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November 11, 2005

Capsules are by critics Michael Sragow and Chris Kaltenbach, plus wire services. Full reviews at baltimoresun.com/movies.

Capote -- is a bleakly funny, profoundly unsettling depiction of Truman Capote as a young literary lion, or maybe an overgrown cub, on the scent of his Next Big Thing: a "non-fiction novel" about a Kansas murder. It begins as a deft high comedy about a cosmopolitan man of letters endearing himself to the boondocks. Then it expands into a heart-stabbing, dizzying examination of the exploitation that occurs in friendships, work relations and the connection between a journalist and his subject. As Capote bonds to the marrow with killer Perry Smith, actor Philip Seymour Hoffman takes the writer from tenderness to brute emotional force and then denial. Along with director Bennett Miller and screenwriter Dan Futterman, he creates the odyssey of a man who achieves a self-knowledge that defeats instead of strengthens him. (M.S.) R 114 minutes A+

Chicken Little -- represents Disney's answer to its recent string of underforming animated films: ditch the traditional hand-drawn animation in favor of computers and bring on that hoariest of animated movie cliches, the adorable-animal flick. The movie, which presents the title fowl as both an alarmist and a worry to his father, includes labored messages about parental love and believing in yourself, inspirational themes done to death in Hollywood films over the years. Yes, the story is lame, especially for a film that's supposed to represent something of a landmark. But that Chicken sure is cute. (C.K.) G 78 minutes C

Domino -- is a caper movie that weds Tilt-a-Whirl visuals to a script that's constantly flashing back and forth in time and to a heroine -- a model-turned-bounty-hunter (Keira Knightley) -- who's little more than a glamorous conundrum. Director Tony Scott's ploys for keeping the action edgy beat it to a standstill. (M.S.) R 128 minutes C

Dreamer, -- "inspired" by a true story, is about a father (Kurt Russell), a daughter (Dakota Fanning) and the lame racehorse that brings them closer together. Unfortunately, it has a tendency to force rather than cajole its audience to feel a certain way. A little more finesse would have made this horse a real winner, instead of making the audience feel it's watching a race where the fix is in. (C.K.) PG 102 minutes C+

Elizabethtown -- is brimming with at least three movies' worth of plotlines, and it gives short shrift to all of them. With a romantic comedy, a road picture and a grieving, dysfunctional family flick all struggling for attention, it's hard to get caught up in what's happening onscreen. Orlando Bloom plays a failed tennis shoe designer who heads back to his father's hometown after the older man dies; Kirsten Dunst is the effusive free spirit he meets on the way. (C.K.) PG-13 126 minutes C+

The Exorcism of Emily Rose -- is a horror film rooted in fact. Unfortunately, nothing in it rings with the faintest tinkle of truth. Tom Wilkinson plays a Catholic priest tried for negligent homicide after a girl dies when he attempts to free her of demons. (M.S.) PG-13 118 minutes D+

Flightplan -- stars Jodie Foster as a widow and mother who claims her daughter has vanished during their trans-Atlantic flight. Passengers and crew think she's imagined it. There's a serious plot deficiency here, but it's still a satisfyingly taut thriller. (C.K.) PG-13 88 minutes B+

The Fog -- is a scareless and senseless clutter of items from the horror smorgasbord: zombies, fire, haunted pirate ships, unnerving religious imagery. Tom Welling, Maggie Grace and Selma Blair play residents of a town trying to stay calm as the fog, and that other stuff, rolls in. (Knight Ridder/Tribune) PG-13 100 minutes D

The 40-Year-Old Virgin -- is probably the most sweet-spirited sex comedy ever made. The always-hilarious Steve Carell scores again. The movie isn't about just one character but the culture of sexual relationships and the absurdities it engenders. (C.K.) R 116 minutes A-

Get Rich or Die Tryin' -- is 50 Cent's attempt to take the `come-to-me' attitude of stoic action stars a step further, to `I dare you to come to me.' You wonder what's behind the slabs of muscle and confidence, the ingratiating smiles and, even worse, the ingratiating tears -- but you're not motivated to find out. Director Jim Sheridan (In America) and screenwriter Terence Winter (The Sopranos) base the film on 50 Cent's rise from the gutter to media godhood. But no matter how they sweat and strain to be relevant and powerful, all they deliver is a bullet-scarred man with a big-bad-guy physique toting a mike or a gun. The moviemakers slam down our gullets the star's own broad-stroke perception of crime as the main way urban blacks can `get rich or die tryin',' as if it's medicine. Terrence Howard steals the movie clear away from 50 Cent as his best friend. (M.S.) R 118 minutes C+

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