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Capsule reviews of films playing the week of Oct. 29

Pride and Glory, Zack and Miri Make a Porno among titles



New Releases

PRIDE AND GLORY The award for the year's most generic title thus far handily goes to Pride and Glory, a moniker so instantly forgettable that, in just a few short weeks, folks will be remembering the film as Honor and Justice or Law and Order or Cops and Crooks or, with apologies to Dostoevsky, Crime and Punishment. Then again, this snoozy title reflects the picture bearing it, since this is nothing but one more look at police corruption, a subgenre that's become especially threadbare during the course of this decade (Narc, Dark Blue, We Own the Night). What's especially lamentable is that this movie strands yet another exemplary turn by Edward Norton, who once again is superior to the material surrounding him. Here, he plays Ray Tierney, part of a clan of cops: His father (Jon Voight), his brother Francis (Noah Emmerich) and his brother-in-law Jimmy (Colin Farrell) also have NYPD blood coursing through their veins. Troubled by a past tragedy and therefore satisfied to be working a quiet desk job, Ray is reluctantly pulled back onto the streets after four police officers are fatally gunned down in the line of duty. As Ray works his connections in the back alleys and juggles a handful of clues, he makes the startling discovery that the murders are connected to dealings within his own family. For the first hour, Pride and Glory wears its formulaic trappings fairly well, but a movie that refuses to offer anything fresh – watching Farrell go hyper for the umpteenth time certainly doesn't qualify – has no reason to clock in at a strenuous 125 minutes. **

ZACK AND MIRI MAKE A PORNO The latest from writer-director Kevin Smith is always likable even if it isn't always inspired. As he proved with Chasing Amy (still the Citizen Kane of his output), Smith can deftly pull off the proper mix of sweet and funny and raunchy; in this case, though, only the "funny" clears all hurdles, as the "sweet" is of the standard variety while the "raunchy" often overwhelms the picture. Seth Rogen and Elizabeth Banks are aptly cast as Zack and Miri, lifelong best friends and present-day roommates who are so broke that they can't even afford to pay their utility bills. After a life-altering high school reunion, Zack hits upon the brilliant idea of making their own hardcore adult film in order to raise significant amounts of green. Initially, the eight-person cast and crew (played by, among others, Smith vets Jason "Jay" Mewes and Jeff Anderson and former porn star Traci Lords) plan to mount a Star Wars spoof titled Star Whores (featuring such characters as Hung Solo, Princess Layher and Darth Vibrator), but after that falls through, they opt to use a coffeehouse as their setting. Rogen and Banks are both utterly winning, and their charisma helps offset the fact that their characters' romance takes off down a disappointingly predictable path (remove the risqué trimmings, and we're left with a Tom Hanks-Meg Ryan rom-com). The vulgar material is alternately hilarious and off-putting, although any movie with the imagination to cast perpetually boyish Justin Long as a gravel-voiced Hollywood gay porn star obviously has much to recommend it. **1/2

Current Releases

BODY OF LIES Despite Russell Crowe's shared marquee billing, this is really Leonardo DiCaprio's film, as the young thespian handles the part of Roger Ferris, a compassionate CIA point man working in the Middle East under the jaded eye of his ruthless superior (Crowe) back in the U.S. Hoping to track down a bin Laden-like terrorist (a menacing Alon Aboutboul) responsible for a series of attacks on America and its allies, Ferris ends up traveling to Jordan and entering into a terse relationship with Hani Salaam (Stardust's Mark Strong), the head of Jordanian intelligence. The film's best scenes are between DiCaprio and Strong, as their characters alternate between working together and keeping each other at arm's length. Better than the vast majority of the post-9/11 terrorist yarns, Body of Lies is both more ambiguous and ambitious than such heavy-handed duds as Rendition and Redacted. Director Ridley Scott (who last teamed with Crowe on American Gangster) and The Departed's Oscar-winning screenwriter William Monaghan (working from David Ignatius' novel) refrain from merely putting Ferris and Hoffman through the good-cop-bad-cop routine: Ferris' idealism isn't always beneficial, while Hoffman might be a prick, but he occasionally exhibits more clarity than might be expected. And even a superfluous romance between Ferris and a Muslim nurse (Golshifteh Farahani) allows for some insight into societal disapproval for such a coupling, as the pair can't even shake hands in public. It's the extra attention to smaller details that gives this Body its necessary heft. ***

THE DUCHESS A substantial number of British costume dramas focus on the efforts of a corseted beauty to land a husband to call her own. These tales generally end on a "Happily Ever After" note, but The Duchess, based on a true story, begins where the others end and takes matters down a darker route: What if the man you snag turns out to be a complete lout? Keira Knightley stars as Georgiana, who, as a teenage girl in 1774, is entered into a marriage with the Duke of Devonshire (Ralph Fiennes). She soon discovers that the Duke's only interest in her is that she produce a male heir, so after she gives birth to a couple of girls, he loses complete interest and embarks on an affair with her best friend, Lady Elizabeth (Hayley Atwell). For her part, Georgiana keeps busy in her role as a society trendsetter, but she eventually finds herself contemplating an illicit romance with rising politician Charles Grey (Dominic Cooper). The Duke commits some monstrous acts during the course of the film, but it's a credit to the performance by Fiennes that the character never emerges as a dull, one-note villain but rather an emotionally stifled man whose Neanderthal brain can't quite grasp certain aspects of civility and respect. Likewise, Lady Elizabeth is revealed as far more than merely a spouse-stealer, and Atwell does an exemplary job of insuring her character remains the tenuous connective tissue between the Duke and the Duchess. As for Knightley, she's establishing herself as England's go-to girl for this sort of period epic: A bright and sunny presence in Pride and Prejudice, she's given greater depths to explore in this picture. She doesn't disappoint. ***

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