Film Clips for 12/07/05 

Opening: Bee Season (PG-13) Richard Gere, Juliette Binoche, Kate Bosworth, Max Minghe

Opening: Bee Season (PG-13) Richard Gere, Juliette Binoche, Kate Bosworth, Max Minghella, Flora Cross. Eleven-year-old Eliza Naumann (Cross) has no reason to believe she is anything but ordinary. Her father Saul (Gere), a beloved university professor, dotes on her talented elder brother Aaron (Minghella). Her scientist mother, Miriam (Binoche), seems consumed by her career. When a spelling bee threatens to reaffirm her mediocrity, Eliza amazes everyone: She wins. Her newfound gift garners an invitation not only to the national competition, but an entrance into the world of words and Jewish mysticism that have so long captivated her father's imagination. But Eliza's unexpected success hurls the Naumann family dynamic into a tailspin, long-held secrets emerge and she is forced to depend upon her own divination to hold the family together. 113 minutes. The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe (PG) Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, William Moseley, Anna Popplewell, Tilda Swinton. Adaptation of the C.S. Lewis classic about four young siblings in World War II England that are magically transported to the land of Narnia, where they become key figures in a battle between good and evil, complete with a Christ figure. The film is surprisingly simple, but generally effective, though it takes forever to get rolling. Honestly, you could easily skip the first 30 minutes and still catch all the good stuff. My guess is that children will enjoy the movie once they squirm their way through that boring early stretch. As for the adults - the acting is fine (standouts include Swinton, Keynes and Henley) and the special effects range from serviceable to positively striking (check out the detail on the lion). Bottom line: Though entertaining, this is perhaps the thinnest spectacle I've ever seen. I wonder, is there such a thing as a minor epic? 140 minutes. - EJO The Passenger (PG) Jack Nicholson, Maria Schneider, Jenny Runacre, Ian Hendry, Steven Berkoff, Charles Mulvehill. Michelangelo Antonio's highly celebrated, long-out-of-circulation 1975 existential drama. Jack Nicholson, at the height of his lean and mean period, plays David Locke, a reporter researching a story in the African desert. Back at his hotel, when he discovers the body of a fellow guest - a man whose general physical type is similar to his own - he impulsively decides to swap identities with the man. His decision leads to a beautiful woman (Schneider) and loads of intrigue as he struggles desperately to outrun himself. Great looking, well-acted production, though the existential posturing gets a bit precious at times. 118 minutes. - EJO Sarah Silverman: Jesus is Magic (NR) Sarah Silverman, La'vin Kiyano, Bob Odenkirk, Brian Posehn, Laura Silverman. Comedian Sarah Silverman stars in a concert film intercut with musical numbers and vignettes. Silverman does shock humor, making outrageous statements about various racial and religious groups, as well as the Holocaust, Sept. 11 and rape. She has been compared to Lenny Bruce, which is just sad. Bruce dug deep for his humor, while Silverman sticks to the surface. Her bad-taste-meets-perkiness persona can be funny, sometimes very funny, but her formulaic approach gets tiresome. 72 minutes. - EJO The Squid and the Whale (R) Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Jesse Eisenberg, Owen Kline, Halley Feiffer. The Berkman family is coming apart. So what makes this film different from all the other ones about endangered families? The members of this particular Brooklyn family are distinct, colorful - but believable - individuals. Patriarch Bernard (Daniels) is an author, writing teacher and windbag obsessed with himself. Wife Joan (Linney) is just gaining recognition as an up-and-coming writer. She is also quite fond of her tennis instructor (Billy Baldwin). Sixteen-year-old Walt (Eisenberg) tries to pass off Pink Floyd's "Hey You" as his own hit in the school talent show, and 12-year-old Frank (Kline) has just discovered sex. Together, they are sometimes funny and consistently entertaining. 