Movie Picks 

click to enlarge Johnny Knoxville, Jessica Simpson and Seann William - Scott (as Luke, Daisy and Bo Duke) make the Dixie flag- - draped South seem seedy and sexy.
  • Johnny Knoxville, Jessica Simpson and Seann William Scott (as Luke, Daisy and Bo Duke) make the Dixie flag- draped South seem seedy and sexy.

The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl (PG)
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Bad News Bears (PG-13)
The premise hasn't changed -- a ragtag group of Little League players gets a burned-out coach to guide them to the championship game, by hook or crook -- but, as in the real world, the language has become coarser over three decades. Replacing and almost eclipsing Walther Matthau, the disgruntled coach of the original, is Billy Bob Thornton as coach Morris Buttermaker, a self-described "drunk who kills rats to live in a trailer." Though his supporting cast is suitably funny and cute, Thornton -- slightly lascivious, cigar-chomping, booze-guzzling, world-weary and cynical -- is the best reason to see Bad News Bears, reinforcing that this is not a kids' film. He's great in the on-the-field scenes, drunkenly smacking his players with stray balls and spouting his bizarre baseball wisdom. Still, the only real surprise about director Richard Linklater's remake of the 1976 kid classic is that it's not God-awful. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*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

*Charlie & the Chocolate Factory (PG)
First understand: This is a revision, not a remake. Cast presumptive likenesses to 1971's Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory to the wind, and let the movies exist as separate entities. To wide-eyed perfection, Freddie Highmore plays Charlie Bucket, a jug-eared boy who lives with his poor parents and his four bed-ridden grandparents in an absurdly ramshackle house in London. Swoon-star Depp is as odd as they come as Wonka. At times appearing intensely determined and, at others, going massively broad, he recalls the way he played Hunter S. Thompson. Director Tim Burton both remains true to Roald Dahl's book and departs wildly from it. Actor Deep Roy deserves some sort of medal for the hundreds of Oompa shoes he fills; he plays all of the tiny workers. Though their new songs are full of gratuitous visual bling, they're unfortunately no longer fun sing-alongs -- in fact, you can barely understand a word. Charlie's conclusion tosses some loops -- especially for Wonka -- to create what ultimately is a satisfying twist. Though Charlie isn't all cotton-candy fluff, it's mostly exciting, mindless fun. -- Kara Luger

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

*Cinderella Man (PG-13)
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Crash (R)
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The Devil's Rejects (R)
This new film written and directed by Rob Zombie is a sequel to House of 1000 Corpses. Several of the Firefly family members escape and go on a murderous road trip with the law and bounty hunters on their tail. -- Not reviewed

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Tinseltown

Dr. Dolittle 2 (PG)

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

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

Chapel Hills 15

House of Wax (R)
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*Hustle and Flow (R)
Every few years a film comes along that knocks Hollywood on its ass and demonstrates how pointless and craven most films are today. Hustle and Flow is one of them, and its writer/director, Craig Brewer, makes a debut on par with Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs. Brewer proves himself an astute storyteller with this yarn about a lowlife Memphis pimp named DJay (Terrence Dashon Howard) who comes to recognize that he isn't going anywhere beyond the seat of his Chevy Caprice. Brewer also shows a deep understanding of music and Southern society, making a clear connection between Dirty South crunk (a southern-fried variant of rap) and the legacy of blues music -- and, by extension, the lives of poor people. The results are thrilling, and Hustle and Flow easily is one of the year's best films. -- Dan Wilcock

Carmike 10, Tinseltown

The Island (PG-13)
Tasty morsel Ewan McGregor stars as Lincoln Six-Echo, a genial futuristic fellow who lives with other genial people in a utopian center, having escaped aboveground "containment." Of course, Lincoln realizes there's more to life, and he and his pal Jordan Two-Delta (Scarlett Johansson) escape, only to find out how supremely messed up things actually are. It's a fun thriller, with tons of fast, mind-numbing foot/car/motorcycle chases. Though the "life is not as we know it" premise has been done before, The Island still is "ew"-inducing and probably will spark morality debates. Interestingly, for a flick that involves subliminal messages, it sure contains a lot of product placement. -- Kara Luger

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Kicking and Screaming (PG)
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The Longest Yard (PG-13)
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*March of the Penguins (G)
See full review on page 29.

Cinemark 16, Kimball's Twin Peak

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

Cinemark 16

Must Love Dogs (PG-13)
A forty-something divorcee looks to the personals for a change of pace and a relationship. Starring Diane Lane, John Cusack, Elizabeth Perkins, Christopher Plummer, Dermot Mulroney and Stockard Channing. -- Not reviewed

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

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

Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants (PG)
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Sky High (PG)
Will (Michael Angarano), the son of superheroes Captain Stronghold (Kurt Russell) and Josie Jetstream (Kelly Preston), tries to find a balance between being a normal teenager and an extraordinary superhero. -- Not reviewed

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*Star Wars: Episode III -- Revenge of the Sith (PG-13)
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Stealth (PG-13)
Oh, Jamie Foxx, what happened? You were in Oscar-winning form in Ray, and now you're playing not-even-second fiddle to a stealth jet. Foxx stars with other pretty faces Josh Lucas and Jessica Biel, as Navy pilots who are enlisted to test an experimental artificial intelligence-driven jet. Of course, the jet, which sounds like HAL from 2001: A Space Odyssey, gets hit by lightning, causing it to think on its own. All hell breaks loose, but there's still time to worry about our fighter pilots scoring some booty. Absolute schlock from beginning to finish. -- Kara Luger

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills 15, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

War of the Worlds (PG-13)
Beyond the glitzy surface of expensive special effects and 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

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 William Cleary, (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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