In theaters this weekend
That this is an overstuffed melodrama, better suited for broadcast as a TV movie of the week than as a theatrical release, is bad enough. That it comes from Robert Benton, a veteran whose output has slowly, steadily declined in quality since writing “Bonnie and Clyde” and writing and directing “Kramer vs. Kramer,” is just plain sad.
But what’s truly troubling is the way the film, written by Allison Burnett based on the novel by Charles Baxter, regards women as idiots and objects. Every female actress gets fully, gratuitously naked at some point (except Jane Alexander, who manages to maintain some dignity alongside Morgan Freeman, who plays her husband).
One (played by Selma Blair) abruptly leaves her husband (Greg Kinnear) for another woman ” a stereotypical, softball-playing, predatory lesbian. Another (Alexa Davalos) consults a psychic about her blossoming romance with a fellow coffee house employee (Toby Hemingway) then goes into a tizzy of wedding and baby planning based on the forecast.
The worst (Radha Mitchell) is involved with a married man (Billy Burke), then marries Kinnear’s character for stability rather than love, yet maintains the affair with this person who’s quick to slap her face and call her the most profane word you can hurl at a woman. This is supposed to be a romantic comedy?
Sounds more like the guest list for “Dr. Phil.” R for strong sexual content, nudity and language. 105 min. One and a half stars out of four.
There’s an obvious game plan here, turning Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson from action-movie bruiser to benign father figure, as “The Pacifier” did for Vin Diesel.
Johnson stars as an egomaniacal football quarterback whose run toward a championship hits complications when he becomes caretaker to the 8-year-old daughter (Madison Pettis) he never knew he had.
Director Andy Fickman and screenwriters Nichole Millard and Kathryn Price deliver a prolonged series of klutzy, inept dad gags and scenarios, all leading to the inevitable warm fuzzies you knew were coming before you walked into the theater.
But finally, we do get the chance to watch The Rock coo “Are You Lonesome Tonight?” then dance with little girls in tutus to Electric Light Orchestra’s “Mr. Blue Sky.”
PG for some mild thematic elements. 110 min. Two stars out of four.
Simultaneously a well-crafted action flick and a drama about global politics, this film wants to appeal to both the lowest common denominator as well as those seeking more intellectual fare. It only moderately succeeds at achieving both.
Director Peter Berg (“Friday Night Lights”), working from a script by Matthew Michael Carnahan, raises some intriguing questions about vengeance and cultural misconceptions, then comes up with answers that feel a bit too pat.
He’s assembled a strong cast in Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper and Jason Bateman, then has them solve a complicated terrorist attack in a matter of mere days in a country where they’re not exactly wanted.
The four star as FBI agents who secretly travel to Saudi Arabia to determine who was behind a massive, deadly bombing at an American oil-company compound in Riyadh. (A couple of their colleagues were killed while responding to the blast ” this time, it’s personal.)
The film has a visual intensity and intimacy reminiscent of Michael Mann (who happens to be one of the producers), with a prolonged, climactic gun battle that’s especially brutal. R for intense sequences of graphic brutal violence, and for language. 110 min. Two and a half stars out of four.
Overwrought and overlong, Ang Lee’s film nevertheless has some moments of exquisite beauty and a potentially star-making performance from newcomer Tang Wei ” that is, for those few who can find the time and emotional dedication the film demands.
It’ll be a tough sell, and not just for the NC-17 rating the film famously received for graphic sex scenes that are sometimes brutal, sometimes borrowed from Cirque du Soleil. (Lee himself acknowledged as much recently, saying: “It’s not very audience-friendly for a market like the U.S. It’s not their subject matter.”)
Based on a short story by beloved Chinese writer Eileen Chang and set in Japanese-occupied Shanghai during World War II, “Lust, Caution” follows the torrid love affair between a top Japanese collaborator (veteran Tony Leung) and a young spy (Tang) who’s posing as an affluent married woman to lure him into an assassination plot.
Trouble is, she ends up falling for him, and he for her, which Lee captures in tragic noir fashion. It helps to have read the original story to keep all the players straight ” the wealthy wives, the idealistic resistance members.
Lee and screenwriters James Schamus and Wang Hui Ling are slavishly faithful to the details of Chang’s work (the lush clothing, the gaudy jewels) while at the same time vastly expanding on it. Rodrigo Prieto ” who also shot “Brokeback Mountain,” which earned Lee a best-director Oscar ” provides the dramatic cinematography. NC-17 for some explicit sexuality. 156 min. Two and a half stars out of four.
This drama is about the kidnapping and selling of girls and boys into sex slavery, a crime that goes on all over the world ” including the United States, you may be surprised to learn.
A horrific topic, to be sure, one that people ought to know about but probably would rather block from their minds. Unfortunately, the film itself feels more exploitative than enlightening ” and, fundamentally, it’s a rather rushed thriller that offers more in the way of queasy moments than genuine suspense.
German director Marco Kreuzpaintner, making his American debut, and Oscar-nominated screenwriter Jose Rivera, who showed a much surer hand with “The Motorcycle Diaries,” make the mistake of trying to lighten the unbearable weight of the material with forced buddy comedy.
An uncomfortably cast Kevin Kline stars as a Texas cop who reluctantly teams up with a 17-year-old Mexican (Cesar Ramos) to find the boy’s younger sister, who was abducted and is about to be auctioned off online.
R for disturbing sexual material involving minors, violence including a rape, language and some drug content. 113 min. One and a half stars out of four.