Movie Picks 

click to enlarge Love & Basketball
  • Love & Basketball

*American Beauty (R)

Strong visual style, fabulous acting, and quirky writing all conspire to create an erotic, humorous, captivating film. 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. See full review.-- AL

Chapel Hills

*Cider House Rules (PG-13)

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, an eccectric abortionist played by Michael Caine with an overwhelming kindness and vulnerability. His scenes glow with humanity, and Tobey Maguire's low-key performance as Homer, Larch's disapproving proteg, provides an interesting counterpart. A heartwarming film. See full review. -- KCE

Tiffany Square

*Erin Brockovich (R)

Erin Brockovich succeeds quietly, thanks largely to director Steven Soderbergh's (Out of Sight) sure hand, even with a diva like Roberts in front of the camera, and to a compelling true story. Roberts transcends Brockovich's exploitative wardrobe with a gritty performance, precise comic timing, a foul mouth and intense focus. The impeccable casting of the two lead males -- Finney as Ed, Erin's partner in justice and comic foil; and Aaron Eckhart (In The Company of Men) as the biker next door who becomes Erin's trusted babysitter and lover -- further cements the film's success. Finney enjoys some of the best moments he's seen onscreen for years, and Eckhart's natural bearing and low-key demeanor provide a strong balance to Roberts' inescapable star quality. See full review. -- KCE

Chapel Hills; Carmike 10

*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. Angelina Jolie uses every ounce of her obvious magnetism to underscore the appeal of the gorgeous sociopath, Lisa, who becomes Suzanna's best friend. 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

Silver Cinemas

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 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

Silver Cinemas

*High Fidelity (R)

High Fidelity is based on the 1996 Nick Hornsby novel of the same name that follows Rob (John Cusack), a thirty-something owner of a record store who begins a small and delightful odyssey to find his former girlfriends and find out what went wrong with their relationships. The film is blessed with subtle screenwriting and strong performances. Cusack as Rob is funny, self-deprecating, immature but loveable. Rob talks directly to the camera, which has the effect of translating the sensibility of the novel to the screen. Meanwhile beautiful Iben Hjejle, who plays Rob's ex-girlfriend Laura, delivers an understated performance as the girl who has grown up while her boyfriend has not. Working in Rob's store is Dick (Jack Black), the arrogant bastard who will fight you tooth and nail over whether a song title begins with a "the," while his counterpart is the insanely shy Barry, beautifully rendered by Todd Louiso. See full review.-- AL


*Keeping the Faith (PG-13)

Gifted young actor and now director Edward Norton comes forward with a sweet Gen-X piece in which three childhood best friends -- Brian (Norton), now a Catholic priest; Jake (Ben Stiller), now a rabbi; and Anna (Jenna Elfman) -- are reunited at the crest of real adulthood, just as they turn 30. When Anna returns to New York City, Jake and Brian hook back up with her, and both of them immediately fall hopelessly in love. The resulting complications echo classic screwball romances of the 1940s. The three young actors maintain a believable, warm rapport throughout the film, and their story is absolutely endearing. Charming supporting performances by Anne Bancroft as Jake's mom, Milos Forman as head priest and Brian's mentor, and Eli Wallach as the rabbi who guides Jake, ground the film and lend it gravity. See full review.-- KCE

Tinseltown, Carmike 10; Tiffany Square

*Love & Basketball (PG-13)

See full review.Chapel Hills; Tinseltown

My Dog Skip (PG)

click to enlarge The Glinstones: Viva Rock Vegas
  • The Glinstones: Viva Rock Vegas

There isn't really much that holds this film together besides a rather ponderous narration that says, "Skip helped me turn from a child to a boy," or "Skip helped me turn from a boy into a man." There are some good performances by Kevin Bacon who plays Willie's dour and over-protective father and Willie himself, played by funny-faced young actor Frankie Muniz. Most compelling of all are the dogs who play Skip -- the wizards of Hollywood animal training are able to teach these dogs to do great things on command, from climbing into a toilet to running wide choreographed circles to disrupt a baseball game. By all accounts, Skip really was a remarkable animal. See full review.-- AL

