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Opening Films 

by Inlander Staff

Finding Neverland -- A dramatic, yet kind of whimsical look at how J.M. Barrie (Johnny Depp) was inspired to write the play Peter Pan -- by meeting a widow (Kate Winslet) with four young boys who definitely could use a father figure. But there's a chance the boyish playwright's own marriage will suffer. Depp puts on a terrific Scottish accent, and is joined by Julie Christie, in a small role as a controlling woman, and Dustin Hoffman, in a tiny one, as a play producer. But Freddie Highmore, who plays Peter, steals the show. (ES) Rated PG

Flight of the Phoenix -- A remake of director Robert Aldrich's 1965 original, Flight of the Phoenix would be 15% better if not for its abysmal use of pop music, and 100% better if Aldrich's son William had never thought to ride on his father's coattails by producing it. The expertly filmed crash sequence is a high point that the movie never again achieves as a group of survivors attempt to escape from the desert. Dennis Quaid's stalwart performance doesn't rescue the movie from its unconvincing dialogue or flaccid plotting, but he does give it its dynamic character hook. He makes being stranded in the Gobi desert for two hours entertaining, even if the movie isn't. (Cole Smithey) Rated PG-13

Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events -- After the unfortunate demise of their parents, the bleak young Baudelaires go to live with their uncle Count Olaf (Jim Carrey), who, among other things, has big designs on their inheritance. Based on the wildly popular series by Lemony Snicket (portrayed by Jude Law in the movie; a great pen name and a mysterious identity in the real world), Unfortunate Events also stars Meryl Streep, Liam Aiken, Emily Browning (who steals scenes from even manic Carrey) and twins Shelby and Kara Hoffman as bite-y baby Sunny. Rated: PG

Spanglish -- Adam Sandler plays it cool and calm as a chef and restaurateur, married to a New Age, politically correct, babbling loony (Tea Leoni). Their lives take an interesting turn when they hire housekeeper and single mom Flora (Paz Vega), who has sneaked over the Mexican border with her daughter (Shelbie Bruce). There's a language barrier, but that doesn't stop Flora, who doesn't speak English, from seeing there's trouble in paradise. The film's serious center is balanced by comic surroundings -- Cloris Leachman is priceless as Leoni's ex-jazz singer mom -- and there's a sweetness to it all. (ES) Rated PG-13

Publication date: 12/16/04

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