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Week of February 15, 2007

Breach. (PG-13) Breach plays like a sequel of sorts to Billy Ray's last film, Shattered Glass, about the fabulist Stephen Glass, fired from The New Republic for proffering fiction as fact. Only this time, FBI-agent-turned-KGB-spy Robert Hanssen, played here by Chris Cooper with stolid, brute force, wasn't just a lying twerp but a certified bad man who, for more than two decades, sold thousands of secrets to the Russian government. Cooper plays him as history has portrayed him: a sneering, self-righteous counterintelligence genius whose Nowhere Man exterior belied a darker truth. Ryan Phillippe, up to now seeming like a minor-leaguer swinging a small stick in the bigs, is perfectly cast as Eric O'Neill, who worked as Hanssen's assistant and helped lead to his 2001 arrest. Like the inferior The Good Shepherd, whose release late last year caused Universal to bump Breach to the February graveyard, this is a spy movie bereft of the genre's usual, casual kicks. Ray's more interested in dissecting the relationship between a ticked-off traitor who thought he'd found a kindred spirit and a true believer who didn't want to admit that his father figure was one of the world's most dangerous men. (Robert Wilonsky) ARN, CPP, CMP, DP, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, TS12

Bridge to Terabithia. (PG) Don't be fooled by the CGI-laden, Narnia-lite trailers for Bridge to Terabithia: Far from a computer-generated escapist fantasy, this film is an unpretentious and touching tale of preteen companionship and loss. Terabithia is the story of fifth-grade loner Jess Aarons (Josh Hutcherson), whose sensitive, artistic temperament isolates him from the towheaded bullies at school and his hardheaded father at home. Liberation from solitude comes in the form of sprightly Leslie (AnnaSophia Robb), whose flair for fiction and exaggerated anime cuteness brings Jess out of his shell. The pair form a bond based on a made-up world called Terabithia, located in the woods behind their homes. Director Gabor Csupo (of Rugrats "fame") brings out nuanced performances from Hutcherson and Robb, whose characters steer clear of cutesy tween stereotypes. But it's Jess' relationship with his father, played by Robert Patrick, that elevates Terabithia from a good kids movie to a classic contender. (Jessica Grose) ARN, CGX, DP, EG, GL, J14, MR, OF, RON, STCH, STCL, TS12

Daddy's Little Girls. A single dad's three children graciously welcome his new love into their fam and everything turns out great. Ha-ha, just kidding. Written and directed by Tyler Perry. (not reviewed) ARN, CGX, DP, EG, GL, J14, KEN, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL, TS12 Factory Girl. (R) Reviewed in this issue. (Nathan Lee) CPP, DP, PF

Ghost Rider. Being a hot-dog stunt cyclist based on a Marvel comics character has more than the obvious drawbacks: for Johnny Blaze, it means getting vengeance and the chick, preserving justice and his dying pops. Don't these guys ever get some vacay? (not reviewed) ARN, CGX, DP, EG, GL, J14, KEN, MR, MOO, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL, TS12

Music and Lyrics. (PG-13) Hugh Grant plays Alex Fletcher, "the other guy in PoP!," an '80s new-wave act that counted among its hits a hammy-and-cheesy ditty called "PoP! Goes My Heart." Alex, still squeezing into tight trousers and singing the oldies, has gone on to a dispiriting life of county-fair and high-school-reunion gigs, but he's offered a second chance when pop star Cora Corman asks him to write the last song on her album — and, of course, he has less than a week to do it. Alex finds a collaborator in his (yeah, here it comes) interim plant-watering lady, the hypochondriac Sophie Fisher (Drew Barrymore), a moon-June-spoon kind of gal who provides Alex with just the grade-school poetry he needs to compose that last-second hit single. Affable though it can be, Music and Lyrics ultimately feels as though it were made to fit a date on a studio's release schedule, a Valentine's Day bonbon crafted by machines with little thought to casting (Grant looks right but sounds wrong) or purpose. Writer-director Marc Lawrence doesn't seem to have enough faith in the material to go deeper, so his film becomes like everything else on the radio now: forgettable. (Wilonsky) ARN, CPP, CGX, DP, EG, GL, J14, KEN, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL, TS12

 
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