Movie Picks 

click to enlarge The End of the Affair
  • The End of the Affair

Angela's Ashes (R)

Director Alan Parker clearly reveres Frank McCourt's memoir of his impoverished Irish childhood, but Angela's Ashes, the film, is a dour excursion from start to finish. How many times do we need to see a member of the McCourt family vomit graphically, to understand their sour stomachs or the stench of their living quarters? The point, of course, is that poverty stinks and is humiliating. We get it, already. The child actors who play Frank at three different stages are all fetching, and the film actually picks up in spots where we are allowed entre into their perverse little heads. McCourt's depiction of the haggard, beaten-down Angela are among the book's most moving, but Emily Watson (Angela), who is great at playing eccentrics, feels too flimsy to carry the weight of the character -- she simply looks bored. In spite of the exquisite filming, the tone and flavor of McCourt's memoir are buried in the squalor. People who loved the book will be disappointed; people who didn't read it will simply wonder why the movie was ever made in the first place. See full review. -- KCE

Tinseltown; Chapel Hills

*Anna and the King (PG-13)

Unlike the 1956 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, this retelling of Anna Leonowen's (Jodie Foster) story is rather serious in its treatment of the relationships between Asia and the British during the age of British expansion. Jodie Foster's work is subtle and well informed. Acting opposite Chow Yun-Fat (playing King Mongkut) must have been a great pleasure, for the man is not only easy on the eyes but has a wonderful command of facial expression that underscores the trials of an intelligent, regal ruler struggling to keep his country out of the hands of foreign domination. Go to be captivated by the kind of spectacle that Hollywood alone can create, the organizational and visual feats of lush scenery, beautiful costuming, and good special effects, and you won't be disappointed. See full review. -- AL

Chapel Hills; Citadel Terrace; Gold Hill Theater

*Cider House Rules (PG-13)

Dr. Larch (Michael Caine), is a man who spends half his life caring for unwanted children and the other performing abortions. When the chance arises, oldest orphan and Larch's disapproving protg in the obstetrics business, Homer Wells (Tobey Maguire), sets off to explore the world with Woody and Candy (Paul Rudd and Charlize Theron), a handsome young couple who have just availed themselves of Dr. Larch's services. Delroy Lindo gives a powerhouse performance as Mr. Rose -- the head of the picking crew on the apple farm owned by Woody's mother -- who has an incestuous relationship with his daughter, wonderfully played by hip-hop artist Erykah Badu. John Irving, who wrote the novel, did an excellent job of paring down his long, Dickensian work into a cogent screenplay that doesn't sacrifice its heart in the translation. The characters' quirks and charms are intact, especially those of Dr. Larch, played by Caine with an overwhelming kindness and vulnerability. His scenes glow with humanity, and Maguire's low-key Homer provides an interesting counterpart. See full review. -- KCE

Tinseltown; Chapel Hills; Carmike 10

Deuce Bigelow: Male Gigolo (R)

Why anyone would want to make this into a movie is a mystery. "Lighten up," the proponents of this film have said. "It's only comedy." Yes, well, comedy is funny, little boy, and Deuce Bigalow ain't. See full review. -- AL

Chapel Hills; Carmike 10

Double Jeopardy (R)

Despite an excellent cast and clever premise, Double Jeopardy is plagued with problems. 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. Gorgeous location shots of Vancouver and New Orleans provide momentary visual distractions but add little to the drama, and sloppy sound editing detracts throughout. -- KCE

Silver Cinemas

*The End of the Affair (R)

Novelist Graham Greene's crankiest, most autobiographical novel is adapted for the screen and filmed by director Neil Jordan with such precision and care, it feels like an original work. The End of the Affair is the story of jaded author Maurice Bendrix (Ralph Fiennes); his lover Sarah Miles, played with pale delicacy and depth by Julianne Moore; and her drab husband, civil servant Henry Miles (Stephen Rea). Fiennes is in top form as the disenchanted '40s intellectual, embittered by Sarah's breaking off of their affair when a bomb drops near the London building where the two are making love. Gorgeous period detail, soft-edged cinematography and rich characterization by the three principal actors all serve Jordan's elegant script well. See full review. -- KCE

Tiffany Square

End of Days (R)

End of Days is a dreary, exploitative action film in which it's devil time again. The plot has The Dark One (Gabriel Byrne) seeking out a 20-year-old virgin named, of course, Christine (Robin Tunney) who has been predestined to bear the devil a son. Arnold Schwarzenegger plays ex-cop Jericho Cane, who takes it upon himself to protect Christine both from The Man. Director Peter Hyams does nothing to brighten up or energize screenwriter Andrew Marlowe's dull, confusing script. The message that End of Days is supposed to carry is that faith is more powerful than guns. But it's unlikely the message will be heard over all the automatic weapons fire.See full review. -- Noel Murray

Silver Cinemas

Eye of the Beholder (R)

See full review.

