Capsule reviews of recently released movies

Bridge to Terabithia, Factory Girl, Ghost Rider

Upcoming Releases

BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA (PG) Katherine Paterson's much-loved children's book comes to the big screen, with Josh Hutcherson and AnnaSophia Robb as the lonely kids who enter a magical fantasy world. Also stars Zooey Deschanel and Robert Patrick. Opens Feb. 16 at local theaters. (Not Reviewed)

FACTORY GIRL (R) Sienna Miller stars as Warhol superstar Edie Sedgwick, who crashed and burned following a brief reign as the darling of New York's underground scene. Wish we could tell you more, but the film's distributors couldn't get it together to screen this in time for our review. Also stars Hayden Christensen, Jimmy Fallon, Mena Suvari and Guy Pearce (as Warhol). Opens Feb. 16 at local theaters. (Not Reviewed)

GHOST RIDER (PG-13) Nicolas Cage is mad as hell and he's not gonna take it anymore. Regardless of what else might be going on here, it should be fun watching Cage camp it up as a flaming, skull-faced biker from hell, in what is almost sure to be a special-effects-laden comic book extravaganza. Also stars Wes Bentley, Eva Mendes, Sam Elliot and Peter Fonda. Opens Feb. 16 at local theaters. (Not Reviewed)


BABEL (R) Many tongues are spoken and many stories interwoven in Alejandro Gonzales Innaritu's Babel, but, like those blind men feeling up the elephant, each of the movie's characters has only the foggiest notion of the big picture of which they're a part. Babel continues the patented blend of interlocking narratives and scrambled time frames that Innaritu and screenwriting partner Guillermo Arriaga dished out in Amores Perros and 21 Grams, a method that links its characters' lives by a series of coincidences rendered cosmic in the unbearable randomness of being. In Babel's version of chaos theory, a butterfly flaps its wings somewhere and a Japanese businessman on vacation gives his hunting rifle to a Moroccan guide, eventually resulting in the guide's youngster accidentally putting a bullet in Brad Pitt's wife (Cate Blanchette). This in turn causes Pitt's and Blanchette's housekeeper, on the other side of the world, to risk missing her son's wedding unless she brings the couple's kids with her to Mexico, where beautiful and dangerous things await. And so on and so on. There are some painfully potent moments here, but the filmmakers' grasp sometimes exceeds their reach; simply put, we too often feel the movie straining to supply the connections necessary for making sense of the chaos. Still, Babel is bound and determined to pull off its cosmic hat trick and, even with all the metaphysical doodling and contrived rearranging of structure, the film gives us slabs of emotion that ring raw and true, with an English Patient-esque mix of ingenious editing, seductive cinematography and solid performances that goes a long way toward winning us over. Also stars Gael Garcia Bernal, Koji Yakusho, Adriana Barraza, Rinko Kikuchi and Elle Fanning. 3.5 stars

CHARLOTTE'S WEB (G) An interspecies three-way love story between a spider, a pig and a human (strictly platonic, though, so no worries), Charlotte's Web takes place in a "deeply ordinary place," where the rule of order is thrown out of whack when young Fern (Dakota Fanning) and kindly spider Charlotte make it their mission to save a guileless Gump of a piglet from the chopping block. There are no villains here per se, just the way of the world, which goes a long way toward explaining why the lessons of Charlotte's Web remain so resonant, both for children and adults. The digital effects here are mostly very good and surprisingly tasteful, fitting right in with the simple, unpretentious feel of the movie — and although a few obligatory fart jokes do insinuate themselves into the proceedings (and yes, that's Steve Buscemi's voice you hear, typecast once again as the rat), the movie survives that, too. The characters of Charlotte's Web, human and animal alike, inhabit a world where it's easy to believe that the extraordinary dwells in every moment, that a pig really can be radiant, a spider beautiful and a rat trustworthy. Also stars Kevin Anderson, Julia Roberts, Steve Buscemi, Beau Bridges, John Cleese and Sam Shepard. 3.5 stars

CHILDREN OF MEN (R) A devastating re-tooling of that ol' dystopian sci-fi blues from director Afonso Cuaron (Y Tu Mama Tambien, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban). Children of Men puts us uncomfortably up close and personal with a very near-future (2027, to be exact) in which the world has fallen into anarchy, disease and military dictatorships run rampant, and humans are no longer capable of reproducing. Our guide through the chaos is an ex-activist turned civil servant (a rumpled, world-weary Clive Owen) who somehow finds himself charged with seeing to the safety of the world's last pregnant woman. The film eventually becomes less politically charged cautionary tale and more full-blown action-thriller, but Cuaron is equally adept at both. It's all quite exhilarating, in its gritty, downbeat way, and perhaps just a little too believable. Also stars Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Charlie Hunnam and Claire-Hope Ashitey. 4 stars