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YOUTH WITHOUT YOUTH Francis Ford Coppola's first motion picture in approximately a decade fails to recapture even an ounce of his 1970s glory, as this pretentious, impenetrable and deadly dull film never resonates as anything more than an aging filmmaker's feeble grasp at his own lost youth. Based on the novella by Mircea Eliade and kicking off just before World War II, the film stars Tim Roth as Dominic Matei, a 70-year-old professor in Romania who's struck by lightning. Under the watchful eye of his doctor (the always welcome Bruno Ganz), Dominic not only recovers from the incident but discovers that the surge has turned him into a younger man. But now that he appears to be 40, Dominic becomes the focus of a Nazi party interested in studying his miraculous transformation; meanwhile, he also becomes involved with a woman (Alexandra Maria Lara) whose life is as wacky as his. I suppose Coppola deserves credit for choosing something so ambitious as his comeback vehicle (as opposed to, say, a Daddy Day Care sequel), but the writer-director-producer has succeeded only in creating a lifeless artifact that fails to allow any traces of humanity to penetrate its vacuum-sealed ruminations on the allure of youth and the fickle nature of time itself. For a better movie that also offers a fountain-of-youth premise, check out Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain – it may be flawed, but at least it can stimulate the senses and (more importantly) keep the viewer awake. As for Coppola, if Youth Without Youth is the best he can offer, he might want to retreat back into the wine cellar. Look for Matt Damon (star of Coppola's The Rainmaker) in a cameo appearance as a reporter. *

Current Releases

THE BANK JOB The Bank Job bills itself as being based on a true story, but given cinema's propensity for fudging details every which way, that's not a declaration that I'd be willing to take to the bank myself. But veracity be damned: Even if every detail of this heist flick was drenched in fiction, it doesn't change the fact that it's one compelling package. Set in 1971 London, here's a film that feels veddy British to its core, starting with the casting of Jason Statham, who, thanks to a series of action films, has become the current poster boy for British roughhousing. The Bank Job allows his character, Terry Leather, to use his brains more than his brawn, and this allows Statham to allow a bit more vulnerability than usual – his character even has a wife and two daughters, a break from the image of the emotionless lone warrior. Not that there's much room for the sentimental stuff in this admirably knotty crime flick. Terry Leather is approached by a former acquaintance (Saffron Burrows) to pull off a robbery at a Lloyds Bank that will benefit them both. She has her own reasons beyond monetary gain for making this proposal, and Terry senses that rather quickly. But he and his crew go for it anyway, a decision that involves them in a labyrinthine scandal that involves a black militant, a porn peddler, high-ranking government officials and even a member of the British royal family. Brimming with satisfying twists and populated with colorful characters, this represents a Job well done. ***1/2

DEFINITELY, MAYBE When it comes to a worthy romantic comedy, Definitely, Maybe certainly isn't fool's gold (or Fool's Gold) – on the contrary, it's the real deal, a diamond in the rough that could use some polishing but overall sparkles with warmth and wit. Little Miss Sunshine's Abigail Breslin (suddenly more overexposed than fellow moppet Dakota Fanning) plays Maya Hayes, a precocious child whose parents are getting divorced. While staying with her father Will (Ryan Reynolds), Maya begs to hear how he and her mother met, so he turns the bedtime story into a mystery, changing all the names and leaving Maya to guess which of the women from his past ended up becoming his wife. As he details his escapades during the early 1990s – as a fledgling political consultant for the Clinton campaign – he presents three possibilities: his college sweetheart Emily (Elizabeth Banks), his campaign co-worker April (Isla Fisher), and his reporter friend Summer (Rachel Weisz). By casting three comparably drop-dead-gorgeous actresses in sympathetic and intelligent roles, writer-director Adam Brooks keeps the mystery going longer than might be expected; still, the focus isn't on the identity of Mom as much as it's on Will's romantic travails as he keeps sorting out his shifting feelings for these women as they repeatedly enter his life over the years. Affable Reynolds manages to keep pace with his gifted leading ladies, while an unbilled Kevin Kline makes a welcome appearance as a literary boozehound with an eye for young college girls. ***

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