This week’s new movies for Friday July 3

The week’s big films, Public Enemies and Ice Age, have been playing since Wednesday. There are some better bets, though, among today’s newcomers.

PUBLIC ENEMIES: You’ll be fascinated but not moved by this latest study of the gangster as folk hero. John Dillinger’s era was the 1930’s, tabbed here as “the golden age of bank robbery.” Also of bank failures or foreclosures, which made him something of a Robin Hood. His story comes to life through the meticulous assembly of the facts, the details and the look. He, however, remains remote. Johnny Depp is a natural fit, playing him as a maverick and cool independent. It’s the script that doesn’t give much about what drives him or even what he thinks about what was happening to him. He was the first “Public Enemy #1”, so glorified by J. Edgar Hoover when he was building the FBI. Organized crime was also empire building at the time and found he was bringing too much heat their way. The film, directed by Michael Mann, sets up these competing dynamics and then eases up on them. It turns more attention to Dillinger’s love life with a hat check girl warmly played by Marion Cotillard (Oscar winner for La Vie En Rose). Far less clear is how he also came to consort with prostitutes, which helped bring his downfall. There are thrilling highlights along the way though, including the bank robberies, a resort gun battle cum car chase and a final night at the movies for the movie-fan gangster. (At theatres all over)

ICE AGE: DAWN OF THE DINOSAUR: There’s much more in this third film in the animated series. More action. More characters. 3D. Unfortunately, there’s also less humor and less heart. And those glasses are an inconvenience, especially for the little kids. The 3D, although well done, isn’t necessary. The story pushes the family themes usually found in these kinds of films, but the effect now comes off as manufactured not sincere. And secondary because the real purpose is to get to those dinosaurs. Like “The Lost World” or “Journey to the Centre of the Earth,” the film finds them in a huge underground chamber, and not at all extinct. Sid the Sloth (voiced by John Leguizamo) encounters them first when he takes three of their eggs because he wants a family like his friends, the woolly mammoth couple (Ray Romano and Queen Latifah) who are expecting. Before long the dinosaur mom shows up, takes her babies and Sid away and a rescue mission starts up. Down under, there are giant vistas, more prehistoric creatures and a one-eyed weasel (voiced by Simon Pegg) with a Captain Ahab complex. The action is exciting but the rest of the film is not. It’s tired and only occasionally funny. And whatever happened to the global warming theme that put some substance into the earlier films? (At theatres all over).

MOON: More often than not, movie science fiction is about intergalactic wars, alien invaders and laser blasts. Now and then, it bypasses all that and discusses ideas. There are many in this film including corporations exploiting space, future technology, the human mind’s outer limits, and consciousness itself. Sam Rockwell plays the lone human at a lunar mining operation. He’s been there for three years with only a nosy and patronizing computer (voiced by Kevin Spacey) for company. Communication with his family back on earth is difficult and slow. His loneliness is bringing on short episodes of insanity. It would spoil the plot to tell you more but the situation and the solution feel entirely possible, and, as visions of the future, maybe even inevitable. “They lied to us,” Sam yells at one point as he starts uncovering the real facts he’s living with. Rockwell turns in a tour de force acting job. The director, Duncan Jones, is David Bowie’s son. Yes, the kid once rumored to be named Zowie. He’s fashioned an intelligent, substantive film that has echoes of favorites like “2001: A Space Odyssey”, “Silent Running” and even “Dark Star”. It was made cheaply, but on screen looks like it had a much larger budget. (Tinseltown)
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