ROMANTIC DRAMA

Keira Knightley, Matthew Macfadyen, Donald Sutherland, Brenda Blethyn

bgwhite bgwhite bgwhite  



It takes a while getting used to the fact that Mr. Darcy, played by Macfadyen in this engaging film version of Jane Austen's classic 1813 novel, is a big lug. Darcys of the past, most notably Laurence Olivier in a 1940 movie and Colin Firth in a 1996 TV miniseries, have been fine-boned, somewhat priggish fellows. Not so the hulking Macfadyen, who brings to his Darcy a brooding, almost sullen quality more appropriate to Mr. Rochester in Jane Eyre. This guy is hurting and it shows. But Macfadyen's take works, as does this latest rendering of the rocky romance between Darcy and sharp-minded Elizabeth Bennett (Knightley). His gloominess proves an effective foil for Knightley's initially giggly Elizabeth. As the film goes on, her performance grows, turning darker as Macfadyen's lightens.

While he hasn't made the definitive Pride and Prejudice (that may be the '96 miniseries), first-time director Joe Wright gets much right here. This P&P makes obvious Elizabeth's rural roots, with a pig waddling through the Bennett house and geese, cows and chickens in the yard. And deft supporting turns bring joy, particularly Blethyn as Elizabeth's dithering mom, Judi Dench as an imperious aristocrat and Tom Hollander as a fulsome clergyman intent on winning Elizabeth's hand. (PG)

SUSPENSE

Clive Owen, Jennifer Aniston, Melissa George, Vincent Cassel

bgwhite bgwhite   



Helping his daughter with a book report, ad man Charles Schine (Owen) explains to her that the assigned novel is intriguing because "you never know what's coming next." If only the same were true of Derailed. Instead, most viewers will be at least one step ahead of the plot, making this thriller decidedly less than thrilling.

Which is too bad, because the performances are solid and the outline of the story promising. Schine finds himself up to the collar of his blue oxford-cloth shirt in blackmail when a nasty stranger (Cassel) discovers that our hero has embarked upon an adulterous affair. Both Schine and his paramour (Aniston), a fellow commuter on Schine's suburban train into Chicago, are married to others, and the stranger is demanding extravagant sums to stay quiet.

Owen is magnetic as Schine, going from sweaty and desperate to determined as he realizes what he's up against. Aniston, in a tricky supporting role, proves both sexy and sympathetic. (R)

DRAMA

Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson, Joy Bryant

bgwhite bgwhite   



Don't tell the folks over at Coca-Cola, but sometimes the real thing isn't what's needed. Take rapper Curtis Jackson, better known to fans worldwide by his nom de hip-hop, 50 Cent. Although he's basically playing himself in the semiautobiographical Get Rich or Die Tryin', Jackson is stolid and inexpressive, and one keeps wondering whether handing the role over to a real actor would have given the film more oomph. The man lived it, he just can't play it.

Get Rich tells how Jackson, called Marcus here, was orphaned as a child, began dealing drugs early, lived the thug life on New York City's mean streets and then nearly died of multiple gunshot wounds before embracing fatherhood and becoming a leading music star. The movie has its moments, but too much of it plays like other tough-times-in-the-'hood flicks, with Jackson neither skilled nor charismatic enough to make it distinctive. Which is disappointing, given that the movie is directed by talented Irish filmmaker Jim Sheridan (In America) and features yet another electric performance by Terrence Howard (Hustle & Flow), who portrays Marcus's pal and manager. Now there's an actor who could have made this movie about a rapper sing. (R)

Richard Gere, Juliette Binoche

bgwhite bgwhite   



Just as a spelling bee whiz gets most of a word right before stumbling on the last letter in a key scene, so Bee Season starts out promisingly only to falter late in the going. Give it points, though, for being a film that tries to wrestle with grown-up themes: family dynamics, mental health and religious mysticism.

Based on a best-selling 2000 novel by Myla Goldberg, Bee focuses on the Naumanns, a seemingly happy, upper-middle-class family in Oakland, Calif. Dad (Gere) drives a red Alfa Romeo convertible and teaches religious studies at a university while Mom (Binoche) drives a more sensible Volvo station wagon and works in a lab. Both eat dinner at home nightly with their two kids. But when 9-year-old Eliza (Flora Cross) starts winning spelling bees, previously hidden tears in the family fabric widen. The movie, directed by Scott McGehee and David Siegel (The Deep End), is overdramatic but underdramatized. Call this review M-I-X-E-D. (PG-13)

FAMILY

Zathura

Tim Robbins, Josh Hutcherson

bgwhite bgwhite bgwhite  



Want to tear your kids away from Xbox? Get them a musty rocket-racing board game called Zathura. Sure, they'll say it "looks dumb and old," but they'll quickly change their tune when a real-life meteor shower redecorates the living room. That's what happens to squabbling brothers Walter (Hutcherson) and Danny (Jonah Bobo), who stumble upon the game when Dad (Robbins) is away at work and find themselves on a wild intergalactic adventure. It's a thrilling ride, though too frightening for young kids and nowhere near as epic as its majestic score suggests. Credit Hutcherson and Bobo, who always keep their performances rooted in reality, even when they're running from killer robots as their house catapults through space. (PG)

WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE CHICK FLICK? Oh, the romance, the heartbreak, the female bonding, the Kleenex...with Pride & Prejudice following Prime, Shopgirl and In Her Shoes, it's a vintage season for chick-flick fans. We asked celebs to name their faves.

CHARLIZE THERON Norma Rae.
Just a great performance, great story. It makes you go, "You can change things."

COURTENEY COX ARQUETTE When Harry Met Sally...
It was just really sweet and smart.

BROOKE BURNS Love Actually.
It was one of those total girl moments when I had a breakup and ate a pint of ice cream and made myself cry.

ROSE McGOWAN Working Girl.
Melanie Griffith gave me inspiration to make something of my life. I was like, "She can do it."

LAURA LINNEY The Women.
It's a classic. It's like the first chick flick.

MICHELLE MONAGHAN Steel Magnolias.
I love to laugh, I love to cry. That scene at the funeral!

MENA SUVARI Thelma & Louise.
It's empowering. Women have been stepped on enough. And you think about the connection with your girlfriends.

TERI HATCHER Wedding Crashers
It snuck up on you, that it wasn't a romantic comedy until the last five minutes. And then I was like, "No one will ever love me like that!"

  • Contributors:
  • Leah Rozen,
  • Jason Lynch.