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Quick Flicks

Capsule reviews of current movies.

"The Break-Up" — A bittersweet cautionary tale of mixed romantic signals, "The Break-Up" is an overlong minor-key dramatic comedy that succeeds by virtue of the subtle chemistry between its leading players. Vince Vaughn and Jennifer Aniston give unaffected performances as a couple blinded by individual misconceptions and poor assistance from their so-called friends. The result is an intriguing meditation on modern American romance as set against the hopeful streets of Chicago. It's a hard-won love story that shows the pitfalls of attempting to leverage love by playing the breakup card. "The Break-Up" comes with a slap and a kiss that's at once bracing and pleasing. (PG-13) 105 min. *** Cole Smithey

"Cars" — Owen Wilson's infectious, good-natured energy permeates Pixar's lighthearted animated movie about Lightning McQueen (Wilson), a rookie competition race car that discovers there's more to life than winning races. When Lightning finds himself waylaid in the dusty town of Radiator Springs on the famous Route 66, he gets a lesson in ethics and personal accountability from the town's locals, voiced by Paul Newman and Bonnie Hunt. While the movie is 20 minutes too long for tykes, it nonetheless endears its colorful car characters to the audience. George Carlin, Michael Keaton and Cheech Marin add their vocal talents to this enjoyable animated automotive spree. (G) 116 min. *** — C.S.

"The Da Vinci Code" — Filled with puzzles, anagrams, cryptograms and all shapes of brain teasers, this movie version of Dan Brown's best seller is very much like a live-action version of an interactive computer mystery — at its duller moments, something more akin to a big-budget "Where in the World Is Carmen Sandiego?" Tom Hanks and Audrey Tatou play a symbologist and a cryptologist, respectively, caught up in a murder/religion mystery that is part car chase, part treasure hunt and part history lesson. The characters and storyline in the movie are a mélange of real facts and goofy theories, which results in a hokum that is at times compelling and tedious. Spotty acting, uneven pacing and goofy dialogue compound the fact that "The Da Vinci Code" often feels like a dumbed-down synopsis of something cracked to begin with. (PG-13) 149 min. **

— Wayne Melton

"Kinky Boots" — Wry jokes abound in Julian Jarrold's spicy working-class rave-up story about Charlie Price (Joel Edgerton), a hesitant shoe factory heir who transforms his failing English Midlands factory into makers of sexy fetish boots designed by a visionary cross-dressing nightclub performer named Lola (Chiwetel Ejiofor). The film falls short of its initially obvious dramatic goals due to the shallow depths into which screenwriters Geoff Deane and Tim Firth take their characters. Nevertheless, Ejiofor is commanding in his performance, much like Tim Curry's famed cross-dressing role in "The Rocky Horror Picture Show." Edgerton, on the other hand, as well as much of the story, is hamstrung by the narrow limitations of script. (PG-13) 107 min. **C.S.

— "Mission: Impossible III" is a perfect summer blockbuster movie, no irony intended. From its failed-experiment opening sequence to its sharp dialogue, exotic locations and pure spectacle, the high-test action picture brilliantly exploits a classic Hitchcockian MacGuffin. Tom Cruise excels like an all-star athlete in executing the bulk of the film's impressive stunts while surrounded by a stellar ensemble cast. Writer/director J.J. Abrams achieves something of a minor masterpiece with a postmodern sense of humor and hypnotic infatuation with maintaining multiple layers of emotional and physical suspense in nearly every scene. Fans of the original television series will appreciate Abrams' diligent attention to the series' trademark disguises, clever gadgets and essential self-destructing mission tape. (PG-13) 126 min. *** — C.S/i

"Poseidon" — From Wolfgang Petersen's majestic 360-degree pan of the enormous modern-day luxury cruise ship that will be capsized by a 150-foot tidal wave to his deliberately gloomy closing shot, "Poseidon" is a nerve-wracking thrill ride. All fears of the film being yet another abysmal Hollywood remake are waved aside as character traits are economically mapped out in the moments before the film's pivotal New Year's Eve disaster. A better-than-average script helps Petersen ("Das Boot") create the claustrophobic, debris-filled environment that a handful of characters try to escape. The extraordinary thing about the movie is its deductive ability to capture the duality of fleeing passengers, who are at times selfish and selfless. The film shows these are both qualities exhibited by anyone in a desperate situation. (PG-13) 100 min. **** — C.S.

"R.V." — Director Barry Sonnenfeld ("Men in Black") brings his keen eye for stylized visual comedy to this amusing Robin Williams vehicle about a man taking his family on a disaster-filled vacation. Under threat of losing his job, Bob (Williams) switches the destination from Hawaii to Colorado so that he can participate in a furtive pitch meeting with potential clients without losing his family's trust. Bob's oversized rented RV provides a cabinful of comic possibilities as the family encounters a glomming band of full-time RVers called the Gornickes. Williams hasn't been this funny in many moons, or movies. (PG) 102 min. *** — C.S.

"United 93" — Many people who saw the A&E network's recent "Flight 93" must be wondering whether Paul Greengrass's "United 93" is different enough, and good enough, to warrant putting themselves through another painful retelling of that plane's agonizing story. There are, indeed, many inevitable similarities. But while the made-for-television film took the more obvious, sentimentalizing tack of focusing on the heart-rending phone calls of passengers to their families, Greengrass sticks resolutely to the men and women who had a direct hand in the unfolding tragedy. The result is a brilliant and harrowing document of human beings facing down unanticipated terrors with a steadfastness that is all the more moving for being completely believable. (R) 111 min. ***** — Thomas Peyser

"X-Men: The Last Stand" — The final chapter of the X-Men trilogy sees a seamless directorial changing of the guard, placing Bryan Singer's beloved cinematic vision of the popular Marvel comic book in the capable hands of Brett Ratner (of the "Rush Hour" franchise). Hugh Jackman returns as Wolverine, leading the charging narrative in which a "cure" for mutants gives birth to a war between Magneto's (Ian McKellen) Brotherhood of Evil Mutants and Charles Xavier's (Patrick Stewart) school of mutants. It's an energetic comic book movie with heart and just enough vague social commentary about conformity to balance its outrageous visual sequences of pure spectacle. (PG-13) 104 min. ***> — C.S.

Movies are rated from 1 to 5 stars.

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