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EW review: 'Dreamer' lacks horse sense

Also: Silly 'Stay,' muddled 'Doom,' uneven 'Shopgirl'

By Gregory Kirschling
Entertainment Weekly

Dreamer
Kurt Russell and Dakota Fanning in "Dreamer."

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(Entertainment Weekly) -- One more feel-great sports movie with a teen-poetry title and Kurt Russell will have himself a trilogy.

A year after the hockey fable "Miracle," the actor stars in "Dreamer," a horse-race drama whose complete handle is "Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story," inelegantly disarming any criticism of the movie's believability from the get-go. It's the tale of a lame filly saved from death and turned into a champion by a trainer (Russell) and his daughter (old pro Dakota Fanning).

That part's OK; the final race even gets you going a bit. But "Miracle" was better because there, Russell's character made sense. Here, for no real reason, he acts aloof around his kid, and the forced family dynamics just drag the movie down.

EW Grade: C+

'Stay'

Reviewed by Lisa Schwarzbaum

I stuck with "Stay" as long as I could.

I understood that Ewan McGregor plays a Manhattan psychiatrist named Sam, Naomi Watts plays Sam's fragile artist girlfriend, Lila (she's got the wrist scars of a would-be suicide), and Ryan Gosling is Henry, a rabidly depressed college student under Sam's care who's also an artist, also suicidal, and also ... well, maybe he's also Sam. Or an aspect of Sam. Or else Sam is an aspect of Henry. Maybe Henry is an aspect of Lila. Maybe what we think is reality is all an illusion. Maybe illusion is actually reality.

Maybe we're all jacked into the Matrix.

Eventually I gave up on meaning and began instead to study the profuse imagery -- and also the flat characters and anchorless performances -- as if the whole were an art installation from Swiss-German director Marc Forster ("Finding Neverland") and New York screenwriter David Benioff ("Troy"). See how Sam wears high-water pants; notice the groupings of twins and triplets in the background. Here is the Brooklyn Bridge, and Manhattan skyscapes, and Bob Hoskins as a blind man with his eyes rolled up in his head.

Are we not all blind pedestrians on the Brooklyn Bridge? No? Then I can't stay.

EW Grade: C

'Doom'

Reviewed by Marc Bernardin

It's pretty clear by now that characters in sci-fi movies have never seen a sci-fi movie. Otherwise, tomorrowland marines like Sarge (The Rock, finally giving that eyebrow thing a rest), Reaper ("The Lord of the Rings' " Karl Urban), and the rest of their rescue squad would know that those suddenly dead scientists on the Martian archaeological outpost -- you know, the ones who experimented with chromosomes they found just lying around -- surely hatched something evil.

Still, by hewing close to James Cameron's "Aliens" playbook, "Doom" manages to escape the game-to-movie curse that afflicted "Resident Evil," "House of the Dead," and, well, every other movie based on a game. And unless you've been keeping tabs on how The Rock's career choices mirror Ah-nuld's, there's a nifty reversal at the end that you won't see coming.

EW Grade: C+

'Shopgirl'

Reviewed by Lisa Schwarzbaum

Mirabelle (Claire Danes), the drooping long-stemmed rose who sells fancy gloves in the depressive and self-regarding not-quite-love story "Shopgirl," is passive in most things. Attracting the romantic attention of both Jason Schwartzman as Jeremy, an uncouth, insolvent young guy, and Steve Martin as Ray, a financially generous but emotionally stoppered older man, she accepts no responsibility for her own fate.

Only in her wardrobe, apparently, does she -- or the costume designer of this pinched New Yorker short story of a project -- get to express a muted, refined sense of herself as the kind of young woman who deserves better things, finer things, things that could only be provided by Steve Martin's kind of older man.

Martin, after all, wrote the screenplay, based on his precisely carved novella of the same name. He produced. He certainly stars. And although "Hilary and Jackie's" Anand Tucker directed, mixing in the visual flourishes of an old-time glamorous Hollywood romance (and loading on the aural gold leaf with Barrington Pheloung's intrusive score), it is Martin's romantic melancholy we surely see, refracted through the prism of Ray's cultured taste in sushi, art, and girls as poetically chic as Claire Danes. (She gives off a lunar glow -- part moonlit, part living-dead.)

In their way, Mirabelle and Ray are the deracinated West Coast equivalents of a Woody Allen couple -- she a lovely, somber thing who can't resist his erudition, he a proud snob who only thinks he's confessing his flaws with admirable honesty. In fact, Ray -- and "Shopgirl" -- appear all too wistfully satisfied with not giving enough.

EW Grade: B-

'Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang'

Reviewed by Lisa Schwarzbaum

The deliriously enjoyable noir comedy-thriller "Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang" does nothing by halves and everything by doubles. Nudge nudge.

There's the twofer title, evocative of ripe pulp fiction on page and screen -- the same muscular phrase with which the late tough-dame film critic Pauline Kael herself defined the basic appeal of movies. There's the cheeky, talk-bedazzled script by Shane Black, making a sharp directorial debut, who machine-guns twice as many words as the average dialogue slinger (and four times as many killer lines, most of them spilling from the mouth of an on-screen narrator in a stream-of-meta torrent that acknowledges the experience of watching the movie).

And the story itself multiplies meanings as it chases the tale of a petty thief, running from the cops down the mean streets of New York City, who is mistaken for an actor wannabe at an audition for a detective movie, then flown out to Tinseltown for a screen test, where he prepares for playing the role of gumshoe by shadowing a tough private eye who goes by the name of Gay Perry, because he is. Gay.

Best of all, "Kiss Kiss" offers the double-your-pleasure thrills of watching Robert Downey Jr., at the top of his game playing thief-turned-actor-turned-PI Harry Lockhart, and Val Kilmer, divine as the fabulously macho Gay Perry. The duo make a whole greater than the sum of their parts, a couple of highly flammable actors as famous for their volatile offscreen reputations as for their redoubtable acting chops.

And the enjoyment is intense times two, since what gossip pages have already told us about each man adds to our satisfaction in seeing the pair so redeemed by good discipline and good, healthy skin tone.

Downey has played fast-talking, hyper-smart, self-destructive types before -- he did an undervalued, dark-side variation on the species in the obsessive remake of "The Singing Detective" -- but his Harry is an apotheosis of the ilk, and in taking him on, the star is at the apex of his charms. (Few mess-prone actors elicit such goodwill from those around him, in part because his talent is so damn abundant.)

Kilmer, meanwhile, has never looked like this -- so big yet precise, and so at ease with Perry's caustic, intrinsic homosexuality. Anybody armed with Black's sparkling dialogue (created for a character as tough and confident as he is queer) could, I suppose, have lived it up as Gay Perry. But none, I daresay, could have made the splash of the former Batman.

Harry meets a skirt named Harmony Faith Lane (played with panache by star-to-watch Michelle Monaghan), who comes to L.A. looking for stardom, and who gets kicked around, as broads in her condition of ambition sometimes do. And Harry helps her when she gets into a pickle, the two of them bound by a shared devotion to out-of-style dime novels featuring a silky gumshoe called Jonny Gossamer.

But really, in the gossamer Hollywood conjured by "Kiss Kiss," the character of Harry helps Downey rediscover his shine. Downey helps Kilmer relocate his sparkle. And Black, who first exploded the possibilities of character-driven, buddy-based action flicks two decades ago with his revolutionary script for "Lethal Weapon," gets a bang bang out of rehabilitating two of the least likely heroes in Tinseltown.

EW Grade: A-


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