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*American Beauty (R)

Strong visual style, fabulous acting, and quirky writing 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 Bening 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; Carmike 10; Chapel Hills

*Anna and the King (PG-13)

Unlike the 1956 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, this retelling of Anna Leonowen's (Jodie Foster) story is rather serious in its treatment of the relationships between Asia and the British during the age of British expansion. Go to be captivated by the kind of spectacle that Hollywood alone can create, the organizational and visual feats of lush scenery, beautiful costuming, and good special effects, and you won't be disappointed. -- AL

Silver Cinemas

*Boiler Room (R)

A deftly told tale of the sleazy underside of the stock market -- Wall Street bottom feeders who get rich selling little known, unreliable stocks to unsuspecting investors. Giovanni Ribisi finally gets the star turn he deserves as Seth Davis, an unsuspecting young trainee who is caught up in the hype of the get-rich-quick scheme. Engaging and fast-paced throughout -- with the exception of a drippy subplot involving Ribisi and his father, a stern judge -- The Boiler Room is a stylish peek into a universe where greed truly rules. Ribisi transcends the bare outlines of his character in the scenes where he goes for the sell, sweating and squirming. Outstanding supporting cast includes Ben Affleck and Nia Long. -- KCE

Tiffany Square

*Boys Don't Cry (R)

Director/screenwriter Kimberly Peirce's feature film debut is as assured as they come. Hilary Swank is a revelation as Brandon, a young cross-dresser whose identity falls somewhere between heartthrob and strut-your-stuff cowboy. On the run to avoid prosecution for petty crimes, Brandon settles in Falls City, Nebraska. Brandon's love hungry eyes settle on Lana (Chloe Sevigny). Unfortunately, her dysfunctional family includes John (Peter Sarsgaard) and Tom (Brendan Sexton III), both chronic losers for whom the notion of sexual ambiguity ranks at the top of the list of sins worthy of the death penalty. Filmed on a low budget, the film is notably artful in its depiction of the stark Nebraska landscape, and is blessed with a simply remarkable cast. Swank did win the Oscar for best actress. -- KCE

Kimball's Twin Peak

*Cider House Rules (PG-13)

John Irving, who wrote the novel, did an excellent job of paring down his long, Dickensian work into a cogent screenplay that doesn't sacrifice its heart in the translation. The characters' quirks and charms are intact, especially those of Dr. Larch, an eccectric abortionist played by Michael Caine with an overwhelming kindness and vulnerability. His scenes glow with humanity, and Tobey Maguire's low-key performance as Homer, Larch's disapproving proteg, provides an interesting counterpart. A heartwarming film. -- KCE

Tiffany Square; Tinseltown

*Erin Brockovich (R)

Erin Brockovich succeeds quietly, thanks largely to director Steven Soderbergh's (Out of Sight) sure hand, even with a diva like Roberts in front of the camera. First strong point -- a knock-out true story. In 1996, a file clerk named Erin Brockovich came across old real estate records that led her to find that a $28 billion utilities corporation had systematically poisoned the community of Hinkley, California, by allowing a pipe-cleaning agent to infiltrate the ground water. Brash and outspoken Brockovich enlisted attorney Ed Masry in what became the largest direct-action legal settlement in American history, winning a $333 million award for their clients. Roberts transcends Brockovich's exploitative wardrobe with a gritty performance, precise comic timing, a foul mouth and intense focus. Her Erin is charismatic with a capital C. The impeccable casting of the two lead males -- Finney as Ed, Erin's partner in justice and comic foil; and Aaron Eckhart (In The Company of Men) as the biker next door who becomes Erin's trusted babysitter and lover -- further cements the film's success. Finney enjoys some of the best moments he's seen onscreen for years, and Eckhart's natural bearing and low-key demeanor provide a strong balance to Roberts' inescapable star quality.

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

The Green Mile (R)

At three hours and ten minutes long, this is one marathon of a movie, and unnecessarily so. The story, based on Stephen King's 1996 serial novel, is oddly compelling: A death row prison guard in the mid-1930's deep south, Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks) is delivered a 7-foot tall, black, simple-minded but apparently clairvoyant inmate (Michael Clarke Duncan), convicted for murder. Duncan's characterization, though spare, is powerful. And Hanks, as Edgecomb, is his usual measured, affable self -- the soul of fairness. The Green Mile is a worthy exploration of good and evil, human suffering, the cold inevitability of death and the redeeming power of love. But because the strength lies in the simple nature of the story, the earthy vernacular and the colorful characters, the director's tired dramatic approach feels like little more than excessive padding. -- KCE

Carmike 10; Chapel Hills

Hanging Up (R)

