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‘Soloist’ tells true, heartening story

Jamie Foxx portrays Nathaniel Ayers in “The Soloist.”  (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
Jamie Foxx portrays Nathaniel Ayers in “The Soloist.” (Associated Press / The Spokesman-Review)
The Washington Post

‘The Soloist’

The true story of a newspaper columnist (Robert Downey Jr.) and his friendship with a schizophrenic street musician in Los Angeles (Jamie Foxx), the film is suffused with heartbreak and humanism, as it takes one man’s grim story – early promise, bright future, mental breakdown, despair – and turns it into a spiritual meditation on friendship.

Downey plays Los Angeles Times columnist Steve Lopez, who happens upon Nathaniel Ayers (Foxx) playing a two-stringed violin in downtown Los Angeles’ Pershing Square. Lopez discovers that Ayers once attended Juilliard, and his resulting columns wind up taking the writer not only into the tortured history and mind of his subject, but also into the city’s Skid Row.

A quietly radical third-act reversal raises the film above its own conventions.

DVD extras include a short feature with the real Nathaniel Ayers and Steve Lopez discussing the way they met and the friendship they formed. (1:59; PG-13 for thematic elements, some drug use and profanity)

‘Race to Witch Mountain’

Screenwriters Matt Lopez and Mark Bomback have retooled the Alexander Key novel that provided fodder for the original 1975 film, creating a vehicle for Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.

Johnson is a sly delight here, playing ex-con Jack Bruno, who has traded in his NASCAR dreams to drive a cab in Las Vegas. In between trundling sci-fi geeks to a UFO convention, Jack picks up a pair of very anxious blond tweens named Seth (Alexander Ludwig) and Sara (AnnaSophia Robb).

Once Seth halts a pursuing SUV with his breastplate and Sara levitates Jack’s tip change, it becomes clear that Jack is dealing with two strays from outer space who have crash-landed in the desert. With government agents hot on his trail, he endeavors to spirit his young charges back to their ship. (1:38; PG for sequences of action and violence, frightening and dangerous situations, and thematic elements)

Also available: “Delgo,” “Shadowheart,” “Obsessed,” “August,” “Flight of the Conchords: The Complete Second Season,” “Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!: Season Three,” “Project Runway: Season Five”

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