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Opening Films 

by Inlander Staff


Benji: Off the Leash -- Although the writer and director of the 1974 original (Joe Camp) is still at the helm, you can bet this Benji is, uh, several generations removed. Whoever's playing him, he's still a cute li'l fella, and this time around he and his buddy Shaggy are out to save Benji's mom from a nasty dog breeder. Bite 'em, Benji! Go for the face! Rated: PG





Exorcist: The Beginning -- Here's some brilliant casting: Swedish actor Stellan Skarsgard stars as a young Father Merrin -- the part that Max von Sydow played in the original film. Exorcist: The Beginning tells the story of how he encountered the demon named Pazuzu in Africa as a younger man. There's no denying that the original film was terrifying, and there's certainly still some horror left in the old possession routine. But Exorcist: The Beginning has its work cut out for it. Director Paul Schrader was fired after he delivered his version of the story, and the studio hired Renny Harlin to make something scarier. Let's hope the man who made The Adventures of Ford Fairlane can succeed. Rated: R





Garden State -- Angst in the 20-something set is at the center of this story of a semi-successful actor (Zach Braff) who heads from L.A. to his hometown in New Jersey for his mother's funeral. He must deal with his uptight dad (Ian Holm) and the plights of his loser friends, as well as the possibility of a blooming romance with a free-spirited, slightly wacky gal (Natalie Portman). Braff, best known for starring on Scrubs, who also wrote and directed, shows a flair for mixing goofy comedy with subtle drama. The film meanders a bit, but nicely mixes pop music with messages about life being short, so why not grab for happiness? (ES) Rated R





Open Water -- Since its Sundance debut, this extremely low-budget, shot-on-video, put-real-actors-near-real-sharks, sometimes creepy Blair Witch-goes-to-the-sea hybrid -- The Blair Shark Project? -- is a stripped-down bit of indie product that succeeds more in creating a mood where anything might happen than genuine suspense. (RP) Rated: R





Without a Paddle -- Three buddies (Seth Green, Matthew Lillard and Dax Shepherd) find themselves lost in the Oregon outback when their rafting trip takes a turn for the worse. You can pretty much imagine where the hijinks go from there. Be sure to look for a Deliverance reference involving Burt Reynolds as -- you guessed it -- a crazy mountain man. Rated: PG-13


Rated: PG-13





Publication date: 08/19/04

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