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"Sunshine," "Croupier," "Chicken Run" and "The Patriot"

Quick Flicks

!B! "Sunshine"!B! "Croupier"!B! "Chicken Run"!B! "The Patriot"

"Sunshine" — Istvan Szabo's sprawling epic about three generations of a tight-knit family of Hungarian Jews is something of a good news/bad news situation. The good news? The film is three hours long. The bad news? It needs to be longer!

"Sunshine" wears its length lightly. Scenes rarely feel stretched longer than necessary, and certain characters are so compelling you'll find yourself wishing Szabo had lingered longer on them so an emotional bond could be forged. But as is his directorial right, Szabo chooses story over character, history over emotion. Although "Sunshine" lacks the resonance of his other films ("Mephisto," "Colonel Redl"), it is elegantly acted and beautifully mounted. "Sunshine" has more than enough moments of insight, indignation and intelligence to warrant a three-hour commitment.

"Croupier" — If you're in the mood for a cool crime caper, then this Mike Hodges' tale about a down-and-out writer should fill the bill. When Jack Manfred (Clive Owen) turns to dealing cards in a casino to make ends meet, he has no idea about the personal temptations he's about to face. Hodges, who made the cult hit "Get Carter" decades ago, doubles down here with panache. The acting is terrific — Owen is perfectly suited for Manfred — and the story is equally compelling. Hey, this hip bit of Brit neo-noir ain't just about dealing cards. It's all about playing the hand you're dealt and then some.

"Chicken Run" — This clever bit of claymation magic is sure to delight all ages. Inspired by the classic World War II prisoner-of-war film "The Great Escape" (among others), this tale features a few good hens looking to make a break from destiny and Tweedy's Farm.

"Ab Fab's" Julia Sawalha voices Ginger, a plucky hen who spends most of her time making unsuccessful attempts to lead her fellow coop-mates to freedom. When Mel Gibson turns up as the voice of "Rocky, the Flying Rooster," Ginger wrongfully assumes he can teach them how to fly. When Mrs. Tweedy (Miranda Richardson) retools her egg operation to produce "chicken pies," Ginger and Rocky lead the others on a final, all-or-nothing break for freedom.

"The Patriot" - Brave-hearted Mel Gibson fights for life, liberty and his personal pursuit of another Oscar in this overlong, historically suspect and yet extremely watchable Revolutionary War epic. "The Patriot" is at its most entertaining when focusing on the relationship between Daddy Mel and equally brave-hearted son Gabriel (Heath Ledger). Gibson portrays a South Carolina widower whose soldierly deeds during the French and Indian War continue to haunt him. So when it's time to fight the British, he takes a surprisingly pacifist stand. But all that changes when a sadistic British officer (the hissable Jason Isaacs) makes the war a personal vendetta for Gibson.

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