Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner, Chris Cooper, Jason Bateman, Ashraf Barhom | R |

bgwhite bgwhite bgwhite  



ACTION

Movies can serve as wish fulfillment, an idealized version of would-of, should-of, could-of. That's true of The Kingdom, a gripping action-thriller in which an elite FBI unit flies to Saudi Arabia on a quickie mission to root out terrorists. If only it were really this easy.

Despite bureaucratic roadblocks at the highest levels of both the U.S. and Saudi governments, the American team (Foxx, Garner, Cooper and Bateman) heads to Riyadh after Islamic terrorists detonate a bomb that kills and injures hundreds of Americans living in an oil-company compound there. With savvy detective work and the help of a Saudi colonel (Barhom) in charge of keeping them safe, the quartet is soon zeroing in on the group behind the atrocity.

Kingdom presents the current horrible mess that is the U.S.'s involvement in Middle East politics and, by proxy, the Iraqi war, realistically but with a hyper-heroic Hollywood edge and ending. Adeptly directed by Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights), this is a smart, exciting film, and yet it can't help pandering to our most jingoistic instincts. At the screening I attended, when Garner—engaged in hand-to-hand combat—plunged a knife into a terrorist's groin, the audience cheered loudly, and one woman proclaimed, "That's an Oscar right there!"

Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, Jason Schwartzman R |

bgwhite    



COMEDY

It must be nice not to have a real job, worry about money or care for anyone besides one's self. That describes the three irritating, navel-gazing brothers populating The Darjeeling Limited, the latest film from director-cowriter Wes Anderson (The Royal Tenenbaums), whose twee tendencies boil over here. Hoping to kick-start sibling attachments after a yearlong estrangement, the privileged Whitman clan (Wilson, Brody and Schwartzman) reunite aboard a train traveling through India. They bicker, have adventures big and small, and let go of past baggage (literally, discarding their matching luggage). It all adds up to nada, other than a gorgeously photographed travelogue of India. Wilson, Brody and Schwartzman are each fine, but if you found yourself stuck in a train compartment with their characters, you'd vamoose.

Tony Leung, Tang Wei, Joan Chen | NC-17 |

bgwhite bgwhite   



THRILLER

There is a lush sensuality to this NC-17-rated film by director Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain) that has nothing to do with sex. When a character inhales on a cigarette, you hear the tobacco crackle. When a woman tries on a blue silk dress, you can almost feel its glossy smoothness. All of which partly compensates for the excessively convoluted plot of Lust, Caution, a tale of espionage in Shanghai during WWII. The Chinese heroine (Wei) goes undercover to have an affair with a government official (Leung) working for the Japanese occupiers. She and her cohorts intend to kill him, but in the meantime the two have rough sex (Lust features several explicit sex scenes, none of 'em very sexy). Somewhere beneath all the pretty pictures and rutting is a sweeping romantic drama about love, self-deception and betrayal, but it's glimpsed only in brief flashes.

Morgan Freeman, Greg Kinnear, Radha Mitchell, Selma Blair R |

bgwhite bgwhite bgwhite  



ROMANTIC DRAMA

Love is a mystery that no one can ever quite figure out, not that we don't keep trying. The characters in this lovely ensemble drama persist because, in the end, love is what matters even when it hurts so bad they doubt they can endure. Based on a novel by Charles Baxter and directed by Robert Benton (Nobody's Fool), Feast is fond of its characters and takes a generous view of their various heart-ships. The performances are sharp, notably Freeman's and Kinnear's. But it's Mitchell (Finding Neverland) who fractures your heart in a nude scene in which she tells the married man she's in love with, and in bed with, that she's wedding someone else.

• First off: It's pronounced A-litz-ia Backlayda. The Polish newcomer, 24, is winning raves as a courageous sex slave in the drama Trade.

AT HOME YOU'RE A STAR. ARE YOU MOBBED BY POLISH PAPA-RAZZI? Growing up, they were in trees, interviewing neighbors. I haven't experienced that here. Hopefully I won't!

NOW YOU LIVE IN L.A. CULTURE SHOCK MUCH? In Poland people take a while to warm up. Here people say hi on the street. It gives you good energy.

MAYBE THAT'S WHY YOU DID YOUR OWN STUNTS! They offered me a stunt girl and I said no. But I was totally afraid!