Movie Picks 

click to enlarge Former rock star Mark Wahlberg (Marky Mark) and Friends star Jennifer Aniston in Rock Star
  • Former rock star Mark Wahlberg (Marky Mark) and Friends star Jennifer Aniston in Rock Star

American Pie 2 (R)
The first American Pie was one of the funniest, most original teen flicks of last year, but unfortunately the sequel plays to the lowest common denominator. We are dealt one scene after another of gross-out sex jokes, skits that are as predictable in their assured outcome as the first film was unpredictable. All the smart girls, with the exception of flute-playing Michelle, are assigned peripheral roles, and we don't get any of the wise girl-guy interchange that characterized American Pie 2's predecessor. -- KCE

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*Bridget Jones's Diary (R)
Bridget Jones's Diary, the movie, leaves most of the funny parts of the novel intact. Bridget is still a 30-something single woman bent on self-improvement. She swears that she will find herself a nice, adult man for a serious relationship, and immediately finds herself in bed with her charming and ne'er-do-well boss. The film's great strength is in the casting. Rene Zellweger is dead-on perfect as the perpetually injured, hopeful and feisty Bridget. Hugh Grant is utterly delightful as her slimy and sexy boss, Daniel. If you're willing to sit through the first quarter of the movie where the pace is a little slow, the reward is a solid romantic comedy with some really intelligent laughs. -- AL

Silver Cinemas

Captain Corelli's Mandolin (R)
Director John Madden has plenty of good material to work with here -- genuine historical context, a fine cast, breathtaking location, and the boundless cinematographic skills of John Toll (Braveheart). But he's managed to goof it all up by using all those goods in service of a trite romance. Nicholas Cage plays Antonio Corelli, a captain in the Italian army, which, in the 1940s, occupies Cephalonia, a beautiful Greek island, rich with cultural and spiritual tradition. Penelope Cruz plays Pelagia, a beautiful island nymph who's betrothed to a local fisherman but who has eyes for the captain. Without the love story, all you have is a beautiful island, rich in tradition and historical complexity riveted by a war it had no choice but to enter. To the thinking in Hollywood, that somehow isn't enough. -- Patton Dodd

Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*The Deep End (R)
Be glad your independently owned downtown theater has brought this quiet psychological suspense tale to town. Filmed on the shores of Lake Tahoe, The Deep End tells the story of Margaret Hall (Tilda Swinton), a lonely housewife whose husband is always away on Navy business while she takes care of their three kids and his father. When a dead body washes up onshore, Margaret discovers that it is her oldest son Beau's abusive male lover. And when a stranger appears at her door with information that might incriminate Beau, Margaret catapults into mother-protector mode. Swinton's performance is stellar. We watch her grow as she maneuvers outside of her protected home in the gritty real world. The stranger, Alec, is played with smoky intensity by ER's Govan Visnjic. Filmed in multiple shades of blue, The Deep End is both smart and smart-looking -- a major success for the directing/writing team of Scott McGehee and David Siegel in their second feature film. -- KCE

Kimball's Twin Peak

The Glass House (PG-13)
See full review, page 52.

Chapel Hills, Tinseltown

Hedwig and the Angry Itch (R)
This, you can be sure, is as original a story as we're going to see on film this year. John Cameron Mitchell, writer, director, producer and star, calls his film a "post-punk neo-glam rock musical." The music -- which is fantastic if you have the taste for it -- is forged from the ashes of two loud, overbearing rock genres (1970s punk and 1980s glam rock), and the story and characters are the culmination of decades of arguments about sexuality and identity. Hedwig is the lead singer of Hedwig and the Angry Inch, who hail from Germany. They're on a tour of American cities for one reason -- to follow around the world's biggest rock star, Tommy Gnosis (Michael Pitt), who, Hedwig claims, has used her songs to make him famous. As the movie's title suggests, Hedwig is not only pissed at Tommy; she is also pissed about the inch of flesh that is the result of a botched sex-change operation some years before. Of all the things Hedwig addresses -- among them Faith, Gayness, Performance, Popular Culture, Separation and Commitment -- perhaps the most important is the intense struggle that comes with standing in the middle, with being ambiguous and uncertain. Hedwig, who is neither fully male nor fully female, sings about a time before history when the world was one -- no male, no female; no you, no I -- and that, to her, is a perfect time. -- Patton Dodd

Kimball's Twin Peak

Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (R)
Director Kevin Smith (Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy) apparently set out to retire his two best known characters, Stoner Jay (Jason Mewes) and his wide-eyed side kick Silent Bob (Smith), by deliberately making the worst film imaginable. Amazingly, the shtick works. A heist/road flick packed with guest appearances by Smith's actor and director friends (Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Gus Van Sant, Wes Craven and others), Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is crude, rude, and funny as all get-out. The pair make a striking comic duo, sort of like Laurel and Hardy on heavy doses of pot, and the film is a good-natured, if foul-mouthed, swan song. Mark Hamill of Stars Wars fame makes a hilariously over-the-top appearance and Saturday Night Live's Will Farrell provides many of the movie's biggest laughs. -- KCE

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (PG-13)
We're supposed to hate this movie. By nearly all critical accounts, Lara Croft: Tomb Raider is dull and clich-ridden. But I had loads of fun watching this picture. Lara Croft is a young, single heiress who's regularly called upon to save the universe. She spends her days training for battle in her massive castle, fighting off dummy cyborgs and practicing insanely dangerous acrobatic stunts. We don't really know where she came from or why she's so militaristic. What we do know is that she kicks ass, and that's all that matters. -- Patton Dodd

