Quick Flicks 

Capsule reviews of current movies.

"Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" — The latest Will Ferrell vehicle affectionately ridicules the time when facial hair sprouted and shag carpets resembled tentacled creatures of the deep. The movie whisks us behind the scenes of one of the period's dubious bequests to our own era, local nightly news. Its peculiar brew of weather, sports, mayhem and fluff was just then taking on its strangely unchanged flavor. Yet even a talented cast can't do much with the lazy script that Ferrell and former "Saturday Night Live" writer Adam McKay have cooked up in a fit of self-indulgence. They've pinned their comedic hopes on the ludicrous setting and on Ferrell's bankable appeal, but what emerges is only sporadically entertaining. "Anchorman" is three times the length of a local news broadcast, and if you're in a generous mood, you'll find it only roughly three times as funny. **1/2— Thomas Peyser

"The Bourne Supremacy" — Matt Damon returns as super-spy Jason Bourne in the hair-raising sequel to "The Bourne Identity." This time around, our preoccupied assassin is shaken out of seclusion in India by CIA bad guy Ward Abbott (Brian Cox), who falsely blames Bourne for a recent assassination that has caused a rift between the U.S. and China. Bourne turns the tables on his CIA aggressors with every bit of steel-nerved ability he can muster. Director Paul Greengrass ("Bloody Sunday") delivers an elegant if overedited response to Doug Liman's initial effort. Action-packed fistfights and car chases punctuate the fast-paced espionage as CIA agent Pamela Landy (Joan Allen from "The Contender") leads the effort to bring Jason Bourne in alive. While not as engaging as "The Bourne Identity," the movie fills a void in the lacking spy-movie genre. ***1/2 — Cole Smithey

"Catwoman" — From the looks of one-named French director Pitof's poorly realized effort at bringing DC Comics' character "Catwoman" to the big screen, it seems unlikely that there will be a sequel for the feline superhero/villain. The ridiculous S&M-style costume that Halle Berry struts around in is the first obvious clue that Hollywood's latest comic book movie is less than inspired. Patience Philips (Berry) is a wanna-be artist working as an ad designer for a cosmetics conglomerate when her employers ruthlessly murder her after she discovers the harmful effects of their new line of beauty cream. Patience is reborn as a human with feline traits, through the mystical powers of an Egyptian cat that breathes life into her pliant body. A tortured romantic relationship develops between Patience and police detective Tom Lone (Benjamin Bratt) as she vacillates twixt her Catwoman identity and her true self. The result is a prosaic comic-book action movie for the middle-school crowd. *1/2 — C.S.

"Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story" — Ben Stiller slips further down the ladder of faulty comedies in a dumb sports picture that makes "BASEketball" look like a shining achievement. Stiller plays White Goodman, a cheesy gym-franchise owner intent on snatching a flagging neighborhood gym away from average guy Vince Vaughn. But a group of Vaughn's gym regulars hatch an idea to compete for a $50,000 dodgeball tournament prize to save their club. Buffoonery ensues when LaFleur's team of misfits attracts the assistance of a ruthless Dodgeball coach played by Rip Torn. Torn steals the movie with the best lines, but he gets lost in the shuffle of an otherwise lackluster script. *1/2 — C.S.

"Fahrenheit 9/11" — Michael Moore's fierce and funny "Fahrenheit 9/11" is not so much a documentary as a mythology, reducing geopolitical complexities to a neat, tawdry narrative. Instead of attributing human suffering to a gang of Olympian immortals, it casts the Bushes, Saudis and Halliburton as malicious divinities whose web of animosities and ambitions has ensnared the world. But Moore the mythmaker divides onscreen time with Moore the homespun jester, blasting away at sanctimony and ignorance and reserving his most withering scorn for the current president. If you want some idea of the woozy, anarchic spirit of Moore's most incendiary film yet, imagine "The Ten Commandments" with W.C. Fields playing Moses. "Fahrenheit 9/11" doesn't offer a comprehensive diagnosis. But it's a slickly realized, powerfully disconcerting symptom of this decade, registering rage and longing for the kind of clarity that has become increasingly elusive in our national affairs. ***1/2— T.P.

"Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle" — "Dude, Where's My White Castle?" could easily have been the title for this pot-infused comic buddy movie by director Danny Leiner ("Dude, Where's My Car?"). The two dudes of the title are a couple of regular guys with a serious case of Friday-night munchies that dispatches them on a wild New Jersey excursion in search of White Castle hamburgers. Our fearless heroes suffer all manner of mischievous goofball experiences during their quest. You'll laugh, and laugh some more — especially if you see the movie in the same state as the main characters. ***— C.S.

