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Thursday, Oct. 2, 2008 07:38 am

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist delivers

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist Running Time 1:30 Rated PG-13 ShowPlace West

Casting means everything when you're recycling material for movies and the makers of the delightful but familiar Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist must have known this when looking for the actors to take on the title roles. Either that, or they got extremely lucky with Michael Cera and Kat Dennings, a seemingly odd couple that generates some genuine sparks in this all-night New York odyssey in which the title duo set out to find the location of a secret concert given by their favorite group.

Obviously, things are much more complicated than that as Nick is attempting to heal his broken heart which has been trampled on by Tris (Alexis Dziena). You know she's not worth his trouble when we see her discard the music mixes Nick has spent so much time putting together. However, during their long journey together, which starts in a cutesy way that can only happen in the movies, Norah finds these discards and realizes that while Nick might not be her soulmate, he's certainly her music mate, which is about the same with these two.

Though the film only runs 90 minutes, its fractured narrative is taxing at times, particularly when we are dealing with Caroline (Ari Graynor), Norah's friend who becomes separated from her and does her level best to seek attention no matter what the cost. Her trials become tiresome and spending time with her becomes an exercise in frustration as all we want to do is focus on how the titular duo ends up together. In the end, the film doesn't disappoint, delivering the romance we crave and this charming couple deserves.

Nights in Rodanthe Running Time 1:37 Rated PG-13 ShowPlace West

Don't get me wrong, I'm a sucker for a good romance, as long as the lovers in question are rendered as realistic and likeable and the circumstances that prevent them from being together are plausible. With those criteria in mind, I was through with George Wolfe's Nights in Rodanthe a half hour in. Based on the novel by Nicholas Sparks, this manipulative melodrama finds surgeon Paul Flanner (Richard Gere) in the throes of a midlife crisis, as he's reeling from the death of a patient on the operating table and is trying to come to terms with his estranged son (James Franco). Having an equally bad time of it is Adrienne Willis (Diane Lane) who's just left her philandering husband (Christopher Meloni) and is helping a friend by watching over her picturesque Bed and Breakfast …where the good doctor is headed…and is the only guest…as a hurricane hits, and shakes the inn to its core.

When pretty people like this find themselves facing eminent death, you just know passion will erupt and it does. The problem with the film is that Sparks' story stacks one too many improbabilities on this narrative plate and it all becomes too much to take seriously. Whereas successful romances produce gut-wrenching moments of heartache, Nights gives us scenes that elicit incredulous, scoffing laughter. I don't think that's the reaction they're looking for.

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