Carmike 10; Tinseltown; Tiffany Square

*Girl, Interrupted (R)

Girl, Interrupted stays relatively true to Suzanna Kaysen's autobiography -- which details her two years spent in a mental institution in the late 1960's after a half-hearted suicide attempt at age 18 -- and is notable for several very fine performances. Winona Ryder as Suzanna uses her enormous brown-black eyes to powerful effect, giving quiet insight into the fine balance between madness and sanity. Whoopi Goldberg plays the long-suffering Nurse Valerie with subtlety and charm, and Angelina Jolie uses every ounce of her obvious magnetism to underscore the appeal of the gorgeous sociopath, Lisa, who becomes Suzanna's best friend. The film occasionally makes a misstep when it searches for dramatic situations in place of the more metaphorical exploration Kaysen undertakes in her autobiography. Such plot contrivances aside, however, Girl, Interrupted is a fine, quiet film that examines how the causes and definitions of insanity may change with the times. See full review. -- AL

Tinseltown; Kimball's Twin Peak; Tiffany Square; Citadel Terrace

*The Green Mile (R)

At three hours and ten minutes long, this is one marathon of a movie, and unnecessarily so. The story, based on Stephen King's 1996 serial novel, is oddly compelling: A death row prison guard in the mid-1930's deep south, Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks) is delivered a 7-foot tall, black, simple-minded but apparently clairvoyant inmate (Michael Clarke Duncan), convicted for murder. Duncan's characterization, though spare, is powerful. And Hanks, as Edgecomb, is his usual measured, affable self -- the soul of fairness. The villains are suitably evil, especially Doug Hutchison as deputy guard Percy Wetmore.The Green Mile is a worthy exploration of good and evil, human suffering, the cold inevitability of death and the redeeming power of love. But because the strength lies in the simple nature of the story, the earthy vernacular and the colorful characters, the director's tired dramatic approach feels like little more than excessive padding. See full review.-- KCE

Chapel Hills; Carmike 10; Tinseltown; Gold Hill Theaters

*The Hurricane (R)

Veteran filmmaker Norman Jewison tells Rubin Hurricane Carter's story powerfully and with a steady gaze in The Hurricane. In May of 1967, Carter, a rising professional boxing champion, was convicted of the murders of three white people in Paterson, New Jersey, and was sentenced to three life terms in prison. For the next 20 years, Carter remained incarcerated, wrote an autobiography and continued to petition the courts for his freedom. There are no groundbreaking camera tricks or imaginative twists in this biopic -- the story is a stunner on its own. As Carter, Denzel Washington's performance perfectly captures Carter's evolution -- as he is ripped from the world of notability and locked in seclusion, both his grief and his compassion expand. And young actor Vicellous Reon Shannon's depiction of Lesra, a Brooklyn boy who came to know Hurricane Carter after reading his book and becoming a pen pal, is captivating. Both the movie and its formidable star succeed at dramatizing the hideous injustice of Carter's imprisonment, and the excruciatingly painful passage of time behind bars. See full review. -- KCE

Tinseltown; Carmike 10; Tiffany Square

*Magnolia (R)

Director Paul Thomas Anderson's theme is difficult to grasp, but brilliantly explored. Six stories intertwine, accented by the stark tunes of singer-songwriter Aimee Mann, in one of the better collaborations between filmmaking and popular music ever made. Jason Robards is haggard and heart-wrenching as Earl Partridge, a dying man; Juliette Moore makes you squirm in your seat as Linda, his brittle wife; Philip Seymour Hoffman anchors the film as Phil, Earl's caring nurse; Tom Cruise burns up the screen as television infomercial king Frank T.J. Mackey, Earl's estranged son; John C. Reilly is perfect as the bumbling cop who falls for cocaine addict Claudia, also wonderfully played by Melora Waters; Philip Baker Hall is tragically worn out as a game-show host, also dying, who is trying to come to terms with his worst transgressions. Magnolia is a brutally honest, three-hour-long combination manic-depressive episode and acid trip to the place we all fear and know too well, the juncture of who we've been in the past and who we are now, faced with brutal honesty.See full review. -- KCE

Tinseltown; Chapel Hills; Kimball's Twin Peak

The Messenger: The Story of Joan Of Arc (R)

The Messenger is a badly paced, gratuitously violent film that manages to turn one of the most exciting tales of Western civilization into a study of bad special effects and worse psychobabble. Director Luc Besson (The Professional) opts for a medieval retooling of Rambo 5. Unintentionally, The Messenger treads perilously, close to Monty Python and the Holy Grail sans good spirit and humor. Besson paces this movie so poorly (its two-and-a-half hours feels closer to three), and Jovovich delivers virtually all her lines with... the... same... inflection...and...speed.... that the power of moments which should be profound are lost. None of this gives us insight into the remarkable story of the peasant girl visited by god and led by faith to extraordinary feats, and, unfortunately, makes for sorry filmmaking as well. -- AL

Silver Cinemas

The Omega Code (PG-13)

With Springs actor, Ziggy Wagrowski.

