recommended viewing

November 14, 2008|By Capsules by Michael Sragow unless noted.

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

Body of Lies: *** ( 3 STARS) This spy vs. spy thriller is smart, tense and rippling with topicality. Leonardo DiCaprio's deceptively rugged CIA agent masterminds the capture of a new world-class terrorist (Alon Abutbul) despite the bungling and interference of his Langley, Va.-based boss (Russell Crowe). The actor creates an existential juggler throwing a fistful of knives in midair - and DiCaprio doesn't drop a single blade. R 128 minutes

Eagle Eye: ** 1/2 ( 2 1/2 STARS) A mysterious woman who seems able to control any electronic device coerces an aimless slacker (Shia LaBeouf) and a single mother (Michelle Monaghan) into implementing a plot that may bring down the U.S. as we know it. The movie is moderately gripping but too gimmicky; by the end, watching it is like seeing someone else crack a jigsaw puzzle. PG-13 118 minutes

I.O.U.S.A.: **** ( 4 STARS) Documentary-maker Patrick Creadon and his producer wife, Christine O'Malley, use all the graphic dexterity and wit they mustered to make crossword puzzles enthralling in Wordplay to scare American audiences into fiscal responsibility. Like the Indiana Jones series, this improbably sprightly if doom-laden analysis of our fiscal woes revives old-fashioned visual tools like maps filled with moving arrows to rouse viewers out of ignorance and complacency. PG 90 minutes

Pride and Glory : *** 1/2 ( 3 1/2 STARS) No film boasts a more passionate male ensemble than this terrific tale of corruption in the NYPD. Edward Norton has a soulfulness and grit that magnify his sensitivity when he plays hard guys like Ray Tierney, a cop investigating a shootout that killed four officers. Colin Farrell, Noah Emmerich and Jon Voight match him as the other members of a family that have been bred to the blue. They all capture the richness and the insularity of police work when it's done as a family business, as well as its horrifying potential for sadism. R 129 minutes

Rachel Getting Married : **** ( 4 STARS) In this wrenching family tragicomedy, a recovering addict (Anne Hathaway) on a weekend pass from rehab for the marriage of her sister (Rosemarie DeWitt) operates like an irritant and a truth-detector on everyone around her. Hathaway gives a performance unique in its perspective and profound in its volatility; she carries you on an emotional whirligig that can be horrifying and funny, hopeful and devastating. An electrifying actor's duet with Hathaway and Debra Winger lifts the movie to the level of Eugene O'Neill - but it's O'Neill with a scintillating world-music beat. R 130 minutes

The Secret Life of Bees: *** 1/2 ( 3 1/2 STARS) Dakota Fanning is a 14-year-old white girl who finds a trio of mother figures when she runs away from her abusive father and ends in the rural South Carolina home of the Boatwright sisters. This affecting adaptation of Sue Monk Kidd's acclaimed novel, set in the early-'60s South, has an honesty of emotion that keeps it from getting overly preachy or sappy, as well as strong performances from Queen Latifah, Alicia Keys and Sophie Okonedo as the Boatwrights. PG-13 110 minutes. (Chris Kaltenbach)

What Just Happened: **** ( 4 STARS) It's a superb comedy that just happens to take place in that tinseled part of the real America known as Hollywood. Robert De Niro's harried, resourceful producer attempts to keep a British auteur (Michael Wincott) and an American superstar (Bruce Willis) from imploding, as well as woo an ex-wife (Robin Wright Penn) and provide fatherly guidance to his eldest child (Kristen Stewart). No one in this film has a frank conversation; everyone is negotiating relationships and deals, or barking or receiving orders, or simply begging for favors. The result is a crackpot symphony of missed connections. R 107 minutes

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