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By Michael Calleri

"Source Code" is yet another action movie in which characters have their reality altered. This one's a science-fiction effort without many thrills, but it does have a surfeit of what Hollywood does best -- explosions. There's also a very good performance from Jake Gyllenhaal as an Everyman. He reminded me of the lead character in most Hitchcock films, an ordinary person thrown into a dangerous situation.

Gyllenhaal's Colter Stevens is a highly decorated Air Force pilot, no longer flying, who finds himself on a commuter train heading for Chicago. I write "finds himself," because the actual Stevens is somewhere else, in what seems to be a military building in which a daring experiment in mind control is being conducted.

All I'll tell you about these sequences is this: There are discussions about "time reassignment," and Gyllenhaal's brain is more important than anything else about him. He sits in what seems to be the cockpit of a jet fighter, but it could be a helicopter, and that's because where he is really doesn't matter.

It's what a military specialist (Vera Farmiga) is manipulating that's the key to what's going on in the crazy world you see on the screen. Her boss is an oily civilian bureaucrat (Jeffrey Wright) who says things like, "The source code is a gift. Don't squander it by thinking."

Of course, director Duncan Jones and screenwriter Ben Ripley don't want you thinking too much as you watch their movie. This is because there are plot holes through which you could drive a commuter train. There are also some glaring impossibilities.

Basically, the military has figured out a way to return a person to a point in the arc of their life just as something bad is going to happen. In the case of the film, that would be an exploding commuter train. Each time the train is destroyed, Farmiga orders Gyllenhaal to go back on the train and pick up the clues and find the bomb before it explodes.

Needless perhaps to write, but Gyllenhaal can't actually go back on the train because his brain is elsewhere, and he just might be part of someone else's body, although he does look like Jake, who, you remember, is in that cockpit in a building filled with computers.

Confused? Don't feel bad. This movie is a high-concept gimmick. If the passengers make it to the station after Stevens has returned to the pre-bombed train for numerous eight-minute stretches, he has more work to do.

These are his marching orders: After you find the bomb, then find the bomber. The movie audience will pay attention to many red herrings, including, but not limited to, a lost wallet (perhaps lost), a conductor's master key, and the biggest red herring of them all, a pretty girl.

She's played by Michelle Monaghan. At the very start of the picture, while sitting on the train across from Stevens, she jolts him from his reverie. He will be jolted many more times before the end of the film.

"Source Code" has fine performances from everyone, especially Gyllenhaal. What really surprised me is the film's length. For a Hollywood movie of this type, the running time is very short, around 90 minutes. It's clear that scenes have been trimmed. There are choppy moments. Perhaps some of the studio suits were confused by the goings-on and ordered changes, figuring that because there's so much repetition, the audience would be lost. I was never lost.

Visually, the film scores high marks, thanks to excellent cinematography by Don Burgess.

Thematically, nothing is too memorable, because there aren't any groundbreaking ideas expressed in the film.

"Source Code" would have made a solid "Twilight Zone" episode. As it strands now, it's "Groundhog Day" without the laughs.

"Hop" is the weirdest holiday movie I've seen in years. Let's start off with this very strange fact: In the film, there's a bunny who poops jelly beans.

Little kids should like the movie's colors and the furry talking rabbits and feathered little chickens, essentially chatty Peeps. Any adults unlucky enough to have to accompany children to the theater may wish they were on acid.

At his Easter Island home, the Easter Bunny wants to retire, hoping that his son, also known as E.B., will take over his job.

But the little flop-eared tyke demurs. He wants to be a drummer in a rock and roll band, so he heads to Los Angeles to find fame and fortune.

In L.A., he encounters a slacker, no surprise there, named Fred, who offers companionship. There's no doubt that Fred, whose strict father insists he find a job, must be ingesting something magical, because he's soon hanging out with E.B. To Fred, talking to what is essentially a sock puppet makes sense.

That's all there is to "Hop." The film offers a mix of live action and animatronics. Director Tim Hill isn't particularly creative, but then neither are his three screenwriters, Cinco Paul, Ken Daurio and Brian Lynch.

Russell Brand voices E.B., while Hugh Laurie is his father. The bunny king himself, Hugh Hefner, is heard, and David Hasselhoff is seen. James Marsden is the slacker with a soft spot in his heart for a cuddly bunny. Gary Cole, Elizabeth Perkins and Kaley Cuoco are long for the ride. "Hop" has some crude jokes at the expense of Easter the holiday. Some may be offended.

The kids won't get many of the picture's gags, because a lot of the humor is for adults.

If this review were a rave, I'd write: Hop to it. Alas, it isn't; therefore, I can't.

E-mail Michael Calleri at michaelcallerimoviesnfr@yahoo.com.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com April 5, 2011