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Coyote Ugly (PG-13)

See full review, page 49

Academy Station 6; Tinseltown; Chapel Hills; Tinseltown

*Disney's The Kid (PG)

Bruce Willis plays Russell Duritz, a very successful image consultant who is sometimes downright mean. Two days before his 40th birthday, Russell is visited by Rusty (Spencer Breslin), the eight-year-old incarnation of himself, who is disappointed when he finds out how his life turned out. Willis does a fine job holding his own next the pudgy, lisping, and very cute Breslin. The film is really about the pains of childhood that lead each of us to become the people that fell short of our dreams. There is nothing offensive in the film, but if you take your kids be prepared to explain a lot -- The Kid is far more of an adult film than a child's. The time traveling concept makes for a complicated plot that only exacerbates the problem. Don't go expecting a great coming of age film, just keep your average Hollywood expectations with you and you will be pleasantly entertained. -- AL

Tinseltown; Gold Hill Theaters; Citadel Terrace; Chapel Hills

*Chicken Run (G)

Peter Lord and Nick Park, creators of Wallace and Gromit, have crafted a devilishly clever clay animation feature film that is as thoroughly British in its humor as it is enjoyable to watch. A band of hyperkinetic European chickens, imprisoned in a stalag-type egg farm run by a tyrannical husband and wife team, struggle to escape with the questionable aid of a cocky American Rooster named Rocky (voice by Mel Gibson). It's easy to take for granted the painstaking process of frame-at-a-time filmmaking that clay animation requires when watching the film because the filmmakers have done such a superb job of seamlessly blending flawless set and figure design with story and character. Chicken Run is every bit as ridiculous as the title suggests and carries with it a look and style that, while referencing a tradition of escape movies, surprises the audience with its ingenuity and cheeky brand of British satire.See full review. -- Cole Smithey

Tinseltown; Citadel Terrace; Chapel Hills

Frequency (PG-13)

Director Gregory Hoblit knows how to create tension, and succeeds here with dark lighting, a cast of compelling characters and the magnetic charm of late 1960s New York summer nights. Unfortunately, Hoblit was swayed somewhere in the production process, and gradually the threads of the story he set out to tell begin to unravel as he throws in too much new stuff -- like cheap special effects in the climactic scene -- and succumbs, finally, to a completely illogical and smarmy happy, happy and totally implausible ending.See full review. -- KCE

Silver Cinemas; Broadmoor; Tiffany Square

Hollow Man (R)

See full review, page 49

Academy Station 6; Tinseltown; Tiffany Square; Carmike 10

Loser (PG-13)

Paul (Jason Biggs, American Pie) and Dora (Mena Suvari, American Beauty) are impoverished NYU students trying to pass their classes, avoid evil classmates, and have a relationship with each other -- in spite of the fact that Dora is dating their 34-year-old English lit professor Edward Alcott (Greg Kinnear). As the film's title suggests, its characters never aspire to anything above subsistence survival. Paul's sadistic rich-kid roommates dress like Gautier reject/fashion disaster clowns. Most distracting is Jimmi Simpson's (roommate Noah) third-rate attempts at imitating Jack Nicholson. It's as if he has watched nothing but Christian Slater movies for their joker smile nuances. If Simpson were Slater's younger brother he might at least have an excuse for such an obvious attempt at disguising his lack of talent. Teen exploitation writer/director Amy Heckerling (Fast Times at Ridgemont High, Clueless) loses her knack for satisfying slang comedy by taking her college-aged characters way too seriously, and not far enough out in Loser.See full review. -- Cole Smithey

Tinseltown; Academy Station 6

Me, Myself and Irene (R)

In spite of the combined comic genius of Jim Carrey and the Farrelly brothers (Something About Mary), Me, Myself and Irene is a step backward for both the actor and the filmmakers. Carrey plays Charlie Baileygates, a painfully good-natured guy who's proud to be part of "the greatest law enforcement agency in the world -- the Rhode Island state police." The opening sequences of the film are among the best, when we get to enjoy Carrey's pitch-perfect depiction of the ultimate geek. But the film quickly reverts to stock gross-out humor and rambles farther and farther away from a very clever central comic conceit -- white paranoia over black men's sexual virility -- and submits to stock car chases, helicopter rescues and standard action plot devices. When Charlie's personality splits to reveal Hank, his blustering alter ego and a swaggering jerk, Carrey shows off his best physical ability, throwing himself mercilessly into both roles. He eventually hooks up with Renee Zellweger as Irene Waters, a chick on the run from the law who is rescued by Charlie/Hank. Zellweger gets little chance to shine here because her character is dwarfed by Carrey's, and the movie's runaway action plot eventually throws both characters into utter chaos. Not an entire waste of two hours, Me, Myself and Irene inspires several deep belly laughs with the Farrelly's signature sick humor, but it wanders so far off course it's hard to hang on for the duration.See full review. -- KCE

