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*American Beauty (R)

American Beauty proves, once again, that you don't have to have a new plot to make a fresh story. Instead, a strong visual style, fabulous acting, and quirky writing can all conspire to create an erotic, humorous, captivating film. This film is all kinds of wonderful. Kevin Spacey is given a funny, dry script by screenwriter Alan Ball and uses it confidently, moving between bumbling idiot, threatening asshole, and tender father with ease; Annette Benning perfectly captures the manic acquisitiveness and just-below-the-surface despair of professional-class America with a physical, comedic presence that most actresses would never dare attempt; Wes Bentley portrays the disturbed boy next door with a quiet gravity that intensifies every scene he graces. An equally compelling pleasure is the set design and cinematography of the film. Scene after scene is framed with care to underscore the experiences of the characters themselves. First-time film director Sam Mendes has done a remarkable job of learning the vocabulary of filmmaking and using it to create a multilayered visual and psychological delight. -- Al

Tinseltown; Chapel Hills; Carmike 10


*American Pie (R)

American Pie succeeds where most teenage sex films fail, offering some of the best-developed characters in memory. TV soap star Jason Biggs is Jim, the quintessential smart guy in high school who is perpetually horny and can't get laid. Jim and his buddies vow to lose their virginity before high school's over, and the film chronicles their sexual misadventures toward that end. The girls in American Pie are too womanly, too wry, too mature and wise. Luckily, they are a secondary focus, and the filmmakers insight into the miseries of oversexed teenage males are so right-on, so tender and funny, that the girl problem can be overlooked. -- KCE

Citadel Terrace


*The Blair Witch Project (R)

Intrigued by rumors of a witch outside the Maryland town of Burkittsville, formerly Blair, three film-school students set out to make a documentary. In short order, supernatural forces begin to haunt the young crew, making eerie noises in the dark and leaving physical clues in the woods. What follows is the documentation of their descent into the depths of fear and their ultimate demise. We see what is happening at exactly the moment they see it, through the lenses of their cameras, and we hear their terror, raw and uncensored. -- KCE

Silver Cinemas


Bowfinger (PG-13)

Steve Martin plays the ever hopeful but perennially unsuccessful director Bobby Bowfinger, looking for his big break. His only hope for success is to draw a big-name star to his film that otherwise features a handful of eccentric wannabes. Eddie Murphy is terrific as a neurotic, grandiose superstar, and in a double-turn as his own geeky brother, Jiff. But Heather Graham, as an ambitious starlet, comes across as a stale stereotype. Crowded with too many Hollywood clichs, Bowfinger is simultaneously good-natured and cynical -- a fun romp but not fully successful as a spoof. -- KCE

Citadel Terrace; Tiffany Square


Deep Blue Sea (R)

Deep Blue Sea is a curious hybrid of the mad scientist flicks of the '50s and '60s and the high-tech horrors that started back in the '70s with Jaws. Updated for savvy '90s audiences, the mad scientist is now a woman, the devoted assistant is a hunky guy, and the script keeps us guessing who will be devoured next by the 45-foot long, brain-enhanced shark created in an undersea lab. Despite its overwhelming incredibility, Deep Blue Sea does what it sets out to do: bolts the audience out of their seats with high-pitched action and sends them home to shark nightmares. -- KCE

Silver Cinemas


Double Jeopardy (R)

Despite an excellent cast and clever premise, Double Jeopardy is plagued with problems. In the first place, a thriller requires suspense, and in this case, all mystery has been erased by an ambitious pre-release advertising campaign that gave away the basic plot of the film. All you really need to know is that seeing the film is not nearly as intriguing as watching the trailer. Ashley Judd is tough, fierce and intelligent as the wronged mother and wife, but her grit and good looks are wasted in an otherwise predictable, formulaic script. Tommy Lee Jones as her parole officer merely tags along. Gorgeous location shots of Vancouver and New Orleans provide momentary visual distractions but add little to the drama, and sloppy sound editing detracts throughout. -- KCE

Chapel Hills; Carmike 10; Citadel Terrace; Tinseltown


Drive Me Crazy

Melissa Joan Hart and blue-eyed heartthrob Adrian Grenier star in this teenage trifle. Minus the big laughs of American Pie or the sophistication of last year's Rushmore, still features some incisive writing, and the familiar girl-falls-for-oddball-boy-next-door plot contains some smart commentary on popularity and individual choices. Britney Spears sings the title song and makes a brief appearance at the end.

