'Rabbit Hole' is raw, rich in acting

There are some life experiences from which there is no recovery. No matter how often the word "closure" is offered as an outcome, in truth, there will never be closure when parents lose a child. The only question is how those who face such tragedy endure. And that is the essence of "Rabbit Hole."

The film begins with Howie (Aaron Eckhart) and Becca (Nicole Kidman) Corbett clinging to their routines while they cope with the canyons of distance that exist between them. The tension is palpable. Only gradually is it revealed that the source of their pain — the spare conversations, the brittle quality to their relationship — is the loss, some eight months prior, of their 4-year-old son. He chased their dog into the street and was hit by a car.

The performances of both Kidman and Eckhart are brilliantly crafted. Each copes with a grief that seems insurmountable in a completely different way. And although they could find surcease in a shared embrace, offer reassurance that this too will pass, they are barely able to function as individuals while cautiously navigating the emotional wreckage that has become their lives.

How they make this wrenching journey is painfully revealed in what is a superb film. "Rabbit Hole" is never maudlin. It never calculatingly attempts to be melodramatic. It is instead a window without distortion, a stark view into a place that no one would choose, ever, to go.

Of course, audiences might shy away from this film for that very reason. But know that the narrative is rich with fine performances: Diane Wiest as Becca's mother, who also has lost a son, is exceptional. Sandra Oh's portrayal of a woman who has found help in a support group and is, after eight years, afraid to leave, is subtle as well as inspired.

The film "Rabbit Hole" is adapted from the 2006 Pulitzer Prize and Tony-winning play, written by David Lindsay-Abaire. Kidman was nominated for an Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role.

Battle: Los Angeles

As winter drifts into spring, this post-Oscar period can seem like the movie doldrums. But not to worry. This time also amounts to a long riff of solid B-movies, which, when taken in the aggregate, can entertain while we await the big-tent movies summer.

There is no better example than the just released "Battle: Los Angeles." The plot is stripped down to one long cliché, but an entertaining cliché.

The film is based on the durable premise that we are not alone. If you are a fan of the genre, then it's not a stretch to suspend your disbelief and believe that they're out there, those gnarly ETs (do they have the required prehensile grips and opposable thumbs?) who possess the technology to travel enormous distances across space and arrive on Earth, coming not in peace ("The Day the Earth Stood Still"), but to eliminate the population and use the planet's resources. In the case of "Battle: Los Angeles" it's water.

The date is August 2011. There are worldwide reports of meteors falling into the oceans. News screens are filled with video of what is described as an unprecedented phenomenon. But then, eerily, it's reported that the meteors are slowing down just before impact. Wait. Slowing down?

As the denizens of Santa Monica flock to the beaches to watch these celestial splash downs, they soon see long-legged creatures emerging from the ocean, all packing some serious firepower that is unleashed on both humans and buildings alike. Panic quickly ensues ("War of the Worlds").

And so the battle for Los Angeles is joined, and areas such Santa Monica are in the process of being leveled. A squad of Marines, led by Iraq veteran Sergeant Michael Nantz (Aaron Eckhart) — steely-jawed, a haunted look in his eyes, and a gift for command — is sent to Santa Moncia with a band of brothers to look for survivors and bring them out before the Air Force levels the place. The game clock is ticking.

Using hand-held cameras and smash-cut editing, the film creates a compelling sense of chaos, a gestalt of experience that is visceral. It's urban warfare reminiscent of "Black Hawk Down," only the ETs are way better armed than the locals in Mogadishu.

Of course, whenever there is a break in the action, and the audience is given a moment to breathe, Nantz and company engage in dialogue, although it's not great dialogue. It does get the job done, recommitting the squad to the mission (time is of the essence), and it instructs the civilians to keep their heads down. As if anyone really needs to be reminded since the bad guys possess weapons of laser-guided destruction.

If you enjoy the genre, if you don't think too much about the technology these ETs must possess to get to Earth from a distant galaxy, or why they would take the time to have urban firefights, then you will find "Battle: Los Angeles" perfect for an early spring diversion.

Red Riding Hood

What were they thinking?

OK, perhaps they were contemplating the "Twilight" series and its huge box office. Teens and werewolves. Deep woods. Romance. Confused adults. But rather than going contemporary, the writers went gothic and the small town is a good-size village somewhere in, say, 14th-century Europe (it's British Colombia). But since the intended demographic is 16, how about Amanada Seyfried, whose large blue eyes, golden hair and porcelain skin will make her instantly the village hottie, red cloak or no. And, of course, there will be two young guys, a blacksmith (Max Irons) and a woodcutter (Shiloh Fernandez), who can't take their eyes off of her. Perfect. Cue the chemistry. Ala "Twilight."

But the problem that the young lovers face, as well as the villagers, is the local werewolf. Annual animal sacrifices are not enough to keep the critter at bay. And everyone knows that when there is that rare blood moon, well, the wolf returns for someone special.

The other problem is that this film does not have, even remotely, a 14th century feel to it. The kids all speak as if they were hanging out in a local mall, drive Toyotas, and if one of them had pulled out a cell phone and started texting, no matter the costumes, it wouldn't have been a great surprise.

But then everyone, texting or not, looks like they have a good dental plan, a good stylist, lots of hair gel and clear skin, especially Amanda. Believe me, the 14th century was no picnic: people had really bad teeth, lots of rashes, serious dandruff (hence wigs) and clean clothes were at a premium.

Surprisingly, the director, Catherine Hardwicke, made the first "Twilight." Which was a good movie. Teen/tween girls adored her film. Hence it's hard to understand that she didn't recognize the very evident flaws in "Red Riding Hood." Clearly she didn't.

Julie Christie, a wonderful actress, who is extraordinary in every way, is wasted in this movie as is Billy Burke ("Twilight") and Virginia Madsen ("Sideways").

Undoubtedly, the tween/teen audience will not be as critical and will buy tickets expecting to be a bit scared by the CGI wolf and a bit thrilled by a few make-out sessions between Amanda and the woodcutter. They likely won't be disappointed.

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