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Quick Flicks

Capsule reviews of current films.

"The Brothers Grimm" — Terry Gilliam's much anticipated film is a visually impressive but viscerally blank movie thanks to Ehren Kruger's ("The Skeleton Key") irksome script. Without concern for veracity about the celebrated authors of such fairy-tale classics as "Cinderella" and "Rapunzel," Kruger imagines the erudite brothers as fictional 19th-century con men, fooling German villagers about monsters. The gypsy brothers, cynical Will (Matt Damon) and gullible Jacob (Heath Ledger), are found out and captured by French authorities, who assign them to dispel the mystery behind the disappearance of some young maidens. Even fairy tales don't need to be this tediously gimmicky. (PG-13) 118 min. ** — Cole Smithey

"Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" — Tim Burton's latest film is a more ambitious and much funnier adaptation of the Roald Dahl children's book. It is contemporary, sophisticated satire and spoof, whereas "Willy Wonka," with its melancholy titular character and obsession with spies, was mustier, Cold War Dickens. In the new version, the poverty of Charlie (Freddie Highmore) and his family (Helena Bonham Carter, Noah Taylor, David Kelly) is played for laughs rather than tears. Charlie, in fact, though returned to the title, is exiled to the background once he finds his golden ticket. The show is mostly Burton until we get to Wonka's extravagant lair, and after that moment all Burton as channeled through Depp, the zaniness culminating in a homage to "2001." Whether or not kids will think it's funny is hard to say, but their parents will surely wonder what happened to the book's message about honesty being its own reward. (PG) 115 mins. **** — Wayne Melton

"The Dukes Of Hazzard" — Cousins Bo (Seann William Scott) and Luke (Johnny Knoxville) displace their concerns for smuggling moonshine to save Hazzard, Ga., from being turned into a coal mine by corrupt commissioner Boss Hogg (Burt Reynolds), with the help of cousin Daisy (Jessica Simpson), all to a plethora of Southern rock music from the likes of Lynyrd Skynyrd, The Charlie Daniels Band and Molly Hatchet. There isn't a story in the movie so much as there are repeated sequences of riffing humor. Most of it isn't funny. And there are two derailing sequences that put Bo and Luke, or more specifically their car, under the scrutiny of city dwellers who holler over the Confederate flag that graces the top of their vehicle. Simpson is stiffly sexual and one-dimensional as Daisy, with Willie Nelson turning in the only likeable character with his portrayal of Uncle Jesse. "What do you get when you cross a donkey with an onion?," Jesse asks. "A piece of ass that will bring a tear to your eye." That's about as satisfying as the movie gets. (PG-13) 100 mins. * — C.S.

"The Exorcism of Emily Rose" — Audiences seeking the rush of fear so eloquently delivered in the bar-setting 1973 horror classic "The Exorcist" will be disappointed by writer/director Scott Derrickson's imbalanced attempt at stirring similar emotions. Purportedly based on actual events, the story commences just after the death of a teenaged girl (Jennifer Carpenter) during an exorcism performed by a priest (Tom Wilkinson) who suddenly finds himself the target of murder charges based on his assumed negligence. Father Moore (Wilkinson) refuses to cop a plea and instead insists on publicly airing the girl's story in a jury trial with the assistance of his ambitious attorney Erin Bruner (Laura Linney). The movie unsuccessfully toggles between snappy courtroom testimony and creepy flashback episodes. These build toward an anticlimax that fails to adequately reveal the circumstances of Emily Rose's death. PG-13 114 min. **1/2 — C.S.,/i>

"Four Brothers" — John Singleton directs a clumsy modernist revision of John Wayne's Western "The Sons of Katie Elder" (1965) with a multiracial group of four adopted brothers who bond over a mission to avenge their mom's brutal killing. Mark Wahlberg, Tyrese Gibson, Andre Benjamin and Garrett Hedlund do competent jobs of representing a tough brand of macho charisma but never compensate for the script's artificial underpinnings. Chiwetel Ejiofor is positively menacing as a brutal mob boss responsible for killing the boys' mother. Corrupt cops and politicians, blazing gun battles and uncertain stabs at sentimentality accompany this revenge thriller that's more spectacle than content. (R) 108 mins. ** — C.S.

"The Man" — The nebulous title indicates the sloppy nature of this action comedy starring Samuel L. Jackson as an undercover federal agent who mercilessly abuses an amiable but exasperating dental supply salesman (Eugene Levy) in the interest of busting a gang of Detroit gunrunners. This by-committee comedy, boasting three screenwriters, never hits a clear pitch of humor or coalesces above its rambling storyline. The characters come together when Levy visits Detroit from Wisconsin to speak at a dental convention and is innocently swept up in Jackson's frantic attempt to disassociate himself from a recent crime. The movie is primarily an excuse for his character to spew obscenities while Levy tempers the film's crudeness with his arsenal of goofy facial expressions and earthy wit. He saves a few scenes, but the only truly thankful thing here is brevity. PG-13 84 min. *1/2 — C.S.

"March of the Penguins" — At the start of winter, emerging from their ice holes, a long line of emperor penguins proceed in their shuffling walk 70 miles to their breeding ground. Once paired off, mom and pop penguin wait for the coming egg, switching guardianship when it arrives so the female can head back to the ocean to eat. Director Luc Jacquet (aided by a sober and reverential narrative from Morgan Freeman) imbues the harsh test of nature that follows with a touch of human feelings. The documentary has its moments of sentimentality, but it succeeds as an uncomplicated testament to the courage of our fellow animals and the fortitude of a much misrepresented bird. (G ) 80 mins.**** — W.M.

"Red Eye" — Screenwriter Carl Ellsworth's admission that he wrote the movie with inspiration from Joel Schumacher's notoriously hokey "Phone Booth" speaks volumes about the tedious straight-line narrative Ellsworth gives horror master Wes Craven to direct. Rachel McAdams is a hotel manager on an overnight flight to Miami. Her fear of flying is overshadowed by the threat to her father (Brian Cox) by her seatmate Jackson Ripper (Cillian Murphy). Something about switching hotel rooms, the plot is too hokey by half to recount. Craven fails to elevate the lackluster script and does surprisingly little to add scares. (PG-13) 85 mins. *1/2 — C.S.

"The Skeleton Key" — This stylish thriller takes a no-nonsense approach to its divertingly nonsensical plot and atmospheric bayou setting. Kate Hudson is a city girl who has taken a job at a grand, decaying house in Louisiana and must now deal with John Hurt, Gena Rowlands and Peter Sarsgaard. The scenes involving hoodoo — not voodoo, but our own Southern hoodoo, the movie explains — lack a real eeriness. Moreover, some of the many twists toward the end are predictable. Still, there are enough surprises, along with a naughty pleasure the movie takes in the plight of those who end unhappily, to let you leave the theater mostly satisfied. Everyone involved with this film seems to have known its limits and to have kept within them. These days, that's almost cause for celebration. (PG-13) 104 mins. *** — T.P.

"Transporter 2" — French film industry heavyweight Luc Besson continues his "Transporter" franchise (producing), with Jason Statham returning as a hair-challenged professional driver with a penchant for Jackie Chan-style stunts. Set in Miami, the picture follows Frank Martin (Statham) as he attempts to rescue the son of a wealthy family from kidnappers intent on spreading a fatal virus. The bare-bones story serves as a skeleton on which to hang stylized car chases, martial arts mayhem and explosions galore. The "Transporter" franchise has picked up the slack left over from the lack of James Bond movies in recent years. Sure, it's a smaller-scale knockoff, but the overall effect is similar. PG-13 88 min. **1/2 — C.S.

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