quick flicks 

No Man's Land, The Rookie, ET, Panic Room, Death to Smoochy

"The Rookie" — This film is based on a true story. Dennis Quaid plays a Texas high school teacher and baseball coach. A former pitcher with major-league potential, Quaid's character suffered a career-ending injury in the minors and never made it to the show. Now, more than a decade later, he promises his young team that if they win the state championship, he'll try out for the majors again. Of course, at his advanced age, no one thinks he can succeed — except for his son and wife (Rachel Griffiths). Incredibly, and despite that injury, Quaid's heartfelt coach discovers he's pitching 100 mph fire. Yes, this is typical Disney, feel-good fare. But who cares? It's done so well, one can't help but cheer.

"E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial" — The world as we know it may have changed forever, but this view of the universe from a child's guileless perspective still has the power to charm and to move us. Although Steven Spielberg has added a couple of new scenes and indulged in some digital snips here and there, the story remains intact: An average suburban family coping with dad's departure decides to take in an alien accidentally left behind by his spaceship. While mom and kids all help hide E.T., it's 10-year-old Elliott (Henry Thomas) who truly bonds with the odd creature. All E.T. wants is to go home; Elliott helps him do so. Two decades later, "E.T." is still out of this world. "Panic Room" — Jodie Foster does her best with this twist on the women-in-peril genre, but it's not quite enough to turn this cat-and-mouse melodrama into a genuine thriller. Directed by David Fincher, the creative force behind "Seven" and "The Fight Club," the movie's lack of unique frightfulness is all the more perplexing. Foster plays a recently divorced single mom who's buying an expensive Manhattan townhouse that just happens to come with a "safe room." Wouldn't ya know it, on the first night she and her daughter spend in the new digs, they end up in a life-or-death battle of wits with three robbers (Forest Whitaker, Dwight Yoakam and Jared Leto)? Minus any true creative juice from Fincher, "Panic Room" unspools like an entertaining but uninspired homage to Hitchcock's "Rear Window."

"Death to Smoochy" — Fitfully funny and terminally dark, this overstuffed spoof of kids' television shows and stars suffers from a split personality. Edward Norton is Sheldon Mopes, the third-rate singer/actor inside Smoochy, a hot-pink rhinoceros rocketing to the top. Robin Williams is Rainbow Randolph, the former kid-show favorite who loses everything when he's caught in an FBI sting for payola. Down and out, Williams' Randolph plots to kill Smoochy. Directed by Danny DeVito and penned by Adam "Cabin Boy" Resnick, the movie's not nearly amusing enough to sustain the ever-darkening, infrequent humor on display. Although it's so off-the-wall it could attain cult status, most viewers will just say "Kiss Off!" to "Smoochy."


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