Leah Rozen and Lesley Messer
September 24, 2007 12:00 PM

The Brave One
Jodie Foster, Terrence Howard, Nicky Katt, Naveen Andrews | R |

It doesn’t matter how many fancy condiments you pile on a hot dog—it’s still a hot dog. And there’s no disguising that this vile and eventually silly film, about a woman (Foster) who turns vigilante after she is beaten up and her fiancé (Andrews) is killed by muggers in New York City, is nothing more than a pretentious reworking of Death Wish, the loathsome 1974 smash about a self-appointed urban avenger. Sure, Foster is prettier than Wish’s pug-mugged Charles Bronson, and characters here quote D.H. Lawrence and Emily Dickinson to add gloss, but that’s window dressing. When Foster, shooting a mugger who has stolen her pooch, snarls, “I want my dog back,” we know exactly where the movie is aiming. And it isn’t high.

Eastern Promises
Viggo Mortensen, Naomi Watts | R |


Playing a Russian mobster in London, a naked Mortensen finds himself grappling with assassins in a city bathhouse. The scene is simultaneously funny, scary and shockingly gory—and marks Eastern as another enthrallingly pulpy but affecting and multilayered crime drama from maverick director David Cronenberg (A History of Violence).

Across the Universe
George Harrison’s guitar might gently weep, but at other times it would likely be delighted at the use made of his songs and those of his mop-topped bandmates in a wildly ambitious musical set during the 1960s. Youthful characters prance about, stare at each other yearningly and sing tunes by the Beatles, as riots, love-ins and the Vietnam War break out around them. It’s alternately thrilling, silly and way excessive. Director Julie Taymor (Frida) has gathered a fetching cast, including Jim Sturgess, Evan Rachel Wood and Joe Anderson (a twin for Kurt Cobain, if there’s ever a biopic). (PG-13)

In the Valley of Elah
The older he gets, the more Tommy Lee Jones pares his acting down—to exactly what’s needed. He’s outstanding in an uneven drama about a Vietnam vet doggedly digging for answers to the sudden disappearance of his soldier son, who’d just returned from Iraq. Written and directed by Paul Haggis (Crash), Elah works, thanks to Jones, as a haunting portrait of one man’s grief and persistence but seems muddleheaded when trying to make points about the effect of the current conflict on the troops serving. Susan Sarandon, as Jones’ wife, has several poignant scenes. (R)

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