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click to enlarge A glorious pitch-perfect British romp ? Gosford Park
  • A glorious pitch-perfect British romp ? Gosford Park

*Amlie (R)
The love child of French director Jean Pierre Jeunet who, in the past, has frightened and mesmerized with Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children. Though his characteristic blackness is still apparent, it seems Jeunet has finally decided to make a sweet film. Screen grabber Audrey Tautou, an ingenue with the neck and eyes of Audrey Hepburn, plays the winsomely beautiful and impish Amlie who has an overwhelming urge to help mankind by bringing lonely people together and healing the wounds of those hurt in love. The film's many subplots are endearing but her cat-and-mouse game with her own love interest -- designed to show us the emotional toll of her damaged heart -- is ultimately annoying and overly diverting. Altogether, Amlie is a pleasant confection, stylishly filmed and nicely acted. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Kimball's Twin Peak Theater

*A Beautiful Mind (PG-13)
With this film, director Ron Howard honors the kind of intellect that has long fascinated him. Who else would see the sexiness and intrigue of a Princeton graduate student who scribbles mathematical equations on the leaded glass windows of his dorm room? Russell Crowe seems born to play the part of Nobel Prizewinning mathematician John Nash who is also schizophrenic. And the beautiful Jennifer Connelly gets her breakthrough role here as Alicia, the physics graduate student who will eventually become Nash's wife, more than holding her own against Crowe's formidable presence. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*Black Hawk Down (R)
Aside from the fact that this is the most viscerally real war film I've ever seen, what struck me most about Black Hawk Down is its timeless, apolitical look at battle. Unlike so many Vietnam films such as Apocalypse Now, Platoon, Full Metal Jacket and Dead Presidents, which all comment heavily upon the absurdity of America's foreign war in a moral vacuum, Black Hawk Down refuses to judge the validity of the 1993 Special Forces operation in Mogadishu, Somalia. Instead, it focuses entirely on the way the soldiers must behave under fire. By using hand-held camera techniques that put the audience in as close to the action as possible, director Ridley Scott forces you to make the same kind of split-second decisions anyone in the same position would make if he wanted to survive. Please note: If you do not wish to see, or revisit, the realities of war, I highly recommend you skip this film. -- Noel Black

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

The Count of Monte Cristo (PG-13)
Aside from noting that I expected a great deal more from a film with both Guy Pearce (the man behind the brilliantly acted chronic-amnesia case in Memento) and James Caviezel (the introspective and nature-loving philosophical naf in Terence Mallick's war epic The Thin Red Line), I really don't have much to say about Kevin Reynolds' adequately vapid adaptation of Alexander Dumas' The Count of Monte Cristo other than it's entertaining ... and you may want to wait for it to come out on video. -- Noel Black

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*Gosford Park (R)
A classic Dorothy Sayerstype murder mystery with a soupon of class and historical consciousness in the mix. The film takes place in 1932 at the home of Sir William McCordle (Michael Gambon), a wealthy and lecherous English gentleman married to the beautiful and cold Lady Sylvia (Kristen Scott Thomas), where their extended family has come for a weekend shooting party. Like most of Robert Altman's films, this is a star-studded, extremely effective cast playing well-drawn characters with intersecting agendas. The unfolding plot can be confusing, even toward the end, but no matter; you're in the hands of a master so just sit back and be entertained. It's a glorious, pitch-perfect British romp. -- Andrea Lucard


I Am Sam (PG-13)
What in the world has gotten into Sean Penn? The man was great when he played bad boys like the rat-shooting, girlfriend-abandoning, Django-obsessed guitarist in Sweet and Lowdown, but with Sam in I am Sam, Penn has chosen such a saccharine role it almost beggars belief. Though he works hard to portray a man with a heart of gold and the intellect of a 7-year-old, sadly, none of his weird tics and trembles is convincing. Instead, his performance seems to add up to a strange method observation of -- who? Hard to tell. I don't think he knows. An inconsistent script doesn't help a whit, nor does director Jessie Nelson's shameless manipulation of the audience to get us to believe, as Sam does, that "Love is All You Need" (all sentimental Beatle's references intentional). -- Andrea Lucard

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*In the Bedroom (R)
Director Todd Field's debut feature film quietly takes your heart and squeezes it with an iron fist. Based on the late Andre Dubus' chilly short story, "Killings," In the Bedroom portrays parental grief and loss more effectively and more thoroughly, possibly, than in any American film since The Sweet Hereafter. Nick Stahl is just the right mix of hormonal glee and youthful innocence as Frank; Marisa Tomei is tone perfect as Natalie, the working-class young mother trying to put a life together; William Mapother makes your skin crawl as Natalie's husband Richard, especially when he tries to be friendly or conciliatory. But the performances of Tom Wilkinson and Sissy Spacek as Frank's adoring parents, Matt and Ruth Fowler, are triumphs of subtlety and depth. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16

*Lord of the Rings (PG-13)
Director Peter Jackson makes brilliant use of the camera to enhance the action, and the sets, costumes and digital animation speak for themselves magnificently in this triumphant film adaptation of the Tolkien classic. The acting suspends disbelief for all but a few moments. Let the fanatics hash out the discrepancies with the book in their chat rooms. Peter Jackson did it. And this film is cool. Very cool. -- Noel Black

Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

The Mothman Prophecies (PG-13)
Thriller starring Richard Gere as Washington Post reporter John Klein who searches for the meaning behind his dying wife's last words. Also starring Debra Messing and Laura Linney. -- not reviewed

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*Ocean's 11 (R)
Director Steven Soderbergh (Traffic) goes for all of the sizzling Hollywood gusto he can muster in this snappy Las Vegasset heist movie. Soderbergh's oft-quoted goal for Ocean's 11 was simply to give the viewer "pleasure from beginning to end." He aptly fulfills that modest demand with sprinkles of comedy, irony, suspense, tasteful music and enough eye-candy to stock a worldwide chain of retail stores. -- Cole Smithey

Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Orange County (PG-13)
Colin Hanks (yes, Tom's son) plays a high school graduate who longs to study literature at Stanford but his family conspires to ruin his dream. Directed by Jade Kasden (son of Lawrence) and co-starring Lily Tomlin, Catherine O'Hare, John Lithgow, Jack Black and Chevy Chase. -- Not reviewed

Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*The Royal Tenenbaums (R)
The oddball brains behind the head-scratching hit Rushmore and the Sundance breakthrough Bottle Rocket, Wes Anderson has a new film under his belt, one that's no less remarkable and perplexing. The Royal Tenenbaums, co-written with long-time friend and actor/collaborator Owen Wilson, tells the story of a dysfunctional New York dynasty a la Woody Allen with a brood of baby geniuses. It showcases Anderson's peculiar talent -- an ability to sneak stealthily back and forth across the Berlin Wall that divides comedy and drama while building plots on characters who just as deftly tread the line between caricature and humanity. -- Noel Black



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