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"Mulholland Drive"; "From Hell"; "The Last Castle"

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!B! "Mulholland Drive"!B! "From Hell"!B! "The Last Castle"

Movies are rated out of a possible 5 popcorns.

"Mulholland Drive" — Full of curves and sensuous switchbacks, this latest cinematic labyrinth from David Lynch will confuse and irritate as many viewers as it thrills and entertains. It's named for the serpentine thoroughfare that seems to run the length of L.A., but that road isn't nearly as twisted as this noirish tale that returns Lynch to the hard rated-R territory of "Blue Velvet." With the setting in the underbelly of Hollywood, Lynch offers up his trademark dwarves along with arguably the year's hottest sex scene as two women — one suffering from amnesia — find themselves fighting for their lives. A wonderfully weird trip from the master of weirdness, "Mulholland Drive" is strictly for Lynch fans willing to spend 2 1/2 hours trying to figure their way out of his latest hall of mirrors.

"From Hell" — Johnny Depp returns to the screen this Halloween season as yet another turn-of-the-century, unorthodox police inspector. But unlike his Holmesian/Freudian turn in "Sleepy Hollow," here he's tracking the infamous Jack The Ripper. Directed by the Hughes Brothers (Allen & Albert) and based upon the graphic novel by writer Alan Moore and artist Eddie Campbell, this moody Victorian mystery is really nothing more than a sophisticated slasher flick. Stylish and creepy — not to mention a tad on the gory side (too much for my personal tastes) — Depp is a delight as the inspector who uses opium-induced trances to get "into" the mind of the killer. Heather Graham, however, seems woefully out of place as the whore with a heart of gold who risks her own life to help stop The Ripper's bloody reign of terror.

"The Last Castle" — Robert Redford once again dons the garb of a reluctant but noble hero in this Rod Lurie-directed tale of a disgraced general who's sent to a corrupt military prison. Borrowing heavily from "The Bridge Over The River Kwai," "Cool Hand Luke," and just about every macho movie in between, "The Last Castle" never rises above its derivative, contrived roots. Talky beyond bearing, the emotional intensity does eventually kick in toward the end of the movie when all that pretentious talkiness gives way to genuine action. James Gandolfini turns in another meticulous performance as the inhumane warden, giving us plenty of reasons to cheer when Redford trumps his petty tyrant. But in the end, "The Last Castle" offers nothing new on the nature of true leadership or the corrupting nature of power.

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