Movie Picks 

click to enlarge Sixth Sense
  • Sixth Sense

Films strongly recommended by our reviewers are indicated by an *. Films that do not appear here have not yet been screened by our reviewers.

*American Beauty (R)

American Beauty proves, once again, that you don't have to have a new plot to make a fresh story. Instead, a strong visual style, fabulous acting, and quirky writing can all conspire to create an erotic, humorous, captivating film. This film is all kinds of wonderful. Kevin Spacey is given a funny, dry script by screenwriter Alan Ball and uses it confidently, moving between bumbling idiot, threatening asshole and tender father with ease; Annette Bening perfectly captures the manic acquisitiveness and just-below-the-surface despair of professional-class America with a physical, comedic presence that most actresses would never dare attempt; Wes Bentley portrays the disturbed boy next door with a quiet gravity that intensifies every scene he graces. An equally compelling pleasure is the set design and cinematography of the film. First-time director Sam Mendes has done a remarkable job of learning the vocabulary of filmmaking and using it to create a multilayered visual and psychological delight. -- Al

Tinseltown; Chapel Hills

*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 oversexed teenage males are so right-on, so tender and funny, that the girl problem can be overlooked. -- KCE

Tiffany Square; Carmike 10

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

Citadel Terrace; Tiffany Square

Double Jeopardy (R)

Despite an excellent cast and clever premise, there are so many problems with Double Jeopardy it's hard to enumerate them. In the first place, a thriller requires suspense, and in this case, all mystery has been erased by an ambitious pre-release advertising campaign that gave away the basic plot of the film. All you really need to know is that seeing the film is not nearly as intriguing as watching the trailer. Ashley Judd is tough, fierce and intelligent as the wronged mother and wife, but her grit and good looks are wasted in an otherwise predictable, formulaic script. Tommy Lee Jones as her parole officer merely tags along. The best-acted character in the film is the least likable -- Nick, the slick, scumbag husband played with ooze and smarm by talented Bruce Greenwood (The Sweet Hereafter). Gorgeous location shots of Vancouver and New Orleans provide momentary visual distractions but add little to the drama. -- KCE

Chapel Hills; Carmike 10; Citadel Terrace; Tinseltown

Drive Me Crazy (PG-13)

A teenage trifle minus the big laughs of American Pie or the sophistication of last year's Rushmore, though the writing is fairly incisive. Familiar girl-falls-for-the-oddball-boy-next-door plot is enhanced by some smart commentary on popularity, belonging and making individual choices that sometimes go against the grain. -- KCE

Academy Station 6; Chapel Hills; Cinema 70

*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, but it's hard to locate it amidst all the Spanish moss and swamp water. 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, 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 1960s 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

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. Albert 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

*Mystery, Alaska (R)

See full review, this issue

Tinseltown; Tiffany Square

click to enlarge American Beauty
  • American Beauty

Runaway Bride (PG-13)

Garry Marshall's heavily hyped re-joining of Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. Most 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 10 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 10 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 buildup 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

*Three Kings (R)

See full review, this week

Chapel Hills; Cinema 70; Gold Hill Theaters; Tinseltown


Denver International Film Festival

Films showing daily, now through Thursday, Oct. 14. Highlights include tributes to Alfred Hitchcock and James Coburn. Closing night features soon-to-be-released Snow Falling on Cedars starring Ethan Hawke, and a party at the Buell Theater. $25 for film and party. Call 303/893-3456 for schedule and ticket information or visit the Web site at: www.denverfilm.org.

Lovers of the Arctic Circle (R)

A densely layered film revolving around Ana and Otto, two young people who fall in love in elementary school. When Otto's divorced father marries Ana's mother, the two are raised as brother and sister. After Otto's mother dies, he is swept up in suicidal despair and leaves home, and Ana.

Cinema 70

Random Hearts (R)

Harrison Ford and Kristin Scott Thomas play two very different people who would never have met if it weren't for the government corruption surrounding them. Their relationship forces them to confront the truth -- even if it might destroy them.

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

Superstar (PG-13)

Molly Shannon brings her Saturday Night Live character Mary Katherine Gallagher to the big screen in all her creepy, armpit-clutching, Catholic schoolgirl glory in search of fame, fortune and true love. With Will Ferrell.

Chapel Hills; Carmike 10; Tinseltown

Three to Tango (PG-13)

Matthew Perry plays Oscar Novak, an upwardly-mobile architect who finds himself in a sticky situation while trying to win a bid from tycoon Charles Neuman for the design of a new Chicago cultural center, and falling in love with Neuman's mistress (Neve Campbell) in the meantime. The thing is, Neuman thinks he's gay, and soon, so does all of Chicago. Should he keep his mouth shut and win the bid, or follow his heart and admit that he's ... straight?

Sneak preview at Chapel Hills, Saturday, Oct. 9, 7 p.m. Double feature with Three Kings. Sneak preview at Tinseltown, Saturday, Oct. 9, 7:15 p.m.


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