Chapel Hills

*Return to Me (PG)

Bob Rueland (David Duchovny) is madly in love with his wife, who dies suddenly in a car crash. Her heart is donated to a anonymous recipient, who turns out to be Grace Briggs (Minnie Driver). Grace works in an Irish-Italian restaurant owned by her grandfather (Carroll O'Connor). Duchovny happens to end up there one day and some miraculous force immediately attracts the two. Despite this silly premise, Return to Me really is a perfectly fine romantic comedy. Both Duchovny and Driver have a good sense of comic timing, Carroll O'Connor mostly keeps his up his Irish accent, and the actors are aided by a sometimes clever script that delivers some funny surprises and some good tear-jerking moments. Like a decent marriage in its middle years, Return to Me is mostly predictable and formulaic, and comforting in its solidity. See full review.

Tinseltown; Chapel Hills; Gold Hill Theaters; Academy Station 6; Citadel Terrace

*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. The mix of silliness, affection, and piercing nostalgia -- and yes, artistry -- keeps kids and adults engaged simultaneously. See full review.-- Jim Ridley

Silver Cinemas

28 Days (PG-13)

Pretty, feisty Sandra Bullock is Gwen, a New York party girl and writer (one of those who is fabulously successful despite the rare appearance of any work in her life), whose drinking and drugging lifestyle eventually lead her to a court-enforced stay in a rehab center. Once there, Gwen falls in with an eccentric cast of inmates who spend the bulk of the movie intoning the tenets of addiction treatment programs while looking like the cast of Friends. This kind of dark comedy is hard to pull off, and director Betty Thomas' interpretation of Susannah Grant's script is merely functional -- it gets the point across, but loses any memorable characterizations in its predictability. Eminently watchable, but strangely lightweight. -- KCE

Academy Station 6; Chapel Hills; Carmike 10; Tinseltown

Where the Money Is (PG-13)

This little caper movie showcases some good performances: Linda Fiorentino is clever, sexy and convincing as a Carol Ann, a woman whose peak experience was high school prom queen; and Paul Newman is yet better, interesting to watch even as he sits and drools in his wheelchair. Newman plays Henry Manning, ostensibly the victim of a stroke, a famous bank robber who shows up at the nursing home where Carol Ann works as a nurse. Absent Fiornetino and Newman, however, this movie is as about as appealing as lime Jello in a nursing home. I couldn't help hating the amorality of Carol Ann and her co-conspirators as they attempt to escape their boring lives by entering into a heist with Henry. Last I checked, boredom and fear of getting older are not good enough reasons to start carrying a gun and threatening a bunch of other schmucks who are just doing their jobs. See full review.-- AL

Citadel Terrace

Where the Heart Is (PG-13)

See full review.

Academy Station 6; Chapel Hills; Tinseltown; Carmike 10

*The Whole Nine Yards (R)

A comedy about a retired Mafia contract killer (Bruce Willis) who moves into a quiet Montreal suburban neighborhood. That The Whole Nine Yards is so amusing and unexpected is a tribute to really good writing. Newcomer Mitchell Kapner has loaded the film with the kind of funny throwaway lines that you want to remember and repeat to your friends. The humor of the film also gets a lift from some decent physical comedy on the part of Matthew Perry. While the humor is very clever and tongue-in-cheek, the violence of the film is not. All the killing in the midst of the comedy was a little creepy. See full review. -- AL

Tiffany Square; Silver Cinemas


Frequency (PG-13)

As a grown man, Dennis Quaid discovers a way to prevent his firefighter father's 1969 death, not realizing that by changing the past he has inadvertently caused a series of long-ago grisly murders, including that of his mother. With Andre Braugher.

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

The Flintstones: Viva Rock Vegas (PG)

Fred, Barney, Wilma, Betty, Pebbles and BamBam are back, this time on vacation to the glitzy prehistoric gambling mecca of Rock Vegas.

Academy Station 6; Chapel Hills, Citadel Terrace; Tinseltown


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