Tinseltown

*M: I-2 (Mission: Impossible 2) (PG-13)

Mission: Impossible 2 revels in the seductiveness of masculine super action with all the bells and whistles of techno-gadgets, fast cars and explosions attached. It's more romantic than anything in a James Bond movie and boasts better Kung Fu scenes than The Matrix. Director John Woo keeps similarities to director Brian De Palma's 1996 Mission Impossible to a minimum in this very dissimilar sequel by incorporating his signature slow motion, ballet-of-bullets action sequences against the taut resolve of Tom Cruise's most ambitious action performance to date. Cruise performed his own stunts, much to the chagrin of Paramount studio execs. The film's realism of danger allows it to operate on a higher level of believability and determination.See full review. -- Cole Smithey

Citadel Terrace

The Patriot (R)

Surprisingly similar to director Ridley Scott's Gladiator -- both films run over two and a half hours long and carry a tried-and-true formula: national freedom by way of revenge over brutally murdered family members. Clunky script devices continually squeak and rattle throughout the movie. And the film's pitiful attempt at black and white race relation revisionism is glaring. By watching this film for historical context, an audience gets no sense of the tensions that sent this country into civil war not so long after the end of the Revolutionary War. The Patriot is a Mel Gibson movie, and screenwriter Robert Rodat bows reverently to his leading character with radiant attention. Gibson perfectly walks a tightrope over any dramatic context with artless skill. The Patriot is an uncomfortably smooth ride over mixed terrain of emotional posturing, flashy action sequences and cultural misrepresentation.See full review. -- Cole Smithey

Tinseltown; Chapel Hills

*The Perfect Storm (PG-13)

The summer's first blockbuster, The Perfect Storm turns out to be a something of a wash. While there are plenty of white-knuckle moments, the film's stolid attempts at inciting reverence for the famed crew of the Gloucester fishing vessel, the Andrea Gail, tend to throw a wet blanket over the compelling true life events memorably recounted by Sebastian Junger in his bestselling book. Director Wolfgang Petersen's clunky manner of making this obvious point feels heavy-handed and artificial. Better to tell the story through the characters and the natural elements -- a feat at which Petersen and crew only partly succeed. The special effects are fun, especially the computer-generated giant swells, but they are less than awe-inspiring. Some of the best moments in The Perfect Storm are perfunctory ones that illustrate with realistic detail the rough, gory nature of commercial fishing. Petersen's direction shines in these small moments. An editor could have done wonders with the film, but unfortunately we're stuck with what we've got -- a few spectacular scenes and some strong performances mish-mashed with too much forced solemnity and enough clichs to gag a whale. The Perfect Storm is well worth seeing, but it's far from perfect.See full review. -- KCE

Tinseltown; Citadel Terrace; Chapel Hills

The Replacements (PG-13)

Keanu Reeves in full surfer-speak is Shane Falco, an All-American college football star who never made it to the big leagues.When the Washington Sentinels' players go on strike, legendary coach Jimmy McGinty (Gene Hackman) is brought in to put together a team of replacement players to carry the Sentinels through the playoffs. Falco is recruited as quarterback because he has a quality missing in the regular crew -- heart. We know Shane's got heart because in a locker room sensitivity session he admits before the whole team his fear of failure. Oh, and because he develops a crush on cheerleader Anabelle Farrell (Melrose Place's Brooke Langton) and eventually they make out in spite of Annabelle's resolve never to date players. But all of that is merely background. The bulk of the action takes place on the football field. Every scene is utterly predictable. The dialogue is so lame that even the worst clichs are repeated over and over. Even the formidable Gene Hackman couldn't save this giant gridiron groaner.See full review. -- KCE

Tinseltown; Carmike 10; Tiffany Square

*Return to Me (PG)

Bob Rueland (David Duchovny) is madly in love with his wife, who dies suddenly in a car crash. Her heart is donated to an anonymous recipient, who turns out to be Grace Briggs (Minnie Driver). Grace works in an Irish-Italian restaurant owned by her grandfather (Carroll O'Connor). Duchovny happens to end up there one day and some miraculous force immediately attracts the two. Despite this silly premise, Return to Me really is a perfectly fine romantic comedy. Like a decent marriage in its middle years, Return to Me is mostly predictable and formulaic, and comforting in its solidity.See full review. -- AL

Silver Cinemas

Scary Movie (R)

Scary Movie, a ripoff of teen slasher flicks Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer, may win the overall competition for grossest gross-out jokes of any film ever. The brothers Wayans seem to have a concept here but they set up every joke so tediously and assiduously that by the time the punchline appears the joke is dead already. Given a big budget, the Wayans seem to wander, aggrandize, overcompensate and falter. The competent cast play imperiled teenagers adequately, and some of their lines are genuinely funny, but to watch Scary Movie is, basically, to suffer through an extended doo-doo riff with accents of snot, pee-pee and semen. -- KCE

