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quick flicks

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Tuck senior tells her it's a curse. Meanwhile, Winnie's parents think she's been kidnapped and a mysterious man (Ben Kingsley) tells Winnie's father he can find her — for a price. Directed by the man who gave us the wonderful "My Dog Skip," "Tuck Everlasting" is marvelous family fare. ****



"White Oleander" — Michelle Pfeiffer gives a convincing, acid-etched performance as a disastrous mother in "White Oleander," based on Janet Fitch's 1999 novel of the same name. Surprisingly moving, though not surprisingly a wee bit overwrought, the movie almost succeeds in avoiding both sentimentality and sensationalism. Pfeiffer plays Ingrid, a self-involved Los Angeles artist who murders an unfaithful lover (Billy Connolly) and goes to prison. Her sweet, unformed 14-year-old daughter, Astrid (Alison Lohman), winds up in the foster-care system. (Robin Wright Penn and Rene Zellweger play two of her troubled foster moms.) From prison, Ingrid jealously sabotages Astrid's relationships with friends and parental figures, all in the name of love and motherly advice. Pfeiffer is quite good here, but Lohman's performance —especially in scenes with Robin Wright Penn — makes "White Oleander" blossom into something meaningful. Rating: ****



"Mostly Martha" — Sweet without being phony and funny without being obvious, this charming German romance tosses together three unlikely ingredients: a tightly wound chef, a newly orphaned and sullen niece, and a freewheeling Italian assistant. When a tragic accident turns three-star cook Martha Klein (Martina Gedeck) into caregiver to 8-year-old Maxime Foerste, her well-ordered life heats up. Unprepared for caring for a child, Martha's woes magnify with the arrival of lovable but undisciplined sous-chef Sergio Castellitta. First he tries to take over the restaurant kitchen, then he eyes Martha's life and heart. What makes this movie rise above its obvious opposites-attract premise are the subtle and sweet performances from Gedeck, Foerste and Castellitta. Writer-director Sandra Nettelbeck also succeeds in proving a truth millions learn the hard way: No matter how delicious a dish might be, it's no substitute for true love. ****

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