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  • Dogma


*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. 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. 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; Cinema 70


*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

Silver Cinemas


*The Basket (G)

Award-winning film The Basket features Peter Coyote and Karen Allen and tells the tale of a small Northwestern town trying to make sense of World War I. An unconventional schoolteacher (Coyote) comes to town, teaching a strange new game called basketball. Some of the film's intriguing aspects are a rare, on-screen look at the early, awkward days of basketball; and the operatic soundtrack, providing a dramatic backdrop and featuring more than 70 minutes of stirring music recorded by composer and musician Don Caron with the Hungarian Symphony Orchestra. While the independent film will ultimately make its way to video, director Rich Cowan says the glowing landscapes of The Basket are made for the theater. "[Cinematographer] Danny [Heigh] shot a movie too big for the small screen. On the big screen, it's just looks and feels right." -- David Kilmer

Cinema 70; Tiffany Square


*Being John Malkovich (R)

See full review, page 31

Tinseltown


Bringing Out the Dead (R)

For all its visual genius, Martin Scorsese's latest collaboration with screenwriter Paul Schrader (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull, Last Temptation of Christ) is frequently repetitive and feels far longer than it actually is. Nicolas Cage plays Frank -- a burned out paramedic who is haunted by the lives he has lost -- with his usual smouldering despair and rage. He's very good, but how many times now have we seen him do the furrowed brow thing? It's distracting to watch him in this role, because we know exactly how he'll play each scene, even before we've seen it in its entirety. Frank's sidekicks, fellow ambulance drivers played by John Goodman, Ving Rhames and Tom Sizemore fare better. Each actor adds flavor to the film, especially Rhames who transcends Scorsese and Schrader's bleakness with his giddy and utterly cynical performance. Martin Scorsese uses his trademark tricks, many of which are truly beautiful to behold, to tell a story that ultimately fails to rouse the viewer. -- KCE

Chapel Hills; Tinseltown


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

Silver Cinemas


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. 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; Citadel Terrace; Tinseltown; Gold Hill Theaters


Drive Me Crazy (PG-13)

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. -- KCE

Silver Cinemas; Broadmoor


*Fight Club (R)

Director David Fincher explores the currently hot psychological territory of the disaffected American male at the end of the 20th century. Edward Norton is the main character of Fight Club, turning in a performance that will likely draw comparisons to Robert DeNiro or Dustin Hoffman, placing him firmly at the top of his generation of Hollywood actors. Fincher is the perfect director for Brad Pitt -- who plays Norton's charismatic alter ego, Tyler Durden -- tapping into the smug arrogance that he does best. However, the inclusion of Helena Bonham Carter as Marla Singer, a nihilistic junkie and eventually a love interest, feels forced and incomplete. Too long by about a half-hour, the film would not have missed about half the fight scenes. But overall, Fight Club succeeds with a tight, often funny script, and compelling editing, design and cinematography throughout. This recommendation contains a strong warning, however: Fight Club is intensely, graphically violent in parts. Youthful viewers should be advised that Fight Club is an allegory, not an advertisement for random violence or dangerous behavior. -- KCE

Carmike 10; Kimball's Twin Peak; Tinseltown; Citadel Terrace


*The Insider (R)

See full review, page 31

Chapel Hills; Tinseltown


The Omega Code (PG-13)

With Springs actor, Ziggy Wagrowski.

Tiffany Square


*Romance (not rated)

Romance is a mind-blower of a movie by French director Catherine Breill. Shocking in its sexual explicitness and unabashed in its approach to the chasm between men and women, it sends you home thinking, and sodden with images you can't shake. Extremely sexual explicit but not pornographic -- Romance is not designed to seduce or arouse, but to provoke questions. Caroline Ducey is Marie, a young woman married to Paul (Sagamore Stevenin), a male model who won't make love to her. Increasingly frustrated, Marie takes to the Paris streets, embarking on a string of sexual adventures. Decidedly feminist in its approach, Romance is an unorthodox take on female liberation -- gutsy and extreme. "Romance is about female desire, not male fantasy," said Breill in an interview, and that is what is most refreshing and diverting about the film. -- KCE

Kimball's Twin Peak


*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


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

Silver Cinemas


Teaching Mrs. Tingle (PG-13)

This movie has a teacher kidnapped in her own house, sadomasochistic sex, threats with a medieval crossbow, mano a mano catfights - all the elements that might make a decent thriller. Unfortunately, the end result of this film is profoundly boring. -- AL

Silver Cinemas


*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. 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 hoping George Bush gets a chance to see it. -- KCE

Chapel Hills; Cinema 70; Academy Station 6; Tinseltown


OPENING THIS WEEK

Anywhere But Here (PG-13)

Fleeing small-town boredom, Susan Sarandon drags her reluctant daughter (Natalie Portman) to Beverly Hills, where they struggle to adjust to their new home, and each other.

Chapel Hills; Carmike 10; Tinseltown


*Dogma (R)

See full review, page 31

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


The Fountainhead (not rated)

Gary Cooper is a young architect who designs an dramatic apartment complex. When the builders drastically change his plans, he uses dynamite to save his artistic integrity. With Patricia Neal, directed by King Vidor.

Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 634-5583. Tuesday, Nov. 16, 7:30 p.m.


Happy, Texas (PG-13)

The biggest thing in Happy is the Little Miss Fresh-Squeezed Beauty Pageant, but interest is waning. If they want to make it to the state finals, the town must hire a famous gay couple to organize the competition. Little do they know, they've confused the couple with refugees from a West Texas chain gang who are ready to go along with the game, if it means freedom. Comedy starring Jeremy Northam, Steve Zahn and William H. Macy.

Chapel Hills


Light It Up (R)

Usher, Sara Gilbert and Rosario Dawson play high-school students protesting the dismissal of a teacher (Judd Nelson). When the protest turns violent and a security guard is shot and taken hostage, the students use the media frenzy to voice their concerns about the state of education.

Chapel Hills; Carmike 10; Tinseltown


The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc (not yet rated)

Milla Jovovich, John Malkovich, Faye Dunaway, Albert Finney and Derek Jakobi star in the legendary story of the 13th century girl who, directed by God, led an army of believers to liberate her country, and sacrificed her life for freedom.

Carmike 10; Tinseltown; Academy Station 6; Tiffany Square


PokeMon: The First Movie (G)

Animated film based on the popular kids game.

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