Movie Picks 

*American Beauty (R)

See full review, this week


*American Pie (R)

American Pie succeeds where most teenage sex films fail, offering some of the best developed characters in memory. TV soap star Jason Biggs is Jim, the quintessential smart guy in high school who is perpetually horny and can't get laid. Jim and his buddies vow to lose their virginity before high school's over, and the film chronicles their sexual misadventures toward that end. The girls in American Pie are too womanly, too wry, too mature and wise. Luckily, they are a secondary focus, and the filmmakers insight into the miseries of over-sexed teenage males are so right-on, so tender and funny, that the girl problem can be overlooked. -- KCE

Tiffany Square; Carmike 10

Austin Powers 2: The Spy Who Shagged Me (PG-13)

The first film in what I fear is destined to be a lifelong string of serial hits was a bubbly, silly, good-natured spoof that caught moviegoers off guard with its innocent sexual innuendo and pop art freshness. But Austin is pasty and sadly un-original his second time out, spouting the same tired lines over and over: "Oh behave!" "Do I make you horny?" The scenes that do work are those featuring the fiendish Dr. Evil and his evil-nik clone, Mini Me. Unfortunately, their scenes are swamped by a relentless barrage of phallic references, designed to thrill and delight teenage boys, and to supply them with a whole new penile vernacular. Look out, after awhile, they're about as funny as a herpes flare-up. -- KCE

Silver Cinemas

Bowfinger (PG-13)

Steve Martin plays the ever hopeful but perennially unsuccessful director Bobby Bowfinger, looking for his big break. His only hope for success is to draw a big name star to his film that otherwise features a handful of eccentric wannabes. The crew shoot scenes with action hero Kit Ramsey (Eddie Murphy) in them, without Kit's knowledge. Murphy is terrific as the neurotic, grandiose superstar, and in a double-turn as Ramsey's geeky brother, Jiff. But Heather Graham, as an ambitious starlet, comes across as a stale stereotype. Crowded with too many Hollywood clichs, Bowfinger is simultaneously good-natured and cynical -- a fun romp but not fully successful as a spoof. -- KCE

Academy Station 6; Carmike 10; Tiffany Square

Double Jeopardy (R)

See full review, this week

Chapel Hills; Carmike 10; Citadel Terrace; Tinseltown

*Eyes Wide Shut (R)

Stanley Kubrick's long-awaited, genuinely creepy, tediously paced and undeniably mesmerizing Eyes Wide Shut is a tense waltz through the looking glass, breaking the psychological taboo of sexual infidelity. Bill (Tom Cruise) and Alice (Nicole Kidman) Hartford lust in their hearts and dare to tell each other the details of their fantasies. The film is basically a series of events, chronicling Bill's descent into the maelstrom of jealousy and lust. Cruise's famous smile is a little too wide and genuine for a schmuck like Bill, but Kidman hits every note perfectly. This is a purely adult film, there is absolutely no reason for teenagers or children to see it. Every spoken word, every visual, every theme played is for the already jaded heart. And as with all of Kubrick's films, the effect of the film lasts after you leave the theater. Unsettling, gorgeous and strange, it's one for fans of the recently deceased filmmaker and for initiates alike. -- KCE

Silver Cinemas

*For Love of the Game (PG-13)

For Love of The Game is as good a sports movie as you could hope to see. Kevin Costner plays Billy Chapel, aging pitcher for the Detroit Tigers. Just prior to a game that may be his last, the love of Billy's life (aside from baseball), Jane (Kelly Preston), announces it's over between the two of them. While sitting in the dugout between innings, Billy slips into flashback, trying to figure out what went wrong. Thanks to Preston's fresh performance and to director Sam Raimi's fine depiction of the nuances of the game, the flashback device works. The most charming aspect of For Love of The Game, however, is the film's depiction of the pitcher's inner monologue while on the mound. Near the end, For Love of The Game sinks to using film gimmicks to simulate significance. But in spite of its slickness, the film works. We absolutely believe that Costner can play ball, and Billy Chapel's final game is an absolute blowout. -- KCE

