Movie Picks 

click to enlarge Shallow Hall, starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Tenacious Ds Jack Black, opens this week.
  • Shallow Hall, starring Gwyneth Paltrow and Tenacious Ds Jack Black, opens this week.

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. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Silver Cinemas

*Bandits (PG-13)
Barry Levinson (Diner, Rainman) might seem an unlikely director to helm a bank heist comedy in which a couple of escaped prisoners become outlaw heroes. Pratfalls, snappy dialogue and snazzy character work make Bandits a laugh-out-loud movie that even manages to pull off a surprise ending. The real treat at the bottom of the cinematic box of this film is Billy Bob Thornton's comic physicality and controlled vocal range. Bruce Willis stays in his signature mannered mode, allowing Thornton to steal scenes at will.-- Cole Smithey

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

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. Starring Nicholas Cage and Penelope Cruz. -- Patton Dodd

Silver Cinemas

*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. Bottomline: skip the overpriced ticket to this stinker; wait until it comes out on video or DVD. -- Kathyrn Eastburn

Silver Cinemas

*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. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Silver Cinemas

K-PAX (PG-13)
There are just too many mysteries in this film. For example, when the main character, Prot (Kevin Spacey), arrives suddenly in the middle of Grand Central Station, did he arrive on a beam of light or on the 4:17 local? When Prot is then hauled off to a tony psychiatric institute in mid-Manhattan and treated by Dr. Mark Powell (Jeff Bridges) for severe psychological trauma, is it he or the doctor who is crazy? Or what about this: When the director (Iain Softley), writer (Charles Leavitt, working off the novel by Gene Brewer) and director of photography (John Mathieson) sat down to discuss making K-PAX, had they resolved all of the mysteries for themselves or had they just decided to inflict undramatic uncertainty on their audience just to see how it came out? Their refusal to take a position themselves on whether Prot is alien or human undermines the main characters and ceases to be captivating about mid-way through the film. It's a pity that the story is so very dull, because the filming itself is quite pretty. In keeping with the theme that Prot is a light traveler, photography director Mathieson makes much of the fact that film is a medium of light, and if he overplays his hand somewhat, you can still forgive him for at least making things a little bit interesting. -- Andrea Lucard

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Kimball's Twin Peak, Tinseltown

The Last Castle (R)
A year after his self-written and directed milestone The Contender, Rod Lurie falls inside Hollywood's movie machine to direct a lackluster prison/military action picture. Robert Redford exerts his standard workaday acting technique as General Irwin, a three-star General sentenced to a maximum-security military prison where he leads an uprising against the prison's immoral warden, Colonel Winter (James Gandolfini). -- Cole Smithey

Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*Monsters, Inc. (G)
See full review, page 53.

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

On the Line (PG)
For the millions of adolescent girls that On the Line targets as its sole audience, this drippy teen romance will keep their squeaky voices chattering while the movie plays. But for any other group of moviegoers, On the Line will be an exercise in witnessing the baby steps of actors, screenwriters and an unsophisticated director try to accommodate commercial demands. For his first shot at a leading role, Lance Bass of 'N Sync does a passable job of pretending to be an actor. He doesn't express too much, he doesn't lean on the furniture or stick his hands in his pockets, and he even manages to articulate his lines clearly. But the teenybopper pop star's wide-eyed enthusiasm registers about as much entertainment value as a duck on a June bug. -- Cole Smithey

Cinemark 16

Riding in Cars with Boys (PG-13)
Director Penny Marshall has created a perfectly passable film that nonetheless misses the boat. Riding in Cars with Boys gets sidetracked by too many small issues to fully explore the common, but still poignant, story of Beverly (Drew Barrymore) who, in 1965, gets pregnant by a perfectly nice but rather dull-witted Ray (Steve Zahn), when she is only 15. Barrymore does an OK job, though she really needs more work with her physicality; she relies too heavily on her face to do the acting work. The truly compelling acting comes from Steve Zahn who makes you love him even when you hate him, and who manages, with little help from the script, to convey the subtle pain of a man who wants to do his best but simply cannot. The raw material here was terrific but the adaptation did not do it justice. -- Andrea Lucard

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16,


Serendipity (PG-13)
Serendipity is sweet but ultimately flavorless. John Cusack stars as Jonathan Tragar who bumps into lovely Sara Thomas (Kate Beckinsale) while both are Christmas shopping at Bloomingdale's. It's clear to the audience that they are meant to be together, but naturally, it doesn't happen quite that simply and seven years later, Jonathan and Sara begin to dwell on what might have been. The movie enters a hide-and-seek, cat-and-mouse chase formula which annoys more than anything else. When it's finally all over, we wish that Sara and Jonathan had hooked up about an hour earlier. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*Training Day (R)
Training Day is a brilliantly written and directed urban blood bath set in Los Angeles's mean streets of drug dealers, gang bangers and undercover detectives. Denzel Washington is brutally cruel as Alonzo Harris, a corrupt narcotics detective taking advantage of rookie officer Jake Hoyt (Ethan Hawke) on his first day of training for an elite detective squad. As Washington's character sinks deeper into completing his own cash-fueled agenda, Hawke's character is forced to fight a very different battle against crime than he anticipated at the start of the day. Director Antoine Fuqua

(The Replacement Killers) builds the film's ever increasing tension to a series of gut wrenching crescendos that put the movie on a par with Abel Ferrara's Bad Lieutenant. -- Cole Smithey

Cinemark 16, Tinseltown


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