Capsule reviews of recently released movies 

What to see, what to miss

Page 4 of 5

· MATCH POINT 4 stars. (R) As Jonathan Rhys-Meyers' calculating tennis pro ingratiates himself into a wealthy British family while pursuing a doomed affair with a self-destructive American actress (Scarlett Johansson, in her finest role to date), Match Point achieves an icily compelling tone comparable to The Talented Mr. Ripley that proves far more effective than the stodgy airlessness of Woody Allen's usual "heavy" pictures. In plot and theme, it plays like Crimes and Misdemeanors, only without the comedic misdemeanors. -- Holman

· MRS. HENDERSON PRESENTS 2 stars. (R) This British period piece depicts a rich widow (Judi Dench) who revolutionizes London theater by producing nude revues before and during World War II. Despite its polished sheen and the comfy comedic interplay of Dench and Bob Hoskins, Mrs. Henderson offers a skin-deep appraisal of its subject, avoiding any meaty debate of sexuality and freedom of expression. Instead it goes for doomed wartime romances and plucky, Oscar-worthy speeches that prove genuinely shameless. -- Holman

· MUNICH 4 stars. (R) In the aftermath of the massacre of 11 Israeli athletes by Palestinian terrorists during the 1972 Munich Olympics, the Israeli government sends a cadre of assassins led by Eric Bana to Europe to kill the Palestinian organizers of the terrorist attack. Though Bana has a hard time drawing us emotionally into his moral dilemma about killing, with a script co-written by Pulitzer Prize winner Tony Kushner ("Angels in America"), Munich has much to say about how governments often use individuals to do their dirty work, and how it is the foot soldiers, not the intellige. -- Feaster

· NANNY MCPHEE 3 stars. (PG) Nanny McPhee finds director Kirk Jones and scripter/star Emma Thompson similarly employing menacing situations, questionable comic material and oversized, often grotesque characters in an unorthodox attempt to arrive at a sentimental conclusion. Thompson, delivering a sharp performance under pounds of facial latex, plays the title character, a snaggletoothed, wart-sprouting nursemaid who mysteriously shows up to help a widower (Colin Firth) contend with his seven monstrous children. Nanny McPhee should play well with the small fry, though adults may be more bothered by the clumsy shifts in tone. -- Brunson

· THE NEW WORLD 2 stars. (PG-13) Stunning 14-year-old Q'Orianka Kilcher plays the Indian maiden who captivates British explorer Captain John Smith and proves as visually intoxicating to Malick as the unspoiled Eden of 17th-century Virginia before the Jamestown settlers muck things up. But exquisite beauty can only get you so far. Terrence Malick returns to a familiar theme of Eden ruined by human intervention but his often maddeningly precious vision is bogged down by molasses pacing and a belief that exposition is inconsequential next to the supremacy of an unspoiled girl and nature. -- Feaster

· THE PINK PANTHER 2 stars. (PG) "Not as bad as you thought" is not the same as "good." Director Shawn Levy and co-screenwriter Steve Martin revisit the bumbling '60s police Inspector Jacques Clouseau personified by Peter Sellers. Martin is entrusted with finding the killer of a well-known French soccer coach, and the usual pratfalls and run-ins with sexy ladies like Beyoncé Knowles ensue. Martin's goofiness is strained and derivative, far from Sellers in his better days, and the usual question with a Hollywood overhaul of a campy classic remains: Why? -- Feaster

· SOMETHING NEW 2 stars. (PG-13) Following in the footsteps of films like Guess Who's Coming to Dinner and Jungle Fever, Something New seeks to explore the complexities of interracial love. Unfortunately, this predictable tale of a black professional female (Sanaa Lathan) falling for a white landscaper (Simon Baker) is filled with a host of one-demensional characters and only provides a surface-level view of race and romance in America. -- Carlton Hargro

· SYRIANA 4 stars. (R) Brutally intelligent and often profoundly difficult to follow, Academy Award-winning screenwriter (Traffic) Stephen Gaghan's second directing effort replaces Traffic's drug war with the contemporary battle for oil. This engrossing, closely observed thriller concerns the interconnected lives of people touched by the international oil trade, including a CIA operative in the Middle East (George Clooney), a Geneva-based American energy analyst (Matt Damon), and a rising D.C. lawyer (Jeffrey Wright) who all have something to gain or lose from events in the oil-rich Middle East. -- Feaster

· TRANSAMERICA 2 stars. (R) Felicity Huffman ("Desperate Housewives") deserves praise for her well-observed performance as Bree Osbourne, a pre-op male-to-female transsexual anxiously awaiting her sex change operation. A hitch is thrown in her plan when an adult son (Kevin Zegers) she didn't know she had turns up and the pair drive from New York to California, meeting various kooks along the way. For a road movie about a trannie trying to keep her -- Feaster

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