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Zoe Saldana tries to help Bradley Cooper act his way out of a wrinkled linen shirt.
"THE WORDS" (PG-13) HH
BRADLEY COOPER, JEREMY IRONS, ZOE SALDANA, DENNIS QUAID
Does this film with so much promise fail because it's told in a wordy and stilted way, or because lead actor Bradley Cooper isn't up to the challenge?
Unfortunately, both are true, sinking this tale that occasionally develops an emotional connection with viewers.
The part that works: the post-World War II tale that involves a young American soldier and the French beauty he falls for.
The tale-within-a-tale becomes the story of the soldier, who deals with a horrible loss and turns his experience into a heartfelt book.
Those personal pages, which go missing, are found decades later by moderately talented writer Rory Jansen (Cooper), who publishes the story as his own to great acclaim.
The buzz draws out the original author, who confronts Jansen about his plagiarism.
The now-aged soldier/writer is played by Jeremy Irons with power and a sad dignity that makes the characters around him pale in comparison.
It also makes clear how one-note and weak the performances are from Cooper and the actress who plays his wife, Zoe Saldana.
Toss in a third-level narrator of a book about this theft of a book and things get so disjointed and muddled that all the emotional connections fostered by the wartime tale simply fade away.
Cooper's role is the key, but it calls on him to display more anguish and pain than he is capable of. Absent that, what could have been a very personal tale of love and loss is sapped of its power.
The actor who worked well in comedies like "The Hangover" simply strains to look sad, not succeeding in any serious way.
Rated PG-13 for brief strong language and smoking, 96 min. [MC, RA, RF]
"THE COLD LIGHT OF DAY" (PG-13) HH
HENRY CAVILL, BRUCE WILLIS, SIGOURNEY WEAVER, VERÓNICA ECHEGUI
A movie that starts off with great promise and an interesting performance from actor Henry Cavill eventually dissolves into a run-of-the-mill spy caper.
It's a shame, because the tale of a son suddenly thrust into a spy struggle is set up so well.
It begins with a family sailing trip off the coast of Spain, with an overbearing father (Bruce Willis) at the helm.
When son Will (Cavill) has had enough and heads on shore for a break, the family is kidnapped and Dad re-emerges to explain his part in the crime.
There are fun moments, some interesting action and Sigourney Weaver briefly steals the show as a tough spy.
As the son who suddenly needs to fight his father's battles, Cavill does well enough to make you think the young actor has better films in his future.
But it all sort of falls apart by film's end, the double-cross theme all but forgotten as plot gives way to long chases on foot, motorcycles and cars.
Rated PG-13 for language and sexual content, 93 min. [PV]
"TOYS IN THE ATTIC" (PG) HH
FOREST WHITAKER, JOAN CUSACK, CARY ELWES
(Leaves after tonight.) This animated feature is creative in a way that goes well beyond the simple story that will appeal to kids.
That's because it exists in a unique world--an attic that's divided into the land of happy toys in the West and the Land of Evil in the East.
A ruthless leader, Head of State, rules with the support of various minions, insects and rotted vegetables.
When a lovely toy is kidnapped and held prisoner by The Head, a teddy bear, a mechanical mouse and a puppet cross the boundary to attempt a rescue.
Though the film gets a bit dark at times, it comes to life so creatively that it's fun to simply watch it unfold.
Rated PG for mild peril and brief smoking, 76 min. [RF]
H Don't waste your time.
HH Nothing special
HHHH A must-see