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Capsule reviews: 'Red Riding Hood,' 'Jane Eyre'

The Associated Press, Thursday, March 10, 2011, 12:36pm (PST)

Capsule reviews of films opening this week:

"Battle: Los Angeles": Jonathan Liebesman's disaster film doesn't rely as much as others in the genre on the gleeful horror of seeing familiar landmarks burn. Instead, this West Coast version of alien invasion distinguishes itself as an urban warfare film and a patriotic ad for the Marines. A dozen alien ships land on Earth — we only care about the one just off L.A. — and in the ensuing carnage, a platoon of Marines are sent into the fray with the seemingly inconsequential mission of rescuing a handful of civilians (Bridget Moynahan, Michael Pena). The weary veteran Staff Sgt. Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) isn't their lieutenant (Ramon Rodriguez), but he's effectively their leader in survival and Marine honor. The talented Eckhart and Liebesman manage to pull off the ultra-seriousness for much of the film, before a laughable speech of teary-eyed inspiration finally does them in. There's oddly little sense of Los Angeles throughout. Instead, the movie stays close to the ground, bogged down in block-by-block combat. L.A. traffic triumphs again. PG-13 for sustained and intense sequences of war violence and destruction, and for language. 116 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.

— Jake Coyle, AP Entertainment Writer

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"Jane Eyre" — There's been no shortage of film versions of Charlotte Bronte's classic tale of romance and woe. Now, yet another take on the 1847 novel has come to the screen, with Cary Joji Fukunaga directing Moira Buffini's script, which shakes things up by messing with the narrative structure. It begins with Jane fleeing the imposing Thornfield Hall in hysterics and is told mainly in flashback, which creates tension from the start — even if you know the story. Fukunaga may seem like an odd choice to direct such revered literary material; his last film, "Sin Nombre," was a contemporary and violent tale of Central Americans making their way through Mexico on their way to the United States. But both are about people searching for a place to belong, and they share a visceral immediacy. Visually and tonally, his "Jane Eyre" is muted, stripped-down; it's gooey and marshy, vast and grassy, anything but lush — and that's what makes it beautiful. The pacing might even be a bit too low-key, but because it is, and because the attraction between Jane and Rochester simmers for so long, it makes the passionate bursts stand out even more. Regardless of aesthetics, the relationship between these two guarded people is at the heart of the story — it's the source of emotion — and Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender challenge and beguile each other beautifully. PG-13 for thematic elements including a nude image and brief violent content. 103 minutes. Three stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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"Red Riding Hood" — This aims not for little girls who want to hear a fairy tale before they go to sleep at night, but rather for teenage girls who want a soapy melodrama full of angst and hair product — with some supernatural flourishes thrown in. Does that sound vaguely familiar to you? It should. "Red Riding Hood" suggests what it might look like if the kids from "Twilight" got dressed up and went to the Renaissance Faire. And that is not a good thing. Catherine Hardwicke, who directed the first "Twilight" movie, is working from a script by "Orphan" writer David Leslie Johnson, which takes this classic story and turns it into a medieval love triangle. Valerie (Amanda Seyfried) would rather be with the bad boy she loves than the good guy she's been arranged to marry. She knows that Peter (Shiloh Fernandez), a hunky woodcutter, is wrong for her, but she longs to run away with him, rather than live a safe, comfortable life with Henry (Max Irons), a hunky blacksmith. They all live in a tiny village on the edge of a dark, dangerous forest, where everyone is more on edge than usual following the latest werewolf attack. Hardwicke depicts the place in haunted fashion, with scenery and lighting that often have a misty, ethereal, almost otherworldly glow. But then the set design feels super chintzy, like something you'd see in a theme park. PG-13 for violence and creature terror, and some sensuality. 100 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.

— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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