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Film Clips 

CL's movie reviews are rated on a four-star scale.

NEW RELEASES

WHITE NOISE Forget all that talk about dead people: I see dead careers, beginning with those of actor Michael Keaton and director Geoffrey Sax (a TV vet making his feature film bow). White Noise asks viewers to accept Electronic Voice Phenomenon (EVP) -- the method by which the dead communicate with the living through household devices like televisions and radios -- as cold, hard fact. It then proceeds to spin a fantasy yarn that flubs its own narrative constraints. Keaton headlines as Jonathan Rivers, a successful architect whose pregnant wife (Chandra West) dies in a car accident. It's not long before a fuzzy figure starts appearing through the snowy static on Jonathan's TV set, but rather than assume (as most of us would) that he's illegally receiving HBO or Cinemax without a converter box, he's led to believe by a portly stranger (Ian MacNeice) that it's actually his deceased wife trying to communicate with him. As Jonathan becomes increasingly obsessed with trying to decipher messages through all the static, he finds that he's being stalked by three shadowy figures that are meant to be malevolent spirits but which, truth be told, look exactly like the Sean Penn-Tim Robbins-Kevin Bacon silhouettes that graced the poster for Mystic River. It's a coin toss whether this shameless movie cribs mostly from Poltergeist, The Ring or The Sixth Sense; in any case, its inconsistencies prove to be the primary culprit, as this silly movie never plays fair even within the parameters of its own supernatural milieu. 1/2

CURRENT RELEASES

THE AVIATOR This sprawling biopic about Howard Hughes (played by Leonardo DiCaprio), the notorious billionaire-industrialist-producer-flyboy, employs all the cinematic razzle-dazzle we've come to expect from Martin Scorsese, yet there's an added layer of excitement as the eternal cineaste finally gets to step back in time via his meticulous recreations of the sights and sounds of Old Hollywood (look for Cate Blanchett in a show-stealing turn as Katharine Hepburn). Still, the behind-the-scenes movie material takes a back seat to other aspects of Hughes' life -- namely, his adventures in the field of aviation and his lifelong battle with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. At its best, the film is a stirring tale about a man whose inner drive allowed him to climb ever higher and higher, grazing the heavens before his inner demons seized the controls and forced the inevitable, dreary descent. 1/2

BEYOND THE SEA Kevin Spacey serves as actor, co-writer, director and producer -- and probably caterer, key grip and best boy, if we search the closing credits hard enough -- on this misguided vanity project that's so in love with its creator (as opposed to its subject, singer Bobby Darin), it makes Yentl look like a model of modesty and restraint. Spacey is 45 years old, yet here he's playing Darin from his late teens(!) up until his death at the age of 37; the effect is at once creepy, comical and impossible to digest. The film-within-a-film framing device, meant to deflect criticism of the distortions ("He was born to play the role!" someone says of Darin, though the line is really about Spacey), is as clumsy as the flat-footed musical numbers. Skip the movie and use the admission price to purchase a Darin CD instead. 1/2

BLADE: TRINITY Blade II was that rare sequel that managed to trump the original, but the franchise ascension ends there. Blade: Trinity is easily the least of three, an overlong action yarn that has nothing fresh to say on the subject of vampires nor on the curious holding pattern of Wesley Snipes' career. Snipes again plays the taciturn Blade, the half-man, half-vampire whose mission to wipe out all bloodsuckers leads him to Dracula (dull Dominic Purcell), recently resurrected to help his demonic descendants take over the world. Or something like that. Except for the amusing inclusion of a vampire Pomeranian, writer-director David S. Goyer's thudding screenplay lacks a sense of the fantastic -- who wants to see endless car crashes in this context, or a foot chase between Dracula and Blade? 1/2

CLOSER How much you enjoy Closer depends on how charitable you feel toward the characters at the center of Mike Nichols' lacerating film. In it, four people (Julia Roberts, Jude Law, Natalie Portman and Clive Owen) in messy relationships take the notion of "brutal honesty" to such an extreme that their words suddenly qualify as deadly weapons. Viewers not interested in shifting through the rubble of these people's immorality in an effort to locate some common truths will have no use for this picture, the most divisive film about modern relations since Eyes Wide Shut. Others willing to dig deeper in an attempt to understand (if not always empathize with) these recognizably flawed human beings will be rewarded with some choice dialogue and a quartet of finely etched portrayals -- not to mention a heady buzz that will remain long after the movie's over. 1/2

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