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At the Movies: capsule reviews of new films

Eds: Updates with ‘Dogville’ and ‘Never Die Alone.’ Longer versions also moved.

AP Photos NY680-NY684

By The Associated Press

Capsule reviews of films opening this week:

“Dogville” – Danish director Lars Von Trier has come to bury America, not to praise it, with this first film in a trilogy about a country he’s never set foot in and has said he’s afraid to visit. Despite its aesthetic simplicity, it’s a wildly ambitious film – too long, too precious – yet its rhythms become surprisingly hypnotic. And, like many of Von Trier’s other films, it’s not afraid to challenge and potentially incense people. He has made the movie he wanted to make: essentially, a three-hour stage performance on film, similar to televised plays of the 1970s, with minimal props and sets. It follows the fugitive Grace (Nicole Kidman) as she seeks protection in the insular, Rocky Mountain hamlet of Dogville during the Depression – and gets chewed up and spit out in the process. The all-star supporting cast includes Paul Bettany, Lauren Bacall, Stellan Skarsgard and Ben Gazzara. R for strong violence and sexual content. 177 min. Two and a half stars out of four.

– Christy Lemire, AP Entertainment Writer

“Jersey Girl” – If Kevin Smith was trying to make his minions feel like they were in on the in-jokes with “Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back,” he must be trying to alienate them entirely with this treacly movie about a single dad (Ben Affleck) raising his daughter (Raquel Castro) after his wife’s death. Such sentimentality would have been totally acceptable if the film had any emotional resonance; instead, it’s all over the place. The artist formerly known as Bennifer isn’t even a factor in the film’s failure. “Jersey Girl” features the famous final on-screen pairing of Affleck and Jennifer Lopez, as husband and wife, but they’re not together long enough to cause any “Gigli”-sized damage. George Carlin, though, adds surprising gravitas as Affleck’s father. PG-13 for language and sexual content including frank dialogue. 102 min. One and a half stars out of four.

– Christy Lemire, AP Entertainment Writer

“The Ladykillers” – It looks like a Coen brothers movie. It sounds like a Coen brothers movie. And, unfortunately, it runs out of steam after about an hour like the last Coen brothers movie, “Intolerable Cruelty.” Until then, this remake of the 1955 caper starring Alec Guinness is funny, quirky, and has a terrifically twisted eye for detail. Tom Hanks, playing his first truly bad bad guy, is a marvelous mixture of Foghorn Leghorn and Sideshow Bob as the pretentious leader of a gang of thieves who use an elderly woman’s cellar to tunnel into a casino vault. Irma P. Hall avoids caricature and shows real poignancy as his feisty landlady. The supporting roles, though, are too cartoonish to be three-dimensional, even for a Coen brothers movie. R for language, including sexual references. 104 min. Two and a half stars out of four.

– Christy Lemire, AP Entertainment Writer

“Never Die Alone” – Rapper DMX plays drug dealer King David, who tells his life story in audiotapes after his death in this adaptation of a book by Donald Goines, the writer of black pulp fiction. It’s gratuitous and misogynistic – which is the whole point of the genre – but that would be less problematic from a storytelling perspective if David were more fully developed. Director Ernest Dickerson, working from James Gibson’s script, bounces back and forth between flashbacks, which strips the film of substance and undermines its narrative momentum. What’s left is a litany of David’s bad deeds: a highlight (or lowlight) reel as told from his coffin. David Arquette and Michael Ealy co-star. R for strong violence, drug use, sexuality and language. 88 min. One and a half stars out of four.

– Christy Lemire, AP Entertainment Writer

– Christy Lemire, AP Entertainment Writer

AP-ES-03-25-04 1624EST

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