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click to enlarge Russell Crowe and Ed Harris in A Beautiful Mind, nominated for eight Academy Awards
  • Russell Crowe and Ed Harris in A Beautiful Mind, nominated for eight Academy Awards

*Amlie (R)
The love child of French director Jean Pierre Jeunet who, in the past, has frightened and mesmerized with Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children. Though his characteristic blackness is still apparent, it seems Jeunet has finally decided to make a sweet film. Screen grabber Audrey Tautou, an ingenue with the neck and eyes of Audrey Hepburn, plays the winsomely beautiful and impish Amlie who has an overwhelming urge to help mankind by bringing lonely people together and healing the wounds of those hurt in love. The film's many subplots are endearing but her cat-and-mouse game with her own love interest -- designed to show us the emotional toll of her damaged heart -- is ultimately annoying and overly diverting. Altogether, Amlie is a pleasant confection, stylishly filmed and nicely acted. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Kimball's Twin Peak Theater

*A Beautiful Mind (PG-13)
With this film, director Ron Howard honors the kind of intellect that has long fascinated him. Who else would see the sexiness and intrigue of a Princeton graduate student who scribbles mathematical equations on the leaded glass windows of his dorm room? Russell Crowe seems born to play the part of Nobel Prizewinning mathematician John Nash who is also schizophrenic. And the beautiful Jennifer Connelly gets her breakthrough role here as Alicia, the physics graduate student who will eventually become Nash's wife, more than holding her own against Crowe's formidable presence. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Big Fat Liar (PG)
Although none of Big Fat Liar is particularly compelling, neither is it terribly noxious (aside from the rampant product placement). You could easily take your 10-year-old daughter, niece, neighbor, whatever, and not look at your watch. That's hardly a ringing endorsement, but it could be worse. -- Andrea Lucard

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*Black Hawk Down (R)
Aside from the fact that this is the most viscerally real war film I've ever seen, what struck me most about Black Hawk Down is its timeless, apolitical look at battle. Unlike so many Vietnam films such as Apocalypse Now, Platoon, Full Metal Jacket and Dead Presidents, which all comment heavily upon the absurdity of America's foreign war in a moral vacuum, Black Hawk Down refuses to judge the validity of the 1993 Special Forces operation in Mogadishu, Somalia. Instead, it focuses entirely on the way the soldiers must behave under fire. Please note: If you do not wish to see, or revisit, the realities of war, I highly recommend you skip this film. -- Noel Black

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Brotherhood of the Wolf (R)
Clearly fans of all manner of genre films, scriptwriter Stephan Cabel and director Christophe Gans smushed them all together in what might have been a really clever homage. Building off of apparently verifiable attacks on a French village in 1765 by something that probably was a wolf, but might not have been, the writers created hero Grgoire de Fronsac (Samuel Le Bihan), a biologist sent by the king of France to investigate the mysterious attacks. As befits a big-budget film, the cinematography is excellent, especially in the lush outdoor sequences filled with rain and snow and sun. However, the movie makes several fatal missteps: It takes itself too damn seriously and it perpetuates ridiculous and outmoded stereotypes. So, overall, what could have been a truly amusing, bang-up genre-bender ends up falling flat. -- Andrea Lucard

Kimball's Twin Peak Theater, Tinseltown

Collateral Damage (R)
This film isn't a great action movie, war movie, nor even a passable excuse for social commentary. Formula: Heroic fireman's wife and son killed in a Colombian terrorist's bomb-blast. Ahhnold then seeks vigilante revenge and learns some "deep things" along the way. I'm normally a huge fan of Arnold Schwarzenegger as a two-dimensional one-liner deliverer, but when he's called upon to act or show anything emotional beyond a grunt, I simply cannot abide. Though director Andrew Davis did make a valiant attempt to show some of the infinite complexities of Colombia's 50-year-old guerrilla war and the U.S.'s dubitable involvement in that conflict, it also reached some astoundingly simplistic and propagandistic conclusions. Don't bother. -- Noel Black

Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Crossroads (PG-13)
Britney Spears makes her feature film debut in this Tamara Davisdirected teen road-trip movie. Also stars Dan Akroyd and Kim Cattrall. -- not reviewed

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

The Count of Monte Cristo (PG-13)
Aside from noting that I expected a great deal more from a film with both Guy Pearce (the man behind the brilliantly acted chronic-amnesia case in Memento) and James Caviezel (the introspective and nature-loving philosophical naf in Terence Mallick's war epic The Thin Red Line), I really don't have much to say about Kevin Reynolds' adequately vapid adaptation of Alexander Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo other than it's entertaining ... and you may want to wait for it to come out on video. -- Noel Black

Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Dragonfly (PG-13)
See full review, page 23.

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Hart's War (R)
Bruce Willis and Colin Farrell star in this WWII drama about POW prisoners who put one of their own on trial. -- not reviewed

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*In the Bedroom (R)
Director Todd Field's debut feature film quietly takes your heart and squeezes it with an iron fist. Based on the late Andre Dubus' chilly short story, "Killings," In the Bedroom portrays parental grief and loss more effectively and more thoroughly, possibly, than in any American film since The Sweet Hereafter. Nick Stahl is just the right mix of hormonal glee and youthful innocence as Frank; Marisa Tomei is tone perfect as Natalie, the working-class young mother trying to put a life together; William Mapother makes your skin crawl as Natalie's husband Richard, especially when he tries to be friendly or conciliatory. But the performances of Tom Wilkinson and Sissy Spacek as Frank's adoring parents, Matt and Ruth Fowler, are triumphs of subtlety and depth. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Tinseltown

John Q (PG-13)
When a hospital won't perform a heart transplant on a young boy, his father, played by Denzel Washington, takes the hospital staff hostage. -- not reviewed

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*Lord of the Rings (PG-13)
Director Peter Jackson makes brilliant use of the camera to enhance the action, and the sets, costumes and digital animation speak for themselves magnificently in this triumphant film adaptation of the Tolkien classic. The acting suspends disbelief for all but a few moments. Let the fanatics hash out the discrepancies with the book in their chat rooms. Peter Jackson did it. And this film is cool. Very cool. -- Noel Black

Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*Monster's Ball (R)
Risking every Deep South, Faulknerian stereotype about racism, rednecks, skeletons in the closet and man's inhumanity to man, it's a miracle that Monster's Ball turns out to be such an intriguing film. Chalk it up to two things: 1) a Swedish director (Marc Forster) who is able to explore Southern stereotypes as a cool observer, and 2) the astonishing acting duo of Billy Bob Thornton and Halle Berry. Monster's Ball may fumble in the first half, but overall, it's a raw, emotional triumph. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Tinseltown

Queen of the Damned (R)
See full review, page 23.

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Return to Neverland (G)
Peter Pan returns to battle Captain Hook after he kidnaps the daughter of Wendy in this Disney sequel. -- not reviewed

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Super Troopers (R)
Whether or not you'll like Super Troopers will depend upon a number of factors: Are you now, or have you ever been, a stoner? Are you now, or have you ever been, a frat boy? Do you think fat jokes are funny? Are you white? Do you think drunken brawls are funny? Have you ever hazed someone? Are you between the ages of 12 and 25? And most importantly, are you male? If you answered "yes" to two of the above questions, chances are about 50-50 that you'll find this film amusing. If you answered "yes" to all of the above, you are guaranteed to split your sides laughing. If you answered "no" to most of the above, stay far, far away. -- Andrea Lucard

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

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