"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. ** Thomas Peyser
"First Daughter" Another presidential daughter movie: The flimsy theme of "First Daughter" seems to be that it's tougher than ever to be the daughter of a president since 9/11 happened. Katie Holmes, first daughter, shows up for her first semester in college with her entourage of Secret Service men in tow, and soon discovers that her new 'boyfriend' James (Marc Blucas) is really just another federal security guard planted by her overzealous American president father (Michael Keaton). Few movies achieve the subterranean blandness of "First Daughter." * Cole Smithey
"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.
"Intimate Strangers" French director Patrice Leconte ("Widow of St. Pierre") crafts a sinewy comedy of manners in which a sex-starved wife mistakenly becomes a patient of a shy, divorced tax attorney who must pretend to be her shrink. The intimate sessions continue even after she discovers that he is not the analyst she believed him to be, and a unique relationship is forged. The film's potentially claustrophobic stage setting is resolved beautifully by director of photography Eduardo Serra as he reveals a multitude of emotional layers within the constant parameters that Leconte's gifted actors effectively employ. ***1/2 C.S.
"Raise Your Voice" There may be no escaping the ever-pubescent Hilary Duff. Here she plays an aspiring singer from a small town whose supportive big brother tragically dies in a car accident. Not one to let adversity stop her, she disobeys her father's wishes and enrolls in a summer musical program at a notable performing arts school in Los Angeles. Sugary songs are sung, and Duff finds true puppy love as she co-writes the song that she hopes to perform at the school's scholarship competition. "Raise Your Voice" is aimed strictly at 12- to 15-year-old girls, and no one else. Enter at your own risk. ** C.S.
"Shark Tale" Terrific voice characterizations by Jack Black, Renee Zellweger, Martin Scorsese and Will Smith can't elevate "Shark Tale" anywhere near the greatness of last year's animated instant classic "Finding Nemo." Relentless commercial retail references, a shoddy pop music soundtrack, and an ill-conceived story about Lenny (Jack Black), a vegetarian mobster shark unwilling to do his family's violent bidding, immerse "Shark Tale" in a murky narrative pool. However, the film's lush animation and brilliant colors are exemplary. Oscar (Smith) is an ambitious little fish who takes undeserved credit for the accidental death of Lenny's shark big brother Frankie (Michael Imperioli). Oscar enjoys a short-lived run of enriching public adulation that promptly endangers Angie (Zellweger) the one fish that really loves him for who he is. Predictable fart jokes and endless puns attend the humor. **1/2 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.
"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.
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