Movie Picks 

click to enlarge Nicole Kidman and Jude Law get physical in  Cold Mountain.
  • Nicole Kidman and Jude Law get physical in Cold Mountain.

We did not receive schedules for Carmike 10 and Chapel Hills 15 this week. Please call the theaters for times and film information.

*Bad Santa (R)
Terry Zwigoff's anti-Christmas anthem manages to celebrate a seldom-sung but widely felt ethos without drowning in the bowels of misanthropy. Billy Bob Thornton is Willie T. Soke, a really bad Santa and a staggering lowlife anti-hero, so bad he's a hoot: cursing out children while riding out the DTs and generally making an ass of himself wherever he goes. Bad Santa's humor is dark and plentiful, derived from the contrast between the doughy-eyed wants of childhood and the saggy-eyed stupor of midlife. Bad Santa is a naughty catharsis on par with smashing wine bottles against a brick wall. -- John Dicker

Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Dr. Seuss's Cat in the Hat (PG)
Mike Myers frolics as the best-known troublemaker in modern children's literature. -- Not reviewed

Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*Elf (PG)
In spite of its pre-Thanksgiving release and some blatant product placement, Elf shouldn't be dismissed as simply another cog in the holiday conglomerate marketing conspiracy. Will Ferrell is perfection as Buddy, a 6-foot-3-inch human raised by Santa's elves in the North Pole. Buddy's a total innocent, unlike his adoptive father Papa Elf, played with trademark furrowed brow by Bob Newhart. Even Santa, played with a hint of world-weariness by Ed Asner, is more of a realist than Buddy, who, when he learns his true identity, sets off for New York City to find his real dad (James Caan). Elf succeeds with unyielding good cheer, a complete absence of canned irony, some nifty visual tricks, surprising characters, quick pacing, snappy dialogue and an ingenious slapstick performance by Ferrell. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Haunted Mansion (PG)
Eddie Murphy stars in this souped-up version of a Disneyland ride. -- Not reviewed

Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

In America (PG-13)
Jim Sheridan's newest Irish transplantation fantasy stars Paddy Constantine and Samantha Morton as the young parents of two sprightly little girls and a tragically dead son, recently emigrated to America for a fresh start. -- Not reviewed


*The Last Samurai (R)
This epic tale of a Westerner (Tom Cruise) who goes to Japan to train imperial soldiers in modern warfare, but ends up fighting with the samurai, combines elements of Dances With Wolves, Braveheart, Seven Samurai and director Edward Zwick's own best work, Glory, in a big Hollywood spectacle that only occasionally loses its way. Tom Cruise pulls off the role with stock moves -- clenched jaw, reluctant tears, boyish grin and quick physicality -- but the masterful presence of Ken Watanabe as Katsumoto, the chief samurai warrior, almost steals the show. Stunning fight choreography and graceful cinematography by John Toll, set to music by Hans Zimmer, make for magnificent battle scenes. A certain Oscar contender. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*Lord of the Rings: Return of the King (PG-13)
The final installment of Peter Jackson's epic to end to end all epics is upon us and the word from the embedded Middle Earth reporter is not good. Tolkienistas will defend this film to their last breath (or until they finally manage to kiss a girl). Jackson will test your devotion to computer graphic beasts, gratuitous battle scenes and dialogue mawkish enough to make daytime television look like some sort of social realist experiment. Don't know about you, but there are only so many stoic lines like "We ride to Minis Tirith and to war!" than I can stomach. While the exploration of power as inherent corruption is undeniably compelling, are we really expected to snuggle up to the concept of a fated monarchy? Fans of the previous films might be by no means disappointed. They'll get what they expect and a lot of it. Skeptics conscripted into the theaters, however, should consider bringing along a spare ass, because like the soul of the ring bearer, yours will be hardened beyond measure. -- John Dicker

Basically, Return of the King was the bizzity-fo-shizzity-biznomb, and by bizzity-fo-shizzity-biznomb, I mean totally wicked and completely awesome, and by totally wicked and completely awesome, I mean: suhweet. The fact that Jackson defied everyone but John Dicker by making an impossibly gorgeous, technically improbable film that not only did full justice to Tolkien's final installment of the Rings, but one that also took unthinkable liberties with its plot and still got away with it, is just ... it's just in-friggin'-comprehensibly wonderful. There's no real point in reviewing a film as great as this. While you may want to bring your hemorrhoid cushion, it's a ride worth the bumps! -- Noel Black

Kimball's Twin Peak, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown, Cinemark IMAX

Love Don't Cost a Thing (PG-13)
Remake of the '87 teen comedy Can't Buy Me Love with an African-American cast. A brainy geek hires a cheerleader to pose as his girlfriend, hoping to improve his reputation at school. -- Not reviewed


Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (PG-13)
Based on Patrick O'Brien's historic novels, this high-seas adventure stars Russell Crowe as the captain of a British gunship in pursuit of a French warship during the Napoleonic wars. -- Not reviewed

Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Misadventures in 3-D (in IMAX-3D)
The latest IMAX treat, a 3-D animated feature. -- Not reviewed

Cinemark IMAX

Mona Lisa Smile (PG-13)
1950s, Wellesley College, Julia Roberts, Julia Stiles, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Kirsten Dunst. Need we say more? -- Not reviewed

Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Ocean Wonderland (NR) (in IMAX 3-D)
Swim with the fishies in IMAX 3-D. -- Not reviewed

Cinemark IMAX

Our Country (NR) (IMAX)
Wide-angle view of sweeping American landscapes (canyonlands of Utah, Appalachian mountains, etc.) set to the tunes of America's music -- country music. -- Not reviewed

Cinemark IMAX

*Something's Gotta Give (PG-13)
See full review, page 35.

Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*The Station Agent (R)
Sundance Audience Award Winner for Best Drama and for Best Performance by Patricia Clarkson, this film could have been a poster child for indie film weirdness. Instead, this story of three unlikely loners who become friends in the netherland of Newfoundland, N.J., is crisp, moving, hilarious and brilliantly acted. Peter Dinklage stars as Fin, a dwarf who moves from the city to the countryside when he inherits a dilapidated train depot. Fin's a train aficionado, a train watcher, a collector of train lore; and he's an extremely self-contained loner, tired of the stares and jeers "normal" people have heaped on him his whole life. In Newfoundland, he's befriended, reluctantly, by Olivia (Clarkson), a woman grieving the death of her young son two years prior, and Joe (Bobby Cannavale), a lonely but gregarious hotdog vendor. As their friendships blossom, Fin temporarily escapes his carefully constructed shell. Complications ensue. The humor comes from the naturalness of the dialogue and the strength of the characters in their unique setting. The Station Agent is a touching and meaningful comedy about human ties and alienation. A wonderful supporting role by child actor Raven Goodwin (Lovely and Amazing) rounds out the cast. Don't miss it. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Kimball's Twin Peak

Stuck on You (PG-13)
Greg Kinnear and Matt Damon star as Siamese twins in the Farrelly Brothers' (There's Something About Mary) latest physical comedy. -- Not reviewed

Cinemark 16, Tinseltown


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