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click to enlarge Opening this week: Dungens and Dragons
  • Opening this week: Dungens and Dragons

*Billy Elliot (R)

The plot of this film is nothing really new, clichd even: young-child-overcomes-parental-disapproval-to-follow-his-true-dreams-to-the-point-of-melodrama. But Billy Elliot manages to really shine through some tough spots with a combination of fine acting, terrific cinematography and a deep respect for the inner lives of the mute masculine characters. Jamie Bell, who plays Billy, is a somewhat gangly child on the cusp of adolescence. Opposite him are a cast of adults whose lives have all turned out for the worse, and in each, the actors convey the sorrow and the panic of adult lives out of control. This is, in large part, a film about class, about how a middle-class woman helps a working-class boy get out of his tough situation, about how working-class men are forced to cope with their lives, about the redemption of masculinity through work and art. A must-see. See full review.-- AL

Kimball's Twin Peak

Bounce (PG-13)

So why do you suppose a smart writer/director like Don Roos (The Opposite of Sex) would rehash this well-worn plot of secrets and love? I suppose if he had something new to say on the theme, it might make sense. Unfortunately, Bounce doesn't fit the bill. Perhaps Roos couldn't resist casting Ben Affleck as a callous advertising executive who casually gives his boarding pass to a young writer, then is stricken with guilt when the plane crashes, killing all aboard. Perhaps Roos was smitten by the vulnerability of Gwyneth Paltrow, the grieving widow of the downed writer who, a year after the crash, is trying to make it as a real-estate broker when Affleck seeks her out to make amends. What we have before us is a perfectly passable movie with no spring in its step. The characters are flat, the relationships predictable, and while it covers all the plot bases, it plumbs no new depths. See full review.-- AL

Carmike 10; Chapel Hills; Tinseltown

Bring It On (PG-13)

With one foot firmly planted in the sexed-up teen genre, Bring It On is a perky and often hilarious take on the world of competitive cheerleading. Adorable dimpled blonde Kirsten Dunst is Torrance, the head cheerleader of the Toros -- five-time national cheerleading champions whose prized routines have been ripped off from an inner-city squad from L.A., the fabulous Clovers. Coming up with a new routine in time for the nationals provides the central conflict of the movie, but the peculiar brand of adolescent sexiness native to cheerleaders dominates the film. The cheering is terrific, the teen-speak dialogue relentless, the camera moves supple and graceful, and the climax is sweet and satisfying. See full review. -- KCE

Silver Cinemas

The Cell (R)

The Cell 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 his last victim in time to rescue her. Creepy dreamscapes and funky color schemes give a nod to suspense thrillers like The Silence of the Lambs, but The Cell's extravagant imagery doesn't hold a candle to David Fincher's Seven for terror, dread or suspense. The Cell falls short by pulling its punches in refusing to live up to the creepy, volatile standards it lays out. -- Cole Smithey

Silver Cinemas

Charlie's Angels (PG-13)

A strange and oddly enjoyable hybrid directed by a video director named McG, this Charlie's Angels is no television throwback, but a tongue-in-cheek, over-the-top female martial arts fantasy in which every uttered word is a sexual innuendo -- and a funny one at that. Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu and Drew Barrymore are utterly engaging as three gorgeous chicks with all the usual hangups who just happen to also be secret agents capable of dismantling the high-tech world's most sophisticated security system. Don't worry about the plot; it doesn't matter. All that matters is the pace and the ass-kicking which are both non-stop, cleverly filmed and arresting in a very Jackie Chan-ish manner. Diaz, in particular, shows terrific comic flair. -- KCE

Chapel Hills; Carmike 10; Tinseltown; Gold Hill Theater

*The Exorcist

Significant in this release of previously edited footage is an added conversation between the two exorcists in which Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) explains to Father Karras (Jason Miller) the reason that this demon has chosen to consume the young girl. Over the newly resotred scenes give the audience a clearer understanding of Regan's possession and assign a sronger empathy with Father Karras as the film's protagonist. Though the supernatural incidents are resolved in the closing scenes of the movie, The Exorcist promises to haunt viewers with its classic, troubling images of evil. See full review.-- Cole Smithey

Silver Cinemas

*Meet the Parents (PG-13)

Within the framework of what, on the surface, looks like a typical family comedy lurks a biting satire on the empty material satisfactions of WASP existence in America. Ben Stiller is the unfortunately named Gaylord "Greg" Focker, a Jewish male nurse who immediately unravels when he has to meet the parents of his girlfriend Pam (Teri Polo) -- a blonde with an Oyster Bay pedigree. Robert DeNiro gives a pitch perfect performance as Daddy Dearest for whom no suitor of his precious Pammy will ever measure up. Uproarious scenes of physical comic chaos meld with an interesting perspective on the untruths we tell to make ourselves look better in this ultimately sweet and very funny film. Owen Wilson turns in a killer appearance as Pam's too perfect, but lonely, ex-fianc Kevin. Stiller and DeNiro spar with graceful comic ease, and ultra-suburbia has rarely been drawn more convincingly. -- KCE

Chapel Hills; Tinseltown

*Men of Honor (PG-13)