Despite a weak script, Meg Ryan and her co-stars Diane Keaton and Lisa Kudrow do their level best to portray three sisters whose father Lou (Walter Matthau) is succumbing to illness and senility. You'd think that there was plenty of material here for a moving story, but writers Delia and Nora Ephron botch it again and again. The film has a strange, mechanical feel to it, as if the writers were just learning screen craft from a text book. Occasionally the movie has some moving moments, but unfortunately, those moments are few and far between, and silliness is allowed to prevail over a film of real potential. This is the underlying flaw of Hanging Up -- real characterization is replaced by a series of facile, surface traits, and real issues are swapped for a fluffy, feel-good gloss. -- AL

Tiffany Square

*The Hurricane (R)

Nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture and Best Actor. Veteran filmmaker Norman Jewison tells Rubin Hurricane Carter's story powerfully and with a steady gaze in The Hurricane. In May of 1967, Carter, a rising professional boxing champion, was convicted of the murders of three white people in Paterson, New Jersey, and was sentenced to three life terms in prison. For the next 20 years, Carter remained incarcerated, wrote an autobiography and continued to petition the courts for his freedom. There are no groundbreaking camera tricks or imaginative twists in this biopic -- the story is a stunner on its own. As Carter, Denzel Washington's performance perfectly captures Carter's evolution -- as he is ripped from the world of notability and locked in seclusion, both his grief and his compassion expand. Both the movie and its formidable star succeed at dramatizing the hideous injustice of Carter's imprisonment, and the excruciatingly painful passage of time behind bars. -- KCE

Silver Cinemas

*The Insider (R)

Nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture and Best Actor. Russell Crowe turns in the best performance of his career as the beleaguered Jeffrey Wigand -- the corporate whistleblower who brought big tobacco to its knees -- lending his character the heavy, tangible weight of conscience and family responsibility. And as CBS producer Lowell Bergman, Al Pacino gives a fine, modulated performance. Given the opportunity to be holier-than-thou, Pacino frequently stoops to breast-beating, but here he tones down his righteousness. Christopher Plummer is perfectly cast as anchorman Mike Wallace. Mann's depiction of the journalist paints a picture of a dignified, aging celebrity caught in one of the most difficult moments of his career -- one where he makes the wrong choice, but we are led to understand his flawed reasoning. Director Michael Mann's style with the camera works well with this material -- in most of the movie's scenes, we are made aware that more is happening than just what we see in the foreground. Shots are framed off-center, creating a tension between what we can and cannot see, between what we know and don't know. -- KCE

Silver Cinemas

My Dog Skip (PG)

My Dog Skip is based on a memoir of the same name by Willie Morris who grew up in Yazoo, Mississippi in the 40's. In the glory days of small-town America, the dog Skip, could accompany his young master everywhere and have many adventures not possible in this more complicated and dangerous time. There isn't really much that holds this film together besides a rather ponderous narration that says, "Skip helped me turn from a child to a boy," or "Skip helped me turn from a boy into a man." There are some good performances by Kevin Bacon who plays Willie's dour and over protective father and Willie himself played by funny-faced young actor Frankie Muniz. Most compelling of all are the dogs who play Skip -- the wizards of Hollywood animal training are able to teach these dogs to do great things on command, from climbing into a toilet to running wide choreographed circles to disrupt a baseball game. By all accounts, Skip really was a remarkable animal. -- AL

Chapel Hills; Citadel Terrace; Tinseltown

*Ninth Gate (R)

The Ninth Gate is an extremely well-crafted and entertaining horror film. While director Roman Polanski chooses to lilt over the horrific trajectory that tugs mercenary book dealer Dean Corso (Johnny Depp) toward the gates of Hell, rather than embrace his protagonist's terror as he did with such shockers as Rosemary's Baby (1968) or The Tenant (1976), he stakes out his own ground rules and adheres to them flawlessly. Johnny Depp uses a vocal texture that rumbles from the screen in a dark pitch that catches you off guard. Pauline Kael said that "great movies are rarely perfect movies," and this truth certainly applies to The Ninth Gate. There are plenty of silly bumps and loopy twists that don't sufficiently fulfill a dynamic dramatic arc for the film's slightly long running time, and this is not a movie that ever gives you a jolting scare. Even so, from the movie's textbook opening scene to the thorough European pacing over which the devilish story unfolds, The Ninth Gate takes the audience on a joyfully evil descent into perplexing other-worldly shadows.

