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click to enlarge Serendipity  sweet, but ultimately flavorless
  • Serendipity sweet, but ultimately flavorless

America's Sweethearts (PG-13)
America's Sweethearts, starring Julia Roberts, John Cusack, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Billy Crystal, disappoints both as a screwball romantic comedy and as a satire on the obscene marketing practices of Hollywood. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Silver Cinemas

*Bandits (PG-13)
Barry Levinson (Diner, Rainman) might seem an unlikely director to helm a bank heist comedy in which a couple of escaped prisoners become outlaw heroes. But the key word here is comedy. Pratfalls, snappy dialogue and snazzy character work make Bandits a laugh-out-loud movie that even manages to pull off a surprise ending. The real treat at the bottom of the cinematic box of this film is Billy Bob Thornton's comic physicality and controlled vocal range. Bruce Willis stays in his signature mannered mode, allowing Thornton to steal scenes at will. The movie zigs and zags just where you don't expect, and that gives you enough time to laugh without missing the next gag. -- Cole Smithey

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Cats and Dogs (PG)
Frenetic, silly and madly paced, this tale offers little entertainment value to either children or adults, except those who are excruciatingly bored. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Silver Cinemas

Corky Romano (PG-13)
See full review, page 93.

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*The Curse of the Jade Scorpion (R)
Woody Allen has resorted to the raw elements of what makes comedy funny -- timing, delivery and imagery -- and it's a confection that pops with gentle surprises. Allen plays C.W. Briggs, a crackerjack insurance investigator at polar odds with Betty Ann Fitzgerald (Helen Hunt), a tyrannical efficiency expert recently hired to streamline the company. The fun gets cooking when a magician known as Voltan the Jade Scorpion (David Ogden Stiers) hypnotizes the bitter rivals into being temporarily in love at a dinner club, and later takes advantage of his subjects by using code words to send them out on unconscious jewel-stealing missions. -- Cole Smithey

Silver Cinemas

Don't Say a Word (R)
A glorified kidnap thriller that bundles together gaudy New York City atmospheres with worn-out detective story plot devices in the hopes of creating suspense and surprise. The plot never crystallizes because there's never any doubt about how it will end. As an exercise in performance, Michael Douglas helms the movie with characteristic driving dedication while Brittany Murphy as not-so-insane psychiatric patient Elisabeth Burrows is all over the place as a teenaged girl hiding behind mental disease. Not even Douglas' heartfelt emotion can plug up the void that the filmmakers open up. -- Cole Smithey

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Hearts in Atlantis (PG-13)
By all counts, this film should be a winner. It stars Anthony Hopkins, an actor I'd be happy to watch sleep for two hours. It was directed by Scott Hicks, who catapulted to Hollywood fame with Shine. It's the cinematic retelling of a Stephen King non-horror tale (think Green Mile), is amply budgeted, lovingly shot and features the fascinatingly pale and slightly off-kilter actress Hope Davis (Next Stop, Wonderland). But Hearts in Atlantis disappoints on a number of counts, one being that it is mistakenly told as a flashback, which, in this case, is plodding and painfully slow, adding little if anything to the slim story at the core. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (R)
Director Kevin Smith (Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy) apparently set out to retire his two best known characters, Stoner Jay (Jason Mewes) and his wide-eyed side kick Silent Bob (Smith), by deliberately making the worst film imaginable. Amazingly, the shtick works. A heist/road flick packed with guest appearances by Smith's actor and director friends (Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Gus Van Sant, Wes Craven and others), Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is crude, rude, and funny as all get-out. The pair make a striking comic duo, sort of like Laurel and Hardy on heavy doses of pot, and it's a good-natured, if foul-mouthed, swan song for the two retiring characters. Mark Hamill of Stars Wars fame makes a hilariously over-the-top appearance and Saturday Night Live's Will Farrell provides many of the movie's biggest laughs. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Silver Cinemas

*The Others (PG-13)
Atmospheric storytelling, rich lighting, a superb set and a strong ensemble cast combine to make Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar's The Others a successful, though not particularly terrifying, psychological thriller. Nicole Kidman in a Grace Kelly pageboy hairdo is all nerves and raw edges as Grace, a woman left with her two young children on the foggy Isle of Jersey when her husband goes off to war. The children suffer from a rare, severe allergy to light, which means the curtains must be drawn whenever they are in the room. Several scenes set the audience screaming and jumping in their seats, accomplished with little other than carefully choreographed motion and sound. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Pearl Harbor (PG-13)
A bald-faced exploitation flick, preying on our nation's collective if fuzzy memory of being attacked, faulty in its historic re-creation, insipid in its lame, manipulative love story, and embarrassingly vapid in its telling of one of the critical military attacks of the 20th century. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Silver Cinemas

*Rush Hour 2 (PG-13)
Rush Hour 2 is a movie sequel that comes with a preemptive seal of approval by virtue of Jackie Chan's dedication to pushing his martial arts skills to the limits of acrobatic extremes. Add to this Chan's proven screen chemistry with the infectious high-pitched comic improv abilities of Chris Tucker (Money Talks), and what follows is a stream of highly enjoyable, physically demanding set pieces punctuated by constant comic riffing. -- Cole Smithey

Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Serendipity (PG-13)
Serendipity is sweet but ultimately flavorless. John Cusack stars as Jonathan Tragar, a New York television commercial producer who, one perfect December night, bumps into lovely Sara Thomas (Kate Beckinsale) while both are Christmas shopping at Bloomingdale's. It's clear to the audience that they are meant to be together, but naturally, it doesn't happen quite that simply and seven years later, as their mutual wedding dates draw near on opposite sides of the country, Jonathan and Sara begin to dwell on what might have been. The movie enters a hide-and-seek, cat-and-mouse chase formula which annoys more than anything else. When it's finally all over, we wish that Sara and Jonathan had hooked up about an hour earlier, giving us at least the pleasure of watching Cusack and Beckinsale effortlessly woo and glisten on the screen. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*Training Day (R)
Training Day is a brilliantly written and directed urban blood bath set in Los Angeles's mean streets of drug dealers, gang bangers and undercover detectives. Denzel Washington is brutally cruel as Alonzo Harris, a corrupt narcotics detective taking advantage of rookie officer Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) on his first day of training for an elite detective squad. As Washington's character sinks deeper into completing his own cash-fueled agenda, Hawke's character is forced to fight a very different battle against crime than he anticipated at the start of the day. Director Antoine Fuqua (The Replacement Killers) builds the film's ever increasing tension to a series of gut wrenching crescendos that put the movie on a par with Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant. -- Cole Smithey

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Kimball's Twin Peak, Tinseltown

*Zoolander (R)
I adored Ben Stiller's fluffy take on male models, narcissism and the utter ridiculousness of our fashion-obsessed culture. I even loved the blatant product placement/name dropping, especially Zoolander's wonderful Aveda commercial. Costumed as a mermaid, burbling underwater, he murmurs meaningfully, his pouty lips pursed: "Moisture is the essence of wetness. Wetness ... is the essence of beauty." The fatal gasoline fight scene won't escape any viewer's memory any time soon. The laughs keep coming in this silly satire, and I, for one, was grateful to be able to guiltlessly guffaw at a piece of harmless, very funny entertainment affectionately set in New York City. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

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