonio Banderas) must stop a complicated plot to blow up the people of California. It's not the masterful movie that its predecessor was, but it's still a fun, exciting, gorgeous piece of swashbuckling adventure. Unfortunately, director Martin Campbell waters down the violence to get a more kid-friendly PG-rating. No one is ever stabbed, no one is ever cut, and the movie goes out of its way to find new methods of bonking people on the head. Note to Zorro: Your sword has a pointy tip. Use it. -- KH

North Country (R) The very fact that there's nothing wrong with North Country may be what's wrong with it. It's so efficient at being exactly what it sets out to be that it could become the classic text for a filmmaking class called "Crafting the Message Picture 101" -- as well as a supplementary item for such other courses as "Writing the Perfect Oscar-Bait Speech." It's well-intentioned and very sincere and its story is an important one, but it's also stupefyingly predictable as it treads its well-worn path to its crowd-pleaser ending. -- KH

Prime (PG-13) Uma Thurman is a 37-year-old divorcee. Bryan Greenberg is a 23-year-old wannabe artist. They have lots of sex, the details of which Uma reveals to her therapist, Meryl Streep. Then Uma learns that her therapist is her lover's mother. Oops. Don't get hoodwinked into thinking this is a romantic comedy. It's witless, pointless, puerile, unsexy, and boring. -- Marci Miller

Proof (PG-13) With so much cinematic drek flooding cinemas, it's a relief to encounter a movie like Proof that actually dares to deal with ideas and complex, complicated characters. More ambitious than the previous John Madden-Gwyneth Paltrow collaboration (Shakespeare in Love), this story of a daughter who may or may not have inherited her father's (Anthony Hopkins on auto-pilot) genius -- and his madness -- sometimes betrays its talky origins as a stage play, but it still makes for compelling viewing. -- KH

Saw 2 (R) It's better than the original on almost every level. This does not mean it's any good. Saw 2 is admirable for the efficiency with which is accomplishes its chief purpose: parting horror fans with a few bucks. The problem is that it's an utterly sadistic horror picture that exists for no other reason and has no discernible point or value. But on that level -- limited and possibly loathsome as it is -- it's hard to deny that Saw 2 does what it sets out to do. -- KH

Separate Lies (R) Julian Fellowes is two for two: The English actor's first big screenwriting credit, Gosford Park, netted him an Oscar, and with this directorial debut, he again demonstrates a mastery of British uppercrust dramas. Like the best UK drawing room dilemmas, Separate Lies is more tart than bitter, with Fellowes, the Cambridge-educated son of a diplomat, acquitting himself grandly of cinematic boorishness. -- Raoul Hernandez

The Weather Man (R) It's not a crowd pleaser and it'll never achieve the box-office success of Gore Verbinski's last two films, The Ring and Pirates of the Caribbean. Even so, The Weather Man is a rich and frequently wonderful film anchored by terrific performances from Nicolas Cage, Michael Caine, and newcomer Gemmenne de la Pena. Sometimes darkly funny, but not really the comedy the trailer suggests, it's an atmospheric work about coming to terms with our own limitations and the expectations imposed on us by others that deserves a broader audience than it's likely to get. -- KH

Zathura (PG) Two young boys stumble across a strange board game called "Zathura" and in short order their entire home is flung into space and assaulted by burning, flying rocks. If they want to get back to Earth, they'll have to play their way through Zathura and win. Elf director Jon Favreau's flick is great fun and a visual treat, but it just misses greatness by rote of a flat, confusing narrative. Parents my leave befuddled by the sometimes careless plot and it'll never be considered the family classic that Elf already is, but Zathura will fire up their kids' imaginations. -- JT

Opening This Week

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (PG-13) Reviewed this week on page 36.

Walk the Line (PG-13) Read the review here.

Critical Capsules

click to enlarge Philip Seymour Hoffman stars in Capote
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman stars in Capote

Capote (R) Capote isn't really about the murders that shattered the town of Holcomb, Texas, and became the fodder for Truman Capote's legenday novel In Cold Blood. It's about -- although this only slowly becomes clear -- Capote's capacity for self-deception. Director Bennett Miller and screenwriter Dan Futterman brilliantly skitter around the edges of the crime, and Philip Seymour Hoffman doesn't impersonate Capote so much as embody the author so intimately that there is no artifice or actorly showiness in the Capote-isms: the lisping, the dapperness. Mostly, though, we see in Capote's interactions with the people of Holcomb and with the killers what a tough son of a bitch he really is. -- MJ

