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A Quick Glimpse at Five New Films

Dreamgirls is only opening on three screens this week. That leaves about 36,000 other screens to fill. Here's a look at five of the holiday season's other new offerings.

'The Pursuit of Happyness'

Will Smith plays a down-on-his-luck salesman caring for a 6-year-old son (played by Smith's real son, Jaden). The guy gets a competitive internship with Dean Witter to try to become a stockbroker not knowing it's a non-paying 6-month gig. Father and son become homeless halfway through the process. Based on a true story, the movie is a little too uplifting for its own good. But Smith got a Golden Globe nomination and is being talked up for an Oscar.


'Breaking and Entering'

Jude Law plays an architect investigating a burglary in his office. Juliette Binoche is the mother of the kid who stole things. The two find lots of parallels in their lives, so naturally they start an affair. Written and directed by Anthony (English Patient) Minghella, the film is chilly emotionally but pristine and well-constructed. It opened for a limited run in Los Angeles to qualify for Oscar consideration.


'The Good German'

George Clooney is journalist in post-war Germany, Toby Maguire is his army driver who’s involved in the black market, Cate Blanchett is Greta Garbo … er … I mean, a married prostitute who comes between them. Directed by Steven Soderbergh in black and white, using old microphones, the picture has the feel of a post-war film. An exercise in style more than a strong narrative, the movie is hard to follow but easy to admire.


'Charlotte's Web'

This live-action adaptation of the classic children's novel gets a computer assist for the spider (and for other critters, too). It's holiday treacle for the under-10 set. Oprah Winfrey voices a goose, Julia Roberts the titular spider and the supporting cast includes the voices of Steve Buscemi as Templeton the rat and Robert Redford as Ike the horse. Wilbur the pig, who befriends Charlotte is voiced by newcomer Dominick Scott Kay. Charlotte is acceptable if not stellar family entertainment.



The title character is a dragon flyer. His winged mount can read his thoughts and he can read hers. Jeremy Irons says things like "before you can cast a spell, you must learn the magic language of the elves" while helping battle wicked king John Malkovich. If the thing had even an ounce of camp it might be mild fun. Instead, it wants to start a Lord of the-Rings-style franchise, and it's more or less insufferable.

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Bob Mondello, who jokes that he was a jinx at the beginning of his critical career — hired to write for every small paper that ever folded in Washington, just as it was about to collapse — saw that jinx broken in 1984 when he came to NPR.