Now playing

October 26, 2007

Capsules by Michael Sragow and Chris Kaltenbach unless noted. Full reviews are at baltimoresun .com/movies.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford -- As Jesse James (Brad Pitt) nears the end of the line at age 34, his idolatrous and jealous fan, Bob Ford (Casey Affleck), sees him as his ticket to glory. The writer-director, Andrew Dominik, acts less like a filmmaker than a Dictaphone, pillaging Ron Hansen's novel for period argot and scene-setting narration rather than shaping dramatically charged scenes; he's got a childlike notion of "tell me a story" moviemaking, and, alas, a child's skill at it. (M.S.) R 153 minutes C

The Brave One -- Jodie Foster plays a cultured New York radio personality who suffers a vicious assault and turns vigilante. It's a maddeningly simple yet pretentious payback fantasy, with allusions to Taxi Driver, quotes from D.H. Lawrence and Emily Dickinson, and crowd-pleasing vengeance out of Death Wish. (M.S.) R 119 minutes C

The Bourne Ultimatum -- combines a dense and tingling atmosphere with headlong pacing and adventure as director Paul Greengrass takes the minimalist story line and snaps it like a whip. Using his camera to put you in Bourne's (Matt Damon) shoes or his sightlines, cutting with each shift of attention or slash of hand, foot and elbow, Greengrass lets you experience his hero's extreme sensations without overdosing on brutality. The swift, deft filmmaking and the authentic, in-your-eyeballs stunts pitch you at that giddy point of visceral enjoyment where you can't believe you're feeling what you're feeling -- but, of course, you do. (M.S.) PG-13 111 minutes A-

The Darjeeling Limited -- Three privileged, estranged brothers (Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman) embark on a crackpot journey in search of spiritual enlightenment. Despite the reputation of the director, Wes Anderson, the movie is no lyrical farce but an upscale slapstick comedy-team movie: The Three Stooges in India. (M.S.) R 91 minutes C+

Elizabeth: The Golden Age -- Not quite the Golden Age, actually: Here, Queen Elizabeth I (Cate Blanchett) concludes her bloody rivalry with her Catholic cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots (Samantha Morton), then defeats the Spanish Armada. It makes for an upbeat Protestant passion play in which the Virgin Queen rallies England against rabidly Catholic Spain with the help of armor she might have filched from that Catholic saint, Joan of Arc; the armor glitters, but this is one tinny movie. (M.S.) PG-13 115 minutes C-

The Game Plan -- The Rock proves himself once again to be agreeable company as an all-pro quarterback whose young daughter appears on his doorstep out of nowhere. The camera loves The Rock (aka Dwayne Johnson), but he still hasn't found the right vehicle for his humor. (M.S.) PG 110 minutes C

Gone Baby Gone -- Private eye Patrick Kenzie (Casey Affleck) struggles to crack the kidnapping of a 4-year-old girl from the rough Boston neighborhood of Dorchester. Director Ben Affleck skillfully focuses on the tragedy and mordant comedy of urban corruption and decline, and the blunders and debacles of good guys and bad guys. The result is a compelling, sometimes terrifying and, on occasion, bleakly funny urban mystery about failure. (M.S.) R 114 minutes B+

Good Luck Chuck -- is a movie about breasts made by boobs. A dentist (Dane Cook) tries to beat a childhood curse and find true love with a penguin keeper (Jessica Alba). But the trumped-up romance and the gimmicky would-be comical black magic are just excuses for the bland, talentless Cook to engage in soft-core sex galore. (M.S.) R 96 minutes F

Lust, Caution -- In Japanese-controlled Shanghai during World War II, a fledgling theater actor and Chinese Resistance member (Tang Wei) tries to use her sexuality to trap a collaborator and secret service chief (Tony Leung) -- and becomes a nightmare case of a performer falling in love with her role. Tang Wei doesn't just embody the throes of passion, she acts them with every inch of flesh exposed; otherwise, the movie is ponderous and dull. (M.S.) NC-17 153 minutes C+

Michael Clayton -- Clayton (George Clooney) is a fixer for a New York corporate law firm, trying to stay alive (and solvent) while protecting a colleague (Tom Wilkinson) who's gone nuts defending a heartless agrichemical giant. This movie is that scintillating and rare pop-culture creation -- a thriller about a morally complicated character -- and Clooney is gritty and majestic as a fellow who's not as put-together as he looks. (M.S.) R 119 minutes A

Rendition -- explores the secret detention and torture of suspected terrorists. The melodramatic plot heats up its ingredients to Fahrenheit 9/11 levels, yet the heavy-handed filmmaking renders them all as flat as a pile of communiques, despite the earnest efforts of an all-star cast (Reese Witherspoon, Jake Gyllenhaal, Meryl Streep, Alan Arkin). (M.S.) R 120 minutes C

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