Just when you thought I'd never go to the movies again...how wrong you are. TAI presents the "It's a Big Bad World Out There, Kid" Edition of TicketStub:

* Miami Vice -- Can the stars of the 80's ever grow up? Can adolescent favorites make the transition to a future era? On the basis of Michael Mann's "revival" of the classic pastel cop drama, the answer is no -- better to leave the past in the past. The movie sets identical characters in today's Miami, still steamy and drug-addled and oddly empty, fighting the same old Sisyphean war on drugs against a coalition of assorted brown baddies. Mann's consistency is his strength, because we still somehow care about Crockett and Tubbs despite the choppy plot, absent dialogue, and generally grim tone. Jamie Foxx manages to throw off more sparks by himself than with his partner Colin Farrell, who looks like a catfish stuffed into a deconstructed suit jacket. The visual atmosphere is everything, from the sparkling seas to the graphite sky above a stakeout, the humid colors of a tropical slum to the frankness of skin under fluorescent light (nobody looks good in closeup in this movie), the surfaces are what count. The camera moves and weaves and floats, keeping us engaged and mixing up the gritty reality of drug enforcement with the fantasy of undercover life. It's a moody, macho nocturne, but it doesn't really hold up without a viewer's fondness for the original. Points off for casting hatchet-faced Gong Li as the babe, I still can't decide if she was canny or terrible, and she was certainly incomprehensible. (C+)

* Hollywoodland -- Look, up in the sky! It's Ben Affleck, and he's acting! Excellent choice for a "turnaround" flick, he steps effortlessly into the cape of George Reeves, TV's Superman who met a tawdry mortal end in 50's Hollywood. An episodic docudrama, the film adds a fictional gumshoe, Adrian Brody, to the investigation of Reeves' death by gunshot at the early sunset of his career. Was he accidentally murdered by his shrewish fiancee, the tart and taunting Robin Tunney? Depressed into suicide by his fading hopes of stardom? Or rubbed out by his jealous lover's mobbed up husband? Juicy possibilities, and each is played out on screen in slow, golden pans so neatly copied from LA Confidential and Chinatown it seems more expected than unoriginal. Brody is game to play the twitchy P.I., and he shows vulnerability and menace in that whelpy face, but his character just gets in the way. A fine, snappy romance blooms between Reeves and Toni Mannix, an older dame perfectly played by Diane Lane -- why the movie doesn't revolve strictly on them is the real mystery. Extraneous scenes pile up like sandbags toward the end, perhaps because the director is used to The Sopranos' neverending story arc. Despite great bit parts all around, it would be considerably improved by a ruthless 25 minute edit; what starts as a collage winds up a dissipated epic. Major extra points for Bob Hoskins as the tough bastard studio boss with an open marriage, and Jeffrey DeMunn as Reeves' nebbishy agent. (B+)

* The Devil Wears Prada -- Ooooh, ah, FASHION! Last year's chick-lit bauble comes to the big screen, gussied up with Meryl Streep of all people, but still a simplistic trifle, despite great set dressing. Gawky overachiever stumbles into underling job at glossy fashion mag, put upon by bitchy "clackers" in stilettos and firebreathing boss, but steadied by down-to-earth friends and of course, a witty gay mentor -- oh, Stanley Tucci, I've seen you naked but was not prepared for you in that glen plaid suit! She struggles to prove herself by putting on the emperor's duds, falls out with her earnest Renaissance Youth boyfriend, blah blah, but then sees the cutthroat biz for what it is, blah blah, winds up in "real" journalism after all, symbolized by dull corduroys. Anne Hathaway brings the right youthful credulity to the role, and somehow stays believable under all that Chanel. Streep is a mama lion toying with a three-legged mouse here, delighting in pouring ice water all over everyone with the chilliest sotto voce this side of Michael Corleone. She plays the one "behind the mask" scene perfectly, letting the faintest shade of regret flutter by before snapping her game face shut. It's a fine afternoon diversion, despite the dopey incidental music and whiff of Garry Marshall about it. Extra points for the makeup artist responsible for Emily Blunt's monumental eyeshadow. (B-)

* The Last Kiss -- Dubbed "Garden State five years later," this one had surprising legs. Neither a date flick nor a true chuck flick, it blends elements of each to more closely resemble a really good episode of thirtysomething, somewhat oversold with a bigscreen soundtrack. Zach Braff goes back into post-adolescent zombie mode as Michael, 29 y.o., ambivalent about everything even as he's having a baby with his gorgeous, loving girlfriend. Too mild and well-bred to flagrantly cheat on her, he instead shrugs and grins his way into the pants of The O.C.'s Rachel Bilson, a painfully starry-eyed college girl. That's just one relationship falling apart -- Michael's gang of guy friends are all going through one version or another of, to quote Charlie in High Fidelity, "the What Does It All Mean thing," plus his quasi-inlaws separate over an old infidelity, and so on. It all shakes out and some couples reunite, etc., but Tom Wilkinson as the unflappable dad encapsulates the theme of "Grow up already, asshole!" a little more gently: "You have to do whatever it takes" to stay in love. Surprisingly decent supporting cast, including Casey Affleck (2006 is treating that family well!), makes enough of the somewhat flyaway plot to keep you intrigued. Jacinda Barrett shines as the wronged Jenna, believably freaking out over Braff's halfbaked cuckoldery. Mostly authentic, but with strange small flaws: would a guy really run off to Tierra Del Fuego rather than meet a new flame's parents? Would Blythe Danner's faculty wife actually wear a white leather duster coat in Madison, WI? Is Snow Patrol the made-for-TV Coldplay? Who cares? (B)

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