January 03, 2007
Freedom Writers (PG-13). Hilary Swank stars in Richard LaGravenese's true-life tale of a teacher who inspires her at-risk students with a challenging writing prospect. The old Hilary would have just beaten the little brats into submission, but the two-time Academy Award winner gives the part depth and pathos. Alas, there will be no Oscar Number Three this year. Also starring Patrick Dempsey and Scott Glenn.
Code Name: The Cleaner (PG-13). Cedric the Entertainer and Lucy Liu ham their way through this mildly comical take on the old amnesia story, wherein a mild-mannered janitor somehow gets involved in a government conspiracy. Been there, done that.
New To Theaters
Rocky Balboa (PG). Say it ain't so. Sylvester Stallone digs up boxing's greatest underdog for one more payday. Only the existence of George Foreman makes this even mildly believable. Still, it's schmaltzy enough to make some holiday hay. We think he should fight Rambo next.
Apocalypto (R). Mel Gibson's well-trained eye for action and violence shouldn't trump the fact the whole world now knows he is a vitriolic anti-Semite. This film, though it has some interesting sequences, borders on the sadistic. Just say no to this jerk and stay home.
Dreamgirls (PG-13). One of the most anticipated films of the year, this high energy musical has an oddly detached feel, perhaps because the director, Bill Condon, is more comfortable with dramas like Gods & Monsters and Kinsey. Jamie Foxx and Eddie Murphy star along with Beyoncé, who definitely looks at ease on the Silver Screen. Forget the big names, though — Jennifer Hudson is the undisputed star of the show and a likely Oscar nominee.
Blood Diamond (R). The director Edward Zwick (I Am Sam, The last Samurai) delivers an overly long but well-acted film that is sometimes dazzling, sometimes brutal and often thought provoking. Leonardo DiCaprio gamely carries on with a South African accent — or is it Australian? Djimon Hounsou turns in a believable performance and Jennifer Connelly provides the eye candy.
Casino Royale (PG-13). A remake retelling James Bond's first mission, wherein he must stop a banker from winning a casino tournament and using the prize money to fund terrorist activities. Daniel Craig takes on the leading role, and Judi Dench slums as "M." This is a fresh take on the legend — he hadn't even earned his Double-OH murder license to kill, though he quickly proves himself up to the task. And though the young Bond hasn't mastered the suaveness inherent in the later models, there is enough action here to keep your eyes riveted on the screen. The best Bond since Sean Connery.