Movie Picks 

click to enlarge Jason Alexander and Jack Black in Shallow Hal
  • Jason Alexander and Jack Black in Shallow Hal

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)
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


Behind Enemy Lines (PG-13)
See full review, page 69.

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Black Knight (PG-13)
Martin Lawrence stars as fast-talking con man Jamal Walker, who's stuck in a menial job at a medieval theme park -- until he winds up in 14th-century England, a world of knights in shining armor, a wicked king and damsels in distress. Not reviewed.

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Domestic Disturbance (PG-13)
John Travolta and Vince Vaughn star in this thriller about an 11-year-old boy who witnesses a murder that involves his stepfather. Also starring Teri Polo and Steve Buscemi; directed by Harold Becker. Not reviewed.

Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16

*Harry Potter (PG)
It is a strange damning-with-faint-praise to say that this movie was faithful to the book .. Sadly, neither book nor movie form is particularly well served by this attempt. The movie feels pedestrian and literal, too timid to explore the possibilities of a world where, although parallel to ours, nothing is quite the same. The book, in turn, is tarnished by a movie that stuffs all the lovely spaces populated, decorated and embellished by the imagination. All that said, I'm not going to warn you off the movie. After all, you don't want to be the sole American who hasn't seen the darn thing, and your kids will love it. -- Andrea Lucard

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*Heist (R)
Heist is worth seeing for the pleasure of watching three actors at the top of their game. Gene Hackman and Danny DeVito are equally devilish, hamming it up with writer/director David Mamet's flowing, brutish dialogue. Ricky Jay as Pinky Pincus is their perfect comic foil, and his performance is among the best supporting work we've seen on film this year. (Be warned: the eponymous heist involves an airliner hijacking set at Boston's Logan Airport; though the plane is grounded, it will undoubtedly invoke uncomfortable memories for some viewers.) -- Patton Dodd


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, writer and director of photography 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. -- Andrea Lucard

Cinemark 16

*Monsters, Inc. (G)
John Goodman is the voice of Sully, the scariest monster of Monstropolis, a parallel world, and Billy Crystal plays his sidekick, Mike Wazowski, a giant neon green eyeball with arms and legs and not much more. There is a ton of tongue-in-cheek humor, and frame after frame is packed with pop cultural references, sight gags and just plain cool action. The writers clearly went to town in amusing themselves. Go see it for the cool factors, but leave your hopes for decent social commentary behind. -- Andrea Lucard

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Novocaine (R)
See full review page, 69.


Out Cold (PG-13)
Small-town buddies Luke, Rick, Anthony and Pig Pen live to snowboard and party on Bull Mountain. That is, until town founder Papa Muntz dies and his son Ted decides to sell the mountain to slick Colorado ski mogul Jack Majors. Not reviewed.

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

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 that 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, Tinseltown

Shallow Hal (PG-13)
How shallow is the Farrelly Brothers' newest homage to geekiness, Shallow Hal? Shallow enough to make anyone who is large by nature or who has loved someone of unusually large girth really, really angry. Here's the premise. Shallow Hal (Jack Black) and his shallow sidekick (furry touped Jason Alexander) birddog pretty women by night at their local nightclub. But when Hal is hypnotized by a self-help guru, he begins to see beyond physical exteriors to the beautiful interior of everyone around him. Thus, dogs (ie. women with bad teeth, fat women) become targets worth scoring. Gwyneth Paltrow must have temporarily lost her mind when accepting, then fulfilling the insulting role of the fat girl in question. Black, who is a gifted physical comedian looks desperately trapped in this role, bounded by the lame, predictable script. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Spy Game (R)
Robert Redford and Brad Pitt star in this thriller as CIA operative Nathan Muir and his protege Tom Bishop, who at one time worked closely and formed a bond of friendship. Now, years later, Muir discovers that Bishop has gone rogue -- and has been jailed in China on espionage charges. Also starring Catherine McCormack, Uma Thurman, Kimberly Paige; directed by Tony Scott. Not reviewed.

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*Training Day (R)
Training Day is a brilliantly written and directed urban blood bath set in Los Angeles' mean streets of drug dealers, gangbangers 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

Silver Cinemas

*Zoolander (R)
I adored Ben Stiller's fluffy take on male models, narcissism and the utter ridiculousness of our fashion-obsessed culture. I even loved the blatant product placement/name dropping, especially Zoolander's wonderful Aveda commercial. Costumed as a mermaid, burbling underwater, he murmurs meaningfully, his pouty lips pursed: "Moisture is the essence of wetness. Wetness ... is the essence of beauty." The fatal gasoline fight scene won't escape any viewer's memory any time soon. The laughs keep coming in this silly satire, and I, for one, was grateful to be able to guiltlessly guffaw at a piece of harmless, very funny entertainment affectionately set in New York City. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Silver Cinemas


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