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Movie Picks

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Oscar-winner Michael Caine in The Cider House Rules
  • Oscar-winner Michael Caine in The Cider House Rules

*American Beauty (R)

Strong visual style, fabulous acting, and quirky writing all conspire to create an erotic, humorous, captivating film. Kevin Spacey is given a funny, dry script by screenwriter Alan Ball and uses it confidently, moving between bumbling idiot, threatening asshole and tender father with ease; Annette Bening perfectly captures the manic acquisitiveness and just-below-the-surface despair of professional-class America with a physical, comedic presence that most actresses would never dare attempt; Wes Bentley portrays the disturbed boy next door with a quiet gravity that intensifies every scene he graces. First-time film director and Academy Award winner Sam Mendes did a remarkable job of learning the vocabulary of filmmaking and using it to create a multi-layered visual and psychological delight. -- AL

Tinseltown; Carmike 10; Chapel Hills; Academy Station 6

*Anna and the King (PG-13)

Unlike the 1956 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, this retelling of Anna Leonowen's (Jodie Foster) story is rather serious in its treatment of the relationships between Asia and the British during the age of British expansion. Go to be captivated by the kind of spectacle that Hollywood alone can create, the organizational and visual feats of lush scenery, beautiful costuming, and good special effects, and you won't be disappointed. -- AL

Silver Cinemas

*Boiler Room (R)

A deftly told tale of the sleazy underside of the stock market -- Wall Street bottom feeders who get rich selling little known, unreliable stocks to unsuspecting investors. Giovanni Ribisi finally gets the star turn he deserves as Seth Davis, an unsuspecting young trainee who is caught up in the hype of the get-rich-quick scheme. Engaging and fast-paced throughout -- with the exception of a drippy subplot involving Ribisi and his father, a stern judge -- The Boiler Room is a stylish peek into a universe where greed truly rules. Ribisi transcends the bare outlines of his character in the scenes where he goes for the sell, sweating and squirming. Outstanding supporting cast includes Ben Affleck and Nia Long. -- KCE

Tiffany Square

*Boys Don't Cry (R)

Director/screenwriter Kimberly Peirce's feature film debut is as assured as they come. Academy Award winner Hilary Swank is a revelation as Brandon, a young cross-dresser whose identity falls somewhere between heartthrob and strut-your-stuff cowboy. On the run to avoid prosecution for petty crimes, Brandon settles in Falls City, Nebraska, where his love hungry eyes settle on Lana (Chloe Sevigny). Unfortunately, her dysfunctional family includes John (Peter Sarsgaard) and Tom (Brendan Sexton III), both chronic losers for whom the notion of sexual ambiguity ranks at the top of the list of sins worthy of the death penalty. Filmed on a low budget, the film is notably artful in its depiction of the stark Nebraska landscape, and is blessed with a simply remarkable cast. -- KCE

Kimball's Twin Peak

*Cider House Rules (PG-13)

John Irving, who wrote the novel, did an excellent job of paring down his long, Dickensian work into a cogent screenplay that doesn't sacrifice its heart in the translation. The characters' quirks and charms are intact, especially those of Dr. Larch, an eccectric abortionist played by Michael Caine with an overwhelming kindness and vulnerability. His scenes glow with humanity, and Tobey Maguire's low-key performance as Homer, Larch's disapproving proteg, provides an interesting counterpart. A heartwarming film. -- KCE

Tiffany Square; Tinseltown

*Erin Brockovich (R)

Erin Brockovich succeeds quietly, thanks largely to director Steven Soderbergh's (Out of Sight) sure hand, even with a diva like Roberts in front of the camera. In 1996, a file clerk named Erin Brockovich came across old real estate records that led her to find that a $28 billion utilities corporation had systematically poisoned the community of Hinkley, California, by allowing a pipe-cleaning agent to infiltrate the ground water. Brash and outspoken Brockovich enlisted attorney Ed Masry in what became the largest direct-action legal settlement in American history, winning a $333 million award for their clients. Roberts transcends Brockovich's exploitative wardrobe with a gritty performance, precise comic timing, a foul mouth and intense focus. The impeccable casting of the two lead males -- Finney as Ed, Erin's partner in justice and comic foil; and Aaron Eckhart (In The Company of Men) as the biker next door who becomes Erin's trusted babysitter and lover -- further cements the film's success. Finney enjoys some of the best moments he's seen onscreen for years, and Eckhart's natural bearing and low-key demeanor provide a strong balance to Roberts' inescapable star quality. -- KCE

Tinseltown, Kimball's Twin Peak; Chapel Hills; Carmike 10

The Green Mile (R)