Tinseltown; Carmike 10; Chapel Hills

*Sixth Sense (PG-13)

A fluid, compelling and genuinely scary ghost story starring Bruce Willis as Malcolm Crowe, a child psychologist. Willis' character enjoys a charmed life with his wife (Olivia Williams) and a 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

Tinseltown; Silver Cinemas

*Sleepy Hollow (R)

In Director Tim Burton's hands, the tiny Hudson River valley town of Sleepy Hollow becomes a mythical place where gnarled trees silhouetted against a foggy background speak volumes. Johnny Depp brings a humorous finickiness to the character of Ichabod Crane. He is prissy, prim and immaculate, and he doesn't take well to the sight of gore. But Crane's transformation to action hero is palatable too -- Depp moves from prude to swashbuckler with real movie star grace and charisma. And the horseman himself -- massive and shrouded in black -- proves to be a striking central focus of the film, despite his missing head. Burton revels in special effect, and his wild creation, the tree of the dead, is a memorable cinematic marvel. This Sleepy Hollow will, no doubt, prove to be a Halloween video classic. -- KCE

Silver Cinemas

*The Talented Mr. Ripley (R)

Anthony Minghella meticulously recreates the feel of the 1950s jazz era in Italy where everyone loves anything American. Matt Damon delivers a fine, nuanced performance that grows on the viewer. As Tom Ripley, a deeply disturbed young man who longs to be someone other than himself, Damon moves from fumbling geek to smooth expatriate with boyish intensity and dark charm. Brit Jude Law is a revelation as Dickie Greenleaf, object of Ripley's lustful admiration, a rich American kid who spends his days soaking up the sun and his nights in smoky jazz clubs. Glowing cinematography, a rich musical soundtrack, well-rounded characters, a literate narrative and nail-biting suspense are combined by Minghella to produce one of the richest, old-fashioned in the best sense of the word, films out of Hollywood this year. -- KCE

Silver Cinemas

*Toy Story 2 (G)

Toy Story 2 manages to construct even wilder gags, and to stretch even further the idea of the secret life of toys than the first, but it also leaves an even more bittersweet aftertaste. At its most heart-wrenching, this chipper cartoon is also a parent's stricken fantasy of being outgrown by their children. The mix of silliness, affection, and piercing nostalgia -- and yes, artistry -- keeps kids and adults engaged simultaneously. -- Jim Ridley

Citadel Terrace; Silver Cinemas

*The Whole Nine Yards (R)

A comedy about a retired Mafia contract killer (Bruce Willis) who moves into a quiet Montreal suburban neighborhood. That The Whole Nine Yards is so amusing and unexpected is a tribute to really good writing. Screenwriting newcomer Mitchell Kapner has loaded the film with the kind of funny throwaway lines that you want to remember and repeat to your friends. The humor of the film also gets a lift from some decent physical comedy on the part of Matthew Perry. While the humor is very clever and tongue-in-cheek, the violence of the film is not. All the killing in the midst of the comedy was a little creepy. Squeamishness, and a deep wonder at our warped American psyche aside, however, The Whole Nine Yards is a lightweight, clever comedy, and writer Kapner will be one to watch. -- AL

Citadel Terrace; Tinseltown; Tiffany Square; Gold Hill Theaters

*The World is Not Enough (R)

Pierce Brosnan can do no wrong. He gleams with all the requisite savoir-faire and charisma that James Bond demands. Robert Carlyle does a brilliant turn as the ruthless terrorist Renard. Michael Apted, best known for his fantastic 7 Up documentary film series and Coal Miner's Daughter, more than hits his directorial marks.The World Is Not Enough is, pound for explosion, a great return on your entertainment dollar. -- Cole Smithey

Silver Cinemas


OPENING THIS WEEK

High Fidelity (R)

John Cusack plays the owner of Championship Vinyl, an under-performing record store. When his girlfriend walks out on him, he has to face dating, responsibility, and worst of all -- adulthood.

Tinseltown

Price of Glory (PG-13)

Jimmy Smits, Maria Del Mar, Jon Seda, Ernesto Hernandez and Clifton Gonzalez star in the story of a man whose dreams of becoming a world champion boxer are realized through his three sons.

Tinseltown; Tiffany Square

*Return to Me (PG)

See full review, page 48

Tinseltown sneak preview Sat. April 1, 7:30 p.m.; Chapel Hills sneak preview, Sat., April 1, 7 p.m.

Road to El Dorado (PG)

Kevin Kline provides the voice of Miguel in Disney's newest cartoon, which animates the story of two con men and their search for the City of Gold.

Chapel Hills; Citadel Terrace; Tinseltown; Academy Station 6

The Skulls (PG-13)

Joshua Jackson (Dawson's Creek) gains entry into a secret group of college elitists, winning him privilege and love. But when he tries to leave, he find out that the only way out is death. With Craig T. Nelson.

Carmike 10; Tinseltown; Academy Station 6; Tiffany Square

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

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