Now in theaters: Seabiscuit, Laura Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, and Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over.
Seabiscuit The Great Depression didn't get its name because everybody was having so much fun. We needed a hero back then and we found him in Seabiscuit, the ultimate long shot, the undersized racehorse who lost his first race but never quit.
"Don't throw a whole life away because it's banged up a little," says Chris Cooper, who plays horse trainer Tom Smith.
Cooper is talking about a horse. But he might as well have been talking about Depression-ravaged America, and just about every person in it.
This isn't a movie about a horse. It's a movie about people, and that's why it's almost an hour before Seabiscuit makes his first appearance. Writer-director Gary Ross wants us to know these people and the time they lived in.
Seabiscuit is two hours of gloriously beautiful filmmaking. And not one car chase. Yes, Hollywood, it can be done.
Cooper, Tobey Maguire and Jeff Bridges are superb, as are the cinematography, Randy Newman's score, and film editing that brings the races to life.
This is Oscar-caliber work that combines to make your heart race like you're not just rooting for Seabiscuit, but like you have money on him.
And it's all true, except for William H. Macy's character, invented to add humor that this drama doesn't need. It's the one time the script pulls up lame.
Seabiscuit starts slow, finishes fast, not an eye without a tear, not a throat without a lump. It jumps out of the gate as a front-runner in the race for Hollywood's Triple Crown: best actor, best direction and best picture. Grade: A-
Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life
The second Laura Croft film takes us from Croft Manor in England to the shadows of Mount Kilimanjaro in England to China, doing what the Bond films used to do — taking us to amazing places in amazing ways, foiling a fiendish villain out to rule the world.
But she's Bond, Jane Bond. And even the East German judge would rate Angelina Jolie higher than 007.
Lara Croft is pure popcorn, lighter than air and a little bit greasy. And the rare summer sequel that's even more fun than the first. Grade: B
Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over
Spy Kids 3-D is a movie turned into a video game. There's a lot of hand-to-hand action, just like a video game, that gets harder as you move up a level. Also, like a video game, there is no story. You have no idea who is fighting whom. Or why.
I loved how the first two Spy Kids movies stressed the importance of family. You could see how proudly Hispanic this family is. But that barely show up here. You also don't see much of Antonio Banderas, who can't be on camera for more than three minutes.
The film does feature a parade of stars, most of them played by Sylvester Stallone.
Even the 3-D effects will be more fun to watch at home on video. And I don't think you'll have to wait very long. Grade: D+