Flight of the Phoenix John Moore. (PG-13) If a plane crashes in the desert, does anybody hear? That's the poser that cargo pilot Dennis Quaid faces when his plane belly-flops in the middle of the searing Gobi with a bunch of oil-rig workers on board. A seemingly ideal setup for an escapist winter flick, this half-hearted, half-witted remake of Robert Aldrich's compelling 1965 tale of survival, ingenuity and teamwork generates no heat. John Moore (Behind Enemy Lines) gussies up his generic B-movie with CGI windstorms and Mongol hordes but sabotages any sense of isolation and desperation with an omnipresent soundtrack. If you've got OutKast, how far away can civilization be? The less said about the ragtag band of nonentities (Tyrese Gibson, Miranda Otto, Hugh Laurie), who hang out in the sun like it's the beach at Malibu, the better. Only Giovanni Ribisi is permitted to stretch his character to two dimensions: With his blonde 'do and vaguely unhinged line readings, he seems to be channeling a Hitler Youth -- or auditioning to play a Bond villain a decade hence. Opens Friday, December 17, at multiple locations. (Michael Fox)
Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events Brad Silberling. (PG) Opens Friday, December 17, at multiple locations. Reviewed in this issue.
Lightning in a Bottle Antoine Fuqua. (PG-13) This vivid Martin Scorsese-produced documentary captures the heat and passion of an extraordinary evening in February 2003 when some of the world's greatest blues musicians -- and some striving wannabes from other genres -- gathered at New York's Radio City Music Hall to salute a great American art form. Training Day director Antoine Fuqua gives us a profound sense of how the blues has blossomed and spread its wings over the last century, and the heartfelt performances by greats such as Buddy Guy, B.B. King, David "Honeyboy" Edwards, Shemekia Copeland and Ruth Brown let us know this is living music. Blues aficionados -- an informed and opinionated lot -- will savor glimpses of departed giants like Son House, Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, but Fuqua's focus is the here and now: Like all good concert films, it's the next best thing to being there. Opens Friday, December 17, at the Tivoli. (Bill Gallo)
Spanglish James L. Brooks. (PG-13) Opens Friday, December 17, at multiple locations. Reviewed in this issue.
WMD: Weapons of Mass Deception Danny Schechter. (unrated) This movie, from writer-director Danny Schechter, would play well on a bill alongside Fahrenheit 9/11 and Control Room; the self-proclaimed "Media Dissector" and former ABC, CNN and MTV News producer damns not only the Bush administration's reasons for going to war in Iraq but also the media for being cheerily complicit by swallowing the party line without gagging. Schechter is the star of his own movie, which he uses to promote his book upon which his film is based; this is as much personal essay as political doc, a movie about a former newsman's distaste for his profession. But he doesn't distract from his point, which is powerfully made by reporters and editors critical of their own organizations for either burying crucial information in exchange for access or abandoning context for the telegenic content of bombs destroying a country. Most compellingly, Schechter contrasts footage from critical overseas networks with cheerleading U.S. cable outlets. If nothing else, you will walk out of the movie thinking you can believe nothing and trust no one. Opens Friday, December 17, at the Tivoli. (Robert Wilonsky)