FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS Cast: Ryan Phillippe, Jesse Bradford; directed by Clint Eastwood.February 1945. Even as victory in Europe was finally within reach, the war in the Pacific raged on. One of the most crucial and bloodiest battles of the war was the struggle for the island of Iwo Jima, which culminated with what would become one of the most iconic images in history: five Marines and a Navy corpsman raising the American flag on Mount Suribachi. The inspiring photo capturing that moment became a symbol of victory to a nation that had grown weary of war and made instant heroes of the six American soldiers at the base of the flag, some of whom die soon after, never knowing that they had been immortalized. But the surviving flag raisers had no interest in being held up as symbols and did not consider themselves heroes; they wanted only to stay on the front with their brothers in arms who were fighting and dying without fanfare or glory. Rated R (for sequences of graphic war violence and carnage, and for language).HAPPY FEET Voices: Elijah Wood, Hugh Jackman, Nicole Kidman, Brittany Murphy, Hugo Weaving, Robin Williams, Leslie Nielsen.A marvelous example of state-of-the-art computer animation, this is part family film, part Antarctic travelogue, part inspired musical ( “March of the Penguins” meets “Riverdance,” to quote voice talent Robin Williams) and, most surprising of all, part ecological fable. The parts don’t always fit together snugly, but most of them are absolutely dazzling, especially the singing and tap dancing those irrepressible penguins do. Rated PG (for some mild peril and rude humor.)- L.A. Times-Washington Post News ServiceBORAT Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen.You will laugh at this film, you really will, but the laughter will sometimes stick in your throat. With his corrosive brand of take-no-prisoners humor that scalds on contact, star Sacha Baron Cohen is the most intentionally provocative comedian since Lenny Bruce and the early days of Richard Pryor. But unlike those predecessors, there is a mean-spiritedness, a lurking every-man-for-himself coldness about his humor. What results is that pitiless staple of reality TV, watching others humiliating themselves for our entertainment. Rated R (for pervasive strong crude and sexual content, including graphic nudity, and language).- L.A. Times-Washington Post News ServiceNow Showing at Cascade Village TheatreCASINO ROYALE Cast: Daniel Craig, Eva Green, Judi Dench.A film star for 46 years, James Bond, the hero with a thousand smirks, has been given a shrewd and largely successful attitude adjustment that ups the series’ reality quotient and provides an opportunity for star Daniel Craig to show a wide audience just how good an actor he is. Despite the burden of a nearly 2 1/2-hour running time, director Martin Campbell still delivers some of the best stunts in the business. (2:24) PG-13 for intense sequences of violent action, a scene of torture, sexual content and nudity.- L.A. Times-Washington Post News ServiceTHE HOLIDAY Cast: Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law, Jack Black.”The Holiday” – Like the gooiest, sweetest cup of eggnog, this romantic comedy doesn’t have a whole lot of nutritional value, and you’ll probably hate yourself afterward for giving into it, but it is rich and yummy and irresistible. Writer-director Nancy Meyers, who established herself as the queen of the glossy chick flick with 2003’s “Something’s Gotta Give,” offers another beautifully shot, flawlessly crafted film that’s both an homage to and an update of the classy, classic romantic comedies of the 1940s. (And like “Something’s Gotta Give,” it’s a little too long and it has its fair share of hokey moments.) Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet star as bright, talented women simultaneously suffering from man troubles who swap homes for the holidays to get away from it all. Diaz ends up in a cottage outside London; Winslet, a modern L.A. mansion. Each finds an unexpected new love interest in Jude Law and Jack Black, respectively. Everyone’s witty and great-looking, with great clothes, fantastic cars and to-die-for architecture. It’s total female wish fulfillment – as if InStyle magazine had been brought to the screen. PG-13 for sexual content and some strong language. 131 min. Three stars out of four.- Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic
THE HOLIDAY Rated PG-13. CASINO ROYALE Rated PG-13.CHARLOTTE’S WEB Cast: Dakota Fanning and voices of Julia Roberts, Steve Buscemi, John Cleese, Oprah Winfrey, Robert Redford. “Charlotte’s Web” – Gary Winick would seem an unlikely choice to direct this live-action, computer-animated adaptation, with an A-list cast providing the voices of the classic children’s book’s talking animals. (Julia Roberts as Charlotte! With Oprah Winfrey as Gussy the goose! And Robert Redford as Ike the horse!) Winick co-founded the production company Indigent, known for stripped-down movies shot on digital video like “Chelsea Walls,” “Pieces of April” and Winick’s own “Tadpole,” in which a 15-year-old boy falls in love with his stepmom. But he also directed “13 Going on 30,” the charming Jennifer Garner comedy that struck just the right balance of childlike enthusiasm and grown-up insight. And he’s done the same here. Winick stays mostly faithful to E.B. White’s beloved book about a runty, idealistic pig (voiced movingly by 10-year-old Dominic Scott Kay) whose life is saved first by a little girl (the perfectly cast Dakota Fanning), then by a resourceful (and literate) spider. Corny? Overly simplistic? Perhaps. But those were grown-ups snuffling and wiping away tears at a recent screening – not kids – as the story reaches its heart-tugging conclusion. And there’s no shame in that. G. 90 min. Three stars out of four.