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Autumn in New York (PG-13)

Richard Gere plays a womanizing, aging restaurateur who falls for Winona Ryder, a youthful artiste dying from a heart ailment. Much is made of his age and her youth -- he gives her a few last laughs; she opens up his heart. Gere is an appealing leading man and Ryder does the best she can with a silly role that involves being quixotic. The production values are quite appealing, but in some ways the very prettiness of the film is its most annoying feature. The last I checked, love, eating, sex, and dying were all quite messy endeavors, but Autumn in New York makes them appear like orderly activities. There's nothing intrinsically wrong with a tidy little film, but it manages to take most of the interest out of what otherwise would be compelling subject matter. See full review.-- AL

Tinseltown; Tiffany Square

*The Basket (PG)

Peter Coyote plays a teacher with unconventional methods who comes to a small Pacific Northwest town in the midst of World War I. Though the townspeople are tired and suspicious, when he teaches them a strange new game called basketball, they react with enthusiasm and hope. Beautifully filmed, gentle and respectful treatment of difficult issues in a simpler time. -- KCE

Chapel Hills

Bless the Child (R)

Bless the Child is not a terrible flick; it's mildly entertaining. But sloppy editing, thinking and writing rob the audience of dramatic climaxes, and render many of the characters' actions inexplicable. Kim Basinger plays Maggie, a woman left with her sister's child who later proves to have spiritual powers. Maggie's sister reappears with Eric Stark (Rufus Sewell), a Satan worshiper, and the rest of the film involves Maggie's attempts to save Cody from the devil himself. The film might have been more interesting had the filmmakers made more of Jimmy Smits' role as an FBI agent specializing in occult crimes. He and Basinger are a perfect match, but little is made of their pairing. Director Chuck Russell (The Mask) either had his budget cut or lost interest in the film -- the computer effects are sloppy and amateurish. Bless the Child is God vs. Satan rehashed, largely unmemorably.See full review. -- KCE

Tinseltown

The Cell (R)

The Cell is an elegantly styled psychological thriller where visually ambitious macabre settings take precedence over character development. Creepy dreamscapes and funky color schemes give a nod to suspense thrillers like Seven, and The Silence of the Lambs, but The Cell's extravagant imagery doesn't hold a candle to David Fincher's Seven for terror, dread, and suspense. The bulk of the story explores the dark territory inside the mind of serial killer Carl Stargher (Vincent D'Onofrio) as psychologist Catherine Deane (Jennifer Lopez) risks her sanity by interacting with the killer's subconscious to attempt to locate Starger's last victim in time to rescue her. Debut feature director Tarsem Singh has an exacting eye for mise-en-scene but spends more time ogling spectacle than executing actual suspense. As a horror or suspense film, The Cell falls short by pulling its punches in refusing to live up to the creepy and volatile standards it lays out. The filmmakers and actors seem so mesmerized by a romantic view of the nightmares that they can't follow through with the film's menacing threat. -- Cole Smithey

Carmike 10; Chapel Hills; Tinseltown

Coyote Ugly (PG-13)

John Goodman plays the father of Violet (Piper Perabo) a wannabe musician. Violet gets a gig as bartender at Coyote Ugly, where the gorgeous bartenders double as dancers. The audience might expect a buddy film -- the cinematic equivalent of a trip to a topless joint -- but there's not much to ogle at, except silly want-to-be-sexy scenes, where the girls get very close in their wet leather pants -- nothing more than highly conventional Playboy poses. The film is most interesting in its depictions of the contradictions and pitfalls of modern gender, sexuality, and the hazards for women attempting to reclaim sexual power. See full review.-- AL

Tinseltown; Chapel Hills

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. See full review.-- AL

Chapel Hills

*Gladiator (R)

Russell Crowe (The Insider) acts up a righteous storm in his Roman get-up, proving once and for all that his versatility as an actor matches his prowess. Though director Ridley Scott would like you to think Gladiator is about strength, honor, duty, democracy and the danger of mob rule, in truth, it is an old-fashioned revenge drama -- and a pretty good one at that. Crowe as Maximus, beloved general of Roman troops turned slave, then gladiator, and Joaquin Phoenix as Commodus, insecure usurper to the throne, make marvelous foes. Unfortunately, Scott is so enamored of his production team's ability to show heads, hands and other body parts being severed, that the fight scenes become clamorous and redundant. See full review.-- KCE

Silver Cinemas

Hollow Man (R)

Filmmaker Paul Verhoeven's latest thriller is an empty, excruciating mess. Kevin Bacon stars as Dr. Sebastian Crane a government scientist who insists that he will become the first invisible human. Assisted by his former lover Linda (Elisabeth Shue) and her current lover, Matt (Josh Brolin), Crane is injected with a smoking, irradiated blue liquid, and in one of the film's compelling special effects sequences, he disappears. But special effects aside, no other aspect of Hollow Man is entertaining or enlightening. When efforts to bring Crane back to visibility fail, instead of despairing, he becomes more of a swaggering ass, growing more testy and more sadistic the longer he remains invisible. To use the guise of invisibility the way Crane does defies the presence of brains or imagination -- his is the petty psyche of a Peeping Tom that unjustly reinforces the worst male stereotypes. This overblown spectacle of a film rings empty, void, vacant, meaningless, superficial, delusive, ineffectual, unsatisfying -- in a word, hollow. See full review.-- KCE

