Movie Picks 

click to enlarge Bebe Neuwirth steals the show in Tadpole.
  • Bebe Neuwirth steals the show in Tadpole.

Films recommended by our reviewers are indicated by an *.

*Across the Sea of Time (NR)
Schmaltzy and sentimental, with a thin and barely coherent plot, this 3-D IMAX film is also visually stunning, even beautiful, consistently interesting and, occasionally, intensely moving. It's the story of a 10-year-old Russian boy and his family who have emigrated to the United States over a century. Nineteenth- and early 20th-century stereoscopic images are magically transferred to the IMAX format and the results are breathtaking. A must for anyone whose forebearers came to America during the great wave of immigration at the turn of the 19th/20th century; illuminating and moving for the rest of us. -- John Hazlehurst

Cinemark IMAX Theatre

Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever (R)
Action/thriller starring Antonio Banderas as Jonathan Ecks, an FBI agent who must team up with a rogue NSA agent with whom he is in mortal combat in order to defeat a common enemy. Lucy Lui plays Sever, the NSA agent.

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*Barbershop (PG-13)
One of those rare, thoroughly realized comedic films that contains such concise inventions of story, character and milieu that it begs to be serialized into a television situation comedy. Music-video director Tim Story's studio-backed feature debut about a south side Chicago barbershop shows equal promise for his expressive ability with multiple characters and delicate shifts in tone from comedy to drama with light touches of social commentary. (Better catch this original comedy before television writers turn it into the mediocre weekly pulp they're famous for delivering.) -- Cole Smithey

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*The Bourne Identity (PG-13)
Matt Damon more than compensates in his first attempt at a pure action role. He plays Jason Bourne, an American super spy who has forgotten his identity and attempts to hide out from government agents in various attractive European locations. The tension builds slowly, and when bullets begin to fly and car chases ensue, it's all nicely choreographed and not overblown. The plot is somewhat thin but the ride is rich with plenty of well-timed twists and turns and an enticing, prickly romance. -- Kathryn Eastburn


City by the Sea (R)
A plodding cop drama with inspired performances that make it more of an actor's movie than a film audiences will talk about for days after seeing it. Robert DeNiro plays a New York City homicide detective who sees his own troubled childhood reflected in the life of his neglected and drug-addicted son. James Franco plays the son, who slips into a head-on collision with his absentee father when he kills a drug dealer in self-defense. -- Cole Smithey

Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*The Four Feathers (PG-13)

The tale of one man's personal quest for peace and marriage in the face of his country's orders to fight Sudanese Arabs in the name of the Queen's Empire. Heath Ledger plays Harry Feversham, a soldier for Imperial England, who resigns his regiment's commission after announcing his engagement to Ethne (Kate Hudson). When he finds himself unable to endure the humiliation of being considered a coward, Harry goes off alone to North Africa's treacherous Sudan in search of honor, only to be swallowed up by a culture he can barely fathom. -- Cole Smithey

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

The Human Body (Not rated)
A look at the extraordinary events taking place every day inside the human body. -- Not reviewed

Cinemark IMAX Theatre

*My Big Fat Greek Wedding (PG)
A delightful confection of a film. The pacing of the first half of the film is a little slow, but it picks up nicely when the whole crazy extended family gets into the act. Romantic comedies require a deft touch, and the writing of Nia Vardalos (who also plays the lead) provides it. -- Andrea Lucard

Kimball's Twin Peak Theater, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*One Hour Photo (PG-13)
Besides being a well directed, mildly interesting psychological thriller, this is Robin Williams' redemption as a screen actor. We can forgive him now for What Dreams May Come and Death to Smoochy. He brings everything he has learned in a long career to the role of Sy Parrish, a lab tech at a one-hour photo kiosk, who, while developing the photographs of a picture-perfect family, also develops a crush on their lives. Director Mark Romanek sets a spare, modern, intentionally sterile scene where life is played out on a thin surface -- like skating on ice. The story turns out to be a little thin and the ending is unnecessarily ambiguous, attempting a Hitchcockian turn that stops short of shocking or even surprising us. But One Hour Photo is an interesting enough character study to sustain interest and create suspense. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*The Road to Perdition (R)
This is not a neatly wrapped up father-and-son/growing-up tale but a highly stylized 1930s gangster film that explores the dark fate of those men and the time it recreates. Filmmaker/theater director Sam Mendes (American Beauty) is a master at setting a dramatic scene, artfully orchestrating the nervous pauses before the bullets begin to fly. The dark beauty created sticks with the viewer long after the film has ended. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Chapel Hills

*Signs (PG-13)
A quiet, suspenseful and frequently thrilling romp through the chilling territory of the unknown. Mel Gibson delivers a refreshingly understated turn as a man sleepwalking through life following a spiritual crisis, and Joaquin Phoenix is sincere and effective as his loyal brother. Youngster Rory Culkin is most impressive as an asthmatic waif whose mental clarity regarding an alien invasion, and what it might mean, guides the family's actions. Signs falls into some clumsy dialogue when it tries to be philosophical, but altogether, it's a fun thriller that marks director M. Night Shyamalan's growing influence as a Hollywood filmmaker. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Cinemark IMAX, Tinseltown

*Spy Kids 2 (PG)
Delightful sequel to last year's surprise hit. Carmen and Juni Cortez (Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara) take on rival spy kids Gary and Gerti Giggles (Matthew O'Leary and Emily Osment), rivals for a plum assignment. Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino are back as the Cortez kids' swashbuckling parents. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Stealing Harvard (PG-13)
Jason Lee stars as John, a straight-up guy who has promised to pay for his niece's college tuition. When he finds out she's gotten into Harvard, and $29,879's due in two weeks, he enlists his friend Duff (Tom Green) to help him scrape together the dough.

Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

xXx (PG-13)
Starring buffed-up, head-shaven, tattooed Vin Diesel, this raucous summer hit is James Bond on steroids vs. postCold War Dr. Evil, set in Frankenstein's castle dungeon. Diesel is outlaw-turned-special-agent Xander Cage, sent by National Security Agent Augustus Gibbons (Samuel L. Jackson) to infiltrate the underground world of Anarchy 99, a group in Prague feverishly implementing chemical warfare in the basement of their spectacular castle, nestled in the mountains outside of the city. Despite its humor and abundant energy, xXx ultimately cannot decide whether it is a) a comic book-style adventure flick where all is not as it seems; b) a legitimate invention of a new breed of action-adventure hero; or c) all-out parody. It could have been good plain fun, but dies in explosive overkill and is doomed by its confounding identity crisis. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Carmike 10, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown


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