Capsule reviews of current movies.
"Anacondas: The Hunt for the Blood Orchid" Director Dwight H. Little ("Murder At 1600") artfully hits the horror genre's obligatory notes of suspense, action, and pathos with a cast of unknowns in this proficient sequel to 1997's "Anaconda." There's a vitality to the action that entices audiences to share in the swampy joy of watching potential victims work their way through a dense jungle filled with predators. A group of horticulturists and their two guides search for a rare flower amid raging waterfalls and gigantic anacondas that have already tapped into the orchid's life-prolonging potential. It's a perfect matinee treat with plenty of genre jokes and shocks to keep you squirming in your seat. The snakes here are also bigger than they were in the first movie, and that means a lot in the realm of horror-movie sequels. *** Cole Smithey
"Cellular" At the end of a summer marked by overinflated thrillers, it's a pleasure to welcome a slick, unpretentious little film that's content to entertain with glowering villains, winsome protagonists and plot twists that provoke the occasional mild gasp. The movie is a race against time between a kidnapped Kim Basinger and the random rescuer she dials from confinement. What keeps the movie from degenerating into a series of car chases and gunfights is the gradual, satisfying revelation of just who these abductors are, what they're after, and who's backing them up. Director David R. Ellis doesn't want to turn this kidnapping caper into a metaphor for our existential crises. He just wants to propel his attractive, talented cast at high velocity through a cleverly constructed, if not terribly original, labyrinth of a story. ***1/2 Thomas Peyser
"Collateral" Michael Mann sends his camera roving through the streets of Los Angeles to create a sinister love letter to that city's labyrinthine highways and pulsing multicultural energies. But he's also got a story to tell, and a dumber, more leaden tale of mayhem would be hard to find. Jamie Foxx plays a crisply professional cabby whose lonely night is interrupted by Tom Cruise's hit man, who enlists Max as an unwilling accomplice in a series of hits. If Mann had been willing to use this unlikely premise as a platform for unadulterated action, he might have produced a pleasant summer diversion. Sadly, action takes a back seat to character study, in which Cruise's Vincent sees himself alternately as a rebel against stifling conformity and an agent of fate, borrowing from Darwinian theory and the "I Ching." We're supposed to be fascinated by what makes Vincent tick, but he turns out to be just a heavily armed gasbag. ** T.P.
"Hero" Director Zhang Yimou (pronounced zong yee moo) makes an adept and awe-inspiring leap into the brand of sophisticated martial arts storytelling that made "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" an instant classic. Set in ancient China, the smart narrative approaches the story of a sheriff called Nameless (Jet Li) who attempts to assassinate the King of Qin by taking credit for killing the King's would-be assassins. Nameless is allowed an audience with the King to describe his combat triumphs over the King's foes, which play out in resplendent flashback sequences conceived as visual ballads of color and composition. Although bootleg video and DVD copies of "Hero" have introduced thousands to the film, it's a movie that must be seen on the big screen to be appreciated. Zhang Yimou's astonishing follow-up "The House Of Flying Daggers" is due to open nationwide this fall. **** C.S.
"Mr. 3000" Feeble direction of a faulty script keeps Bernie Mac's leading-man film debut from tapping the comedian's potential. Mac plays an aging narcissistic former baseball player whose shot at the Hall of Fame is blown when an error in his number of base hits certifies that he only hit 2997 instead of the 3000 that motivated him to retire and open a shopping center. Unperturbed, Stan decides to rejoin the Milwaukee Brewers and attempt to set the record straight with an unprecedented comeback. Angela Bassett is wasted as Stan's ESPN reporter/love interest, and an inappropriate tone of uncomfortable sexuality pushes "Mr. 3000" completely out of the ballpark of funny. ** C.S.
"Shaun Of The Dead" Ingenious blend of romance, comedy and horror effortlessly swells in this gloriously off-kilter zombie movie. Shaun is a 29-year-old North London slacker dealing with odd-couple roommates when a creeping zombie invasion elicits his latent leadership abilities. The group of comedians responsible for the UK cult television show "Spaced" team up to add layers of zesty humor as Shaun and his small group of family and friends seek refuge from the invading horde. "Shaun Of The Dead" is a well-written foreign independent movie that will satisfy audiences looking for clever surprises. **** C.S.
"Wicker Park" Abysmal attempt at creating a romantic thriller puts the audience to sleep with sluggish execution and ill attention to gaping plot holes. The movie tracks a heartbroken Chicago investment banker (Josh Hartnett) as he desperately attempts to reunite with his ex-girlfriend while dodging his current squeeze. The overworked plot continually loops back on itself as Matt becomes romantically sidetracked by his ex's mentally unstable former neighbor/friend. Characters are unlikable for their asinine behavior and inarticulate attempts at communication. "Wicker Park" is an infuriating movie that is best avoided. * C.S.
"Wimbledon" Paul Bettany and Kirsten Dunst play star-crossed tennis finalists at Wimbledon in this fantasy romance mired in quirky subplots involving too many secondary characters. Bettany is a 31-year-old, 119th ranked British tennis player struggling to make the most of his last tennis tournament before he retires. Dunst plays a temperamental tennis star with an endearing charm and spunkiness that ignites Bettany's more reserved character. There aren't any dramatic surprises to be had in "Wimbledon's" padded plotting, but Bettany and Dunst manage to keep their volleys going during this mediocre movie. **1/2 C.S.