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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

"The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift" — The third installment in this franchise employs Tokyo's foreign turf and unconventional racing style, called "drifting," to ignite its misfiring narrative. A reckless leading-man type crashes in a race and is exiled to live with his ex-military dad in Tokyo rather than face jail time in California. The change of venue hardly keeps him away from his racing addiction after he is introduced to Tokyo's underground world of drift racing, wherein modified street cars are used to glide sideways through hairpin turns and switchbacks. The movie continuously stalls and gets jump-started by drift race sequences that lose their novelty. (PG-13) 104 min. ** — C.S.

"Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties" — This live-action animated sequel to "Garfield: The Movie" is a lighthearted pun on Dickens' "A Tale of Two Cities" that treads closer to Mark Twain's "The Prince and the Pauper." Bill Murray returns to the franchise to voice the roly-poly orange tabby who meets his royal British doppelg„nger (voiced by the ever-expressive Tim Curry). Garfield's doting master, Jon (Breckin Meyer), has finally gotten up the nerve to propose to his veterinarian girlfriend Liz (Jennifer Love Hewitt) just when she leaves for a trip to London. Garfield and Jon's dim-witted dog, Odie, tag along across the pond to break up the engagement before Garfield is mistaken for a royal prince tabby who has just inherited his master's castle, much to the bitter dismay of Lord Dargis (Billy Connolly). "A Tale of Two Kitties" is an entertaining kids' movie that parents won't mind sitting through. (PG) 80 min. *** — C.S.

"The Lake House" — Based on Lee Hyun-seung's South Korean film "Il Mare" (2000), this Keanu Reeves/Sandra Bullock reunion isn't as bad as its dubious trailer portents, but it suffers terribly from an iffy puzzle device. From a quaint but unique lake house that his father (Christopher Plummer) built, journeyman architect Alex (Reeves) finds himself in a love-letter romance across time with Dr. Kate Forster (Bullock). The lovers exist two years apart, and yet are somehow able to communicate as if they were carrying on an immediate interactive conversation. Split-screen visuals frequently veer drama into comedy as Reeves and Bullock do a commendable job of masking some of the plot's glaring potholes with their intrinsic on-screen chemistry. (PG) 108 min. ** — C.S.

"Mission: Impossible III" — "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

"The Omen" — While not a shot-for-shot copy of Richard Donner's far superior 1976 original, this new version barely updates the original, except to cheapen it. Director John Moore ("The Flight of the Phoenix") is oblivious to the importance of tone and location, an ominous sign for horror flick. Filmed primarily in Prague, the movie carries no visual anchor to contextualize its events. Liev Schreiber is sincere at playing the adoptive father to Satan's son, but he doesn't hold a religious candle to Gregory Peck. Just as glaring is the distance between Lee Remick's piercing blue eyes and Julia Stiles' blank stare. Nonetheless, there is an obligatory decapitation scene that Moore executes with particular glee. If you haven't seen the original, rent it, but don't feel possessed to see this inferior remake on the big screen. (R) 110 min. *** — C.S.

"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. S

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