"Ali"; "In The Bedroom"; "Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius"; "The Royal Tenenbaums"
"Ali" Perhaps no movie could do Muhammad Ali justice, but this overlong, sketchy bio-pic seems more interested in being a period-perfect snapshot of a decade that coincides with the toughest fight of Ali's life: his battle to get back into the ring and reclaim his title. As Ali, Will Smith affects an amazing transformation. But even his beefed-up bravado and rhythmic attempts at Ali's trademark whispery voice can't overcome director Michael Mann's preoccupation with the sounds and look of the times rather than the man. Not that "Ali" isn't enjoyable to watch. I just wasn't sure what exactly I was watching. Bio-pic? Mockumentary? Modern history lesson? "Ali" may not knock you out, but the performances especially Smith's powerhouse punch as Ali give the movie more than a few mesmerizing moments.
"In The Bedroom" This remarkable first feature by actor-turned-director Todd Field creates a rare sense of intimacy between audience and on-screen characters. Although some might dismiss Field's movie as a New England take on the "Death Wish" franchise, the film offers so much more. Sissy Spacek commands the screen as Ruth Fowler, a mother who will stop at nothing until justice is done. As her husband, Matt, Tom Wilkinson is her temperamental opposite, yet exactly what his character calls for. As the older woman who triggers the violence, Marisa Tomei gives the performance of a lifetime. Tremendously effective on several levels, "In the Bedroom" is not without a few missteps and unnecessary manipulations. Some may find Field's deliberate pacing and soul-searching dialogue frustrating. But for those willing to follow Field's lead, "In the Bedroom's" impact and remarkable performances will be impossible to forget.
"Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius" The only movie this holiday season geared for the young set, 4 years old and older, turns out to be a charming fable: finding out how awful life would be without parents. The movie also celebrates kids who use their imaginations, a rare treat in the often cookie-cutter world of kids' shows. These messages are cleverly hidden within a rousing plot of how difficult it can be to fit in with the "norm." After picking on Jimmy because he's a brain, the kids at school end up respecting his brainpower when he devises a plan to rescue the parents. Rating:
"The Royal Tenenbaums" Once again, writer/director Wes Anderson reveals proof of his highly original comic talents. Sweet and funny, this movie deliciously dissects the ultimate Upper Manhattan dysfunctional family. Gene Hackman and Anjelica Huston head the terrific cast as Royal and Etheline Tenenbaum, parents of three children, Chas (Ben Stiller), Richie (Luke Wilson) and the adopted Margot (Gwyneth Paltrow), who were all child prodigies. Now these grown-up smarties decide to move home when Mom considers marrying Danny Glover. Emotions flare when Royal returns too, seeking a reconciliation. Although Anderson flirts with being too precious, his quirky flick delightfully skewers the notion that one can't go home again. Anderson seems to be asking, "Why would one want
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