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Thursday, May 11, 2006 04:37 am

Ship of fools

On the Poseidon, you’re either flotsam or jetsam

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Director Wolfgang Petersen knew just what to do with his remake of The Poseidon Adventure, 1972’s blockbuster disaster epic: Deliver thrills and waste no time doing it. Character development be damned; the passengers of this doomed ship fall into two categories, survivors and dead meat. No need to learn about the subtleties between father and daughter or why an attractive, independent woman is raising a precocious kid on her own, not when we’ve got a tidal wave as high as a skyscraper about to flip the ship. Yep, it’s the summer movie season and Poseidon continues the momentum started by Mission: Impossible III by delivering a popcorn movie so big that the multiplex should order extra. (The more vacuous the flick, the more popcorn audiences consume.) Though the plot is as simplistic as that of a video game, production values for Poseidon are excellent, and the cast makes it interesting. Top-billed Josh Lucas stars as Dylan Johns, a high-stakes gambler with a heart who reluctantly tries to lead a small group of New Year’s Eve revelers to safety. Former firefighter and New York Mayor Robert Ramsey (Kurt Russell), daughter Jennifer (Emmy Rossum), and her fiancé, Christian (Mike Vogel), tag along, as do Maggie James and her son, Connor (Jacinda Barrett and Jimmy Bennett); a stowaway named Elena Gonzalez (Mia Maestro); and a heartbroken architect named Richard Nelson (Richard Dreyfuss). The captain unwisely tells passengers to stay in the sealed-off grand ballroom, but these survivors hightail it out of there before the room is permanently closed. The ragtag group encounters a series of trials, each more perilous than the last, as it heads for the bottom of the ship — which is now the only part above the waterline — and safety. Petersen doesn’t succeed in topping himself with progressively more elaborate action sequences, as J.J. Abrams did in MI3, but the thrills he does deliver will satisfy hardcore fans of the genre. As one calamity gives way to the next and the herd thins, there are some surprises in store, and not everyone you expect to survive does. But the biggest surprise: Poseidon delivers all it promises and more. In an era in which you’re often left wondering how the inflated budgets of Hollywood products are spent, it’s obvious that every cent of the film’s reported $130 million budget is on the screen.

Also in theaters this week. . .
An American Haunting [PG-13] Documented as the first death of a human caused by a spirit, the story of a 19th century Tennessee family and the mysterious circumstances surrounding the death of their daughter. ShowPlace East
The Benchwarmers [PG-13] A trio of middle-aged has-beens forms a baseball team to compete against area Little League teams in a feeble attempt to gain some dignity. ShowPlace West
Hoot [PG] Three middle-school kids take a stand against some foul play regarding a group of endangered owls. ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East
Inside Man [R] Hostage negotiator Keith Frazier finds himself in a match of wits with a bank robber, but quickly realizes the heist isn’t exactly what it seems to be. Directed by Spike Lee. White Oaks
Just My Luck [PG-13] Ashley, a Manhattan mover and shaker, flip flops fortunes with an ill-fated young man after a kiss. She’s no longer lady lucky. ShowPlace East
Mission Impossible 3 [PG-13] With his team reassembled, spy Ethan Hunt steps out of retirement to stop the evil deeds of Owen Davian, a devious weapons supplier. ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East
Poseidon [PG-13] A remake of the maritime adventure flick about a sinking ocean liner and the unlucky passengers stranded on board.ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East
R.V. [PG] The Munro family try their luck at an old-fashioned family camping trip to the Rockies, but a group of cracked campers beat them to the punch. ShowPlace West, ShowPlace East, Route 66 Drive-In
Scary Movie 4 [PG-13] Fourth in a series that pokes fun at the horror genre. White Oaks
Silent Hill [R] On a road trip to help save her ailing daughter, Rose Da Silva stops in Silent Hill, a desolate town with an evil presence. Rose’s daughter goes missing, but in Silent Hill things aren’t always as they seem. ShowPlace West, Route 66 Drive-In
Stick It [PG-13] Rebellious Haley leaves her life of trouble after a clash with the police to return to a prim and polished existence as a top gymnast with the celebrated coach, Burt Vickerman (Jeff Bridges). ShowPlace West
Take the Lead [PG-13] Ballroom dancer Pierre Dulane takes on a bunch of New York City school kids, and when the footwork of ballroom and hip-hop collide, a new style is born. White Oaks
United 93 [R] The story of the men and women on the fourth hijacked plane, United 93, that didn’t reach its target on 9/11. ShowPlace West
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