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Quick Flicks

Capsule reviews of current movies.

"Alexander" — By transferring the legendary military commander's stunning Asian conquests to the screen, Oliver Stone hopelessly overextends himself, failing to mold the Macedonian's political, military and erotic feats into anything like coherence. And unlike Wolfgang Petersen's "Troy," "Alexander" aims mostly to instruct rather than entertain, insistently bludgeoning us with the geopolitical lessons that have obsessed Stone for decades. In what is supposed to be an especially moving scene, Alexander tries to cheer a dying friend with yet another speech about political transformation. As he's rambling on, his friend gives up the ghost. At this point, the audience I sat with instantly burst into laughter: Alexander bored the poor guy to death. *1/2 — Thomas Peyser

"Blade: Trinity" — Wesley Snipes crawls out of the woodwork to reprise his role as the badass vampire killer Blade in this third chapter of the popular movie franchise. Parker Posey does a neat turn as the fanged leader to a group of modern vampires intent on bringing Blade down. Posey's posse of bloodsuckers gets help from the original Dracula, whom they bring back to life for the specific purpose of killing Blade. Blade relies on his own crew of "Nightstalkers" led by sexy Jessica Biel and Ryan Reynolds to battle the underground evil. Writer/director David S. Goyer provides plenty of eye candy but errs on the side of childish humor. "Blade: Trinity" never soars to the available heights of cinematic comic splendor (see "Spider-Man 2" for that), but it doesn't bog down in its own juices either (as happened with "Daredevil"). ** — Cole Smithey

"Finding Neverland" — Biopic takes us into the life of J.M. Barrie, London author of the 1904 play "Peter Pan." Today "Peter Pan" is notable for giving retired gymnasts an opportunity to launch stage careers, but that questionable distinction ought to charge an exploration of the play's origins with the excitement of daring archeological recovery. With his lampooning of England's stifling pompousness at its imperial height, and renunciation of family ties and adult sexuality, Barrie is still a figure of some mystery. Based on the play by Allan Knee, "Finding Neverland" doesn't even try to clear up the mystery. Instead, it turns Barrie's life into an exercise in tepid sentimentality that will bore children and move only the more lachrymose of their minders. ** — T.P.

"The Incredibles" — Brad Bird's follow-up to his popular 1999 animated movie "The Iron Giant" takes full advantage of state-of-the-art animation technologies via Pixar Studios ("Toy Story" and "Finding Nemo"), but leaves much to be desired beyond the woof and whistle of its stunning visuals. A family of retired superheroes returns after the Atlas-like patriarch is fired from his insurance sales job for smashing his boss through numerous office walls. Bird uses a '60s style of architecture and furnishings to reflect outdated modes of thought that do little to support his casually presented theme of rejecting mediocrity. Too violent for younger audiences yet lacking in sufficient social satire to satisfy adult audiences, "The Incredibles" is a disquieting animated film that features excessive violence perpetrated by children and adults. ** — C.S.

"Kinsey" — Whether plumbing gay clubs for data or dealing permissively with infidelity, Professor Albert Kinsey (Liam Neeson) seems as odd to the world now as he did in 1948, when "Sexual Behavior in the Human Male" dropped an H-bomb on America. A wonderfully tongue-in-cheek script by director Bill Condon ("Gods and Monsters") entertainingly brings the life and work of America's most famous sex researcher to the screen without mythologizing him or overly dumbing him down. What carries this film is the same thing that inspired its subject: a dogged determination to get at the facts, no matter how uncomfortable they may be. ***1/2 — Wayne Melton

"National Treasure" — Nicolas Cage's misjudged action-movie career drops yet another rung in this silly Jerry Bruckheimer production about a search for King Solomon's Knights Templar treasure. Director Jon Turteltaub ("Phenomenon") makes stealing the Declaration of Independence a dull procedure, as Cage and his cohorts search for treasure clues left on the back of the cherished document by politically motivated Freemasons. Even the unflappable Jon Voight gets lost in the boredom of lackluster chase sequences and a forgettable climax that takes far to long to come around. "National Treasure" is such a monotonous action movie that in a week you'll forget you ever saw it. *1/2 — C.S.

"Ocean's Twelve" — What do you get when you put six of Hollywood's most fabulous stars in a sequel to a remake of a movie that wasn't very good to begin with? Steven Soderbergh's phoned-in fulfillment of George Nolfi's scattershot script is twice as bad as you suppose. Bland inside jokes, perpetual self-referencing dialogue and foreign heists that will put babies to sleep fill this truncated movie that could only have been made better if it were two hours shorter. Our vacuous thief team is reunited after they're ratted out by French superpro burglar Fran‡ois Toulour (Vincent Cassel) to casino owner Terry Benedict (Andy Garcia) for the Vegas heist we witnessed in "Ocean's Eleven." To save their hides by paying off their $160 million debt plus interest to Benedict, Danny Ocean's (George Clooney) crew heads to Amsterdam to perform an impossible robbery. *— C.S.

"The Polar Express" — The hook for this animated movie is the fact that Tom Hanks plays the lead (a little boy), the boy's father, a train conductor, a hobo ghost, and Santa Claus. Just seeing Hanks' name attached to an animated Christmas movie directed by Robert Zemeckis ("Forrest Gump") should be enough for audiences to know all they need to about the kind of cheesy entertainment they're in for. Creepy-looking computer-generated animation transposes this veritable roller-coaster influenced story about a steam train that takes a group of kids to the North Pole on Christmas eve to meet Santa Claus. The train goes up a steep mountain and down an even steeper mountain as it puts a cynical 8-year-old boy in the way of cliffhanger plot filler until the land of toys and elves is shown in all of its opulent splendor. *1/2— C.S.

"The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie" - Parents will be shocked with the relentless phallic references and uncomfortable pedophile undertones that regularly intersperse Spongebob's seditious humor. From the "Thug Tug" café in "Bikini Bottom," where Spongebob and his sometimes nude starfish friend Patrick "polish" King Neptune's crown, to the town Shell City (pronounced Chelsea), homoerotic references riddle this ostensibly children's cartoon. By the time our sexually befuddled duo makes their way between David Hasselhoff's enlarged pectoral muscles, any responsible parent should have already exited the theater with their kids. "SpongeBob SquarePants" is a distasteful and potentially damaging movie for young children. 1/2 star — C.S.