Now playing

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Capsules by Michael Sragow and Chris Kaltenbach.

Full reviews at baltimoresun.com/movies.

Annapolis -- wasn't shot in Annapolis and doesn't have an original thought in its head. James Franco is Jake Huard, son of a neglectful, working-class father. Determined not to spend his life in a factory, Jake gets an appointment to the Naval Academy. Those who have seen An Officer and a Gentleman know the rest of the plot. Once there, Jake faces nearly insurmountable odds, most the result of his uncanny ability to do the wrong thing at the wrong time. Then come the brigade boxing matches, through which he can prove his mettle and fitness to serve. (C.K.) PG-13 108 minutes C

The Boys of Baraka -- provides eloquent and infuriating testimony to the failures of the Baltimore public school system. But the two-year program it's based on -- sending a score of 12- and 13-year-old African-American boys to a boarding school named Baraka, in Kenya -- remains a sign of hope, even after the program disintegrates. And the movie is a sign of hope, too. It's unceasingly involving and entertaining. (M.S.) Unrated 84 minutes A

Brokeback Mountain -- stars Heath Ledger as the ranch-hand lover of rodeo-man Jake Gyllenhaal. After their first summer of love, they take wives and start families, but reconnect after four years. Soon they're going on "fishing trips" and comparing notes on lives of quiet desperation. The result is as close to a still life as you can get with human characters. (M.S.) R 134 minutes C

Cache -- is the feel-guilty movie of the new millennium. The director, Michael Haneke, an Austrian who makes films in France, depicts characters who'd just about define the discreet charms of the bourgeoisie if he weren't so intent on unveiling their inner sleaziness. Daniel Auteuil plays the host of a public-TV talk show, a sort of Gallic Charlie Rose with intellectual street cred. Juliette Binoche plays his wife, a success in publishing. Auteuil starts to receive disturbing surveillance videos that link him to the aftermath of a terrible racist episode in French history. (M.S.) R 121 minutes C+

Capote -- is a bleakly funny, profoundly unsettling depiction of Truman Capote as a young literary lion on the scent of his "nonfiction novel" about a Kansas murder. As Capote bonds with killer Perry Smith, actor Philip Seymour Hoffman takes the writer from tenderness to brute manipulation. He creates the odyssey of a man who achieves a self-knowledge that defeats instead of strengthens him. (M.S.) R 114 minutes A+

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe -- plummets into an imaginative landscape as large as all creation. As it moves from the Battle of Britain to a war between good and evil in the parallel world of Narnia, this film has everything a first-rate fantasy should have, including sweep, color and clarity. But it's also downright ennobling. It reminds us of the true meaning of "sacrifice." (M.S.) PG 140 minutes A

Curious George -- gives the fabled Man in the Yellow Hat a name (Ted), but otherwise all is as it should be in this winsome big-screen adaptation of H.A. and Margret Rey's tales of a mischievous monkey and his innocent adventures. The story is about Ted's search in Africa for a giant idol that will save his museum from bankruptcy and the little monkey who follows him home. Like the books from which it springs, Curious George is safe and tame, utterly without guile or malicious intent. Some adults may find the film unbearably simplistic, or its pace burdensomely slow. But it would be a shame if movie audiences have become so hyper-adrenalized that they can't appreciate a charmer like this one. (C.K.) G 87 minutes B

Eight Below, -- in which eight gorgeous sled dogs are stranded in the frozen Antarctic after being left behind by their owners, should win over all but the determinedly cynical. Ordered on an expedition under threatening conditions, guide Jerry Smith (Paul Walker) takes a scientist to look for meteorites. When a storm hits, the two are saved by their dogs, which they are then forced to leave behind. Guilt-ridden, Smith tries to return for them. The dogs are beautiful, loyal and whip-smart. Watching them should leave any sensate human thrilled at times, near tears at others. Sure, the movie's manipulative, but at least it's expertly manipulative. (C.K.) PG 112 minutes. B

Firewall -- offers competently doctored formula: Grade B pap with a violent mickey in it. As a computer security V.P. for a bank, battling a master thief who locks down his family, Harrison Ford has the reliability and the plain and simple charm of the old Timex watch: He takes a licking and keeps on ticking. (M.S.) PG-13 106 minutes B-

Freedomland -- plays like a pilot for a new forensic series set in Jersey. The music blares, the camera bobs and the editing flashes to a cavalcade of ticked-off characters. A white woman (Julianne Moore) declares that a black man has jacked her car; under the ministrations of an African-American project cop (Samuel L. Jackson), she remembers that her son was in the back seat as the jacker peeled out. He isn't the only person to go missing in the movie. The way Joe Roth has directed it, spurious tension undercuts screenwriter-novelist Richard Price's characterizations. (M.S.) R. 121 minutes. C+

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire -- pits Harry and pals against the turmoil of teen crushes and competition under the gaze of the evil Lord Voldemort. As Hermione, Emma Watson lets all the comic-dramatic complications of her age play out across her face. Otherwise, the action dominates the characters. Director Mike Newell doesn't cheat the Potter audience. He doesn't wow it, either. (M.S.) PG-13. 157 minutes B-

Imagine Me & You -- focuses on two women who fall in love at first sight. Problem is, one has just gotten married to a guy who adores her, and the other doesn't want to be known as a home wrecker. What are the lovelorn to do? In this film's case, simply scuttle about until the writer-director has figured out a quirky, charming-enough way for them to connect and live happily ever after. You'll smile, you'll laugh, and then you'll write off the whole experience as simply another by-the-numbers romance whose only distinction is that, in true this-is-the-year-of-Brokeback Mountain style, focuses on same-sex lovers. (C.K.) R 97 minutes C

