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Talking pictures: Plane flicks stuck in holding pattern

Rachel McAdams is on the run in "Red Eye," a thriller set aboard a jetliner \— as is "Flightplan."
Rachel McAdams is on the run in "Red Eye," a thriller set aboard a jetliner \— as is "Flightplan."
Dreamworks Pictures t ouchstone Pictures And Imagine Entertainment

It's true. There are no new ideas. Especially in Hollywood.

It was bad enough when the studios flooded multiplexes with sequels, prequels and movies spawned from television shows over the summer.

Now they're giving us repeats, first "Red Eye," then "Flightplan."

Not to give away anything away about either film, especially since the latter just came out, but they're very similar suspense-thrillers set aboard jet airliners.

In "Red Eye," Rachel McAdams plays a passenger being blackmailed by people who have (sort of) kidnapped her father.

In "Flightplan," Jodie Foster plays a woman who believes her daughter has been kidnapped while their flight is still in the air.

They're not really the same movie, though the filmmakers — veteran director Wes Craven for "Red Eye" and newcomer Robert Schwentke for "Flightplan" — both try to exploit the uncomfortably tight environs and fears of air travel.

Both movies also stumble in their final third, though at least the ground-bound finale of "Red Eye" makes sense. "Flightplan" features a nonsensical ending that relies on more conveniences and coincidences than a Rube Goldberg contraption.

Worse, there's a scene that appears to rip off "Panic Room," which also starred Foster.

Talk about being stuck in a rut.

AND SPEAKING OF KNOCK-OFFS . Get ready for a whole wave of movies inspired by "Napoleon Dynamite."

Last weekend's Brewvies Short Film Festival featured a couple of entries that were clearly copying the whole slacker-doofus vibe of co-screenwriter/director Jared Hess' cult hit. Although a few of the shorts were more original than that.

I was quite taken with director Dan Gerhert's documentary "Rocks," which equated the partnerships between rock climbers to married couples.

And "Going Home," Mario DeAngelis' profile of an at-risk teen trying to hone his skateboarding skills, had some nifty, point-of-view photography, shot from the perspective of skateboarders (or at least from their "decks").

WHEN GOOD THINGS HAPPEN TO BAD MOVIES. Indifferent audiences helped make the poorly timed horror movie "Venom" a thunderous flop. The film opened with a measly $519,000 in its opening weekend and finished in the dead-last No. 20 box-office slot.

That was the worst opening for a major release this year. It bested (or worsted?) Lions Gates' unfortunately and ironically titled "Undiscovered," which opened with $676,000, on its way to paltry $1 million run-of-engagement "take."

Getting back to "Venom," I'm still appalled that the studio, Dimension Films, released the film just weeks after Hurricane Katrina's devastation of the Gulf Coast region (and while Rita was building steam). After all, this wretched horror movie is set in Louisiana's bayous.

And yes, I know the studio was obliged to release the film before Dimension Films and Walt Disney Entertainment part ways on Sept. 30. But the movie should have gone straight to pay-cable or to video.

Or better yet, straight to the trash bin.

WHEN GOOD THINGS HAPPEN TO SO-SO MOVIES. Fox Searchlight Films, the studio that released the roller-disco drama "Roll Bounce," is donating 10 percent of the film's opening-weekend box-office proceeds to Operation USA, one of the relief organizations aiding victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Also, Fox Searchlight and DIRECTV partnered to screen the film Thursday for thousands of people currently housed at more than 80 Gulf Coast relief shelters.

While I may not have loved the movie, it's a worthy effort.

Nice job, Fox Searchlight.


E-mail: jeff@desnews.com