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quick flicks

Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams, XXX, Blood Work

Although Carmen and Juni save the president's daughter from an amusement-park ride gone awry, the Giggles get the credit. Then their scheming father gets promoted over Cortez pere (Antonio Banderas). Making matters worse, both Carmen and Juni are smitten with their respective Giggles counterparts. The plot is so discombobulated that only kids (and writer/director Robert Rodriguez) will be able to follow it. Full of computer-generated special effects, clever gadgets and authentic sounding sibling rivalry, "Spy Kids 2" is fast-paced fun for the PG-set. ***

"XXX" — Vin Diesel steamrolls his way through this "James Bond for Dummies" tale, playing a new kind of super agent: He may be smart and articulate, but he's also rude, crude and overly tattooed. While not quite the guilty drive-in movie pleasure his "The Fast & the Furious" was, Diesel does get to give plenty of 'tude and do some extreme stunts. But the plot is all sound and fury, signifying little. Especially anything remotely resembling logic. At the center of "XXX" is a missing microchip bursting with bioterrorism secrets. Enter Xander Cage (Diesel), a cocky star in the extreme-sports arena who catches the eye of one Agent Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson). Soon bad-boy Cage is gallivanting around the world tracking down evildoers and defying death for Uncle Sam. ***

"Blood Work" — Clint Eastwood proves he's still got it with this good, old-fashioned yarn about cops and killers. Wearing two hats — director and star — Eastwood doesn't offer many flourishes, choosing instead to give viewers colorful characters and dialogue that crackles all neatly framed in his no-fuss, no-nonsense visual style. Eastwood stars as retired Los Angeles FBI agent Terry McCaleb, who's recovering from a heart transplant. We learn in the movie's prologue that two years earlier, McCaleb was hot on the trail of a serial killer when he suffered a heart attack. As only happens in the movies, it turns out that the heart donor was one of that very same killer's victims and now her sister (Wanda De Jesus) wants McCaleb to catch the madman. Although his doctor (the marvelous Anjelica Huston) has a fit, the leathery McCaleb feels honor-bound to get back on the case. Quickly, "Blood Work" becomes much more than mere gumshoe methodology plotted out on the big screen. Eastwood along with his cast and writers, pose some very heart-felt questions about survivor guilt, Old Testament-style justice and just where does one's spirit reside after death? ****

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