"Vertical Limit," "Dungeons & Dragons," "Solomon and Gaenor," "Proof of Life." 

Quick Flicks

!B! "Vertical Limit"!B! "Dungeons & Dragons"!B! "Solomon and Gaenor"!B! "Proof of Life"

"Vertical Limit" — This death-defying action-adventure may be a bit oxygen-derived when it comes to character development, but it makes up for that oversight with genuine, edge-of-your-seat, cliffhanging suspense. Mere minutes into the movie, a life-or-death decision must be made as a father, son and daughter dangle high above the ground. What a great start! But then the pace settles down as the story unfolds, lumbering along like a mountain goat, as characters are introduced and relationships are explored. Chris O'Donnell plays Peter Garrett, a mountain climber who turned to nature photography as the result of that opening-scene decision. Robin Tunney is his sister, a world-renowned female climber who's about to scale K2 (the second highest peak in the world) with wealthy adventurer played by Bill Paxton. When foul weather traps them in an ice cave high in the Himalayas, brother Peter must return to the sport he's forsaken to try and save her life. When the characters are in harm's way, "Vertical Limit" soars. When they natter on and on in their one-dimensional roles, you'll want to cut their ropes! "Dungeons & Dragons" — Inspired less by the controversial role-playing board game than a desire to rip off other better fantasy movies, this big screen makeover is a big mess. Oddly directed, tediously acted and poorly crafted, this "Dungeons & Dragons" will disappoint even die-hard gamers. Filled with the usual fantastical conceits — dragons, evil wizards, beleaguered empresses, dwarfs and magic scepters — "D&D" offers up nothing magical, fantastical or even remotely new. The most intriguing aspect of the movie is why Jeremy Irons is involved. If you really must see this mindless, derivative mess, wait for its arrival on video; the wait won't be long. "Solomon and Gaenor" — The first half of this foreign film Oscar nominee teases us into believing we're in for a thoughtful love story in an unusual setting. Borrowing heavily from both Shakespeare and D. H. Lawrence, writer-director Paul Morrisson's tale takes us into the Welsh coal-miner's world, circa 1911. Times are hard for the lovely young Protestant Gaenor (Nia Roberts) and her clan. Until handsome peddler Solomon comes along. So smitten is he with Gaenor, he begins to court her, passing himself off as a gentile. The charade continues even after Gaenor becomes pregnant. But then, in a rush of incredible incidents, tragedy and misfortunes mount. When the movie focuses on the intolerance of two cultures and one man's attempt to bridge that gap, "Solomon and Gaenor" is quite satisfying. Sadly, the movie succumbs to clichés, turning into yet another teen-passion play. "Proof of Life" — Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe star in this look at the high-stakes game of international kidnap and ransom. Ryan is a housewife whose idealist engineer hubby (a terrific David Morse) is taken hostage by terrorists. Enter former British commando Crowe who now makes a living as a negotiator and covert rescue operative. When the oil company refuses to come up with the $3 million ransom, Ryan convinces Crowe to help rescue her husband anyway. Since we all know about the off-screen romance between the two stars, one would think their onscreen work would be pretty hot, right? Wrong. "Proof of Life" ends up just another "Casablanca" riff without the emotional depth of the original.

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