Silver Cinemas

Snow Falling on Cedars (PG-13)

Directed with blatant artistic self-consciousness by Scott Hicks (Shine), each perfectly framed and filmed scene in Snow Falling on Cedars feels over-directed, with the exception of the courtroom scenes where veteran Max Van Sydow, who plays the doddering old barrister hired to defend Kazuo Miyamoto (Rick Yune) on a murder charge, is allowed to meander through his lines with well-earned respect and dignity. It is 1950, and the setting is Amity Island, a Pacific coast community heavily populated with Japanese immigrants. Watching the trial is Ishmael (Ethan Hawke), the local newspaperman who is most fascinated with Hatsue (Youki Kudoh), Miyamoto's wife, the love of Ishmael's life who spurned him. The movie works best in the central sections when the Japanese-American citizens are shuffled off to the internment camp at Manzanar for the duration of the war. This is compelling stuff, and it is a merciful escape from the overcast skies and overwrought emotions that dominate the rest of the film. The dramatic tension of the murder trial is lost in the fog, and by the end, we don't care at all who committed the murder, we just want desperately to see the sky. See full review. -- KCE

Tiffany Square

*The Talented Mr. Ripley (R)

Anthony Minghella meticulously recreates the feel of the 1950s jazz era in Italy where everyone loves anything American. Matt Damon delivers a fine, nuanced performance that grows on the viewer. As Tom Ripley, a deeply disturbed young man who longs to be someone other than himself, Damon moves from fumbling geek to smooth expatriate with boyish intensity and dark charm. Brit Jude Law is a revelation as Dickie Greenleaf, object of Ripley's lustful admiration, a rich American kid who spends his days soaking up the sun and his nights in smoky jazz clubs. Glowing cinematography, a rich musical soundtrack, well-rounded characters, a literate narrative and nail-biting suspense are combined by Minghella to produce one of the richest, old-fashioned in the best sense of the word, films out of Hollywood this year. -- KCE

Tinseltown; Chapel Hills; Carmike 10

*Three Kings (R)

Bold, adventurous and in-your-face. Director-writer David O. Russell (Spanking the Monkey) has penned a tight, provocative script that combines some of the best elements of a good war film with heavy doses of contemporary social commentary. George Clooney plays Special Forces Captain Archie Gates, cynical, worn-out and two weeks from retirement. Mark Wahlberg and Ice Cube play reservists with dead-end jobs back home, called up for the Gulf War. Spike Jonze is Private Conrad Vig, an overgrown juvenile delinquent from Texas who alternates between a sort of lovable stupidity and delirious combat lust. Dwelling on the crass commerciality of the Gulf War and the narrow perception at home of the damage wrought to Iraqi citizens by our carpet bombing and premature pullout there, Three Kings disturbed me all over again, and comforted me in an odd way. I couldn't help hoping George Bush gets a chance to see it. See full review. -- KCE

Silver Cinemas

*Toy Story 2 (G)

Toy Story 2 manages to construct even wilder gags, and to stretch even further the idea of the secret life of toys than the first, but it also leaves an even more bittersweet aftertaste. At its most heart-wrenching, this chipper cartoon is also a parent's stricken fantasy of being outgrown by their children. In Toy Story 2, Woody discovers that he was once part of a matched set with a wonder horse, a cowgirl named Jessie (voiced ideally by Joan Cusack), and a grizzled prospector sidekick. When the reunited set goes up for sale, Woody is faced with a toy's version of an existential crisis -- either be enshrined behind glass for eternity in a museum display, or enjoy what few years he has left with owner Andy before the boy outgrows him. As hilarious as the slapstick rescue efforts of Buzz Lightyear (Tim Allen), Mr. Potatohead (Don Rickles), and Woody's old pals are, it's the former scenes that give Toy Story 2 it's poignancy. The mix of silliness, affection, and piercing nostalgia -- and yes, artistry -- keeps kids and adults engaged simultaneously. See full review.-- Jim Ridley

Tinseltown; Chapel Hills; Citadel Terrace

*The World is Not Enough (R)

Pierce Brosnan can do no wrong. He gleams with all the requisite savoir-faire and charisma that James Bond demands. Robert Carlyle does a brilliant turn as the ruthless terrorist Renard. Michael Apted, best known for his fantastic 7 Up documentary film series and Coal Miner's Daughter, more than hits his directorial marks.The World Is Not Enough is, pound for explosion, a great return on your entertainment dollar. See full review. -- Cole Smithey

Chapel Hills


Scream 3 (R)

New, young, hip stars join Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox-Arquette, David Arquette and Liev Schreiber to be chased around by knife-wielding maniacs wearing plastic Edvard Munch masks, again.

Carmike 10; Chapel Hills; Tinseltown

The Straight Story (G)

David Lynch's telling of a true story -- Alvin Straight's 260-mile journey across the Midwest on his '66 John Deere tractor, and the diverse group of people he met and influenced along the way. Starring Richard Farnsworth, Sissy Spacek and Harry Dean Stanton. On many critics top-ten of '99 lists.



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