Screen Scene with Jon Niccum

No movie this year has generated more controversy prior to its release than "United 93." Opinions are varied as to whether American audiences are "ready" for this docudrama. But aren't audiences always ready for a great movie?

"United 93" succeeds as a harrowing, often excruciating look at the real-time events surrounding 9/11, intercutting the struggle between passengers and hijackers with the air traffic control and military authorities as the terrorist plot unfolds.

Writer-director Paul Greengrass of "The Bourne Supremacy" supplies a you-are-there immediacy that seamlessly blends the facts of the infamous day with speculation as to how the parties on the doomed flight might have reacted. It is riveting, anger-inducing and often heartrendingly sad.

Also opening in Topeka theaters this week is "Stick It," in which the writer of the cheerleading epic "Bring It On" tackles the world of competitive gymnastics.

First came "Spellbound" then "Bee Season," and now the latest spelling spectacle, "Akeelah and the Bee." Keke Palmer stars as a scholarly 11-year-old who enters the Scripps Spelling Bee competition, helped by a tough coach and hindered by an indifferent mother.

And finally, Robin Williams returns to his comedic roots with "RV" -- a "National Lampoon's Vacation"-style romp involving a bickering family and an ill-fated trek. Sarcasm and toilet jokes ensue.

I'm Jon Niccum with Screen Scene.

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