81 minutes. - EJO Syriana (R) George Clooney, Matt Damon, Jeffrey Wright, Chris Cooper, William Hurt, Mazhar Munir. Stephen Gagham, who wrote Traffic, is the screenplay writer and director of Syriana, a multilayered geopolitical thriller based on the book by Robert Baer. Critical response to the movie has been rapturous, which you may want to bear in mind when I tell you that I found the movie overcomplicated and emotionally distant. Oh, and glib. There are many interesting moments and a few of the major scenes play out well, but for most of the film, I was too busy trying to remember who was who and how they related with each other to fully experience the movie. Either Syriana is overly dense or I am. 127 minutes. - EJO First run: Aeon Flux (PG-13) Charlize Theron, Frances McDormand, Jonny Lee Miller, Pete Postlethwaite, Sophie Okonedo. Deciding if you like this film rendition of the stylish, highly-fetishized MTV animated series really comes down to genre. Do you like beautiful people kicking ass in slow motion and inexplicably skintight costumes in the midst of a utopian future where all is not as it seems? Then you'll probably like Aeon Flux. The very concept leaves you cold? Stay the hell home. The script does a good job at the unenviable task of making the intentionally incoherent series into a reasonable feature film, though it does that at a severe cost to the edgier elements. Aeon Flux was full of creepy relationships and unsettling, gunpoint romances, and that's been defanged here. However, fans of the show will find plenty of Easter eggs, particularly a pitch-perfect replay of the show's infamous fly-in-the-eye opening scene. Plus, Charlize Theron does as well as can be asked in giving life to the inscrutable heroine. - Paul F. P. Pogue Aliens of the Deep (G) A follow up to James Cameron's IMAX Titanic documentary. Cameron is again ensconced in an underwater exploration vehicle. This time, he and his crew of marine biologists and NASA researchers are taking a look at the ocean floor in order to examine life that thrives without the benefit of the sun. Ploddingly slow at times, the pretty pictures are too few and too far between. - Lisa Gauthier Capote (R) Philip Seymour Hoffman, Catherine Keener, Clifton Collins Jr., Chris Cooper, Bruce Greenwood, Bob Balaban, Mark Pellegrino, Amy Ryan. Capote focuses on the years Truman Capote spent writing his greatest book, In Cold Blood, the story of a murdered family in Kansas. Here we get to see the minutiae that made the man Capote a real piece of work. Philip Seymour Hoffman's Capote is as big a queen as Elizabeth II without any of the grace. As much of a character, even caricature, as Hoffman is in this movie, he somehow remains believable. Director Bennett Miller keeps scenes intense, slow and detailed, which balances out the large and sudden jumps in time. 98 minutes. - Lisa Gauthier Chicken Little (G) Zach Braff, Garry Marshall, Joan Cusack, Steve Zahn, Amy Sedaris. Disney's first in-house all-CG animated feature since splitting with Pixar is a let-down. The cartoon about a young chick (Braff), a belief that the sky is falling and an alien invasion has some clever moments, but most of its 81 minutes are terribly, terribly ordinary. Chicken Little strains to appear bright, zippy and irreverent - parts of it are positively frantic - but the result feels more desperate than fun. This is strictly formula fare, with an anemic script filled with stereotypical characters and based on some very tired ideas. 81 minutes. - EJO Derailed (R) Clive Owen, Jennifer Aniston, Melissa George, Vincent Cassel, Robert "The RZA" Diggs. Suspense thriller about a successful ad exec and loyal family man (Owen) who meets an alluring and sexy woman (Aniston) on his morning commute. Flirtation quickly escalates into passion. But this casual fling quickly turns dangerous when a violent criminal pulls them into a dangerous plot. 110 minutes. First Descent (PG-13) Shawn Farmer, Nick Perata, Terje Haakonsen, Shaun White, Hannah Teter. Chronicle of the rise of snowboarding as seen through the eyes of the snowboarders setting the standards and breaking the boundaries of the sport. The documentary spotlights a handful of snowboarding's early pioneers (including Shawn Farmer, Nick Perata, Terje Haakonsen) and some of the ultra-sponsored superstar phenoms at snowboarding's current cutting edge (Shaun White and Hannah Teter). 110 minutes. Get Rich Or Die Tryin' (R) Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, Joy Bryant, Viola Davis, Terrence Howard, Bill Duke. First there was director Curtis Hanson and Eminem in 8 Mile, now there's Irish director Jim Sheridan (My Left Foot, In The Name Of The Father, In America) with 50 Cent in a film that's more Scarface with a dash of 8 Mile and Hustle and Flow. Jackson's acting range is limited and everybody knows it. Fortunately, he's surrounded by superior talent like Howard and Duke and an excellent director. At least this wasn't directed by a fellow rapper and released straight to video and/or the record store. 