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New movies: ‘Black Hawk Down’ action-packed

By The Associated Press
Friday December 28, 2001


“Black Hawk Down” – Producer Jerry Bruckheimer redeems himself for this year’s drippy debacle “Pearl Harbor.” And he can thank director Ridley Scott for that. The gritty, in-your-face film, based on the botched U.S. military mission in Mogadishu, Somalia, in October 1993, has all the scope and enormity of Bruckheimer’s earlier war extravaganza, but it plays like a documentary of disaster. Scott is relentless here; 90 minutes of the nearly 2 1/2-hour movie are nonstop gunfire. But the movie’s action is so compelling, it’s impossible not to be drawn in and emotionally drained. Josh Hartnett, Tom Sizemore, Ewan McGregor, William Fichtner and Sam Shepard lead the ensemble cast. R for intense, realistic, graphic war violence, and for language. 143 min. 


“Charlotte Gray” – Director Gillian Armstrong seems to have taken her heroine’s surname to heart. An austere, neutral-tinted drama, “Charlotte Gray” has an ashen texture that rarely allows viewers to connect emotionally with the characters. In the title role, Cate Blanchett gives a fine technical performance yet is unable to light a flame in Charlotte, a Scotswoman who signs on as a spy in Vichy France during World War II. Likewise, co-star Billy Crudup is mostly inanimate as a French resistance fighter. What a shame to squander such talent; Blanchett’s subtle sensuality and Crudup’s charisma seem ideal for the adaptation of Sebastian Faulk’s espionage romance. PG-13 for some war-related violence, sensuality and brief strong language. 121 min. 

– David Germain, AP Movie Writer 


“I Am Sam” – A shameless weepy that aims for Oscar when it should have been a made-for-TV movie on the Lifetime channel. This story of a mentally retarded father fighting for custody of his 7-year-old daughter has its heart in the right place, but the approach is heavy-handed. Sean Penn immerses himself in the title role and is totally convincing – so much so that his manic energy becomes overbearing by the end. And as the high-strung lawyer helping in his custody battle, Michelle Pfeiffer is even more over-the-top. Director and co-writer Jessie Nelson has a major hanky scene for nearly every character, but is too politically correct to address the possibility that Sam’s daughter might be better off with a loving suburban foster mom, played by Laura Dern. PG-13 for language. 132 min. 

– Christy Lemire, AP Entertainment Writer 


“Kate & Leopold” – If nothing else, this century-spanning love story simulates time travel quite effectively – you’ll feel like you saw it before you entered the theater. Which you did, sort of, because it conjures memories of past fish-out-of-water comedies where the hero discovers exciting new inventions like cars, toilets and television for the first time. Hugh Jackman plays Leopold, a charming English duke from 1876 who ends up in present-day Manhattan and falls for Kate (Meg Ryan), a high-strung marketing consultant. For a while it feels like Jackman is gifted and engaging enough to save the movie, but the timeworn plot and Ryan’s phoned-in performance make this a tough picture to like. You keep wishing Leopold would find a better woman – and a better movie. PG-13 for brief strong language. 117 min. 

– Tim Molloy, AP Writer 


“Monster’s Ball” – The characters in this movie are poor, alcoholic, racist, self-destructive. And just when you think their situations couldn’t possibly get worse, they do; the troubles pile up and become so ridiculously bleak, they’re almost comical. It’s all as overbearing as it sounds. But the performances from Billy Bob Thornton, as a Georgia death-row prison guard, and Halle Berry, as the widow of a man he’s executed, transcend the material. Berry does the best work of her career, though her much-discussed sex scene with Thornton is a bit too artsy. Heath Ledger, Peter Boyle and Sean Combs – as rapper “P. Diddy” likes to be known when he’s a Serious Actor – co-star. R for strong sexual content, language and violence. 108 min. 

– Christy Lemire, AP Entertainment Writer 


“The Shipping News” – Lasse Hallstrom’s third literary adaptation in as many years follows the pattern of “The Cider House Rules” and “Chocolat,” presenting another overly bowdlerized yet fairly pleasing screen version of the source novel. Kevin Spacey stars as Quoyle, the passive loser of E. Annie Proulx’s beloved book, who ventures to his ancestral Newfoundland and uncovers secrets and finds inspiration that nudges him toward a proactive life and happiness. Julianne Moore, Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett co-star. While Hallstrom captures some of the book’s sense of repressed longing, much is lost in his oversimplified interpretation, which too often replaces subtlety with punch lines to impart a sunnier mood. R for some language, sensuality and disturbing images. 111 min. 

– David Germain, AP Movie Writer