Silver Cinemas

*"O" (R)
This modern-day rendition of Shakespeare's Othello is set in an elite private school in South Carolina, where the classic tragedy of jealousy and manipulation plays out among teammates on the school's highly competitive basketball team. Because the rhythm of the film and the arc of the story are voiced so thoroughly in cinema language, "O" is the closest I've seen a Shakespeare movie come to making you forget that it's Shakespeare. Director Tim Blake Nelson, most widely recognized as the goofy convict Delmar in O Brother, Where Art Thou? has a natural sense for the grit of tragedy and the film has a compulsive leanness and purity that cradles blistering performances by Mekhi Phifer, Josh Hartnett and Martin Sheen. This is one of those rare movies that audiences will look back at for years to come to affirm the credible talents of the film's ensemble. -- Cole Smithey

Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*The Others (PG-13)
Atmospheric storytelling, rich lighting, a superb set and a strong ensemble cast combine to make Spanish director Alejandro Amenabar's The Others a successful, though not particularly terrifying, psychological thriller. Nicole Kidman in a Grace Kelly pageboy hairdo is all nerves and raw edges as Grace, a woman left with her two young children on the foggy Isle of Jersey when her husband goes off to war. The children suffer from a rare, severe allergy to light, which means the curtains must be drawn whenever they are in the room, and Amenabar sets up the flickering candlelight motif skillfully. Several scenes set the audience screaming and jumping in their seats, accomplished with little other than carefully choreographed motion and sound. The quiet tension of The Others is a relief now that most directors feel they need to blow the audience out of their seats with special-effects overkill. -- KCE

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Planet of the Apes (PG-13)
Due mainly to a script that doesn't even bother to go through the motions of telling a story, any semblance of the original film's ham-fisted barbs about slavery, racism and class consciousness are lost like so many syllables evaporating from Charlton Heston's soiled mouth. Some hesitant praise is due to makeup designer Rick Baker for creating a convincing collection of monkey masks that gives the actors something to hide behind while speaking cardboard dialogue. -- Cole Smithey

Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

The Princess Diaries (G)
Teen star Anne Hathaway plays Mia, a San Francisco teenager who considers herself to be "invisible," an awkward ugly duckling with bad glasses and too much hair. When Mia's grandmother, the Queen of Genovia (played by Julie Andrews) appears one day, announcing that Mia is heir to the throne of the tiny principality of Genovia, Mia is reluctant to assume her responsibilities, largely because she thinks she doesn't look good enough. So the transformation begins -- a complete hair, posture and elocution makeover. The problem with this lame entry into princess mythology is its false attempts to be social-minded. After Mia is scoured and scraped, coiffed and creamed into the mirror image of a Revlon ad, we are asked to believe that the real reason she wants to be a princess if to "affect change." False sentiment piles up in the last 30 minutes of the film like too many spoonfuls of sugar. -- KCE

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*Rock Star (R)
Rock Star's theme -- "the glamour of the rock 'n' roll high life isn't what it's cracked up to be" -- is about as pedestrian as they come, but it works like a charm in this well-crafted tour through the mid-'80s heyday of heavy metal excess. Mark Wahlberg triumphs as Chris Cole, a copy machine repairman turned hard rock singer, and Jennifer Aniston does a lot with a little at Chris's girl-next-door girlfriend and manager, who gets squeezed out of both duties when Chris starts touring with the legendary Steel Dragon (even the made-up names for the bands have the right attitude of badness to them). The inclusion of songs by Sammy Hagar, Twiggy Ramirez and Brian Vander Ark and performances by musician actors, like drummer Jason Bonham and guitarist Zakk Wylde, add a good degree of authenticity to the film.-- Cole Smithey

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*Rush Hour 2 (PG-13)
Rush Hour 2 is a movie sequel that comes with a preemptive seal of approval by virtue of Jackie Chan's dedication to pushing his martial arts skills to the limits of acrobatic extremes. Add to this Chan's proven screen chemistry with the infectious high-pitched comic improv abilities of Chris Tucker (Money Talks), and what follows is a stream of highly enjoyable, physically demanding set pieces punctuated by constant comic riffing. -- Cole Smithey

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*Tortilla Soup (PG-13)
A sweet and touching Latino adaptation of Ang Lee's family food drama Eat Drink Man Woman. Tortilla Soup features Hector Elizondo as the stern but loving patriarch of the family of three sisters -- all grown up but still living at home. A semi-retired chef, Dad prepares elaborate meals to keep the family together; at the same time he fears he is loosing his senses of smell and taste. As the girls pursue lives outside the close family circle, they come to realize the unique ways they rely on one another and their father. Jacqueline Obradors, Elizabeth Pena and Tamara Mello turn in refreshing performances as the sisters but Rachel Welch's comic turn as a manhunting grandma feels false in this otherwise charming, low-key tale. Great food shots by cinematographer Xavier Perez Grobert. -- KCE


*The Journey of Man (G)
Cirque du Soleil's newest film, The Journey of Man, roughly traces both the evolution of humankind from caves to the Brandenburg Gate and the ages of man from infancy to old age. Known for its dazzling combinations of acrobatics, costuming, dance and music under an old-fashioned big top, the Montreal-based circus here provides 38 minutes of remarkable human strength, balance and artistry in front of fabulous backdrops like a redwood forest or a Nevada desert. There was water ballet that left me wondering if humans might once again return to the oceans, and a fabulously timed and costumed bungee cord/trapeze act that convinced me that we might once again return to the trees. Gorgeous feats of strength, coordination and faith (only slightly diminished by the schmaltzy narration) demonstrated what is possible when human. -- Andrea Lucard

Cinemark 16 IMAX


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