Tiffany Square; Tinseltown; Carmike 10

Space Cowboys (PG-13)

A macho adventure about four Air Force men grounded by a commander (James Cromwell) during the heydays of NASA. Forty years later, when a Russian communications satellite goes kaflooey, head man Frank Corvin (Clint Eastwood) is called out of retirement to fix a problem so obsolete that only senior citizens can solve it. Corvin demands that his buddies "Hawk" (Tommy Lee Jones), "Tank" (James Garner), and Jerry (Donald Sutherland) get to tag along. Cowboys isn't only a NASA propaganda flick, it has excellent product placement for Lite beer and Ensure. Everything else is missing. Characterization? If you think macho posturing and juvenile behavior is characterization. Pacing? The glacial pacing of the first third is almost compensated by the last, but the technical mumbo-jumbo almost kills that. Overall, it is an acceptable Hollywood movie, with some cool special effects. The supporting cast is fine, and there are some funny lines to keep it interesting. The only big revelation is that the male fantasy of drinking-swearing-fighting-and-getting-all-the-babes only gets more ridiculous with old age.See full review. -- AL

Tinseltown; Academy Station 6; Kimball's Twin Peak; Gold Hill Theaters; Carmike 10

28 Days (PG-13)

Pretty, feisty Sandra Bullock is Gwen, a New York party girl and writer (one of those who is fabulously successful despite the rare appearance of any work in her life), whose drinking and drugging lifestyle eventually lead her to a court-enforced stay in a rehab center. Once there, Gwen falls in with an eccentric cast of inmates who spend the bulk of the movie intoning the tenets of addiction treatment programs while looking like the cast of Friends. This kind of dark comedy is hard to pull off, and director Betty Thomas' interpretation of Susannah Grant's script is merely functional -- it gets the point across, but loses any memorable characterizations in its predictability. Eminently watchable, but strangely lightweight. -- KCE

Silver Cinemas

What Lies Beneath (PG-13)

Dr. Norman (Harrison Ford) and Claire Spencer (Michelle Pfeiffer) are a well-to-do married couple living alone in their lakeside home. Bored, beautiful Claire becomes a lightning rod for a ghost from Norman's not-so-distant adulterous past. Director Robert Zemeckis (Forrest Gump) kills What Lies Beneath's fleeting moments of excitement by piling up so many false starts of plot and faux shocks of terror that by the time the story finally gets around to making sense with some nitty gritty horror scenes, the audience has become numb to the suspense. Also, Alan Silvestri's musical score rips off Bernard Herrmann's famed musical arrangement for Psycho to such a degree that it's perilously close to plagiarism. What's more, Michelle Pfeiffer acts beyond Harrison Ford's range, whose mumbling style of acting disregards his co-actors as if they were just one more prop. Unlike the works of directors like Alfred Hitchcock, which demonstrate suspense applied with loving care equally toward audience and narrative, What Lies Beneath feels more like a slimy, psychological groping.See full review. -- Cole Smithy

Kimball's Twin Peak, Tinseltown; Academy Station 6; Carmike 10; Chapel Hills

*X-Men (PG-13)

The summer's biggest blockbuster turns out to be a spirited, stylish allegory along the lines of its mighty predecessor The Matrix. Audience members are swept up almost immediately into a blessed state of suspended disbelief from which we are allowed to dwell on the spectacle before us, not on the probability of the plot. This happens incredibly swiftly with sharply defined scenes and cogent dialogue. A few subplots -- mutant Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) hankers for Dr. Grey (Famke Janssen) who is currently Cyclops' (James Marsden) main squeeze; Rogue (Anna Paquin), meanwhile, is smitten with her saviour and hero, Wolverine -- add some needed humor and heart to the mix. The diction and grave humanity of Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen lend more to the film than a year's worth of special effects. And Australian newcomer Jackman is fabulous -- a steely, Clint Eastwood look-alike who moves with feral grace and a healthy dose of skepticism throughout.See full review. -- KCE

Tinseltown; Academy Station 6; Carmike 10; Chapel Hills


OPENING THIS WEEK

Autumn in New York (PG-13)

An older playboy (Richard Gere) finally finds real love -- in a dying woman half his age (Winona Ryder).

Carmike 10; Tinseltown; Academy Station 6; Tiffany Square

Bless the Child (R)

Kim Basinger, Angela Bettis, Jimmy Smits, Rufus Sewell and Christina Ricci star in this story of a woman protecting her niece -- who has extraordinary powers -- from her evil occultist parents.

Carmike 10; Citadel Terrace; Chapel Hills; Tinseltown

One-Eyed Jacks (not rated)

Marlon Brando is an outlaw seeking revenge on his former friend (Karl Malden), now a sheriff. Psychological western with Pina Pellicer and Slim Pickens.

Fine Arts Center, 30 W. Dale St. $2.75, 634-5583. Tues., Aug. 15, 7:30 p.m.

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