Chicken Little (G) Corporate mentality wins again! Deciding that no one wants hand-drawn animation any more and forgetting that their last sizable homegrown hit, Lilo and Stitch, was hand-drawn, the suits at Disney decided to make a computer-animated film of their very own. And a joyless affair it is, but that's what happens when you make things by committee. They shot for The Incredibles and didn't even manage Madagascar. Small children will like it. Adults will mostly be thankful it's only 77 minutes long -- and even at that it's outrageously padded. -- KH

Derailed (R) If this would-be thriller and cautionary tale (the wages of adultery are hell -- even if you don't have a pet rabbit) didn't take itself so seriously, it might have been a trash masterpiece. As it stands, it's a slickly made fiasco that thinks it's so clever that it constantly telegraphs its "surprise" ending. Worse, it suffers from major miscasting in Jennifer Aniston. Even with two pounds of eye makeup she still comes off as one half of the Doublemint Twins. She merely looks like she's masquerading as a femme fatale -- probably for a fancy dress Rotarian fundraiser. More amusing than thrilling. -- KH

Doom (PG-13) How do you review a movie like Doom? Why even bother? It's exactly what you think it is -- a noisy, gory, silly movie based on a videogame, populated with disposable characters running around corridors shooting guns and/or being chased and eaten by nasty monsters. At its best, it's an efficient -- albeit cheese-encrusted -- replication of the first-person shooter style of videogame. Its only claim to creativity is the annoying video-game-point-of-view section toward the end --- and, face facts, Uwe Boll already tried that in House of the Dead. When you're stealing from Uwe Boll, you know you're in trouble. -- KH

Elizabethtown (PG-13) Cameron Crowe's latest starts with Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom) claiming that anyone can fail, but only a special type of person can create a fiasco. If that's so, then Cameron Crowe is a very special type of person, because this Garden State retread is a fiasco of massive proportions. Long, slow, and disjointed, the movie suffers from a 30-year-old lead who behaves like the teenage protagonist from Crowe's Almost Famous. A few amusing scenes (and some smart applications of rock music) can't salvage this one. -- KH

Flightplan (PG-13) I don't know why they didn't just call this unabashed Hitchcockian rip-off The First-Grader Vanishes, but it's not just sub-Hitch thriller; it also thinks it's a kind of Sixth Sense surprise revelation opus. But the only surprise is that a so-so thriller turns into an unintentionally funny riot of preposterousness that neither Jodie Foster's two-fisted histrionics nor Robert Schwentke's directorial panache can overcome. -- KH

The Fog (PG-13) Another pointless remake of a horror film -- in this case, John Carpenter's The Fog. And, as usual, it's been dumbed-down, made scrupulously PG-13, and aimed solely at fans of teen-centric TV in the casting of Smallville's Tom Welling and Lost's Maggie Grace as the leads. It more or less follows Carpenter's plot, but piles a ridiculous backstory on top, and, worse, has milked the story of most of its scares in favor of notably bloodless "creative deaths" (apparently the malevolent spirits of Antonio Island have been watching old Omen movies). Rarely has the supernatural been this dull. -- KH

Get Rich or Die Tryin' (R) The idea of presenting a gun-toting gangster as a misunderstood youth in search of a father figure is about as dubious as Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson's acting. It will be argued that the story is about the fictionalized version of "50 Cent" overcoming his past through rap music. That might hold water if the songs didn't catalogue and glorify that past -- not to mention that the murderous violence continues right up to the film's final scene of Marcus walking onstage. The fact that the film has the temerity to present him there as a Christ figure only makes the message that much more suspect, despite Jim Sheridan's directorial proficiency. -- KH

Good Night, and Good Luck (PG) George Clooney's remarkable film feels like, a smooth, sardonic smack in the face of today's so-called newspeople, the cinematic equivalent of a withering glare and a disdainful roll of the eyes. Yeah, it's about CBS's Edward R. Murrow and how he took on Sen. Joseph McCarthy's right-wing insanity, but what it's really about is how badly we need a Murrow now. What's most brilliant about it isn't that it ends up serving the very purpose that it suggests no one else is serving -- but that it's so damn cool. -- MJ

In Her Shoes (PG-13) It's totally a chick flick: there's all sorts of stuff about shoes, and there will be some happy tears at the end. But it's the good kind of chick flick, about real women with real problems that other real women can identify with, not the idiot kind that made the term "chick flick" derogatory in the first place. What elevates In Her Shoes to something profound and wise, what's so refreshing is its refusal to be broken it down into clichés and stereotypes. Plus, Toni Collette has always been a goddess and always will be. -- MJ