Chapel Hills; Kimball's Twin Peak; Carmike 10; Academy Station 6; Tinseltown

The General's Daughter (R)

Somewhere in the heart of this overwrought film lies a cogent mystery. John Travolta with a terrible corn-ball southern accent is Army investigator and warrant officer Paul Brenner. One night gorgeous Captain Elisabeth Campbell (Leslie Stefanson) is found naked and dead on a creepy-looking far corner of an Alabama base. Brenner and former lover Sarah Sunhill (Madeline Stowe) are called to investigate. Scummy, sullen army type suspects with quick tempers come crawling out of the woodwork like fire ants to raise our level of suspicion. The General's Daughter thinks it raises issues about women in the military, and pretends to offer insight into the military culture, but trashes it instead. It desperately wants to guide us through a maze of human intrigue, but, finally, it just buries us neck deep in pseudo-psychological ooze. -- KCE

Silver Cinemas

The Haunting (PG-13)

Director Jan De Bont's The Haunting has little of the subtle scariness and mystery of the 1960's film version, and even less of the essence of Shirley Jackson's book, The Haunting of Hill House. What it does have, however, is one kickass haunted mansion, complete with gargoyles, a fireplace that looks like the jaws of Hell, a fountain that spews blood and various other orgasmic architectural delights. Ridiculous in its brazen excess, just think of The Haunting as a two-hour gothic mansion tour gone awry, and enjoy the view. -- KCE

Silver Cinemas; Broadmoor

*The Matrix (R)

Keanu Reeves is Neo, a reclusive computer hacker, nagged by the feeling he doesn't fit in, that 'something is wrong with the world. When Neo is united with Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), a mysterious figure considered by federal agents of the U.S. (ca. 1999) to be 'the most dangerous man alive,' he learns of the Matrix, a computer generated dream world that disguises the lost world of the 20th century. The real star of The Matrix is the choreographed fighting in the style of traditional Kung Fu. Utilizing digital enhancement, wire-stunt work and classic martial arts, the hand-to-hand battles are riveting. Excessive gun play is the only thing that mars the film. -- KCE

Silver Cinemas

*Mumford (R)

See full review, this week

Chapel Hills; Tinseltown

The Muse (PG-13)

While The Muse has a great premise and some funny scenes, it falls short of a good comedic romp. Sharon Stone does a good job of playing the capricious 20th century muse, Sarah. Her blatant materialism hits just the right note. Brooks' character Steven is less engaging -- he comes across as a whiner, and whining isn't funny. Brooks misses a great opportunity to critique the insanity at the heart of the moviemaking industry. Instead, he stops short at a superficial tour of Hollywood, capped by a clumsy deus ex machina ending. Despite the great promise of this film, including some terrific one-liners, The Muse falls flat. -- AL

Tiffany Square

Runaway Bride (PG-13)

Garry Marshall's heavily hyped re-joining of Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. Roberts plays Maggie Carpenter, everybody's favorite fix-it girl who runs the hardware store in charming and old-fashioned Hale, Maryland. Maggie's a peach but she's got a problem: she can't commit (sound familiar?). Already she's left three guys at the altar, and is engaged to number four. USA Today columnist Ike Graham (Gere) hears about her and writes an acidic piece on the nature of women with Maggie as the centerpiece. She retaliates with a nasty letter, and eventually he ends up in Hale, trying to figure out what makes her tick. The rest of the film is merely a set-up for the eventual coupling of Mr. Drop Dead Gorgeous and Ms. Drop Dead Gorgeous, though a star turn by Joan Cusack as Maggie's best friend makes you wish Ike would sweep her away and dump Maggie. -- KCE

Chapel Hills; Carmike 10; Citadel Terrace; Tinseltown

*Sixth Sense (PG-13)

