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Only ‘Soldiers’ Shows Life In This Recent Batch

WE WERE SOLDIERS

Yet another milestone in modern Hollywood’s quest to create a war movie formula that’s totally paint-by-numbers: the same formula that gave us schlock like “Hart’s War” and overrated messes like “Black Hawk Down.” At the same time, it’s refreshing to see a war film that, while sticking to all these traditional conventions, still manages some excellent moments and a few good ideas. “We Were Soldiers” is a decent, if overlong, story of soldiers bonding in one of the worst battlegrounds in Vietnam, Landing Zone X-Ray in la Drang Valley in November 1965. Mel Gibson looks imposing, brings his voice down enough to sound sage-like and even manages a few well-placed tears in the role of commanding Lt. Col. Hal Moore, turning in one of the better performances in league with Greg Kinnear, Sam Elliott and Chris Klein who take on the likenesses of real-life soldiers. The battle scenes, which are filmed with the same realistic chaos that saved “Black Hawk Down” from being a total failure, are intercut with scenes on the domestic front, where the wives of the soldiers solemnly grieve and cling to a hope that fades more every day. The film is strongly visual, occasionally emotional and once in a long while poignant, but in two-and-a-half hours it just can’t shake the cookie cutter feel. B

— Chad Berndtson

ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS

OK, OK, so it’s not visually strong, ever emotional or at all poignant, but come on now, what do you expect when the lead character, played by Ice Cube, is named Bucum (pronounced “book ’em”)? That pretty much describes the nature of “All About the Benjamins” in a nutshell — and by Benjamins we mean Franklin, greenbacks, dollars, yo. So you’ve got Bucum Jackson, a bounty hunter in Miami, trying to score enough cash to open a private investigation firm. You’ve also got Reggie White (Mike Epps), a two bit con artist who somehow gets involved in a massive diamond heist. You’ve got a pair of comely lasses (Eva Mendes and Valerie Rae Miller), not quite of virtue true. And finally you’ve got first time director Kevin Bray, fresh from doing music videos, whose directorial repertoire mostly involves driving around Long Beach with a camera out the window. But what can you really say about a film like this? That it’s the long awaited follow-up to Ice Cube and Mike Epps’ epic pairing in Next Friday? What you see is what you get: short, funny crap. C

— Chad Berndtson

40 DAYS AND 40 NIGHTS

Does 40 days without sex or sexual contact of any kind seem impossible? Well try it with an entourage of scantily clad co-workers, an online betting pool and one enticing cybernanny carefully folding her lacy “unmentionables” and you have more than a challenge; you have an hour-and-a-half of awkward humor and in-your-face sexuality.

In Michael Lemann’s new film “40 Days and 40 Nights,” Matt Sullivan (Josh Hartnett, “Pearl Harbor”) has spent the past six months engaging in shallow sexual escapades. Inspired by the Catholic tradition of sacrificing something for Lent, Matt decides to give up sex.

The main flaw in “40 Days and 40 Nights” is its unwillingness to commit to a genre: romantic comedy or crude sexual comedy. Will it go over the edge or have a moral backbone? Neither; by straddling the two genres, the movie loses any comedic focus or moral direction it could have had.

Matt’s reason for going the distance is vague at best. He would have us believe that he is trying to rid his life of the confusion that sex brings, but evidence points to his celibacy as a means to simply get over his ex. The build-up of Matt’s sexual frustration goes from serious to comical and the script trivializes Matt’s feelings of loss after his break up. Abstinence does not even lead him to a more profound relationship — as soon as his 40 days are up, he heads straight for the bedroom.

While advertisers would lead you to believe this is little more than a chick flick with Josh Hartnett as eye candy, 40 Days reduces men to hungry dogs salivating at T’A and women to pieces of meat. 40 Days and 40 Nights should have played up the humorous aspects of Matt’s struggle rather than muddle the story with an unfulfilled romantic subplot. C

— Lindsey Ames ‘ Nora Spillane

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