Finally, after a long stretch of mediocre comedies, Robert DeNiro returns to dramatic acting as Billy Sunday, a racist master chief Navy diver in charge of training Navy salvage mates at a facility in Bayonne, N.J. Academy Award-winner Cuba Gooding Jr. (Jerry Maguire) gives a solid performance as Carl Brashear, the first African American to be accepted into diving program in the newly integrated 1950s Navy. Loosely based on the story of Carl Brashear's life, Men of Honor overshoots its mark, working harder than it needs in making a point of Brashear's tireless diligence and sense of honor. Much of the dramatic impact that drives the film is due to director of photography Anthony Richmond's work. Both DeNiro and Gooding are intensely captivating in the way they use their bodies as thinking extensions of Navy men, completely focused on opposing goals. A well-rounded family film.

Chapel Hills; Carmike 10; Tinseltown See full review.

Proof of Life (R)

See full review, page 59.

Kimball's Twin Peak; Carmike 10; Tinseltown

Red Planet (PG-13)

A 1950s science fiction throwback that chooses not to rely on spectacle and expensive effects so much as human foibles, character flaws and the trajectory of what feels like a doomed mission. Red Planet is a mildly enjoyable excursion, though not particularly mind stretching or dramatically compelling. Basically the four guys in the crew are catapulted onto Mars' surface while the female commander (Carrie-Anne Moss, The Matrix) stays with the crippled ship, trying to figure out how to get them all back to Earth. Val Kilmer brings his trademark low-key humor to the role of Mechanical Systems Engineer Robby Gallagher, the crew's non-intellectual fix-it man whose practical skills come in mighty handy once on Mars. Besides the crew, the only other inhabitant of Mars is a robot named AMEE whose gears get jammed when she hits the planet's surface turning her into a killing machine on the loose. There's nothing new here besides the barely camouflaged notion that once we wreck this planet we can just move on to another one -- the ultimate Mars fantasy. See full review.-- KCE

Tinseltown

Remember the Titans (PG)

Remember the Titans glorifies youth, manhood and the pursuit of football as the best avenues for social justice. The field of justice is, in this case, an Alexandria, Va., high school ordered to desegregate in 1971, where the school board hires a black man, Coach Boone (Denzel Washington) to coach their successful Titans football team. As usual, Washington manages to hit just the right note throughout the film, helping to redeem a fairly cheeseball script and bring out its nobility. It helps if you're willing to believe that the struggle against racism is best fought by men on the model of a war. Whether the male/war model contributes to lasting change is questionable. But war makes for good un-nuanced drama, and Remember the Titans takes full advantage of that. See full review.-- AL

Chapel Hills

Scary Movie (R)

A ripoff of teen slasher flicks Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer, this one might win the overall competition for grossest gross-out jokes of all time. 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 already dead. The competent case play imperiled teenagers adequately, and some of their lines are hilarious, but to watch Scary Movie in its entirety is, basically, to suffer through an extended doo-doo riff with accents of snot, pee-pee and semen. You get the picture. -- KCE

Silver Cinemas

Unbreakable (PG-13)

Bruce Willis is David Dunn, a Philadelphia security guard who mysteriously emerges unscathed from the derailment of a train that kills every other passenger. He is pursued by Elijah (Samuel L. Jackson), an erudite gallery owner and comic book collector who tries to convince the survivor that he possesses superhuman powers that explain his invincibility. Director M. Night Shyamalan's visual style is certainly compelling, but Unbreakable, lovely as it may be, is doomed by its bizarre script. Shyamalan's purported theme is this: "These are mediocre times, and it's hard for people to believe there's something extraordinary inside themselves." David discovers what is extraordinary about himself, but there is no triumphant relief from the leaden discomfort he feels about himself and his place in the world, and the viewer is stuck, too, with no dramatic shift. If the above were the only problems with Unbreakable, it might have been palatable. But the film is plagued with a cheap-shot ending that is not just distasteful but downright inedible. The result is a complete derailment, and not even Dunn survives.

Chapel Hills; Carmike 10; Tinseltown

See full review.

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. See full review.-- Cole Smithey

Silver Cinemas


OPENING THIS WEEK

Dungeons & Dragons (PG-13)

The mystical role-playing game comes to life. With Marlon Wayans.

Chapel Hills; Carmike 10; Tinseltown

The Emperor's New Groove (G)

A young emperor is turned into a llama and stranded in the jungle by an evil diva, and must get back to his home before she destroys it in this new Disney animated feature. With the voices of David Spade, John Goodman and Eartha Kitt.

Tinseltown sneak preview, Sat. Dec. 9, 7 p.m.

Family Man (PG-13)

After stopping a gunman, a Wall Street playboy (Nicholas Cage) wakes to find himself inexplicably married to his college sweetheart (Tea Leoni) and the father of two boys, with no trace of his former life. Just as he gets comfortable with his new life, he must choose between his new family, or going back to his career.

Tinseltown sneak preview, Fri. Dec. 8 and Sat., Dec. 9, 7 p.m.

Vertical Limit (PG-13)

See full review.

Chapel Hills; Carmike 10; Tinseltown

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