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Film Clips

Capsule reviews of recently released movies



New Releases

BROKEN BRIDGES The first theatrical film produced by CMT (Country Music Television), Broken Bridges has no business playing in multiplexes, given that it basically warbles "made-for-TV" throughout its entire running time. In his feature film debut, country music star Toby Keith plays Bo Price, a -- you guessed it -- country music star who's fallen on hard times thanks to booze and bad memories. He returns to his tiny hometown at the same time as Angela Delton (Kelly Preston), the woman he impregnated and abandoned 16 years earlier. Hoping to start anew, Bo does his best to not only break down Angela's defenses but also those of Dixie (Lindsey Haun), the daughter he's meeting for the first time. Keith, who never changes expression over the course of this generic film (he remains as rigid as a bookcase), may receive top billing, but he's soundly trumped in his own star vehicle as Haun easily bests him in both the acting and singing departments. Willie Nelson makes a welcome appearance as himself, while Burt Reynolds, his face nearly as immobile as Keith's, grumbles endlessly as Angela's disapproving dad. Perhaps not since George Strait shut eyelids nationwide with 1992's Pure Country has C&W had it so bad on screen. *1/2

HOLLYWOODLAND Before Christopher Reeve and Brandon Routh, there was George Reeves. Kirk Alyn may have originated the role of Superman on screen in a pair of 1940s serials, but it was Reeves who was most identified with the part, thanks to the hit TV series that ran throughout much of the 1950s. But in 1959, Reeves apparently committed suicide, though speculation has always run rampant that the hulking actor was actually the victim of foul play. Hollywoodland is a fictionalized take on this theory, centering on a small-time detective (Adrien Brody) as he sets off to uncover the truth. Was Reeves (Ben Affleck) murdered by his opportunistic girlfriend (Robin Tunney), a gold digger who ran out of patience once she realized his career would never amount to more? By his older lover (Diane Lane), who feared she might be losing him for good? By his lover's husband (Bob Hoskins), a powerful studio executive known for tying up loose ends? Or, in the final analysis, did Reeves really pull the trigger himself? Hell if anyone knows for sure, and that includes the makers of this film, who trot out every conceivable scenario without ever committing to one. Still, that's hardly a flaw, as the open-endedness allows this handsome picture to tantalizingly jump back and forth between its colorful characters. The performances are uniformly fine -- Affleck has been a punching bag for so long that his solid work here will surprise many -- and the movie basks in its nostalgia-twinged visions of vintage LA. ***

Current Releases

THE ANT BULLY It used to be Oscar-bait productions that had no trouble snagging the A-listers. Now it's the kiddie flicks that have them lining up to sign on the dotted line. But the problem with the high-powered lineup on view here -- Julia Roberts, Nicolas Cage, Meryl Streep and Paul Giamatti -- is that it promises a viewing experience that never materializes. Writer-director John A. Davis' slender screenplay might have well been produced by a committee well-versed in mining the usual kid-friendly clichés. Forget comparisons to Antz or A Bug's Life (both superior to this): The Ant Bully, in which a little boy gets shrunk to ant size and learns all about friendship and teamwork from the busy little bugs, is indistinguishable from any other subpar toon flick that mixes bodily function gags with snooze-inducing "lessons" and believes it's being profound and inspirational. Alas, the only thing it inspired in me was a sudden urge to spray the screen with Raid. *1/2

THE DESCENT With rare exception, Hollywood has lost its ability to create memorable or meaningful horror flicks, which makes this British import all the more welcome. One of the finest terror tales in many a full moon, writer-director Neil Marshall's gory gem follows six outdoor enthusiasts -- all female -- as they embark on a spelunking expedition deep in the Appalachian mountains. The competitive Juno (Natalie Mendoza) leads the outfit while Sarah (Shauna Macdonald) tries to overcome a recent tragedy in her life; along with the others, they descend deep into a cavern that's frightening even before its cannibalistic occupants (who all look like Gollum's cousins) show up and start tearing into human flesh. The Descent is so expertly made that it more than holds its own as a full-throttle horror flick, yet it's Marshall's decision to provide it with a psychological bent that puts it firmly over the top. The film addresses guilt -- specifically, survivor's guilt -- in a welcome manner and imbues its protagonists with messy moral dilemmas that allow them to alternate between heroine and villain, survivor and victim, wallflower and warrior. It's just a shame they didn't keep the original British ending. ***1/2

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