Jarhead (R) "Welcome to the suck," indeed. Sam (American Beauty) Mendes' Gulf War I film is basically a vacuous study of unlikable people waiting for nothing to happen. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a young cipher who joins the Corps, reads Camus, jerks off, goes to Iraq, goes crazy, and gets drunk -- or perhaps vice versa. As usual, Mendes uses important stuff as material for ramming his empty pretensions to profundity and High Art up our innocent hindquarters. -- Ian Gray

The Legend of Zorro (PG) The Legend of Zorro takes place ten years after the events in Mask of Zorro. This time, a ready-to-retire Zorro (Antonio Banderas) must stop a complicated plot to blow up the people of California. It's not the masterful movie that its predecessor was, but it's still a fun, exciting, gorgeous piece of swashbuckling adventure. Unfortunately, director Martin Campbell waters down the violence to get a more kid-friendly PG-rating. No one is ever stabbed, no one is ever cut, and the movie goes out of its way to find new methods of bonking people on the head. Note to Zorro: Your sword has a pointy tip. Use it. -- KH

North Country (R) The very fact that there's nothing wrong with North Country may be what's wrong with it. It's so efficient at being exactly what it sets out to be that it could become the classic text for a filmmaking class called "Crafting the Message Picture 101" -- as well as a supplementary item for such other courses as "Writing the Perfect Oscar-Bait Speech." It's well-intentioned and very sincere and its story is an important one, but it's also stupefyingly predictable as it treads its well-worn path to its crowd-pleaser ending. -- KH

Prime (PG-13) Uma Thurman is a 37-year-old divorcee. Bryan Greenberg is a 23-year-old wannabe artist. They have lots of sex, the details of which Uma reveals to her therapist, Meryl Streep. Then Uma learns that her therapist is her lover's mother. Oops. Don't get hoodwinked into thinking this is a romantic comedy. It's witless, pointless, puerile, unsexy, and boring. -- Marci Miller

Proof (PG-13) With so much cinematic drek flooding cinemas, it's a relief to encounter a movie like Proof that actually dares to deal with ideas and complex, complicated characters. More ambitious than the previous John Madden-Gwyneth Paltrow collaboration (Shakespeare in Love), this story of a daughter who may or may not have inherited her father's (Anthony Hopkins on auto-pilot) genius -- and his madness -- sometimes betrays its talky origins as a stage play, but it still makes for compelling viewing. -- KH

Saw 2 (R) It's better than the original on almost every level. This does not mean it's any good. Saw 2 is admirable for the efficiency with which is accomplishes its chief purpose: parting horror fans with a few bucks. The problem is that it's an utterly sadistic horror picture that exists for no other reason and has no discernible point or value. But on that level -- limited and possibly loathsome as it is -- it's hard to deny that Saw 2 does what it sets out to do. -- KH

Separate Lies (R) Julian Fellowes is two for two: The English actor's first big screenwriting credit, Gosford Park, netted him an Oscar, and with this directorial debut, he again demonstrates a mastery of British uppercrust dramas. Like the best UK drawing room dilemmas, Separate Lies is more tart than bitter, with Fellowes, the Cambridge-educated son of a diplomat, acquitting himself grandly of cinematic boorishness. -- Raoul Hernandez

The Weather Man (R) It's not a crowd pleaser and it'll never achieve the box-office success of Gore Verbinski's last two films, The Ring and Pirates of the Caribbean. Even so, The Weather Man is a rich and frequently wonderful film anchored by terrific performances from Nicolas Cage, Michael Caine, and newcomer Gemmenne de la Pena. Sometimes darkly funny, but not really the comedy the trailer suggests, it's an atmospheric work about coming to terms with our own limitations and the expectations imposed on us by others that deserves a broader audience than it's likely to get. -- KH

Zathura (PG) Two young boys stumble across a strange board game called "Zathura" and in short order their entire home is flung into space and assaulted by burning, flying rocks. If they want to get back to Earth, they'll have to play their way through Zathura and win. Elf director Jon Favreau's flick is great fun and a visual treat, but it just misses greatness by rote of a flat, confusing narrative. Parents my leave befuddled by the sometimes careless plot and it'll never be considered the family classic that Elf already is, but Zathura will fire up their kids' imaginations. -- JT


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