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Thursday, May 13, 2004 05:39 am

Movie review


Homer lite: How Troy was lost in less than three hours

You don't need to brush up on your Homer to get through Troy: Director Wolfgang Petersen and screenwriter David Benioff set the stage quickly in the film's first half hour. For those who dozed off during history class, Agamemnon (Brian Cox) has united all of Greece, except for Troy, in an uneasy alliance. Troy is ruled by Priam (Peter O'Toole), whose two sons, Hector and Paris (Eric Bana and Orlando Bloom), have just come to peace with Agamemnon's brother, Menelaus (Brendan Gleeson), the ruler of Sparta. This alliance unravels when Paris makes off with Menelaus' wife, Helen (Diane Kruger). Now Agamemnon and Menelaus have the excuse they've needed to invade Troy. The success of their campaign depends on the participation of Achilles (Brad Pitt), a fierce warrior who despises his leader's methods.

Though clocking in at nearly three hours, Petersen keeps things moving at a breezy pace. Impressive computer-generated effects create convincing armadas and vast armies. Rough edges are hidden by fast pacing.

The cast puts on an acting clinic. Sure, there's awkward scene-chewing, but there are also moments of poignant subtlety. Bloom opts for melodrama where delicacy is required. Pitt can't decide whether to play Achilles straight or campy. There's no indecision on Cox's part: He instills Agamemnon with style, commanding the screen whenever he appears. However, the lion's share of praise here goes to Bana and O'Toole, who effectively underplay their roles and provide a sense of humanity amidst the spectacle that surrounds them. In their scenes, we come to recognize the human cost this conflict exacted.

What other critics are saying. . .

Breakin' All the Rules [PG-13] Jamie Foxx stars as a man who writes a best-selling "how-to" book about breaking up after his fiancee dumps him. Parkway Pointe

Dogville [R] A woman on the run from mobsters (Nicole Kidman) finds refuge in a small town, but protection comes at a price. "Dogville is not a masterpiece, nor is it an embarrassment. But it is a cinematic Rorschach test, as much fun to praise and to scorn as it is to watch." (Chris Vognar, Dallas Morning News) Parkway Pointe

Ella Enchanted [PG] Ella is a young woman who was given the "gift" of obedience by a fairy named Lucinda. After her mother dies, Ella is cared for by her thoughtless, greedy father who remarries a loathsome woman. A variation on the Cinderella theme based on Gail Carson Levine's award-winning novel.White Oaks

Home on the Range [PG] When an eviction notice is posted on the Patch of Heaven dairy farm, the cows decide to raise money by collecting a bounty on a notorious yodeling cattle rustler. "Witty and self-assured, Home on the Range ranks as one of Disney's better efforts." (Eleanor Ringel Gillespie, Atlanta Journal-Constitution) Parkway Pointe

Kill Bill: Vol. 2 [R] The Bride continues her campaign of revenge against her ex-boss, Bill, and his associates. "What Quentin Tarantino started with a wham he finishes with a bang in Kill Bill Vol. 2." (Todd McCarthy, Variety) Parkway Pointe

The Ladykillers [R] A professor assembles a group of thieves for a casino heist. After they hole up in a sweet old woman's home, they find that she's the biggest threat to their plans. Tom Hanks stars. "The Coens' remake of a comedy classic flounders amid extreme caricatures and strained humor. (Kirk Honeycutt, Hollywood Reporter) Parkway Pointe

Laws of Attraction [PG-13] Two New York City divorce lawyers (Julianne Moore and Pierce Brosnan) fall in love -- after waking up married to one another."Brosnan is devilishly charming; Moore is equally appealing. These two film veterans belong on the screen together just as their characters belong in each other's arms." (Chuck Koplinski, Illinois Times) Parkway Pointe

Man on Fire [R]A former Marine (Denzel Washington) swears vengeance on those who committed an unspeakable act against the family he was hired to protect. "Audiences need to be aware that the violence is intense, but also very creative." (Marc Sigoloff, Illinois Times) ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

Mean Girls [PG-13]Cady Heron is a hit with The Plastics, the A-list girl clique at her new school, until she makes the mistake of falling for the ex-boyfriend of alpha Plastic. "You gotta love a film that poses the vital question: 'Is butter a carb?' " (Gregory Weinkauf, New Times newspapers) ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

New York Minute [PG] On a crazy day in the Big Apple, Jane and wild and crazy Roxy Ryan (Mary-Kate Olsen) comes to the aid of her prim and proper twin sister, Jane (Ashley Olsen). "Mary-Kate and Ashley sprint through Manhattan on the run from a truant officer and a limo driver in this crisp and professional teenage caper comedy." (A. O. Scott, New York Times) Parkway Pointe, ShowPlace East

The Passion of the Christ [R] Mel Gibson's version of the last 12 hours of Jesus Christ's life.White Oaks

The Punisher [R] Based on a bad-ass Marvel Comics hero, FBI agent Frank Castle takes it upon himself to rid America of crime after his wife and family are killed. "Laudably exposes the dark core of the human heart." (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone) White Oaks

Shrek 2 [PG] Princess Fiona's parents invite her and Shrek to dinner to celebrate her marriage, not realizing that the newlyweds are green ogres.

13 Going on 30 [PG-13] A 13-year-old girl plays a game on her birthday and wakes up the next day as a 30-year-old woman (Jennifer Garner). "Jennifer Garner makes the transition from cult-fave TV action icon to full-fledged, ultra-charismatic feature lead in 13 Going on 30." (Joe Leydon, Variety) Parkway Pointe

Van Helsing [PG-13] Legendary 19th century monster hunter Dr. Abraham Van Helsing (Hugh Jackman) heads to Eastern Europe to do battle with Count Dracula, the Wolfman, and Frankenstein. Reviewed this issue. ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

Walking Tall [PG-13] A former member of U.S. Army Special Forces (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) returns to his small Washington State home to revive his family's lumber business. The town's overrun with corruption; the ex-soldier fixes things with a two-by-four. "The new Walking Tall is essentially a lighter, cliff-note version of the original film." (Stefan Halley, ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East

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