Film Openings

Week of February 23, 2006

Doogal. Four friends set out to find magic diamonds — lest they fall into the hands of the evil Zeebad, who threatens to put the world into a deep freeze. This animated film features the voices of Jon Stewart and Whoopi Goldberg. (not reviewed) ARN, CGX, CC12, DP, EG, J14, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL, WO

Medea's Family Reunion. A grandma's work is never done — that's why, in this movie, Grams packs heat as she copes with her wacky family and their troubles. Written and directed by Tyler Perry. (reviewed) ARN, CGX, CC12, DP, EQ, GL, J14, KEN, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL, WO

Running Scared. (R) Paul Walker plays Joey Gazelle, a mob associate in New Jersey who stashes evidence in his basement. His young son Nicky is good friends with the neighbor boy Oleg, whose stepfather is a nutcase Russian crystal meth addict with a giant John Wayne tattoo on his back (and he's downright subtle compared to some of the characters we meet later). One day, when the boys are playing, Oleg sees the evidence stashed in Joey's house, takes a distinctive gun home with him, and shoots his stepfather, before running away into the night. Problem is, that particular gun was used in the murder of a crooked police officer, and now mobsters, cops, and other nutjob Russians are all trying to find it. Thus begins a long night for Joey, who has to find and get rid of the gun before anyone else can prove it exists. Writer-director Wayne Kramer (The Cooler) is about as skilled at storytelling as Walker is at acting, which is to say not very. (Luke Y. Thompson) ARN, CGX, CC12, DP, EQ, J14, MR, OF, RON, SP, STCH, STCL, WO

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada. (R) Tommy Lee Jones, making his directorial debut, stars as a ranch foreman named Pete Perkins, who seems to be the only one bothered when Melquiades Estrada turns up dead in the desert. Meanwhile, we also follow the settling in of border agent Mike Norton (Barry Pepper). Once you realize that Jones is playing around with timelines, it's easier to follow, and the inevitability of events becomes clear. Norton's a brutal enforcer of border laws, but he doesn't mean to kill. By the time Perkins realizes who was responsible — and that no one is interested in bringing the accidental killer to justice — he's intent on fulfilling the commitment he once made to Estrada, to ensure the dead man is laid to rest in his homeland. Not only will Perkins dig up the body and haul it back to Mexico; he'll bring Norton with him, forcing the man to confront his crime. As a modern-day western, the movie is memorable, though Perkins is such a crazy SOB that you don't always like him. (Thompson) TV