VANITY FAIR (PG-13, 140 minutes)
Teenagers with a fondness for 19th-century English novels will find many delights in this atmospheric, unpretentious adaptation of William Makepeace Thackeray's 1848 classic about the rise and fall of social climber Becky Sharp. Reese Witherspoon acquits herself well in a cast of Brits as the flawed but likable social "mountaineer," though a bit more nuance in her Becky would have been nice. Her star power may lure some teenagers to the film and perhaps the book. The movie shows understated sexual situations between a married couple, a brief, sexually charged skirmish between an older man and Becky, a battlefield strewn with dead soldiers while dogs and humans scavenge, and subtle racial slurs.
The penniless daughter of an English artist and a French chanteuse, Becky emerges from Miss Pinkerton's Academy with her friend Amelia Sedley (Romola Garai) and becomes a governess for the eccentric Sir Pitt Crawley (Bob Hoskins). She secretly marries his son Rawdon (James Purefoy), which infuriates the family. Disinherited, Rawdon gambles, and Becky tries to get accepted in society. She becomes notorious in her quest for wealth and status. Set in England in the early 1800s, "Vanity Fair" brims, thanks to director Mira Nair, with details of what life was like, lending richness to a film that grows episodic and sometimes confusing.
WICKER PARK (PG-13, 115 minutes)
For a film with high cinematic pretensions and a gooey plot about love, longing and lost chances for bliss, "Wicker Park" elicits far too many unintentional laughs. It is a dumbed-down Hollywood remake of the French film "The Apartment" (1996, unrated), glitzed up with artsy camera moves and confusing multilayered flashbacks. Teenagers who love actor Josh Hartnett will perhaps enjoy watching him furrow his brow in close-up. Others will giggle at the silliness, or at Matthew Lillard as the hero's pal, or they'll suffer through this bland soaper. A mild PG-13, "Wicker Park" includes understated sexual situations -- mostly passionate kissing -- with implied toplessness in one scene. It also contains muted verbal sexual innuendo, rare profanity and drinking.
Hartnett plays a rising Chicago advertising man about to propose to the boss's sister (Jessica Pare) and head to China on business. At a restaurant he glimpses Lisa (Diane Kruger), the dancer he fell madly in love with two years earlier when he was leading a simpler life. He becomes obsessed with finding her and learning why she disappeared. Anyone expecting a mistaken-identity thriller or a profound answer will be disappointed.
SUSPECT ZERO (R, 100 minutes)
"Suspect Zero" offers murder-flick fans 16 and older a good brain puzzle and a bit of suspense, even as it skimps on emotional resonance in favor of a fragmented, distancing style to tell its tale of serial murder. Though not an exceptionally gory film for the genre, it does contain a violent and harrowing rape scene with toplessness, strong fight violence and nightmarish images of crimes. Serial child murders are key to the story, but these never occur on screen. Photos of missing children show no injuries. The movie subtly implies abductions by showing a child on a bicycle in one scene, a riderless bike in the next, shallow graves and killer's torture tools. FBI agents rescue one boy, uninjured. Adult victims have ravaged bodies and eyelids cut away. There is profanity and drinking, too.
Aaron Eckhart plays FBI agent Tom Mackelway, a wreck plagued by bad dreams and migraines. Recently demoted to the Albuquerque office after messing up a serial killer case, he discovers that one killer seems to have followed him there. Is he being contacted telepathically? Ben Kingsley as the "person of interest" in the case, manages to give a riveting turn, though the film's jumpy style focuses mostly on his hands.