Academy Station 6; Chapel Hills; Cinema 70; Tinseltown


*For Love of the Game (PG-13)

For Love of the Game is as good a sports movie as you could hope to see, and it's a good romantic comedy as well. Kevin Costner plays Billy Chapel, aging pitcher for the Detroit Tigers. Just prior to a game that may be his last, the love of Billy's life (aside from baseball), Jane (Kelly Preston), announces it's over between the two of them. The most charming aspect of For Love of the Game is the film's depiction of the pitcher's inner monologue while on the mound. We believe that Costner can play ball, and Billy Chapel's final game is an absolute blowout. -- KCE

Chapel Hills; Academy Station 6; Tinseltown; Gold Hill Theaters


The Haunting (PG-13)

Director Jan De Bont's The Haunting has little of the subtle scariness and mystery of the 1960 film version, and even less of the essence of Shirley Jackson's book, The Haunting of Hill House. What it does have, however, is one kickass haunted mansion, complete with gargoyles, a fireplace that looks like the jaws of hell, a fountain that spews blood and various other orgasmic architectural delights. Ridiculous in its brazen excess, just think of The Haunting as a two-hour gothic-mansion tour gone awry, and enjoy the view. -- KCE

Silver Cinemas


Life is Beautiful (R)

Original in its treatment of one of modern history's most horrific episodes, but not otherwise a ground-breaking film. The first half is a charming, if somewhat standard European love story, the second half is a fable of survival in a concentration camp. Italian comic Roberto Benigni (writer, director, star), a frenetic, elfin mutation of Groucho Marx and Charlie Chaplin, plays Guido, the head of the little incarcerated family, winging, pratfalling and shuffling through life with a cheerful comic shtick. At the camp, he convinces his adorable little son that it's all a big game where players win points for making the least amount of trouble and staying out of sight. The message -- life and beauty exist in the eye of the beholder -- tends to negate the emotional impact of forced imprisonment and genocide in this well-meaning but, ultimately, lightweight film.

Silver Cinemas


The Muse (PG-13)

While The Muse has a great premise and some funny scenes, it falls short of a good comedic romp. Sharon Stone does a good job of playing the capricious 20th century muse, Sarah. Her blatant materialism hits just the right note. Albert Brooks' character Steven is less engaging -- he comes across as a whiner, and whining isn't funny. Brooks misses a great opportunity to critique the insanity at the heart of the moviemaking industry. Instead, he stops short at a superficial tour of Hollywood, capped by a clumsy deus ex machina ending. Despite the great promise of this film, including some terrific one-liners, The Muse falls flat. -- AL

Tiffany Square


*Mystery, Alaska (R)

Mystery, Alaska is a worthy addition to the sports genre. The town in question is a tiny frozen village where there's nothing to do in winter but play hockey or make love. And in Mystery, hockey isn't a sport, it is a religion. The real mystery, however, is why the R-rated Mystery, Alaska chose to include so much sex that doesn't further the story. With the fine characterization of Sheriff John Biebe's family trials and tribulations especially well acted by Russell Crowe, Mystery, Alaska could be a great PG flick. Filled with gorgeous scenery (filmed in Alberta, Canada) and even better sports photography that captures the speed and finesse of fine hockey. -- AL

Tinseltown; Tiffany Square


Random Hearts (R)

Harrison Ford looks weary and worn out in this leaden-paced romantic thriller -- and the poor guy looks like he's going to throw up when he's required to smile. Director Sydney Pollack obviously wants to say something significant about infidelity and deception, but gets lost along the way, throwing in a bad cop sub-plot and too many touchy-feely scenes between Ford and Kristen Scott-Thomas. Thomas is good as an ice princess who doesn't know how to mourn, but her pairing with Ford feels unlikely. -- KCE

Kimball's Twin Peak; Chapel Hills; Carmike 10; Tinseltown


Runaway Bride (PG-13)

