Film Capsule Reviews |

Film Capsule Reviews

The following capsule film reviews by the Associated Press, the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service, and Film Journal International.

Abandon – “Traffic” screenwriter Stephen Gaghan makes a promising directing debut with this restrained, intelligent thriller. Katie Holmes brings complexity and dimension to Gaghan’s tale of a straight-A student slowly coming unglued amid her thesis, job interviews and a police investigation about her missing boyfriend, who vanished and broke her heart two years earlier. The end twist is no big surprise, but Gaghan musters enough suspense and red herrings to keep viewers guessing. (1:39. PG-13 for drug and alcohol content, sexuality, some violence and language.)

Jackass: The Movie – Johnny Knoxville, Bam Margera, Chris Pontius, Steve-O sat as the King of Pain leads his subjects through ever more outrageous stunts.

Jonah – A Veggietales Movie – Go ahead, blame it on Mr. Potato Head if you must, but having vegetables dress up and act like humans has always been hard to resist. When irreverent edibles tell sly jokes and go by names like Archibald Asparagus and Bob the Tomato, they can get away with almost anything. Even teaching kids to do the right thing. This animated retelling of the familiar Old Testament story is playful, high-spirited and unmistakably amusing. It’s nice to see that a sense of humor and a sense of values don’t inevitably have to cancel each other out. (1:23. G.)

Moonlight Mile – This is a film that cares about genuine emotion but also wants to tame it, to tidy it up and keep it confined to quarters, too slick and contrived to completely embrace. Set in the fictional town of Cape Anne, Mass., in 1973, “Moonlight Mile” focuses on the aftereffects of an event we never see: the wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time murder of a young woman. Left to sort through the emotional wreckage are the woman’s stunned fiance and her equally distraught parents (Dustin Hoffman and Susan Sarandon). How they deal with this unexpected catastrophe, the choices they make about direction for the rest of their lives, is the territory writer-director Brad Silberling explores. (2:03. PG-13, for some sensuality and brief strong language.)

Red Dragon – With all due respect to Anthony Hopkins, the world did not need to see him play Hannibal Lecter a third time. The supposed allure lies in seeing Hopkins star in all three movies as the cannibalistic criminal expert.The movie, a tepid remake of Michael Mann’s superior “Manhunter” from 1986, is the prequel to “The Silence of the Lambs.” Edward Norton, Ralph Fiennes and Emily Watson co-star. (2:06. R for violence, grisly images, language, some nudity and sexuality.)

Sweet Home Alabama – In this new romantic comedy, Reese Witherspoon plays Melanie Carmichael, a hot New York fashion designer returning to her humble past to divorce the hick she left behind. Witherspoon has charmed her way through weak material before, but she’s too inexperienced to save the character from director Andy Tennant, whose main achievement here is to turn his star’s natural twinkling menace into malice. (1:49. PG-13, for some language/sexual references.)

The Four Feathers – Breathes there a moviegoer with heart so shielded and intellect so jaded he or she could not respond in exultation to this classic tale of redemption-of cowardice and bravery, of evil Arabs and stalwart Brits, of innocent Victorian maidens and undying love? Well, perhaps. But the plot of The Four Feathers is about as foolproof as a plot can be. Harry Feversham faces a brilliant future as an officer in Queen Victoria’s cavalry when he gets cold feet about going to war. Three comrades challenge his decision with symbolic gifts, then Harry decides he must go to Africs after all. Disguised as an Arab, Harry eventually finds himself part of an enemy troop attacking his very own regiment, which puts him into a position to save his friends-anonymously, of course. Harry’s incredible acts of bravery do not go unrecognized, however, and in the end, his honor is redeemed. (2:04. PG-13.)

The Ring – This supernatural thriller does the best it can with a splendid premise–people die seven days after watching a particular videotape–one of the creepiest, spookiest notions in years. It’s fueled not only by the omnipresence of video copies that turn up in our lives, but also by a sense that forces that are out of our control have a profound and unhappy effect on our lives. Naomi Watt s stars as a crack reporter and it’s up to her to lend credibility to this strange scenario, and her presence succeeds in making us believe Ehren Kruger’s efficient script, based on a Koji Suzuki’s book, and the hugely popular Japanese film that resulted.(1:55. PG-13, for thematic elements, disturbing images, language and some drug references.)

The Transporter – This car-chase-and-gunplay adventure would be wicked fun if not for an ugly misogynistic streak. British actor Jason Statham plays a man who’s not ashamed to use his expert driving skills for criminal enterprises. The audience loses sympathy for him, however, when he delivers a bound young woman (Hong Kong star Shu Qi) to a group of thugs. The excitement of the action is soured by his cruelty to her. (1:34. PG-13 for violence and some sensuality.)

White Oleander – Alison Lohman stars as Astrid, a teen who’s bounced between foster homes after her mother kills her own boyfriend. The women in her life change her in vastly different ways during a fragile, formative time. The movie could have been weepy made-for-TV fodder. The performances raise it to a level that’s more tolerable, and often moving. (1:50. PG-13 for mature thematic elements concerning dysfunctional relationships, drug content, language, sexuality and violence.)

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