134 minutes. - Matthew Socey Good Night and Good Luck (PG) David Strathairn, George Clooney, Robert Downey Jr., Patricia Clarkson. Good Night and Good Luck, the second film directed by George Clooney, is about facing up to a bully. The bully in this instance is Joe McCarthy, a political thug on a power trip. The person standing up to the bully is Edward R. Murrow, a highly-respected television reporter for CBS. Don't come to the theater expecting a sprawling, richly textured film like All the President's Men. At just 90 minutes, Good Night and Good Luck is a taut, focused look at one pivotal moment. The film is in black and white and it looks absolutely great. The cast is outstanding, particularly David Strathairn as Murrow. Joe McCarthy appears as himself in perfectly integrated film clips. 90 minutes. - EJO Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (PG-13) Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, Robbie Coltrane, Ralph Fiennes. The fourth entry in the Harry Potter film series is an entertaining film on its own, but something of a failure as an adaptation of the fourth novel. The plot concerns Harry's unexpected entry into the Triwizard Tournament, with a face-to-face showdown at last with ultravillain Voldemort (played with slimy panache by Ralph Fiennes). Fans have long wondered how the film would handle cutting the thick, exposition-heavy book into a movie, and the answer is: awkwardly. This Cliff's Notes version of the tale is heavy on the atmosphere and action, but if you haven't read the book, you'll be missing out on at least another hour's worth of backstory that ties it all together. Most of the adult cast members are relegated to the sidelines here, though Michael Gambon's hardass-masquerading-as-hippie rendition of Dumbledore remains the heart of the series. Brendan Gleeson as paranoid professor Mad-Eye Moody runs away with the show and steals every scene he's in. 150 minutes. - Paul Pogue The Ice Harvest (R) John Cusack, Billy Bob Thornton, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Platt, Randy Quaid. Film noir, more or less. The latest from Harold Ramis (Caddyshack, Analyze This) is seamy and sleazy and tough-as-nails, the type of movie where everybody says "fuck" a lot and strippers flash their breasts - no, make that titties - so that you'll understand that this is an R-rated movie and they aren't fucking around. The story of a lawyer (Cusack) and a bar manager (Thornton) who steal $2 million from a mob boss (Quaid) on Christmas Eve wants to be an edgy, sardonic, take-no-prisoners crime story with twists and turns along with a pitch black wit. But the movie is too reserved for its own good. Perhaps I got spoiled by Bad Santa, but if you intend to serve me up a buffet of human ugliness, then it needs to be in considerably worse taste than this. 90 minutes. - EJO In the Mix (PG-13) Usher Raymond, Chazz Palminteri, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Anthony Fazio, Matt Gerald. Hoping to safeguard his daughter, a mafia don assigns his loyal right-hand man, Darrell, to act as his daughter's bodyguard. Little does he realize that his daughter and Darrell have been sweet on each other for a long time, and now, things are really going to heat up. 95 minutes. Jarhead (R) Jake Gyllenhall, Peter Sarsgaard, Jamie Foxx. This is a war movie that takes a bold approach: It doesn't have a lot of action. Instead, it focuses on examining the characters of a small group of Marines who spend most of their time waiting around for something that never happens. Based on a best-selling memoir from 2003, the movie feels like the truth. But don't expect it to uncover big secrets about the first Gulf War. What it does well is give the viewer a real idea of what it is like to be a Marine and to experience disappointment at its most devastating. Gyllenhall and Sarsgaard carry a tale that is both funny and heartbreaking. - Jim Walker Just Friends (PG-13) Ryan Reynolds, Amy Smart, Anna Faris, Christopher Marquette, Chris Klein. Comedy. When Chris, a likable, high school loser, finally gathers the courage to reveal his love to Jamie - the girl of his dreams - she rejects him, saying she just wants to be friends. So, he moves across the country and transforms himself into a selfish, womanizing and successful music executive. Ten years later, circumstances bring him back to his home town and fate reconnects him with Jamie. Can one escape the clutches of the "friend zone"? Is it possible to go from "just friend" to boyfriend? 