Movie Picks 

click to enlarge Me Myself and Irene
  • Me Myself and Irene

*Center Stage (PG-13)

Themes of loss of innocence, fierce physical training vs. fun, talent vs. determination, real life vs. art, the sexy lead male dancer vs. the earnest up-and-coming rookie are all played out with intelligence and style in Center Stage. Best of all, they are largely staged on the dance floor and enacted by a whirlwind cast of beautiful, talented young dancers, including American Ballet Theater's rising star, Ethan Stiefel. Director Nicholas Hytner's (The Madness of King George, The Crucible) staging and camera work are exemplary. We are treated to overhead shots that emphasize the patterns of the ballet; foot level shots that reveal the intricacies of the dance; long shots, short shots and swirling crane shots that embrace the beauty and difficulty of ballet with affectionate and knowledgeable vision and virtuosity. -- KCE

Chapel Hills

*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 the film tells a whopper of a true story. Roberts transcends Brockovich's exploitative wardrobe with a gritty performance, precise comic timing, a foul mouth and intense focus. -- KCE

Silver Cinemas

*Gladiator (R)

Russell Crowe (The Insider) acts up a righteous storm in his Roman get-up, proving once and for all that his versatility as an actor matches his prowess. Though director Ridley Scott would like you to think Gladiator is about strength, honor, duty, democracy and the danger of mob rule, in truth, it is an old-fashioned revenge drama -- and a pretty good one at that. Crowe as Maximus, beloved general of Roman troops turned slave, then gladiator, and Joaquin Phoenix as Commodus, insecure usurper to the throne, make marvelous foes. Unfortunately, Scott is so enamored of his production team's ability to show heads, hands and other body parts being severed, that the fight scenes become clamorous and redundant. -- KCE

Carmike 10; Chapel Hills; Tinseltown; Kimball's Twin Peak (closes Tuesday); Academy Station 6

I Dreamed of Africa (PG-13)

I Dreamed of Africa is based on the 1995 memoir of Kuki Gallmann (Kim Basinger), a wealthy young Italian woman who marries an adventurer (Vincent Perez) and goes, with him and her 7-year old son, to live on a decrepit ranch in Kenya. Despite exciting battles with wild animals, gorgeous scenery and a good soundtrack, the film moves incredibly slowly. Writer Paula Milne didn't seem to know how to get the characters in and out of a scene. The dialogue is expository and awkward because there is no conflict at the heart of I Dreamed of Africa. The creators could have taken liberties with Kuki Gallmann's life and made a real story out of it, but they chose mostly to stick to the biographical facts. This explains the episodic nature of I Dreamed of Africa -- it is a set of independent events, some of them terribly interesting in their own right, but none of them inexorably leading to a climax. -- 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. -- KCE

Tiffany Square; Silver Cinemas

*M: I-2 (Mission: Impossible 2) (PG-13)

Mission: Impossible 2 revels in the seductiveness of masculine super action with all the bells and whistles of techno-gadgets, fast cars and explosions attached. It's more romantic than anything in a James Bond movie and boasts better Kung Fu scenes than The Matrix. Director John Woo keeps similarities to director Brian De Palma's 1996 Mission Impossible to a minimum in this very dissimilar sequel by incorporating his signature slow motion, ballet-of-bullets action sequences against the taut resolve of Tom Cruise's most ambitious action performance to date. Cruise performed his own stunts, much to the chagrin of Paramount studio execs. The film's realism of danger allows it to operate on a higher level of believability and determination. -- Cole Smithey

Tinseltown; Citadel Terrace; Carmike 10; 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 an 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. Like a decent marriage in its middle years, Return to Me is mostly predictable and formulaic, and comforting in its solidity. -- AL

Silver Cinemas

Titan A.E. (PG-13)

Billing itself as the "first animated science fiction film," Titan A.E. (After Earth) threatens to forever condemn the genre because of its insipid storyline, pathetically cheesy rock soundtrack, and half-assed blending of 2-D and 3-D animation. The story is set after Earth is destroyed by vicious aliens. Cale (voice of Matt Damon), one of Earth's few surviving humans, is a youth now working as a second-class minority. He is recruited by a manipulative peer of his father to help locate the Titan, a giant spaceship that holds the secret to salvation of the human race. To say "you know what happens next" would be a vast understatement. Touting a cast of voice-over talent that includes Jeneane Garofalo, Bill Pullman, Drew Barrymore, John Leguizamo, and Damon,Titan A.E. limps and lurches in dialogue.The a-to-b-to-c plot is as thoroughly boring as its soundtrack is vomit inducing. The colorful and exotic animation spectacle may be fascinating to look at for the first 20 minutes, but the movie would fare far better if it consisted only of background action without the encumbrance of silly characters and pandering dialogue. -- Cole Smithey

Tinseltown; Citadel Terrace; Chapel Hills; Academy Station 6

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 (though also too sophisticated) 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. Pleasurable but irreparably harmed by its choppy structure. -- KCE

Tiffany Square



*Chicken Run (PG)

See full review, page 40

Tinseltown; Chapel Hills; Citadel Terrace; Academy Station 6

The Hanging Garden (R)

After growing up fat, shy and awkward, a man returns home ten years later, slim, self-possessed and gay.

FUSION! movie night at All Souls Unitarian Church, 730 N. Tejon St. Free. Sat., June 24, 6:30 p.m.

The Glenn Miller Story (not rated)

This 1954 film chronicles Miller's rise in the 1920's to famous bandleader to his mysterious death during WWII. With James Stewart and June Allyson.

Fine Arts Center, 30 W. Dale St., 634-5583. Tues., June 27, 7:30 p.m.

Me, Myself and Irene (R)

Jim Carrey plays a mild-mannered Rhode Island cop named Charlie Baileygates with split personality disorder. When he runs out of medication his evil alter ego, Hank, takes over. When both sides of Charlie's personality fall in love with the same woman (Renee Zellweger), he must fight himself for her love.

Tinseltown; Chapel Hills; Carmike 10

Patriot (R)

While defending his home and family, Benjamin Martin (Mel Gibson) becomes a reluctant hero of the Revolutionary War.

Kimball's Twin Peak (opens Wed., June 28)

Up at the Villa (R)

While staying in the expatriate community of 1938 Florence, a young British widow finds herself in the midst of a dark love triangle. With Kristin Scott Thomas, Sean Penn, Anne Bancroft, James Fox and Derek Jacobi.

Kimball's Twin Peak


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