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quick flicks

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In turn, they've reached out to Joe as her spiritual stand-in. Gyllenhaal excels at conveying inarticulate guilt, while Hoffman and Sarandon embrace their roles with a heartfelt authenticity. Despite the poignant acting, the movie fails to score an emotional home run because it suffers from being too much like a movie. ***



"Jonah: A Veggie Tale" — This computer-animated retelling of the story of Jonah and the whale uses colorful vegetable characters (asparagus, tomato and pea folk, mostly) and plenty of humor. Tots and kids up to age 7 will appreciate its cartoony look and silly wit. "Jonah" opens in the present day as the Veggies, singing and bouncing along in their van, have a minor accident and stop at a seafood restaurant. A trio of pirates tells the quarreling Veggies about Jonah the prophet and how he learned compassion and mercy. ****



"The Ring" — Aussie actress Naomi Watts stars in this visually arresting but narratively messy ghost story. She plays a journalist who's drawn into the mystery of her niece's sudden death after the girl viewed a surreal video. She, of course, watches the video as well and then — Holy Wes Craven! — the phone rings. The voice on the other end tells her she has only one week to live. Watts, being a reporter, naturally takes that to mean she only has seven days to solve the mystery. Dogged determination leads her to trace the evil to the usual deserted locales: a cabin in the woods, an abandoned lighthouse, and finally, a remote stable. The film is eerie and disturbing — in a good way, mind you. Director Gore Verbinski understands that the horror in our heads is much scarier than any carnage he could put on-screen. ***



"Abandon" — A good cast helps, but it's ultimately not enough to save this pretentious, illogical, overlong and undercooked psycho-thriller. Katie Holmes stars as a college senior who's being haunted by the memory of a former boyfriend (Charlie Hunnam) who disappeared two years before. Benjamin Bratt plays the troubled cop sent to reopen the investigation. Things heat up when the boyfriend seems to resurface and Holmes and Bratt find themselves somewhat smitten. Too many montages and false endings, "Abandon" wears out its welcome fast. **



"The Truth About Charlie" — Director Jonathan Demme updates the 1963 Cary Grant/Audrey Hepburn thriller "Charade" with Mark Wahlberg and Thandie Newton. Demme starts out all frothy and fun, but his remake soon devolves into an object lesson in style without substance. Or worse, logic. Newton plays a woman who returns from a trip to learn her husband has been murdered. The police suspect her, strangers start following her, and the fellow (Wahlberg) she met on vacation turns up offering to help. Who's a girl to trust? No doubt Demme intended the film's herky-jerky visual style and plot twists as an homage to the French New Wave cinema of the '60s. But it ends up looking like an artsy music video and nothing more. ***



"Ghost Ship" — With a plot as creaky as the evil-possessed vessel of its title, this Gabriel Byrne/Juliana Marguiles starrer is a derivative mess with too few scares. Byrne and Marguiles head up the salvage crew aboard the tugboat Arctic Warrior, one of the best in the business. But their reputation goes to hell when they come across an aging Italian luxury liner where evil incarnate has taken up residence. The first 10 minutes of "Ghost Ship" are worth seeing, but the movie quickly sinks into an abyss of clichés, with extreme gore substituting for suspense. **

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