King Kong, -- in Peter Jackson's hugely entertaining, undeniably erratic remake, resembles a DC Comics super ape. He boasts the brainpan of Gorilla Grodd and a scrambled version of Superman's power menu. Jackson overstuffs the film with action set pieces, including a superfluous arachnid jamboree. Yet whenever the spectacle grows wearying, the sight of Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts), the courageous blonde who entrances the gorilla, supplies a shot of adrenaline. (M.S.) PG-13 187 minutes B+

Last Holiday -- is best when it matches the endearingly low-key performance of Queen Latifah, who ratchets down her outsized persona to great effect in this comedy about a store clerk who, discovering she has only weeks to live, decides to live it up at a European resort. The film's genius is that her decision doesn't make her in any way insufferable; but instead lets her finally enjoy who she is. (C.K.) PG-13 112 minutes B

Match Point -- features a sizzling performance by Scarlett Johansson -- she brings down this homicidal London-set romance like a match igniting a Covent Garden opera house of cards. An onslaught of arias indicates that nothing will be easy for her struggling American actress and her ambitious Irish lover (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers). Every move seems preordained. But Johansson bequeaths the welcome sight of a talent in full bloom to this wilted dark whimsy of a movie. (M.S.) R 124 minutes C

Munich -- is a sermonizing anti-thriller ostensibly depicting the aftermath of the Palestinian terrorist slaughter of 11 Israeli Olympians in 1972. But from the moment the Israelis decide Munich has changed everything to the final shot of the World Trade Center, director Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner reduce Israel's response to the massacre to an analogy of America's response to al-Qaida. This is a subject for historical debate, not pseudo-humanistic propaganda. (M.S.) R 160 minutes C-

Nanny McPhee -- offers a great time to be had at the movies. Emma Thompson stars in repulsive makeup as a nanny who shows up to care for the unruly children of widower Mr. Brown (Colin Firth), a bankrupt mortician. He has accepted the financial help of autocratic Aunt Adelaide (Angela Lansbury), who has one condition: that he marry again. That doesn't sit well with his kids. Nanny McPhee's strange powers soon cow the kids into submission. Then Mr. Brown proposes to a horrible woman from town. Whatever will they do? (C.K.) PG 97 minutes B

The Pink Panther -- features Steve Martin tying himself into a Gordian knot trying to play Inspector Clouseau. Seeing Martin wreak changes on a classic slapstick character is like watching a lab experiment in a comedy clinic. Martin is so inherently graceful and dance-like (and cerebral) that when he plays clumsy the laughs must derive from bizarre choreography, not inspired, spontaneous idiocy. And even that happens only a few times here. (M.S.) PG 95 minutes C

Running Scared -- is the story of the guy paid to get rid of murder weapons for the mob (Paul Walker) and the deadly fix he's in when a young boy (Cameron Bright) uses one of them to shoot his abusive stepfather. Writer-director Wayne Kramer (The Cooler) tries to create a gangland fairytale out of blood and bluster and crippled flights of fancy. The result is an out-of-control, lost-in-the-funhouse experience. That goes even for viewers who consider mental impairment, drug addiction, sadism and abused women and youngsters the stuff of carny-sideshow entertainment. Kramer tips his hat to his superiors in the closing credits; the final line reads, "For Sam Peckinpah, Brian De Palma and Walter Hill." He should have added two words: "I'm sorry." (M.S.) R 122 minutes D

Something New -- tackles an important social and cultural issue: interracial dating in a culture where color-blindness is still a far-off goal. Sanaa Lathan is Kenya McQueen, a career-obsessed financial consultant who notices that she's on the fast track alone. Then she meets Brian (Simon Baker), a handsome, absolutely wonderful guy. It doesn't take long for Kenya to realize that Brian is one fine catch. Except that she's black, and he's white. Something New doesn't live up to its title; it is the sort of intimate love story that Hollywood has been churning out for years. But it does offer that most pleasant and valuable of viewing experiences: A message movie in which story and character come first. (C.K.) PG-13 100 minutes B+

Tamara -- is named for a woebegone student of literature and witchcraft. Her high school's jocks and jockettes, angered by her school-newspaper expose of steroid use, humiliate and accidentally kill her. The good news is she rises again, all buff and sassy, sporting a wardrobe so tight it appears to be fastened subcutaneously. The bad news is she's now evil. The movie has a great ad line: "Revenge has a killer body." But there's nothing going on in it above the neckline. (M.S.) R. 93 minutes D

Transamerica -- courses on the jet-stream of Felicity Huffman's performance as Stanley "Bree" Osbourne, a man determined to become a woman. With humor and sanity, Huffman portrays a quest for self-definition without pleading for sympathy or selling a panacea. (M.S.) R 103 minutes B+

The World's Fastest Indian, -- based on the real life of Kiwi biker Burt Munro (Anthony Hopkins), puts a burst of warmth into that by-now too-familiar genre, the inspirational biopic. Both handmade and souped-up, it beautifully renders two types of camaraderie: the bonds among eccentrics and the fellowship of speed. Hopkins creates a fascinating, paradoxical hero: an oddly amiable monomaniac. (M.S.) PG-13 127 minutes B+

Copyright © 2019, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad
55°