Jack Garner, Gannett News Service: If your ideas of wholesome entertainment include the books of Roald Dahl and the films of Tim Burton, "Lemony Snicket" is up your eerie alleyway...

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“Lemony Snicket’s A Series

of Unfortunate Events”

Jack Garner, Gannett News Service: If your ideas of wholesome entertainment include the books of Roald Dahl and the films of Tim Burton, “Lemony Snicket” is up your eerie alleyway. Jim Carrey grabs hold of his scenes with unrestrained vigor. It’s an in-your-face performance filmgoers will either love or hate.

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Stephen Whitty, Newhouse News Service: Wrong, or at least problematic, is the casting of Jim Carrey as Count Olaf. Olaf’s deviltry is delicate, but Carrey thinks subtlety is a dirty word and slams home every other line with a leer. A stronger director could have sharpened the performance by toning down the worst of Carrey’s excesses.

“House of Flying Daggers”

Jami Bernard, New York Daily News: “House of Flying Daggers” is the most gorgeous movie of the year. This smashing martial-arts romance from Chinese director Zhang Yimou is stunning in other ways, too, like the eroticism that ripples just beneath the surface. It is an anti-gravity, subtitled love story in which people fight for their ideals even when it robs them of their heart’s desire. The story uses a political backdrop for what turns out to be an aching melodrama that builds to an operatic crescendo.

Lisa Rose, Newhouse News Service: “House of Flying Daggers” is particularly over-the-top. Images shriek with color, sounds boom with mythic clamor and, when it comes to emotional content, the whole thing is an orgy of heartache. The romantic adventure catches the eye but never penetrates the psyche, offering an hour-plus of action bliss before devolving into melodramatic hooey.


Roger Moore, The Orlando Sentinel: The good news for Adam Sandler is that he can put those “Waterboy II: Bottom of the Bucket” plans on hold. The bad news is “Spanglish” is not a James L. Brooks classic. Fumbling around with too many characters and too many issues, he can’t find the heart of the story, or give heart to the part of it he chose to focus on. “Spanglish” manages to be cute and funny, but something was lost in translation.

Lisa Rose, Newhouse News Service: “Spanglish” would be a perfectly mediocre dramedy if not for one monstrously bombastic performance: Téa Leoni mugs without remorse, compromising the credibility of every scene she’s in.

“Flight of the Phoenix”

Chris Hewitt, Knight Ridder Newspapers: There may not be many surprises in the desert adventure, but “Flight of the Phoenix” has its pluses, too. The initial crash is spectacular and the survivors are a likable bunch.

Lisa Rose, Newhouse News Service: “Phoenix” doesn’t deliver much in the way of inspiration or adrenaline, but the film works on at least one level: It is highly effective in conveying the sense of being stranded.