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click to enlarge Sundance Audience Awardwinner Real Women Have Curves opens this week at Kimballs.
  • Sundance Audience Awardwinner Real Women Have Curves opens this week at Kimballs.

*About Schmidt (R)
It's tempting to lump Alexander Payne's About Schmidt into the unsanctioned genre of "midlife crisis film." These predictably inspiring tales usually feature a woman toppling the tyranny of a sour marriage or a mean-spirited codger learning to love again through forced proximity to an insufferably cute six-year-old. But in this film, the trail to self-discovery offers no easy answers, and as such it defies the conventions of a midlife crisis film. The film opens at the retirement party for Arthur Schmidt, a browbeaten insurance salesman rendered with loving disenchantment by Jack Nicholson, where the toasts stink of insincerity and serve as a harbinger of Schmidt's burgeoning existential crisis. The role is new territory for Nicholson -- he does not simply slip on the personae of roles past -- and it's easily his most interesting film since the sexual dramas of the '70s. About Schmidt challenges widespread assumptions about security, masculinity and love -- a prime pick of an otherwise unremarkable Academy Award homestretch. -- John Dicker

Cinemark 16

*Catch Me if You Can (PG-13)
See full review, page 23.

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

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

Tinseltown

*Die Another Day (PG-13)
As Pierce Brosnan has remarked in an interview, Die Another Day is like one-and-a-half Bond films in one. The film's most concrete secret weapon is Halle Berry, who has signed a three-movie spin-off deal for her character Jinx. -- Cole Smithey

Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*Drumline (PG-13)
This story of a Harlem boy who enters the legendary world of show marching bands at fictional Atlanta A&T University rocks in the tradition of the 2001 cheerleading flick Bring It On. Booty-shaking and life affirming, it is, unlike its predecessor, populated with characters that look and feel like real people. A coming-of-age tale told in R&B time with hip-hop flashes and more than a splash of soul. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Gangs of New York (R)
Martin Scorsese's epic historic fantasy of the "hands that built America" is a mesmerizing, bloody slog through the mean streets of mid-19th-century New York City. As a spectacle, it works. As a coherent statement about the conflicting elements that built a neighborhood, a city and ultimately a nation, it fails. Leonardo DiCaprio is adequate as a scrappy street fighter turned revolutionary, but his character is grossly overshadowed by the psychotic freak show that is Daniel Day-Lewis' performance as Bill the Butcher. Ultimately, the film is beautiful, bloody, confusing and overwhelming. Scorsese's characters develop stylized, mutated lives of their own that tend to win Oscars, but we are left scratching our heads, lambs led to the slaughter. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (PG)
Let's accent the positive: This film is a better movie than its predecessor, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. However, the two movies, while sturdy and workmanlike, haven't yet captured the charm and magic of the Harry Potter books. No matter. Go see Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and then wait and see. You may not be able to tell whether this movie works until, let's see, perhaps 2010, when the series is finally put to bed. -- Andrea Lucard

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

The Hot Chick (PG-13)
A popular, unpleasant high-school prima donna (Rachel McAdams) wakes up to find that she's become a 30-year-old geek (Rob Schneider). She tries to figure out how she can return to her previous life, and in the process realizes how superficial and snotty she's been. -- Not reviewed

Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

The Lion King (G)
Disney is re-releasing this well-loved animated tale to IMAX large-format theaters. -- Not reviewed

Cinemark IMAX Theater

*The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (PG-13)
Allow me to state without equivocation that Peter Jackson's The Two Towers is the best film about hobbits, elves, orcs and wizards since last year's Fellowship of the Ring. But seriously, Jackson does a masterful job of stitching together three separate plots and though the story itself doesn't advance much, it almost sustains its three-hour length. (During the last half-hour, butt and bladder agitate for a speedier conclusion.) Jackson's strength in The Two Towers is combining a visual realization of Middle Earth's inhabitants, and utilizing the New Zealand landscapes to instill a sense of pending dread and ephemeral beauty. ... Stay tuned for next year's installment -- same Middle Earth time, same Middle Earth channel. -- John Dicker

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

Maid in Manhattan (PG-13)
A sweet Cinderella story turned into a lazy piece of hog slop, sugarcoated and caramelized to make it go down easy. While it's OK for romantic comedies to be predictable, it is not OK for them to be stodgy, slow-witted, smarmy and written to the intelligence factor of the average 8-year-old. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*My Big Fat Greek Wedding (PG)
A delightful confection of a film. The pacing of the first half of the film is a little slow, but it picks up nicely when the whole crazy extended family gets into the act. Romantic comedies require a deft touch, and the writing of Nia Vardalos (who also plays the lead) provides it. -- Andrea Lucard

Cinemark 16

Pinocchio (G)
Two-time Academy Awardwinner Roberto Benigni brings the tale of Pinocchio to the screen in this version, which he wrote, directed, and stars in. -- Not reviewed

Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16

Star Trek: Nemesis (PG-13)
Star Trek: Nemesis is a mildly entertaining science-fiction movie that ends up talking down to its audience from a soapbox that's about as big as its largest model spacecraft. As long as you go in with low expectations -- plan on laughing at actors wearing too much makeup and speaking lines of dialogue written on a third-grade reading level -- you won't be disappointed. -- Cole Smithey

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Two Weeks Notice (PG-13)
Hugh Grant plays billionaire George Wade, who realizes that he's in love with his attorney (Sandra Bullock) just as she's about to leave his employment. -- Not reviewed

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

The Wild Thornberrys Movie (PG)
Animated film based on the Nickelodeon television show about a family that travels the world to make nature documentaries -- made more interesting by the fact that one of the daughters can communicate with animals. -- Not reviewed

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

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