In the animated kiddie movie "Alpha and Omega," sometimes the wolves look like wolves and sometimes they look and move like humans; some bear an uncanny resemblance to Dora the Explorer.
That in itself should tip you off to the target audience for this unexceptional 3-D offering, which is also available in 2-D for those looking to avoid paying a ticket surcharge for low-budget animation. But the movie's visual flatness would work best at home on the small screen, where young girls (and maybe their big sisters) would enjoy the film's gentle, romantic shadings.
"Alpha and Omega" tells the story of the emerging love between Humphrey (voiced by Justin Long), a goofball omega wolf, and Kate (Hayden Panettiere), the foxy alpha wolf that he's been crushing on since he was a pup. Alphas and omegas can't marry, though, and, besides, Kate has been promised to an alpha wolf from another pack in order to settle a turf war. (Don't ask — it's a silly plot contrivance.)
A golfing goose (Larry Miller) and his British caddy (Eric Price) add a little humor, and the late Dennis Hopper turns up, voicing the menacing leader of the rival pack. But the story comes off as patchwork, with a climax cribbed from "The Lion King" and odd musical sequences that seem inspired by … ahem, classic Mariah Carey. It's not quite the vision of love intended.
"Alpha and Omega." MPAA rating: PG for rude humor and some mild action. Running time: 1 hour, 27 minutes. In general release.
For those whose knowledge of the Korean War doesn't extend beyond what they learned watching repeats of "MASH," the new documentary "Chosin" will be an eye-opener. Though it's a bit short on context and detail, the movie boasts a host of riveting interviews with the men caught behind enemy lines in the brutal winter battle at North Korea's Chosin Reservoir.
The men, most of whom have never shared their stories before, recall the 17 days in 1950 when 15,000 U.S. soldiers and Marines were surprised and surrounded by Chinese troops. The losses were terrible and the temperatures reached 40 below, conditions that produced scenes as cruelly surreal as any you could possibly imagine.
First-time director Brian Iglesias and his co-writer and co-producer Anton Sattler, both combat-decorated Marines and Iraq War vets, possess an obvious empathy with their subjects and a perspective on the horrors they faced. The interviewed vets seem gratified that someone is taking an interest in their efforts during this pivotal battle.
Left unanswered: Why has no one asked them to share their memories before?
"Chosin." Unrated. Running time: 1 hour, 25 minutes. At Laemmle's Sunset 5, West Hollywood.
"Heaven's Rain" is a delicate, frequently profound drama based on the 1979 home invasion murders of an Oklahoma minister and his wife, whose two children were brutally shot and terrorized in the process. Unfortunately, the resulting film needed a more objective eye and, frankly, a grittier take than the victims' son — producer, co-writer (with Paul Brown) and costar Brooks Douglass — was able to provide.
Hampered by Brown's pedestrian direction, the film turns cloying and heavy-handed, particularly during its excessive, overly beatific flashbacks to Douglass' idyllic youth. Furthermore, its faith-oriented themes, although pivotal, are often writ so large they tend to encroach instead of enlighten. Really, how many beauty shots of the heavens do we need?
Mike Vogel, a sharp, appealing young actor ("She's Out of My League," TV's "Miami Medical"), plays Brooks Douglass circa 1993 as the then-freshman senator and his still-shattered sister, Leslie (Taryn Manning), hit an emotional crossroads just before the state execution of one of their family's attackers.
Vogel and Manning ("Hustle & Flow") rise above the exposition-heavy material, even if Vogel is less effective in flashbacks as the teen Douglass. But the rest of the otherwise low-wattage cast, which includes Brooks Douglass, playing his saintly father, and Erin Chambers as an unconvincing newbie journalist, is uniformly bland.
Nice use of the Who's "Love, Reign o'er Me," though.
"Heaven's Rain." MPAA Rating: R for disturbing content. Running time: 1 hour, 46 minutes. At Laemmle's Fallbrook 7, West Hills.
In "Hideaway" ("Le Refuge"), one of François Ozon's finest films, a young couple, Mousse (Isabelle Carré) and Louis (Melvil Poupaud), seem to have everything — great looks, money, passion, an upscale Paris apartment — and a powerful addiction to heroin. One night their dealer apparently cuts their drugs with valium, leaving Louis dead and Mousse in a coma.