88 minutes. Magnificent Desolation: Walking on the Moon 3D (G) Narrated by Tom Hanks. Hanks' IMAX 3D love letter to the space program has a clear agenda. He aims to create the kind of enthusiasm that was shown for the Apollo program back in the '60s, especially with young people. To that end, Hanks and company have crafted an impressive 40-minute feature centered on a series of walks across the lunar surface. Special effects, the IMAX cameras and a very effective 3D process combine to work magic; the moon walks are strikingly realistic. Throughout the production, imaginatively presented 2D footage covers the history of the Apollo program. The film wraps up with a tantalizing look at the future of space expeditions, including a lunar outpost. 40 minutes. At the IMAX Theater in the State Museum. - EJO The Polar Express: An IMAX 3D Experience (G) Tom Hanks, Michael Jeter, Chris Coppola, Josh Hutcherson, Peter Scolari. The computer-animated holiday film returns, digitally remastered into 3D. Of the tale of a young boy's magical trip to the North Pole, Entertainment Weekly's Ty Burr says, "The world, it turns out, is divided into two kinds of people: Those who think The Polar Express is an instant Yuletide classic that utilizes groundbreaking computer technologies to create enchanting and timeless visual marvels, and those who think the movie's just creepy as hell." 97 minutes. At the IMAX Theater in the Indiana State Museum. Pride and Prejudice (PG) Keira Knightley, Matthew MacFayden, Brenda Blethyn, Donald Sutherland, Jena Malone. Delightful new adaptation of the Jane Austin novel geared towards the mall crowd who don't watch Masterpiece Theatre. Five sisters are used as bride bait by their mother and 18th century society. Will they all get married? Will they all be happy? Will their mother sit down and give it a rest? Knightley and MacFayden have nice chemistry together as Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, aka The Couple Who Don't Like Each Other. Major kudos to Sutherland as the daughters' father, and he's not playing a villain. 127 minutes. - Matthew Socey Rent (PG-13) Rosario Dawson, Taye Diggs, Wilson Jermaine Heredia, Jesse L. Martin, Idina Menzel. Yes, they sing. In fact, they sing a lot. This will be the hardest thing to accept for many movie-goers. Rent, the 1996 Tony Award winner for Best Musical, remains intact here, with almost all of the music and dialogue untouched. The cast is amazing, and director Chris Columbus deserves high praise for taking a chance by allowing the musical to remain a musical. 135 minutes. - Lisa Gauthier Saw II (R) Donnie Wahlberg, Franky G, Glenn Plummer, Emmanuelle Vaugier, Shawnee Smith. Jigsaw is back. The twisted mastermind who wreaked havoc in the first film is back for another round of horrifying life-or-death games. When a new murder victim is discovered with all the signs of Jigsaw's hand, Detective Eric Mason (Wahlberg) begins a full investigation and apprehends Jigsaw with little effort. But for Jigsaw, getting caught is just another part of his nefarious plan. Eight more of his victims are already fighting for their lives - and now it's time for Mason to join the game. 91 minutes. Yours, Mine and Ours (PG) Dennis Quaid, Rene Russo, James "Lil'JJ" Lewis, Linda Hunt, Rip Torn, George Lopez. Unfunny remake of the 1968 comedy, both of which were made because of both Cheaper By The Dozen films. Quaid and Russo are high school sweethearts. He's a widower, she's a widow and between them they have 18 kids. Alleged kid-friendly wackiness ensues. What would you expect from the director of both Scooby-Doo films? Kids who liked Cheaper and can't wait for Cheaper 2 will probably like this. Parents, you're on your own. Hopefully Quaid and Russo will appear in a film where they do Big Easy/Thomas Crown Affair things with each other. 90 minutes - Matthew Socey Zathura (PG) Jonah Bobo, Josh Hutcherson, Dax Shepard, Kristen Stewart. Director Jon Favreau (Elf) works wonders with this fantasy feature, from the author of Jumanji, about two young brothers who play a magical board game that sends them into outer space. The movie has a great retro look, the special effects - costumes and models mostly instead of computer graphics - are cool, the music is effective and the cast is talented. Unfortunately, Favreau's best efforts can't disguise the fundamental passivity of the story. A big part of the appeal of tales like this is experiencing the adventure vicariously through the lead players, but because of the way the story is structured, the boys don't do much of anything. You can't have a real adventure without derring-do and Zathura derring-doesn't. 95 minutes. - EJO

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