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click to enlarge The Last Samurai
  • The Last Samurai

We did not receive schedules for Carmike 10 and Chapel Hills 15 this week. Please call the theaters for times and film information.

*Bad Santa (R)
Terry Zwigoff's anti-Christmas anthem manages to celebrate a seldom-sung but widely felt ethos without drowning in the bowels of misanthropy. Billy Bob Thornton is Willie T. Soke, a really bad Santa and a staggering lowlife anti-hero, so bad he's a hoot: cursing out children while riding out the DTs and generally making an ass of himself wherever he goes. Bad Santa's humor is dark and plentiful, derived from the contrast between the doughy-eyed wants of childhood and the saggy-eyed stupor of midlife. Bad Santa is a naughty catharsis on par with smashing wine bottles against a brick wal. -- John Dicker

Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Brother Bear (G)
From the same animation studio as Mulan and Lilo & Stitch comes a New Age tale of three Native American brothers in the Pacific Northwest who take on animal spirits. -- not reviewed

Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Dr. Seuss's Cat in the Hat (PG)
Mike Myers frolics as the best-known trouble maker in modern children's literature. -- not reviewed

Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*Elf (PG)
In spite of its pre-Thanksgiving release and some blatant product placement, Elf shouldn't be dismissed as simply another cog in the holiday conglomerate marketing conspiracy. Will Ferrell is perfection as Buddy, a 6-foot-3-inch human raised by Santa's elves in the North Pole. Buddy's a total innocent, unlike his adoptive father Papa Elf, played with trademark furrowed brow by Bob Newhart. Even Santa, played with a hint of world-weariness by Ed Asner, is more of a realist than Buddy, who, when he learns his true identity, sets off for New York City to find his real dad (James Caan). Elf succeeds with unyielding good cheer, a complete absence of canned irony, some nifty visual tricks, surprising characters, quick pacing, snappy dialogue, and an ingenious slapstick performance by Ferrell. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Gothika (R)
Halle Berry in a step down from Oscar material, something that looks more like a Grade-B horror flick. -- not reviewed

Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Haunted Mansion (PG)
Eddie Murphy stars in this souped-up version of a Disneyland ride. -- not reviewed

Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Honey (PG-13)
An inner-city woman finds success as a video choreographer until an unexpected setback leads her to find greater satisfaction dancing with neighborhood kids. Stars Jessica Alba and Mekhi Phifer. -- not reviewed

Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*The Last Samurai (R)
This epic tale of a Westerner (Tom Cruise) who goes to Japan to train imperial soldiers in modern warfare, but ends up fighting with the samurai, combines elements of Dances With Wolves, Braveheart, Seven Samurai and director Edward Zwick's own best work, Glory, in a big Hollywood spectacle that only occasionally loses its way. Tom Cruise pulls off the role with stock moves -- clenched jaw, reluctant tears, boyish grin and quick physicality -- but the masterful presence of Ken Watanabe as Katsumoto, the chief samurai warrior, almost steals the show. Stunning fight choreography and graceful cinematography by John Toll, set to music by Hans Zimmer, make for magnificent battle scenes. A certain Oscar contender. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Love Actually (R)
Richard Curtis's directorial debut sloshes through 692 vaguely related subplots (maybe just nine) while pretending that his cardboard people and their cardboard relationships have something new to tell us about love and romance. The film's tagline is "Forget what you know about love." Please. Remember everything: You'll need it. The plethora of subplots could be forgiven is the laughs in this romantic comedy compensated for a paucity of substance. But they don't. However, in the spirit of the holiday season let's count our blessings because Love Actually could have been worse. It could have starred Meg Ryan. -- John Dicker

Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (PG-13)
Based on Patrick O'Brien's historic novels, this high seas adventure stars Russell Crowe as the captain of a British gunship in pursuit of a French warship during the Napoleonic wars. -- not reviewed

Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*Matrix Revolutions (R)
You must give this to the Wachowski brothers, if nothing else: They managed to turn existential philosophy and religious mysticism into a multimillion-dollar blockbuster movie franchise. At its core, the Matrix trilogy becomes nothing less than a monumental exploration of the nature of free will vs. determinism. In Revolutions, the evolution of Neo (Keanu Reeves) from human to god to self-doubting messiah begins to register in a way it couldn't quite accomplish in its ponderous predecessor, Matrix Reloaded. Not that there are many moments to think about it. Where Reloaded spent a lot of time simply coming up with more elaborate variations on "bullet time" fight sequences, Revolutions makes its centerpiece the epic assault on Zion, an awesome piece of screen warfare. -- Scott Renshaw

Cinemark 16, Cinemark IMAX, Tinseltown

Misadventures in 3D (in IMAX 3D)
The latest IMAX treat, a 3D animated feature. -- not reviewed

Cinemark IMAX

The Missing (R)
A frontier doctor (Cate Blanchett) is reunited with her estranged father (Tommy Lee Jones) following the abduction of her teenage daughter by a renegade Apache in this adaptation of Thomas Eidson's novel, The Last Ride, directed by Ron Howard (A Beautiful Mind). -- not reviewed

Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Ocean Wonderland (NR) (in IMAX 3D)
Swim with the fishies in IMAX 3D. -- not reviewed

Cinemark IMAX

Our Country (NR) (IMAX)
Wide angle view of sweeping American landscapes (canyonlands of Utah, Appalachian mountains, etc.) set to the tunes of America's music -- country music. -- not reviewed

Cinemark IMAX

The Singing Detective (R)
The story of author Dennis Potter's suffering with psoriasis and the noir fantasy world he escaped to, condensed from an 8-episode mini-series to feature film length. Get a load of this cast: Robert Downey Jr., Robin Wright Penn, Mel Gibson, Jeremy Northem, Katie Holmes, Adrien Brody. -- not reviewed

Kimball's Twin Peak (through Tuesday)

*The Station Agent (R)
Sundance Audience Award Winner for Best Drama and for Best Performance by Patricia Clarkson, this film could have been a poster child for indie film weirdness. Instead, this story of three unlikely loners who become friends in the netherland of Newfoundland, N.J., is crisp, moving, hilarious and brilliantly acted. Peter Dinklage stars as Fin, a dwarf who moves from the city to the countryside when he inherits a dilapidated train depot. Fin's a train aficionado, a train watcher, a collector of train lore; and he's an extremely self-contained loner, tired of the stares and jeers "normal" people have heaped on him his whole life. In Newfoundland, he's befriended, reluctantly, by Olivia (Clarkson), a woman grieving the death of her young son two years prior, and Joe (Bobby Cannavale), a lonely but gregarious hotdog vendor. As their friendships blossom, Fin temporarily escapes his carefully constructed shell. Complications ensue. The humor comes from the naturalness of the dialogue and the strength of the characters in their unique setting. The Station Agent is a touching and meaningful comedy about human ties and alienation. A wonderful supporting role by child actor Raven Goodwin (Lovely and Amazing) rounds out the cast. Don't miss it. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Kimball's Twin Peak

*Sylvia (R)
See full review, page 40.

Kimball's Twin Peak (through Tuesday)

Timeline (PG-13)
Another film version of a Michael Chrichton novel, this time the sci-fi twist is time travel. An archaeology professor travels through a wormhole to 14th century France and a group of students set off to rescue him. -- not reviewed

Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

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