- Christy Lemire, AP Movie CriticTHE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS Cast: Will Smith, Thandie Newton.”The Pursuit of Happyness” – There is never any doubt that Will Smith’s Chris Gardner will muddle though, that he’ll find a job, make some money, secure a home and achieve the elusive, intentionally misspelled state of the film’s title. After all, this is “inspired by a true story,” and after all, this is Will Smith. They don’t make movies about homeless guys who remain homeless by the time the closing credits roll – and if they do, they certainly don’t release them at Christmas. It’s all predictable stuff. Yet Smith does make you root for him, because beneath that bad mustache and cheap suit he’s actually acting and not just playing the clown, something he hasn’t done in truly convincing fashion since 1993’s “Six Degrees of Separation.” The scenes in which he runs around San Francisco, seeking comfort and shelter for himself and his young son, have a convincing familiarity – probably because that really is Smith’s son, 7-year-old Jaden Christopher Syre Smith, playing the part. And at its core “The Pursuit of Happyness” is a good story – one that’s literally rags to riches, and didn’t need the many tweaks and embellishments that have been added. PG-13 for some language. 116 min. Two stars out of four.- Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic
CHARLOTTE’S WEBBRated G.HAPPY FEET Rated PG.”Eragon”‘ – In a fantasy world of kingdoms and dragons, a young boy named Eragon (Edward Speleers) finds a dragon’s egg that leads him to realize his destiny as the only savior of his world from the advances of an evil king. With Jeremy Irons, Sienna Guillory, Robert Carlyle, Djimon Hounsou, Garrett Hedlund and John Malkovich. Screenplay by Peter Buchman, Lawrence Konner, Mark Rosenthal and Jesse Wigutow, based on the novel by Christopher Paolini. Directed by Stefan Fangmeier. PG for fantasy violence, intense battle sequences and some frightening images.UNACCOMPANIED MINORSCast: Lewis Black, Teri Garr.”Unaccompanied Minors” – How do you declaw caustic standup comic and commentator Lewis Black? Stick him in a PG-rated holiday family movie, then stand back and watch the laughs not pile up. Black’s churlish demeanor is intact as he plays a lonely, angry official at an airport where a rascally gang of kids traveling alone run wild while stranded during a Christmas Eve blizzard. But without obscenities to hurl and adult complaints to rant, Black’s just a big, boring grizzly bear, chasing after the wayward juveniles and venting tiresomely unfunny lines. Wilmer Valderrama co-stars as Black’s cheery assistant, who’s charged with hunting down the wayward youths (Dyllan Christopher, Gina Mantegna, Quinn Shephard, Tyler James Williams and Brett Kelly). Director Paul Feig and screenwriters Jacob Meszaros and Mya Stark pretty much swipe the formula from every holiday-grouch story ever written, from “A Christmas Carol” to “Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” PG for mild rude humor and language. 89 min. Two stars out of four.- David Germain, AP Movie WriterSTRANGER THAN FICTION Cast: Will Ferrell, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman, Queen Latifah, Emma Thompson.Will Ferrell plays a mild-mannered IRS auditor who suddenly starts hearing a voice narrating his life. The voice belongs to a best-selling writer (Emma Thompson) who’s writing a novel about a mild-mannered IRS auditor but trying to find a way to kill him off. With Maggie Gyllenhaal, Dustin Hoffman and Queen Latifah. Written by Zach Helm. Directed by Marc Forster. PG-13 for some disturbing images, sexuality, brief language and nudity.- L.A. Times-Washington Post News ServiceDECK THE HALLS Cast: Danny DeVito, Matthew Broderick, Kristin Davis. “Deck the Halls” – Prim Steve (Matthew Broderick) and boisterous Buddy (Danny DeVito) go at each other in an increasingly nasty test of un-neighborly wills. Although the movie nominally endorses the idea of a holiday commemorated by the no-budget pleasures of hands clasped in the snow and voices raised in song, a neat bait-and-switch swings the focus back to the calculated commercialism it both celebrates and embodies. Rated PG (for some crude and suggestive humor, and for language).- L.A. Times-Washington Post News ServiceDEJA VU Cast: Denzel Washington, Val Kilmer.Rather than the routine Denzel Washington-starring potboiler the advertising indicates, what we’ve got here is a science fiction thriller that plays like the noir classic “Laura” would if Philip K. Dick had written the screenplay. “Deja Vu” (literally “already seen”) is a film viewers will be hard pressed to explain to themselves, let alone anyone else. But it doesn’t make sense in such a delirious and energetic way that its hard not to go along for the ride. Rated PG-13.- L.A. Times-Washington Post News Service
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