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"A Beautiful Mind"; "The Majestic"; "Ali"; "In the Bedroom"; "The Royal Tenenbaums" 

Quick Flicks

"A Beautiful Mind" — Presented with few manipulative flourishes or manufactured sentimentality, this semitrue tale of Nobel Prize-winning math theorist John Nash Jr.'s struggle with schizophrenia and genius is terrific. As he did with "Apollo 13," director Ron Howard keeps our interest by focusing on human nature rather than the complex scientific underpinnings of the story. By casting Russell Crowe as Nash, Howard shows the depth of his own genius. Crowe doesn't merely act the part, he becomes Nash. Whether battling delusions and personal demons or awkwardly romancing wife-to-be Alicia (Jennifer Connelly, in a graceful, understated performance), Crowe's Nash never feels less than real. Although Howard succumbs to the pull of sentimentality at the end, who can blame him? Even the most hardened of hearts will be moved.

"The Majestic" — It's no surprise that the man behind "The Shawshank Redemption" and "The Green Mile" would attempt to imitate "the people's director," Frank Capra. Nor should it surprise you that Frank Darabont's attempt fails. "The Majestic" is Capralike but without Capra's sense of restraint or edgy authenticity. Jim Carrey stars in this neo-sentimental fable about a '50s-era blacklisted screenwriter who's about to testify before Joe McCarthy's commie-busting congressional inquisition when a car crash leaves him with amnesia. When Carrey's character washes up on the shore of a small town in need of healing after WWII, Darabont dives into Capra-territory, but his interpretation registers as hollow. Of course, the quirky locals adopt him as one of their own, the long-missing soldier son of the town's theater owner. As happens in such schmaltz-fests, the town turns Carrey's writer into a true hero, and he helps heal the town.

"Ali" — Perhaps no movie could do Muhammad Ali justice, but this overlong, sketchy biopic 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 sights and sounds of the times rather than the man. "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" — Todd Field's remarkable directing debut 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 temperament opposite, yet exactly what his character calls for. As the woman who triggers the violence, Marisa Tomei gives her best performance ever. Although tremendously effective on several levels, "In The Bedroom's" deliberate pacing and soul-searching dialogue can be frustrating. But those are minor quibbles that never threaten to undermine the unforgettable performances or their impact.

"The Royal Tenenbaums" — Writer/director Wes Anderson again offers cinematic proof of his comic talents with this sweetly funny movie that deliciously dissects an 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 grown-up, they all move back home when Mom considers marrying Danny Glover. Emotions flare when Royal returns too, trying to worm his way back into their lives. Anderson's quirky film delightfully skewers the notion that one can't go home again. It asks instead, Why would anyone want
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