"I, Robot" — There are brief moments in this moody Will Smith vehicle when we are watching the best sci-fi noir in years, even if it does hash out like the Fresh Prince wandering into "The Maltese Falcon." A summary of Isaac Asimov's short story collection, the action thriller casts Smith as a tough-talking cop who isn't buying into the idea of robots as the salvation of humanity. His sharp comebacks are rapid-fire and dry as a martini, and the pace is lively enough to let us overlook the fact that the film's set pieces bear a striking resemblance to other movies. Lower-hanging one-liners ("It's a human thing, you wouldn't understand.") ultimately rust the shiny veneer, and this tale of artificial intelligence ends up more artificial than intelligent. **1/2 — Wayne Melton

"King Arthur" — In a caption we're told that this ostensibly fact-based film rests on newly discovered "archaeological evidence" of the Arthurian legend. But the cinematic evidence that follows does nothing to support the claim, as incongruities of weaponry and battle fill the movie with bland visual fluff. In this version, Arthur, aka Lucius Artorius Castus, is a half-Roman, half-British warlord who leads a pack of six warriors as the de-facto last unit of Roman occupying forces in Britain. Clive Owen portrays King Arthur with all necessary seriousness and is well-supported by such thespian standard-bearers as Stellan Skarsgard ("Dogville"), Ray Winstone ("The War Zone"), and Stephen Dillane ("Spy Game"). Yet these noble knights ultimately succumb to a lackluster script by David Franzoni ("Gladiator") and sloppy direction from Antoine Fuqua ("Training Day"). ** — C.S.

"The Manchurian Candidate" — Jonathan Demme's remake of John Frankenheimer's Cold War classic, "The Manchurian Candidate" (1962), is a slick and competent entry in Hollywood's summer blockbuster sweepstakes — even if it doesn't come close to the original's wit, suspense or offbeat incisiveness. The candidate in question is Gulf War vet and vice-presidential candidate Raymond Shaw (Liev Schreiber), haunted by his old platoon leader, Major Ben Marco (Denzel Washington) — himself plagued by nightmares of the war. Frankenheimer's masterpiece relied on American commie paranoia. Unfortunately for Demme, that powerful spook is no longer available, so he and screenwriters Daniel Pyne and Dean Georgaris came up with the multinational corporation Manchurian Global. Without the Cold War to lend structure to the action, it's not exactly clear what the ultimate aims of anyone in the picture are. The original had a vision, but the update just has a market niche. *** — T.P.

"The Notebook" — Nick Cassavetes (son of auteur director John Cassavetes) directs his mother (Gena Rowlands) in a sumptuous film about young lovers from opposite sides of the tracks in '40s North Carolina. Rich girl Allie (Rachel McAdams, "Mean Girls") and blue-collar boy Noah (Ryan Gosling, "The Believer") share a summer love affair that will draw them together again, and later be recounted by an elderly Noah (James Garner) to his Alzheimer's stricken true love (Rowlands) from a notebook she has kept. Garner and Rowlands give exceptional performances along with a brilliant cast that includes Sam Shepard (as young Noah's loving father). "The Notebook" is a mature romantic drama with a precious understanding of the meaning of loyalty and love. **** — C.S.

"Shrek 2" — The sizable success of the first "Shrek" finds its sequel dutifully following the same vein of zippy dialogue and colorful comic episodes. Although the jokes aren't as trenchant or plentiful as they were in the original, "Shrek 2" is a gratifying follow-up and a sweet story. The plot picks up with Fiona insisting that her big green husband join her on a long trip to meet her parents (voiced by Julie Andrews and John Cleese), the king and queen of a village known as Far Far Away. The place resembles Hollywood right down to the number of chain coffee shops and clothing stores, and the obvious product placement is jarring. Pop culture references flourish. There are a couple of regrettable musical numbers, but "Shrek 2" is above all an explosion of vibrant color and inventive comedy that plays like a cartoon come to life. *** — C.S.

"Spider-Man 2" — Since the phenomenal $820-million international success of the first "Spider-Man" movie, the franchise's team went back to the drawing board to improve upon technical shortcomings and, more important, get a top-notch script by screenwriter Alvin Sargent ("Ordinary People"). The glorious result from director Sam Raimi is a careful blend of subtext and rich characters in a colorful action movie embellished with grace notes from Danny Elfman's subtle score. Tobey Maguire again inhabits the role of the emotionally conflicted web-slinging crime fighter, with Kirsten Dunst and James Franco returning to their roles as Peter Parker's thespian love interest and best friend. There are plenty of surprises in this entertaining, comic book-inspired movie that help it top everything else in the genre. **** — C.S.


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