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Alex Rider: Operation Stormbreaker; Driving Lessons; The Grudge 2; The Marine; Nearing Grace; One Night With the King; The Queen

Just drive, she said.
Just drive, she said.
God save her.
God save her.


With its spate of blood curses, power-mad usurpers and holocausts narrowly avoided, the Old Testament story of the Jewish queen Esther of Persia certainly doesn't lack for drama. But in this overlong costume epic courtesy of producers Matthew and Laurie Crouch (they of The Omega Code fame) and director Michael Sajbel, the tale of Esther — her unlikely ascent from orphan girl to regent and her heroic subversion of the traitorous Haman's plans for a Jewish genocide — plods across the screen with the thudding portent of an earnest Sunday-school lesson. Despite spirited supporting work from the redoubtable John Rhys-Davies (as Esther's father, the court scribe Mordecai) and a blink-and-you'll-miss-him Peter O'Toole (as Samuel the prophet), most of the cast — including the beautiful but vacant Tiffany Dupont, a former Miss University of Georgia, who plays Esther — look and act like refugees from a Roger Corman remake of Gladiator. (Though there is some perverse pleasure to be had in seeing horror-movie staple Tommy "Tiny" Lister cast as a royal eunuch.) Those viewers who found anti-Semitism lurking under every stone in The Passion of the Christ may rejoice in this celebration of Jewish heroism; all others should rest assured that falling asleep in the cinema is not a mortal sin. (Scott Foundas) (Countywide) 

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