Movie Picks 

click to enlarge High Fidelity
  • High Fidelity

*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

Silver Cinemas

*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; Tinseltown

Frequency (PG-13)

See full review.

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

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 Frank Darabont's (The Shawshank Redemption) 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 Hornby 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)

First time writer/director Gina Prince-Bythwood has created a delightful film, that mixes young love with good old fashioned sports rivalry with Love and Basketball, a lovely falling-in-love-with-the-boy-next-door movie, energized by a great dose of Title IX. Sanaa Lathan's Monica is tough and driven and far from perfect, but her obvious passion for basketball, and her attraction to Quincy (Omar Epps) are very compelling. There were numerous small moments in the film that were absolute treasures, not least of which was the first really erotic scene I can remember in a Hollywood film where the teenage participants used a condom. If you're not afraid of some explicitly sexual situations, I'd definitely recommend taking your daughter, or your son, to this one. It is a wonderful love story, but also a great view of the complex relationships between men and women who want the same thing. See full review. -- AL

Chapel Hills; Tinseltown

*Ninth Gate (R)

An extremely well-crafted and entertaining horror film. While director Roman Polanski chooses to lilt over the horrific trajectory that tugs mercenary book dealer Dean Corso (Johnny Depp) toward the gates of Hell, rather than embrace his protagonist's terror as he did with such shockers as Rosemary's Baby (1968) or The Tenant (1976), he stakes out his own ground rules and adheres to them flawlessly. Johnny Depp uses a vocal texture that rumbles from the screen in a dark pitch that catches you off guard. From the movie's textbook opening scene to the thorough European pacing over which the devilish story unfolds, The Ninth Gate takes the audience on a joyfully evil descent into perplexing other-worldly shadows. See full review. -- Cole Smithey

Silver Cinemas

*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 the 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. - AL

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

click to enlarge Kim Basinger in  I Dreamed of Africa
  • Kim Basinger in I Dreamed of Africa

*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; Tinseltown

*What Planet Are You From? (R)

It is bewildering to note how damning most critics have been of this hilarious and thoroughly insignificant piece of fluff. Directed by Mike Nichols (The Graduate), written by and starring dour Garry Shandling (The Larry Sanders Show) and featuring Annette Bening, I guess they expected a masterpiece instead of a bawdy sex farce. A silly spin on the universal divide between men and women, especially when it comes to sex, What Planet gleefully skewers involuntary penile action, the role of the self-help movement in further complicating romance, and the whole bewildering business of marital love. So Nichols didn't remake Carnal Knowledge for the new millennium -- instead he made a very funny confection well worth an hour-and-a half at the movies for the belly laughs it provides. -- KCE

Silver Cinemas

Where the Heart Is (PG-13)

Director Matt Williams has a solid handle on the rough-hewn, working class sensibility of white middle America, but shows here he knows far less about structuring a movie whose story spans almost six years. Screenwriters Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel treat Letts' book like a serial sit-com, lining up all the funny tales in a row, interrupting the flow of what's good in the movie -- namely, the cast. Natalie Portman is Novalee Nation, a pregnant 17-year-old who gets dumped by her boyfriend outside an Oklahoma Wal-Mart. She plays the part well but, ultimately, is miscast. Her inate coolness and sophistication make it impossible to believe her as a free-spirited, dirt poor savant who has managed to survive in spite of a compete lack of worldliness. Stockard Channing is marvelously spaced-out and eccentric as Sister Husband, a mother hen type who takes in Novalee. Ashley Judd is solid as Lexie Coop, a local woman with a brood of babies named after snack foods, who can't seem to find or keep a decent man. The story contains domestic violence, including a sexual assault on a child, and plenty of other adult subject matter, so viewers should think twice before taking their young children along. See full review. -- KCE

Academy Station 6; Chapel Hills; Tinseltown

*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


Center Stage (PG-13)

Peter Gallagher, Amanda Schull, Donna Murphy, Ilia Kulik and Zoe Saldana star in the story of a close-knit group of young dancers sacrificing their time and personal lives in order to make it in the world of professional dance.

Tinseltown sneak preview, Sat. May 6, 7:10 p.m.

I Dreamed of Africa (PG-13)

Kim Basinger plays Kuki Gallman, an Italian woman who begins a new life with her husband (Vincent Perez) and son in the wilds of Africa. Inspired by a true story.

Carmike 10; Tiffany Square; Tinseltown

Gladiator (R)

Russell Crowe plays Maximus, rightful heir to the Roman throne. When he kills the man who trys to take it away from him, he must hide out by becoming a slave and a gladiator. With Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed and Djimon Hounsou.

Carmike 10; Chapel Hills; Academy Station 6; Tinseltown

Gun Shy (R)

Liam Neeson is a DEA agent about to retire, but first he must get through one last case. Romantic comedy with Sandra Bullock, Mary McCormack, Andy Lauer and Oliver Platt.


The Uninvited (not rated)

Ray Milland and Ruth Hussey are a brother and sister who purchase a beautiful seaside manor, only to find that it is haunted, and that evil centers around the innocent young girl next door. 1944 film.

Fine Arts Center, 30 W. Dale St. 634-5583. Tues. May 9, 7:30 p.m.


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