Training Day (R)
Denzel Washington's dynamic portrayal of a violently corrupt narcotics cop carries this movie, which would be just another police melodrama without the boost. Washington plays Alonzo Harris, a rogue detective showing the ropes to a new partner (Ethan Hawke) and fashioning it into a noose. The dialogue crackles with profane tension as Washington dares viewers to take their eyes off him.
First impressions: "Training Day is worth the price of admission just to witness Washington's Shakespearean take on the crooked-cop cliche, a mix of Lear's bluster and the madness of Othello . . .
"Director Antoine Fuqua (The Replacement Killers) wisely constructs every possible scene around his incendiary star. Training Day works best as an aimless character study, something like The New Centurions, until screenwriter David Ayer is compelled to funnel all these vibrant impressions into a clumsily compact, ultra-violent finale."
Second thoughts: Oscar voters noticed, listing Washington and Hawke among the nominees for Sunday night's awards.
Rental audience: Washington's fans; action junkies in general.
Rent it if you enjoy: Serpico, The French Connection.
Riding in Cars with Boys (PG-13)
Based on the autobiography of Beverly Donofrio (Drew Barrymore), who becomes a wife and mother too early to suit her strict parents (James Woods, Lorraine Bracco) or her own lack of maturity. Director Penny Marshall frames the pathos in flashbacks as Beverly drives cross-country with the son (Adam Garcia) she rarely knew how to love.
First impressions: "Drew Barrymore is the wrong choice to portray the arc of a woman in Riding in Cars With Boys: too old to play 15 without appearing out of her element and too young to play 35 without looking like the 15-year-old playing dress-up games. She gets the 20s just right, but the rest of Penny Marshall's movie is just wrong . . .
"Marshall just wants us to like the movie, beating back any resistance with misty moments and convenient misery. Crises arise, someone vents, and then it's on to another flashback, merely cinematic camouflage for an overly sentimental plot."
Second thoughts: Steve Zahn's performance as Beverly's vagabond husband is pretty good, though.
Rental audience: People who own stock in Kleenex.
Rent it if you enjoy: Anywhere But Here; very special episodes of Laverne & Shirley.
Videos worth another look
Tatum O'Neal became the youngest best supporting actress nominee and winner at age 10 for her work with her father, Ryan O'Neal, in Paper Moon.
Henry Fonda, with Katherine Hepburn, was 76 when he won the Academy Award for best actor in On Golden Pond.
Academy Awards, through the ages
Here's a list of the oldest and youngest Oscar nominees and winners.
By STEVE PERSALL
Times Film Critic
Win an Academy Award and you'll be remembered for the ages. But how many record-setting ages of Oscar winners and nominees for acting can you remember? This week's Rewind is dedicated to Sunday night's 74th annual Hollywood lovefest, turning Academy history into a list of home video suggestions:
Skippy _ Nine-year-old Jackie Cooper _ the youngest best actor nominee ever _ fell asleep in Marie Dressler's lap during the ceremonies. The movie isn't as memorable and remains unavailable on home video but may pop up on cable TV.
The Goodbye Girl _ Richard Dreyfuss became the youngest best actor winner (29) for his portrayal of an egocentric, struggling actor falling in love.
The Straight Story _ The late Richard Farnsworth capped his career by becoming the oldest best actor nominee ever (80) in David Lynch's fact-based tale of brotherly devotion.
On Golden Pond _ Henry Fonda's cinematic swan song made him the oldest best-actor winner ever at 76.
The Story of Adele H _ The youngest best actress nominee in Academy history is Isabelle Adjani, in the running at age 20 for Francois Truffaut's period drama of obsessive love.
Children of a Lesser God _ Marlee Matlin's victory in 1986 made her the youngest best actress winner at age 21.
Driving Miss Daisy _ One of two double record-holders on the list is Jessica Tandy, the oldest best actress nominee and winner at 80.
Kramer vs. Kramer _ Justin Henry stole hearts and earned a best supporting actor nomination at age 8, making him the youngest ever in that race and all Oscar categories. Henry graduated from Skidmore College in 1993 and occasionally returns to acting, mostly recently in the independent films My Dinner with Jimi (Hendrix) and Finding Home.
Ordinary People _ Playing a guilt-ridden son in Robert Redford's domestic melodrama made Timothy Hutton the youngest best supporting actor honoree at 20.
Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes _ Ralph Richardson was too old to be swinging on vines, but a great white hunter role made him the oldest supporting actor nominee at 82.
The Sunshine Boys _ George Burns became the oldest thespian to win an Oscar (80, nearly six months older than Tandy) with his best supporting actor prize.
Paper Moon _ The other double winner on this list, Tatum O'Neal, played a pint-sized Depression-era grifter and became the youngest best supporting actress nominee and winner at 10.
Titanic _ Gloria Stuart survived history's worst sea disaster and became the oldest supporting actress contender at 87, the most senior of all acting nominees.
A Passage to India _ One of the more obscure winners in Academy annals, but Dame Peggy Ashcroft is also the oldest supporting actress winner (77) for David Lean's epic of British colonial life.