Movie Picks 

click to enlarge Ah, Hollywood  where a Sin City stripper can - grow up - to be The Fantastic Fours Invisible Girl (Jessica - Alba).
  • Ah, Hollywood where a Sin City stripper can grow up to be The Fantastic Fours Invisible Girl (Jessica Alba).

*The Amityville Horror (R)
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*Batman Begins (PG-13)
Christopher Nolan's remarkable re-invention of the Batman franchise, rescued from the campy influences of the '60s television series and the various movie incarnations of the last two decades, is amazing. Nolan (Memento, Insomnia), who knows his Batman, borrows from the Depression-era origins of the comic book superhero but relies more on the late '80s rebirth of the Dark Knight by Frank Miller, who created Sin City for DC Comics. Christian Bale's Bruce/Batman is delightfully dark and tortured. The supporting performances are uniformly strong, including those of an almost unrecognizable Gary Oldman as Lt. James Gordon, the only good cop in Gotham, and of Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox, a veteran inventor buried in the bowels of Wayne Enterprises who helps outfit and equip the newborn Batman. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Cinemark 16 IMAX, Tinseltown

Bewitched (PG-13)
Directed by Nora Ephron, this film stars Nicole Kidman as Samantha the Witch and Will Ferrell as Darren. In the film, a producer remaking the classic sitcom, Bewitched, unknowingly casts a real witch for the role. Also featuring Shirley MacLaine, Michael Caine, David Alan Grier and Stephen Colbert.

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*Cinderella Man (PG-13)
Ron Howard again teams up with screenwriter Akiva Goldman (A Beautiful Mind) and actor Russell Crowe to tell the tale of "Irish Jim" Braddock's descent into poverty at the height of the Depression, his virtuous life as a husband and father, and his ultimate triumph in the ring over ruthless heavyweight champion Max Baer. Despite some problems with pacing and Howard's tendency to go on too long -- the film clocks in at two and a half hours -- Cinderella Man accomplishes its dual purpose: It tells the uplifting tale of Braddock's boxing career while creating a lump-in-the-throat metaphor for what is (or, at least, what was) best about America, land of opportunity. Because Rocky told the same story, it's impossible not to make comparisons, and there are many obvious ones here. Where Rocky had the crowd cheering for the punch-drunk palooka from Nowheresville, Cinderella Man leaves the audience smiling and satisfied, though not particularly stimulated. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Forces of Nature (NR)
A National Geographic film showcasing earthquakes, volcanoes, severe storms and interviews with the scientists who study them. -- Not reviewed

Cinemark 16 IMAX

Guess Who (PG-13)
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Herbie: Fully Loaded (G)
Maggie (Lindsay Lohan) becomes the new owner of Number 53, a Volkswagen Beetle with a mind of its own. She and the car train to compete in NASCAR. Also starring Matt Dillon, Michael Keaton and Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- Not reviewed

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*Hitchhiker's Guide to

the Galaxy (PG)
A fun and irreverent take on the fun and irreverent Douglas Adams novel. -- Dan Wilcock

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The Honeymooners (PG-13)
New York bus driver Ralph Kramden (Cedric the Entertainer) always is coming up with get-rich-quick schemes. Luckily, his friend Ed Norton (Mike Epps) always is around to get him out of trouble. Also starring Gabrielle Union, Regina Hall, Eric Stoltz and John Leguizamo. -- Not reviewed

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Kicking and Screaming (PG)
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*Land of the Dead (R)
Human flesh isn't merely consumed in George Romero's post-apocalyptic zombie flick. It's what's for dinner. Director George Romero (Night of the Living Dead) eschews shock-and-dagger suspense for a blunt attack on the senses. The result is a movie simultaneously more brutal, chilling and tongue-in-cheek than any other mainstream horror release this year. Romero rolls out the thrills with perfect pacing. More akin to an ultra-violent action film than a true thriller, Land of the Dead nonetheless contains several jump-from-your-seat scenes that send popcorn flying. No character is entirely good, and that's satisfying in this age of predictable horror films. -- Dan Wilcock

Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

The Longest Yard (PG-13)
Adam Sandler stars as an ex-football star who ends up in prison and is encouraged to start an inmate football team that plays against the prison guards. This re-make also stars Chris Rock, Burt Reynolds, Nelly and James Cromwell. -- Not reviewed

Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16

Madagascar (PG)
This children's computer-animated comedy is so packed with madcap humor and outlandish acrobatics at breakneck speed that it resembles an episode of the old televised cartoon Animaniacs. The film follows the adventures of four animals that live in New York's Central Park Zoo: Marty, the rambunctious zebra (with the voice of Chris Rock); Alex, the vain lion (Ben Stiller); Gloria, the motherly hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith); and Melman, the hypochondriac giraffe (David Schwimmer). Marty's ultimately bummed out because he's trapped in a pen and wants to experience "the wild." Marty gets his chance through a bizarre series of accidents that lands the quartet in Madagascar. The storyline never quite comes together in a stirring way, and lacks the same satisfying emotional punch that made Finding Nemo a classic. On the positive side, the action and comedy percolates to make up for some of what the film misses. -- Dan Wilcock

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*Mad Hot Ballroom (PG)
First-time documentary filmmakers Marilyn Agrelo and Amy Sewell create an energetic and moving chronicle of an innovative school program, life in New York City and the magical age of 11. Inner-city fifth-graders practice ballroom dances as the movie swirls, cuts and twirls in time to its marvelous soundtrack. They learn, reluctantly at first, to face a partner of the opposite sex, maintain eye contact and smile. The girls are intrigued and the boys are grossed out; the facial expressions of these budding dancers are absolutely priceless. In short order it becomes clear that the program is about far more than dancing; it's about etiquette, comportment, discipline, growing up and, above all, competition. Anchoring the film are the dancers and the dances. Some painfully earnest and awkward, others astonishingly accomplished and beautiful, they're a little like life itself, set for a few magical months in a mad hot ballroom. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Kimball's Twin Peak

*Millions (PG)
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Monster-in-Law (PG-13)
Charlotte Honeywell (Jennifer Lopez) has a disastrous dating life until she meets "the perfect man," Kevin Fields (Michael Vartan). However, his mother, Viola (Jane Fonda), is willing to go to great lengths to destroy their relationship. -- Not reviewed

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Mr. and Mrs. Smith (PG-13)
A bored married couple (Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie) doesn't realize that each of them is an assassin until they have been hired to kill each other.

-- Not reviewed

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

The Pacifier (PG)
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The Perfect Man (PG)
Holly (Hilary Duff) is tired of having to move every time her mother (Heather Locklear) breaks up with a boyfriend. Holly decides to create an imaginary secret admirer and uses her friend's uncle (Chris Noth of Sex and the City) as a stand-in. Holly becomes desperate to keep the ruse alive and almost misses the real "perfect man" when he comes along. -- Not reviewed

Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Rebound (PG)
Martin Lawrence plays an acclaimed basketball coach who finds himself coaching junior varsity kids.

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Robots (PG)
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Sahara (PG-13)
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Sharks 3-D (NR)
Jean-Michel Cousteau presents an up-close experience with a variety of shark species found around the world. -- Not reviewed

Cinemark 16 IMAX

*Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith (PG-13)
Despite more of the same lousy acting and poor character ideas that marred I and II (the prequels to the well-loved trilogy), Sith wins in the end due to its unrelenting dark vision. After all, this is what everybody has been waiting for: the story of how Anakin Skywalker -- the boy foretold to unite the galaxy -- becomes a black-clad mass murderer named Darth. While the special effects sometimes are too much to grasp, they are stunning nonetheless. When it comes to commanding believable acting and penning good dramatic transitions, Lucas has a wooden heart. As for the showdown between Anakin and Obi-Wan, all there is to say is that it's worth seeing on the big screen. -- Dan Wilcock

Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Unleashed (R)

Despite stunning martial arts, Jet Li is abused in this schizophrenic slop. -- Dan Wilcock

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War of the Worlds (PG-13)
Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

See full review on page 29.


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