HOTSHOTS

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film -

Death De­fy­ing Acts ( PG): This is not a bi­og­ra­phy of the great il­lu­sion­ist Harry Hou­dini but a fic­tion­alised ro­mance be­tween Hou­dini ( Guy Pearce) and a Scot­tish con­fi­dence trick­ster ( Catherine Zeta- Jones). It’s a hand­some pro­duc­tion from Gil­lian Arm­strong but, sadly, not a con­vinc­ing one. — David Stratton

The Other Bo­leyn Girl ( M): Natalie Port­man and Scar­lett Jo­hans­son bring much- needed star ap­peal to this long- winded his­tor­i­cal soap opera, based on Philippa Gre­gory’s novel about Anne Bo­leyn, her less re­mem­bered sis­ter Mary and the lust­ful Henry VIII ( Eric Bana). Hand­some, fruity and shal­low. — E. W.

Van­tage Point ( M): A silly but per­versely en­joy­able con­spir­acy the­ory thriller about a plot to kill the US pres­i­dent ( William Hurt) in Spain. Told from sev­eral points of view, and with a strong cast ( Den­nis Quaid, Sigour­ney Weaver, For­est Whi­taker), the film makes up for its nar­ra­tive short­com­ings through the skill with which it is staged. — D. S.

The Black Bal­loon ( M): Wri­ter­di­rec­tor Elissa Down has made one of the best Aus­tralian films of re­cent years, an ex­hil­a­rat­ing story of sub­ur­ban fam­ily life and the an­guish of teenage love. A fine per­for­mance from Luke Ford as an autis­tic boy, with mem­o­rable sup­port from Rhys Wake­field, Toni Col­lette and model Gemma Ward. — E. W.

Para­noid Park ( M): Gus Van Sant’s latest is a min­i­mal­ist drama cen­tring on an inar­tic­u­late 16- year- old skate­boarder ( Gabe Nevins). Fine cin­e­matog­ra­phy by Aus­tralia’s Christo­pher Doyle can’t com­pen­sate for the need­lessly frac­tured nar­ra­tive and in­ap­pro­pri­ate mu­sic. — D. S.

Sleuth ( M): An­thony Shaf­fer’s ven­er­a­ble mys­tery play, filmed in 1972 with Lau­rence Olivier and Michael Caine, is given a hi- tech gloss in Ken­neth Branagh’s stylish re­make, with Caine play­ing the Olivier role and Jude Law as his spar­ring part­ner in a dan­ger­ous bat­tle of wits. De­vi­ous and en­gross­ing. — E. W.

The Eye ( M): A pol­ished su­per­nat­u­ral thriller about a blind con­cert vi­o­lin­ist ( Jes­sica Alba) who has fright­en­ing vi­sions af­ter her sight is re­stored in an op­er­a­tion. Un­der­stated di­rec­tion from David Moreau and Xavier Palud gives fresh­ness to an old story, with re­minders of The Sixth Sense . — Evan Wil­liams

Run, Fat­boy, Run ( M): A Bri­tish com­edy that, like Death at a Funeral , is di­rected by an Amer­i­can, David Sch­wim­mer, who brings a fresh eye to the Lon­don back­drops. Si­mon Pegg is in tremen­dous form as the hope­less hero who shapes up to try to win back the wo­man he loves. — D. S. Our crit­ics avoid

Clos­ing the Ring ( M): Richard At­ten­bor­ough’s new film cuts back and forth be­tween 1944 and 1991, but this story of lost love is com­pro­mised by un­likely sit­u­a­tions and un­be­liev­able char­ac­ters, two played by Mis­cha Bar­ton and Shirley MacLaine. — D. S.

Sharp fo­cus: Jes­sica Alba in The Eye

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