Garry Marshall's heavily hyped re-joining of Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. Most of the film is merely a set-up for the eventual coupling of Mr. Drop Dead Gorgeous and Ms. Drop Dead Gorgeous, though a star turn by Joan Cusack as Roberts' best friend makes you wish Ike would sweep her away and dump Julia. -- KCE

Chapel Hills; Citadel Terrace


*Sixth Sense (PG-13)

Sixth Sense is a fluid, compelling and genuinely scary ghost story starring Bruce Willis as Malcolm Crowe, a child psychologist. Willis' character leads a charmed life with his wife (Olivia Williams) and his fulfilling, successful career until the night he gets plugged by a dissatisfied former patient. We next see Crowe, shaken and changed, outside the house of Cole Sear, a little boy with anxious tendencies and, apparently, deep psychological problems. Turns out Cole can see the dead, and those with unfinished business often show up in his bedroom at night. The most startling moments of the film all revolve around the appearance of those ghosts. Haley Joel Osment, the child actor who plays Cole, is tortured, convincing and winning. Willis doesn't make a false move. The film delivers a wonderful punch at the end with an unexpected plot twist. A sure audience pleaser, Sixth Sense is solid, smart, subtle, atmospheric moviemaking. -- KCE

Chapel Hills; Carmike 10; Tinseltown


Star Wars, Episode 1: The Phantom Menace (PG)

Little kids will no doubt love it, but adults hoping to relive the spiritual uplift that was the Star Wars experience of their youth will inevitably be disappointed with The Phantom Menace. Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor as Qui-Gon Jinn, Jedi knight, and his apprentice Obi-Won Kenobi are numbingly cool from the start of the film. The entire film, unlike its predecessors, is devoid of enthusiasm for the cause and completely lacking in dramatic tension. The big computer animated battles are terrific, but you might as well be watching Antz or A Bugs Life. -- KCE

Silver Cinemas


Stigmata (R)

Although Stigmata has been marketed as a '90s version of The Exorcist, it isn't nearly as thrilling. The overwrought camera work that uses 10 different angles to show Frankie, the stigmata sufferer, just lying in bed is more conducive to nausea than fear. Patricia Arquette (Frankie) does some passable acting, but her character must go from bland to tormented in 15 seconds so often that there is little room for subtlety. The film masquerades as a religious protest film cloaked in an MTV soundtrack, but the Vatican is a pretty tired target. Stigmata adds little to 10 centuries of religious dissent -- except maybe a little bit more blood. -- AL

Carmike 10; Tinseltown; Academy Station 6


*Stir of Echoes (R)

Kevin Bacon plays Tom Witzky -- an average guy who falls into a dark, spirit-ridden world after being hypnotized -- with delirious muscularity, gruffness and frenetic energy. Seven-year-old Zachary David Cope plays Jake, Tom's clairvoyant son, and holds up favorably in the inevitable comparison to Sixth Sense's Haley Joel Osment. Stir of Echoes captures a classic horror feel right out of the starting gate and moves with unrelenting force for the first solid hour. While nowhere near as slick as Sixth Sense, Stir of Echoes is tough, atmospheric and brimming with danger. -- KCE

Chapel Hills; Tinseltown


*Three Kings (R)

Bold, adventurous and in-your-face. Director-writer David O. Russell (Spanking the Monkey) has penned a tight, provocative script that combines some of the best elements of a good war film with heavy doses of contemporary social commentary. George Clooney plays Special Forces Captain Archie Gates, cynical, worn-out and two weeks from retirement. Mark Wahlberg and Ice Cube play reservists with dead-end jobs back home, called up for the Gulf War. And Spike Jonze is Private Conrad Vig, an overgrown juvenile delinquent from Texas who alternates between a sort of lovable stupidity and delirious combat lust. Dwelling on the crass, commerciality of the Gulf War and the narrow perception at home of the damage wrought to Iraqi citizens by our carpet bombing and premature pullout there, Three Kings disturbed me all over again, and comforted me in an odd way. I couldn't help hope George Bush gets a chance to see it. -- KCE

Chapel Hills; Cinema 70; Gold Hill Theaters; Tinseltown

  • Our reviewers' recommendations for films showing on Colorado Springs area screens.

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