Sixth Sense is a fluid, compelling and genuinely scary ghost story starring Bruce Willis as Malcolm Crowe, a child psychologist. Willis' character leads a charmed life with his wife (Olivia Williams) and his fulfilling, successful career until the night he gets plugged by a dissatisfied former patient. We next see Crowe, shaken and changed, outside the house of Cole Sear, a little boy with anxious tendencies and, apparently, deep psychological problems. Turns out Cole can see the dead, and those with unfinished business often show up in his bedroom at night. The most startling moments of the film all revolve around the appearance of those ghosts. Haley Joel Osment, the child actor who plays Cole, is tortured, convincing and winning. Willis doesn't make a false move. The film delivers a wonderful punch at the end with an unexpected plot twist. A sure audience pleaser, Sixth Sense is solid, smart, subtle, atmospheric moviemaking. -- KCE

Chapel Hills; Carmike 10; Tinseltown; Gold Hill Theater

Star Wars, Episode 1: The Phantom Menace (PG)

Little kids will no doubt love it, but adults hoping to relive the spiritual uplift that was the Star Wars experience of their youth will inevitably be disappointed with The Phantom Menace. There is not one memorable moment involving a human character in this whole epic adventure. Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor as Qui-Gon Jinn, Jedi knight, and his apprentice Obi-Won Kenobi are numbingly cool from the start of the film. The entire film, unlike its predecessors, is devoid of enthusiasm for the cause and completely lacking in dramatic tension. The big computer animated battles are terrific, but you might as well be watching Antz or A Bugs Life. -- KCE

Tinseltown; Silver Cinemas

Stigmata (R)

Although Stigmata has been marketed as a '90s version of The Exorcist, it isn't nearly as thrilling. Not that there aren't a few good jump-out-of-your-seat moments -- there are -- but the overwrought camera work that uses ten different angles to show Frankie, the stigmata sufferer, just lying in bed is more conducive to nausea than fear. Patricia Arquette (Frankie) does some passable acting, but her character must go from bland to tormented in 15 seconds so often that there is little room for subtlety. The film masquerades as a religious protest film cloaked in an MTV soundtrack, but the Vatican is a pretty tired target. Stigmata adds little to ten centuries of religious dissent -- except maybe a little bit more blood. -- AL

Carmike 10; Tiffany Square; Tinseltown; Academy Station 6

*Stir of Echoes (R)

Kevin Bacon plays Tom Witzky -- an average guy who falls into a dark spirit-ridden world after being hypnotized -- with delirious muscularity, gruffness and frenetic energy. Seven-year-old Zachary David Cope plays Jake, Tom's clairvoyant son, and holds up favorably in the inevitable comparison to Sixth Sense's Haley Joel Osment. Stir of Echoes spends too much time explaining the supernatural phenomenon that has engulfed the Witzky's neighborhood, but the build-up to that non-climax is one heck of a ride. The film captures a classic horror feel right out of the starting gate and moves with unrelenting force for the first solid hour. While nowhere near as slick as Sixth Sense, Stir of Echoes is tough, atmospheric and brimming with danger. -- KCE

Chapel Hills; Carmike 10; Tinseltown; Kimball's Twin Peak

The Thomas Crown Affair (R)

Poor tycoon Thomas Crown (Pierce Brosnan) is bored with mergers and acquisitions, golf, gliding, catamaran sailing and those endless, fuddy-duddy fundraisers. To spice up his life, he sets up a heist at a New York art museum to steal a prized one-hundred million dollar Monet. He meets his match when insurance investigator/ art expert Catherine Banning (Rene Russo) realizes he's the thief, and will go to any lengths to prove it. Flirtatious banter, sexual foreplay and plenty of nude romping between Catherine and Thomas comprise much of the rest of this intriguing but uneven film. Brosnan comes across as a prissy stuffed shirt. Worth seeing, however, is Russo's full-out performance, packed with lusty charm. -- KCE

Chapel Hills


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