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Just Married, The 25th Hour, Antwone Fisher, Narc, Rabbit-Proof Fence


The story is told in flashback, and we see the two embark on what soon becomes the Italian honeymoon from hell — oops! — forgive me, I mean the "hilarious" Italian honeymoon from hell. In short order, the two get stuck in a ridiculously compact rental car, blow out the electrical system in their castle-hotel and then engage in a battle royale in Venice over Tom's rival for Sarah's affection, a jock (Christian Kane) with family connections. Although director Shawn Levy and his stars manage to cook up some witty slapstick, everything else about "Just Married" just feels slapped together. **

"The 25th Hour" — On the day before he's due to start a prison sentence for drug dealing, Monty Brogan (Edward Norton) tries to reconcile himself to his fate in this vibrant, moody, soul-searching and overlong film from director Spike Lee. The film is adapted by David Benioff from his own novel; we tag along as Monty sets out to party and make peace with his girlfriend (Rosario Dawson), his pals — the shy schoolteacher (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Wall Street whiz kid (Barry Pepper) — and his heartbroken, ex-firefighter dad (Brian Cox). Norton makes Monty watchable, but when the movie shifts focus to his friends' lives and ethics, "The 25th Hour" loses its balance. By the end, you'll be checking your watch to see if, indeed, the film's entered its 25th hour. ***

"Antwone Fisher" — In this his directorial debut, Denzel Washington goes straight for the heartstrings. He delivers with ease an assured and moving character drama that pits Navy psychiatrist Jerome Davenport (Washington) against patient Antwone Fisher (Derek Luke), an angry sailor haunted by an abusive past. And though it's clear Washington is shooting for that "Beautiful Mind" genre of filmmaking where human complexities meet stirring solutions, his movie is quite moving. While newcomer Luke aches with a palpable vulnerability as Antwone, Washington remains the one to watch. Even when his character defers to Antwone, he's still in command — of the story and our attention. ****

"Narc" — As Lt. Henry Oak, a Detroit cop fixated on avenging the death of his partner, Ray Liotta charges through "Narc" like a crazed pit bull. Although he's not the "hero" — that would be Jason Patric's Nick Tellis, an undercover narcotics cop who's gone too far — he's certainly the best reason to catch this dark and edgy thriller. Nick, you see, is in Dutch with the top brass, and to save his job, he not only has to solve the cop's murder, he has to work with Oak to do it. As the two begin their nasty assault on every bum, addict and dealer they can find, we brace ourselves for the gruesome showdown we know is coming. Writer-director Joe Carnahan stuffs this murder mystery with every possible good-cop/bad-cop stylistic and thematic detail, then pumps in a near-lethal dose of intensity. If handheld camera-work, hide-your-eyes violence and dialogue pitched at earsplitting levels is what you crave, this is just the cinematic fix you need. ***

"Rabbit-Proof Fence" — With this examination of the historical ill-treatment of indigenous Australians, Aussie director Phillip Noyce proves that he can still deliver a small, personal film with an emotional punch. Noyce mixes a powerful moral tone with a subtle dramatic delivery, and the impact only begins to register as the movie ends. At the heart of the movie are Molly (Everlyn Sampi), Daisy (Tianna Sansbury) and Gracie (Laura Monaghan), three girls of mixed heritage who come to the attention of Mr. Neville (Kenneth Branagh), the racial inspector whose job it is to train them as servants for white society. Undaunted by the monumental task ahead of her, Molly plots an escape, planning to use a continent-wide fence as her guide home. While Branagh delivers exactly what the script calls for, a morally hissable character, the true surprise — and strength — of the film is newcomer Sampi, whose Molly is a perfect blend of youthful determination and fearless naivete. ****

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