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Film shorts

Here are capsule reviews of films playing at local theaters. They are from Associated Press and Los Angeles Times staff writers.

Life or Something Like It – Angelina Jolie stars as a TV news reporter with a seemingly perfect life who learns from a homeless psychic that she’s going to die in a week. At the same time, she’s forced to work with a cameraman she hates (Edward Burns). In a romantic comedy like this, the outcome is evident from the start. The difference here is the infusion of feel-good, quick-fix psychobabble about living each day to the fullest. Director Stephen Herek scratches the surface of the fame vs. happiness debate, and everything wraps up too neatly. PG-13 for sexual content, brief violence and language. 103 min.

The Scorpion King – A brisk, amiably silly fist fest that establishes pro wrestler The Rock as heir apparent to Arnold Schwarzenegger for favorite on-screen bruiser. The movie flies by, nicely paced by director Chuck Russell, who keeps swords, arrows and punches flying in swashbuckling style. Reprising his brief role in last year’s “The Mummy Returns,” The Rock takes on the evil warlord Memnon (Steven Brand) and steals away the bad guy’s beautiful sorceress (Kelly Hu).

After the finesse fighting of “The Matrix” and its many copycats, “Scorpion King” is a nice reversion to street-brawling power over agility. PG-13 for intense sequences of action violence and some sensuality. 91 min.

Spider-Man – Director Sam Raimi has admirably synthesized 40 years of crime-fighting from the pages of Marvel Comics into an energetic romp that captures the spirit of Spidey’s universe with reverence and affection. And with its sweetly sad underpinning of romantic longing – plus a demented villain who evokes sympathy amid his blustering – “Spider-Man” sometimes rises above the comic-book trappings to conjure real sentiment. Tobey Maguire, an inspired choice for the lead, plays a science geek who becomes a web-slinging hero after a bite from a mutant spider.

Willem Dafoe co-stars as his nemesis, and Kirsten Dunst plays the object of Spider-Man’s affections. The action grows repetitive and the hero-villain dynamic is undercooked, but a generally good time is guaranteed for all. PG-13 for stylized violence and action. 121 min.

Unfaithful – Divine trash, like Adrian Lyne’s earlier movies, including “9 1/2 Weeks” and “Fatal Attraction.” Thematically, though, it’s more serious and subdued, as if Lyne finally has grown up after more than 20 years of directing.

Much of that has to do with the nuanced performances from Richard Gere and Diane Lane as a wealthy married couple. She has an affair with a hot, young Parisian (Olivier Martinez); he finds out; things get ugly. Despite the steamy sex scenes, the movie is more about emotional consequences. (R for sexuality, language and a scene of violence. 123 min.)

Clockstoppers – A watch that enables the wearer to stop everyone and everything in their tracks. Imagine the possibilities! If this jaunty little sci-fi doesn’t exploit them to the hilt, it’s still a fleet-footed and pleasingly upbeat family diversion. Jesse Bradford, Paula Garces, Robin Thomas and Julia Sweeney lead an appealing cast. Directed by Jonathan Frakes. (PG for action violence and mild language. 93 min.)

Hollywood Ending – It’s as acutely painful to report as it is to experience, but “Hollywood Ending” makes the conclusion inescapable: Woody Allen has become his own worst enemy.

But where once his presence in the films he wrote and directed was a good part of what made them unforgettable, his appearance here makes parts of it close to unwatchable. With Ta Leoni, Treat Williams, George Hamilton, Mark Rydell and Debra Messing. (PG-13, for some drug references and sexual material. 114 min)

The New Guy – Comedy starring DJ Qualls as a high school nerd who gets a chance at a fresh start with some makeover tips from convict Eddie Griffin. With Eliza Dushku, Zooey Deschanel and Lyle Lovett.

Count of Monte Cristo – Alexander Dumas’ classic story of an innocent man wrongly but deliberately imprisoned and his brilliant strategy for revenge against those who betrayed him.

Dashing young sailor Edmond Dantes is a guileless and honest young man whose peaceful life and plans to marry the beautiful Mercedes are abruptly shattered when his best friend Fernand deceives him. Unlawfully sentenced to the infamous island prison, Chateau D’If, he is haunted by the baffling course his life has taken.

Over time, he abandons everything he ever believed about right and wrong and becomes consumed by thoughts of vengeance against those who betrayed him. With cunning ruthlessness, he cleverly and systematically sets out to destroy them.

Stars Guy Pierce, Jim Caviezel and Richard Harris. Filmed in Ireland and Malta.


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