Opinions are by Los Angeles Times reviewers.
Bandits -- An amusing tale of larceny triumphant, this is entertainment with a rogue's imagination. The most surprising thing about this criminal history of the celebrated Sleepover Bandits, directed by Barry Levinson with his usual gift for the humanity in the human comedy, is that it manages to be surprising at all. Harley Peyton's droll script either makes references to or is reminiscent of so many movies it's not difficult to figure out exactly where the film is going well before its casual, leisurely pace gets us there. Yet this quirky heist comedy manages to hold our interest not just because of the writing and directing but because of the acting, which features familiar performers (Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, Cate Blanchett) taking on diverting variations of what they usually do. (2:03. PG-13, some sexual content, language and violence.)
Corky Romano -- While all too many recent "comedies" are so in stated purpose only, this one truly makes you laugh. Chris Kattan stars as a wayward nebbish infiltrating the FBI in a trustworthy transport that, as knowingly written by David Garrett and Jason Ward, gets you from here to there without flash or flair but with a certain charm. Directed by Rob Pritts. Co-stars Peter Falk, Peter Berg, Chris Penn, Fred Ward, Richard Roundtree and Vinessa Shaw. (1:26. PG-13 for language, drug and sex-related humor.)
Don't Say a Word -- A sleek, engrossing suspense thriller starring Michael Douglas as a Manhattan psychiatrist who must persuade a terrified teen-ager (Brittany Murphy) in a mental institution to reveal to him a certain six-digit number if he is to save the life of his own kidnapped daughter. Douglas' strong performance is matched by Murphy's persuasive playing to make this a smart, stylish and satisfying entertainment. Sean Bean as the icy chief villain heads a potent supporting cast. (1:55. R for violence, including some gruesome images, and language.)
From Hell -- While we've all seen motion pictures that are simplistic comic-book versions of sophisticated novels, this is something different: a pared-down comic-book version of an actual comic book. No, that is not progress. The Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell take on 19th century London's Jack the Ripper murders is, of course, no mere comic book. It's a massive, graphic novel published over the course of a decade and fiendishly researched and detailed. Both the book and the film, directed by the Hughes brothers and starring Johnny Depp and Heather Graham, share a fascination with the grisly particulars of the Ripper's murders of five prostitutes, though those bloody doings are considerably more unpleasant to experience on film than in black-and-white line drawings, no matter how artfully done. (2:02. R for strong violence/gore, sexuality, language and drug content.)
Joy Ride -- Neo-noir maestro John Dahl takes a pair of brothers, one a reckless ex-con (Steve Zahn), the other a straight-arrow college student (Paul Walker) plus the student's dream girl (Leelee Sobieski) on a cross-country ride that turns into a nightmare when a foolish prank the brothers play on an unseen trucker backfires. The result is a sly and scary thriller-chiller, with humor of the darkest pitch. (1:34. R, for violence/terror and language.)
The Last Castle -- A phlegmatic programmer that takes itself more seriously than it should. Despite stars on the order of Robert Redford and James Gandolfini, it can't rise above the tired mire of its David Scarpa and Graham Yost script or Rod Lurie's obvious direction. It's not objectionable (which is saying something these days) but neither does it have any compelling reason to be seen. With Mark Ruffalo and Delroy Lindo. (2:11. R, for language and violence.
The Others -- A film of unknown terrors lurking behind closed doors, more like "The Turn of the Screw" than "Scream." Elegantly and deliberately made by writer-director Alejandro Amenbar, reeking of mood and creepiness, it relishes its atmosphere of genteel menace. Anchored by the persuasive, 1940s Hollywood diva-style performance of Nicole Kidman that is intense and involving and dominates and energizes a film that would be lost without it. With Fionnula Flanagan, Alakina Mann and James Bentley. (1:44. PG-13 for thematic elements and frightening moments.)
Riding in Cars With Boys -- A failed film that gives glimpses of the success that might have been. Buried under the miscalculations, the shamelessness, the off-putting and inappropriate broadness, are sporadically visible souvenirs of a good project gone bad, hints of the unusual, bittersweet story that got away. Drew Barrymore stars as a good girl surviving bad situations in screenwriter Morgan Upton Ward's adaptation of a widely appreciated memoir by Beverly Donofrio. Penny Marshall directed. The results are not the best. (2:02. PG-13, for thematic elements, drug and sexual content.)
Zoolander -- Though it is basically an extended skit, this film about an "extremely dim-witted" male model never runs out of amusing satiric thrusts. Ben Stiller, the man who plays the title character in addition to co-writing and directing, working with co-writers Drake Sather and John Hamburg, savagely and humorously skewers not only the fashionista universe but a ripe-for-ridicule popular culture that has elevated models to nearly god-like status. (1:29. PG-13 for sexual content and drug references.)
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