Movie Picks 

click to enlarge Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan come up for air in Rush Hour 2
  • Chris Tucker and Jackie Chan come up for air in Rush Hour 2

American Pie 2 (R)
The first American Pie was one of the funniest, most original teen flicks of last year. 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

Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Don't Say a Word (R)
A glorified kidnap thriller that bundles together gaudy New York City atmospheres with worn-out detective story plot devices in the hopes of creating suspense and surprise. The plot never crystallizes because there's never any doubt about how it will end. As an exercise in performance, Michael Douglas helms the movie with characteristic driving dedication while Brittany Murphy as not-so-insane psychiatric patient Elisabeth Burrows is all over the place as a teenaged girl hiding behind mental disease. By the time the movie feels its way to a climax in the Potter's Field on Hart Island, the thousands of tombstones that fill the screen look like a throwback to Sleepy Hollow. It's a final mocking insult to audience sensibilities suggesting that the macabre imagery will compensate for the plot shortcuts that have brought us to this awkward finale. Not even Douglas' heartfelt emotion can plug up the void that the filmmakers have opened up. -- Cole Smithey

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

The Glass House (PG-13)
As anyone who saw the previews for this slick piece of nothing knows, The Glass House is supposed to be a thriller. Unfortunately, the thrill is gone about 15 minutes into the movie when we understand, without having to think too hard, how the story is bound to play out. Leelee Sobieski is Ruby, a California teenager whose parents are tragically killed in a car crash on their 20th wedding anniversary. She's one of the best teenage actresses around, and her creamy skin and dreamy voice do much to decorate the film, but we never see Ruby's true enterprising side, though we suspect it's there. Stellan Skarsgard, as family friend and guardian Terry, is the strongest presence in the film, sweaty and flushed. The few moments of suspense in the film are provided by his acting, not by the screenplay. Bottomline: skip the overpriced ticket to this stinker; wait until it comes out on video or DVD. -- Kathyrn Eastburn

Chapel Hills, Tinseltown

Hearts in Atlantis (PG-13)
By all counts, this film should be a winner. It stars Anthony Hopkins, an actor I'd be happy to watch sleep for two hours. It was directed by Scott Hicks, who catapulted to Hollywood fame with Shine. It's the cinematic retelling of a Stephen King non-horror tale (think Green Mile), is amply budgeted, lovingly shot and features the fascinatingly pale and slightly off-kilter actress Hope Davis (Next Stop, Wonderland). But Hearts in Atlantis disappoints on a number of counts. It is mistakenly told as a flashback, a dramatic structure that works only in the most innovative hands. In this case, the flashback device is plodding and painfully slow, adding little if anything to the core story. Dedicated to legendary cinematographer Piotr Sobocinski, who filmed it and passed away shortly thereafter, Hearts in Atlantis is a fitting tribute, as the cinematography outshines most everything else in the film. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*Hedwig and the Angry Inch (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 himself 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

click to enlarge The Others
  • The Others

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

*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

Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Pearl Harbor (PG-13)
A bald-faced exploitation flick, preying on our nation's collective if fuzzy memory of being attacked, faulty in its historic re-creation, insipid in its lame, manipulative love story, and embarrassingly vapid in its telling of one of the critical military attacks of the 20th century. The outstanding computer-generated special effects serve only to desensitize the audience: The carnage of the "date that will live in infamy" never seems real or human. Character development in this overly long and sentimental love/war story is non-existent. The heroes played by Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett merely spout lines borrowed from vintage World War II dramas while posturing through their love triangle with the lovely Kate Beckinsale. -- KCE

Silver Cinemas

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

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

The Score (R)
The kind of movie that makes movie fans bemoan the state of American cinema. It is promising based on the marquee names alone -- Brando, De Niro, Norton and Bassett. These four are truly amazing performers, and they squeeze as much as they can out of a lifeless script. But without help from their writers and director, there simply isn't much to do. -- Patton Dodd

Silver Cinemas


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