ALEXANDER Suddenly, Caligula is starting to look good. Alexander is unremittingly dull, visually unappealing, narratively muddled, inadvertently campy, indifferently acted -- and that's just for starters. Colin Farrell gets trampled under the weight of director Oliver Stone's expectations in tackling the role of the warrior king whose claim to fame was conquering most of the known world by the time he was Ashton Kutcher's present age. Anthony Hopkins provides the doddering exposition -- lots and lots of exposition -- and, as Alexander's parents, Angelina Jolie (sporting an accent that suggests she's channeling Bela Lugosi) and Val Kilmer get to bellow and howl and gnash their teeth, to little avail. As for the murky battle sequences, they seem to have been shot by a camera while it was tumbling around inside a dryer.
BLADE: TRINITY Blade II was that rare sequel that managed to trump the original, but the franchise ascension ends there. Blade: Trinity is easily the least of three, an overlong action yarn that has nothing fresh to say on the subject of vampires nor on the curious holding pattern of Wesley Snipes' career. Snipes again plays the taciturn Blade, the half-man, half-vampire whose mission to wipe out all bloodsuckers leads him to Dracula (dull Dominic Purcell), recently resurrected to help his demonic descendants take over the world. Or something like that. Except for the amusing inclusion of a vampire Pomeranian, writer-director David S. Goyer's thudding screenplay lacks a sense of the fantastic -- who wants to see endless car crashes in this context, or a foot chase between Dracula and Blade? 1/2
CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS Not since Jingle All the Way has there been a Yuletide film as fascistic -- or as odious -- as this dreck about a couple (Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis) whose decision to skip Christmas draws revulsion from those around them. Simply on a comedic level, this is wretched, but dig deeper and you'll find a repugnant yarn whose idea of morality wouldn't be out of place at the Nuremberg rallies. The Kranks aren't allowed to think or act for themselves lest they upset the suburban status quo, and the intrusive, overbearing, conformist neighbors are depicted as heroes for converting the pair to their narrow-minded way of thinking. Thoughtful citizens who believe in freedom of choice without persecution will see right through this turkey and reject its unsettling -- and decidedly un-American -- overtures.
CLOSER How much one enjoys Closer fully depends on how charitable one feels toward the characters at the center of Mike Nichols' lacerating film, in which four people (Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman and Clive Owen) in messy relationships take the notion of "brutal honesty" to such an extreme that their words qualify as deadly weapons. Viewers not interested in shifting through the rubble of these people's immorality in an effort to locate some common truths will have no use for this picture, the most divisive film about modern relations since Eyes Wide Shut. Others willing to dig deeper in an attempt to understand (if not always empathize with) these recognizably flawed human beings will be rewarded with some choice dialogue and a quartet of finely etched portrayals -- not to mention a heady buzz that will remain long after the movie's over. 1/2
THE INCREDIBLES Writer-director Brad Bird refreshingly panders to no demographic, meaning that we're left with a, well, incredible animated tale that's more than just another superhero yarn. The bulk of the comic relief comes from costume designer Edna Mode, an Edith Head caricature voiced by Bird himself; the drama comes from the Incredibles, presented as the modern American family that's expected to conform to the societal status quo (i.e., blend with the bland) rather than champion its own uniqueness. The domestic conflicts triggered by their suburban ennui give way to an acceptance of their individuality and, consequently, an ability to pool their resources as both crime fighters and family members. It's emotional without being sticky-sweet, and just one of the reasons why this gem, for all its kid-friendly sops, feels like one of the most mature movies currently gracing theaters. 1/2
KINSEY Professor Alfred Kinsey spent 20 years studying gall wasps before his attention turned to a subject intrinsically more interesting: human sexuality. His controversial research formed the basis for his 1948 bestseller Sexual Behavior In the Human Male, and the ramifications of his groundbreaking work are still being felt -- and refuted -- today. Writer-director Bill Condon's intelligent movie is an exploration of the life and times of this complex individual, a man whose outrageous career choices were often at odds with his square appearance. And because of the dangerous direction this country continues to take, the film, anchored by excellent work from Liam Neeson and Laura Linney, emerges not only as a movie about another time but as a movie of our time, a reminder that progress can only be made when someone's willing to step up to the plate and challenge conformity and hypocrisy. 1/2