Tinseltown; Tiffany Square

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. 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

Silver CInemas

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

Mission: Impossible 2 is 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

Silver Cinemas

*Nurse Betty (R)

See full review.Tinseltown

*The Original Kings of Comedy (R)

The best live performance film in memory and, surprisingly, one of the most touching films this year. Like Richard Pryor's Live on the Sunset Strip, this movie captures the power of the stage and the enthusiastic desire of the audience to be uplifted. Shot with 10 movable video cameras over three days, Kings ventures backstage briefly, but the heart of the film is onstage, and director Spike Lee masterfully captures the give-and-take of four stand-up comics and their audience. In one brilliant moment, host Steve Harvey leads the audience through a critique of hip-hop and into a Marvin Gaye celebration of love songs. Next D.L. Hughley observes the not so subtle differences between white and black folks. Hughley removes barriers, declaring no topic off limits. Cedric the Entertainer provides a low-key segue between Hughley and Bernie Mac, the most in-your-face of the comics, with more observations on the racial gap. Mac's stage presence is mesmerizing, gathering power with every round of laughter. By the end of his segment, the audience is empowered by his courage and candidness. See full review.-- KCE

Carmike 10; Tinseltown

The Patriot (R)

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

Chapel Hills

The Perfect Storm (PG-13) See full review.

The summer's first blockbuster, The Perfect Storm turns out to be 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. 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. -- KCE

Tinseltown

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. Falco is recruited as quarterback because he possesses a quality missing in the regular crew -- heart. 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. -- KCE

Tinseltown; Carmike 10; Tiffany Square; Gold Hill Theaters

Saving Grace (R)

Another refreshingly politically incorrect British comedy, winner of the audience prize at the Sundance Film Festival, Saving Grace stars Brenda Blethyn as an upper-crust villager whose late husband has left her in debt. Groundskeeper Matthew (Craig Ferguson), a good-natured pothead, turns Grace on to the idea of growing marijuana in her greenhouse in order to pay her bills. There are some fun moments when Grace cuts loose, but Blethyn grounds the character with her depiction of the sorrow of a loveless marriage. The film destabilizes slightly when Grace ventures to London to find a dealer, but an intriguing romantic interest results. The actors succeed in making their characters seem like real people, especially Valerie Edmond who plays Nicky, Matthew's pregnant girlfriend. Cinematographer John de Borman's ravising visuals of the Cornish coast are reason enough to see the film. Gentle, and whimsical, in spite of its subject matter, Saving Grace is as inoffensive as a Cheers episode. Not an earthshaker, but certainly worthy. --KCE

Kimball's Twin Peak

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; Carmike 10

Space Cowboys (PG-13)

A macho adventure about four Air Force men grounded by a commander (James Cromwell) during the heyday 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. 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 only big revelation is that the male fantasy of drinking-swearing-fighting-and-getting-all-the-babes only gets more ridiculous with old age. -- AL

Tinseltown; Carmike 10; Gold Hill Theaters

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. -- Cole Smithey

Tinseltown; Chapel Hills

The Watcher (R)

See full review, page 50

Chapel Hills; Carmike 10; Tinseltown

*X-Men (PG-13)

The summer's biggest blockbuster turns out to be a spirited, stylish allegory more 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 -- mutants 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. -- KCE

Tinseltown; Chapel Hills

OPENING THIS WEEK

Almost Famous (R) sneak preview

Director Cameron Crowe's semi-autobiographical film about a 16-year-old midwestern rock fan named William who lands a choice assignment with Rolling Stone -- touring with and reporting on rock bands during the 1970s. Starring Billy Crudup, Frances McDormand, Kate Hudson, Zooey Deschanel and Bijou Phillips.

Tinseltown sneak preview, Sat. Sept. 16, 8 p.m.

Bait (R)

When the Federal Gold Reserve is broken into, the cops use human "bait" (Jamie Foxx) to catch the bad guy. Starring Kris Kristofferson.

Carmike 10; Chapel Hills

Croupier (not rated)

A victim of writer's block, Jack Manfred takes a gambling job as a croupier to support his art. Sure he won't fall under gambling's addictive spell, he soon learns he underestimated the cards. Thriller directed by Mike Hodges.

Kimball's Twin Peak

Sunshine (R)

This epic film directed by Academy Award-winning director, Istvn Szabo, follows three generations of the Jewish/Hungarian Sonnenschein family through political and social change. Starring Ralph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz, Rosemary Harris, William Hurt and Molly Parker.

Tinseltown

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