Movie Picks 

click to enlarge Grizzled ex-pro ballplayer Morris Buttermaker (Billy Bob - Thornton) coaches a bevy of misfit youth in Bad News - Bears. Lessons are sure to be learned.
  • Grizzled ex-pro ballplayer Morris Buttermaker (Billy Bob Thornton) coaches a bevy of misfit youth in Bad News Bears. Lessons are sure to be learned.

*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

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. -- Not reviewed

Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*Charlie & the Chocolate

Factory (PG)
See page 27 for a full review.

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

Cinemark 16

Dark Water (PG-13)
Jennifer Connelly stars as a single mother who realizes she and her daughter may not be so safe in their apartment. -- Not reviewed

Carmike 10, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Fantastic Four (PG-13)
A group of astronauts develops superpowers and proves that it is, indeed, clobbering time. -- Not reviewed

Carmike 10, 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

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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House of Wax (R)
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Kicking and Screaming (PG)
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*Ladies in Lavender (PG-13)
See page 26 for a full review.

Kimball's Twin Peak

*Land of the Dead (R)
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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 remake also stars Chris Rock, Burt Reynolds, Nelly and James Cromwell. -- Not reviewed

Chapel Hills 15

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

Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*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)
Though it's 30 minutes too long (at two hours) and more closely resembles a television miniseries than a movie, Mr. and Mrs. Smith is a snarky romantic comedy disguised as an ultra-violent action thriller. It works. This is about the only kind of movie in which Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie could be well cast together, a tongue-in-cheek wink at every suburbanite's secret dream to be James Bond or La Femme Nikita. Pitt plays Mr. Smith, who plays as an import-export exec when he's not pulling off assassinations. Mrs. Smith, likewise, covers up her deadly trade by masquerading as a temp agency CEO. When they're assigned to the same target, however, the sparks start to fly as both characters attempt to be the bigger badass. -- Dan Wilcock

Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

The Pacifier (PG)
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The Perfect Man (PG)
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Rebound (PG)
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Robots (PG)

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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

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)
Beyond the glitzy surface of expensive special effects and pricey superstar actors, Steven Spielberg's newest blockbuster boils down to one message: Only the strong (and maybe the lucky) survive.

It's strange that the man who made Schindler's List, one of the greatest cinematic tributes to the power of compassion amid terror and death, would make a film so devoted to grim biological calculation and familial protection. Dakota Fanning is the star of the chase, as Tom Cruise's daughter Rachel, her wonderfully expressive face registering terror and resolve as she and her dad slog through pulsating alien slime pools. Cruise wears his usual jocko mask, but luckily it doesn't matter much who is playing the role of Ray. We quickly learn he's just another pitiful human clawing to get by. In the end, War of the Worlds is similar to Star Wars III in its brutality and darkness of vision. Perhaps these films fit the times.

-- Dan Wilcock

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Wedding Crashers (R)
For a while, Wedding Crashers feels like a throwback to all that was gloriously raunchy about the vintage efforts of 25 years ago. Its titular protagonists are John (Owen Wilson) and Jeremy (Vince Vaughn), a pair of best buddies in Washington D.C., who have learned the secret of picking up women by posing as party guests at weddings. At a ceremony for the daughter of Secretary of the Treasury, (Christopher Walken), John and Jeremy set their eyes on the bride's two sisters. But while Gloria (Isla Fisher) is only too happy to play along with Jeremy, John discovers that Claire (Rachel McAdams) already has a boyfriend. The smitten John isn't about to give up, however, and convinces Jeremy to extend their role-playing to a weekend trip to the Cleary family home. It's here that Vaughn gets to soar, dealing with the clingy, crazy Gloria to give his buddy a chance to close the deal. The first half of Wedding Crashers is inspired enough that even its late loss of momentum can't completely spoil its pleasures, but it's disappointing to see yet another contender for the lowbrow throne brought down by its lack of resolve.

-- Scott Renshaw

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown


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