At three hours and ten minutes long, this is one marathon of a movie, and unnecessarily so. The story, based on Stephen King's 1996 serial novel, is oddly compelling: A death row prison guard in the mid-1930's deep south, Paul Edgecomb (Tom Hanks) is delivered a 7-foot tall, black, simple-minded but apparently clairvoyant inmate (Michael Clarke Duncan), convicted for murder. Duncan's characterization, though spare, is powerful. And Hanks, as Edgecomb, is his usual measured, affable self -- the soul of fairness. The Green Mile is a worthy exploration of good and evil, human suffering, the cold inevitability of death and the redeeming power of love. But because the strength lies in the simple nature of the story, the earthy vernacular and the colorful characters, the director's tired dramatic approach feels like little more than excessive padding. -- KCE

Chapel Hills

Hanging Up (R)

Despite a weak script, Meg Ryan and her co-stars Diane Keaton and Lisa Kudrow do their level best to portray three sisters whose father Lou (Walter Matthau) is succumbing to illness and senility. The film has a strange, mechanical feel to it, as if the writers were just learning screen craft from a text book. Occasionally the movie has some moving moments, but unfortunately, those moments are few and far between, and silliness is allowed to prevail over a film of real potential. This is the underlying flaw of Hanging Up -- real characterization is replaced by a series of facile, surface traits, and real issues are swapped for a fluffy, feel-good gloss. -- AL

Tiffany Square

*High Fidelity (R)

See full review, page

Tinseltown

*The Hurricane (R)

Veteran filmmaker Norman Jewison tells Rubin Hurricane Carter's story powerfully and with a steady gaze. In May of 1967, Carter, a rising professional boxing champion, was convicted of the murders of three white people in Paterson, New Jersey, and was sentenced to three life terms in prison. For the next 20 years, Carter remained incarcerated, wrote an autobiography and continued to petition the courts for his freedom. There are no groundbreaking camera tricks or imaginative twists in this biopic -- the story is a stunner on its own. As Carter, Denzel Washington's performance perfectly captures Carter's evolution -- as he is ripped from the world of notability and locked in seclusion, both his grief and his compassion expand. Both the movie and its formidable star succeed at dramatizing the hideous injustice of Carter's imprisonment, and the excruciatingly painful passage of time behind bars. -- KCE

Silver Cinemas

My Dog Skip (PG)

There isn't really much that holds this film together besides a rather ponderous narration that says, "Skip helped me turn from a child to a boy," or "Skip helped me turn from a boy into a man." There are some good performances by Kevin Bacon who plays Willie's dour and over-protective father and Willie himself, played by funny-faced young actor Frankie Muniz. Most compelling of all are the dogs who play Skip -- the wizards of Hollywood animal training are able to teach these dogs to do great things on command, from climbing into a toilet to running wide choreographed circles to disrupt a baseball game. By all accounts, Skip really was a remarkable animal. -- AL

Chapel Hills; Citadel Terrace; Tinseltown

*Return to Me (PG)

Bob Rueland (David Duchovny) is madly in love with his wife, who dies suddenly in a car crash. Her heart is donated to a anonymous recipient, who turns out to be Grace Briggs (Minnie Driver). Grace works in an Irish-Italian restaurant owned by her grandfather (Carroll O'Connor). Duchovny happens to end up there one day and some miraculous force immediately attracts the two. Despite this silly premise, Return to Me really is a perfectly fine romantic comedy. Both Duchovny and Driver have a good sense of comic timing, Carroll O'Connor mostly keeps his up his Irish accent, and the actors are aided by a sometimes clever script that delivers some funny surprises and some good tear-jerking moments. Like a decent marriage in its middle years, Return to Me is mostly predictable and formulaic, and comforting in its solidity.

Tinseltown; Chapel Hills;

*Sixth Sense (PG-13)

A fluid, compelling and genuinely scary ghost story starring Bruce Willis as Malcolm Crowe, a child psychologist. Willis' character enjoys a charmed life with his wife (Olivia Williams) and a fulfilling, successful career until the night he gets plugged by a dissatisfied former patient. We next see Crowe, shaken and changed, outside the house of Cole Sear, a little boy with anxious tendencies and, apparently, deep psychological problems. Turns out Cole can see the dead, and those with unfinished business often show up in his bedroom at night. The most startling moments of the film all revolve around the appearance of those ghosts. Haley Joel Osment, the child actor who plays Cole, is tortured, convincing and winning. Willis doesn't make a false move. The film delivers a wonderful punch at the end with an unexpected plot twist. A sure audience pleaser, Sixth Sense is solid, smart, subtle, atmospheric moviemaking. -- KCE

Tinseltown; Silver Cinemas

*Sleepy Hollow (R)

In Director Tim Burton's hands, the tiny Hudson River valley town of Sleepy Hollow becomes a mythical place where gnarled trees silhouetted against a foggy background speak volumes. Johnny Depp brings a humorous finickiness to the character of Ichabod Crane. He is prissy, prim and immaculate, and he doesn't take well to the sight of gore. But Crane's transformation to action hero is palatable too -- Depp moves from prude to swashbuckler with real movie star grace and charisma. And the horseman himself -- massive and shrouded in black -- proves to be a striking central focus of the film, despite his missing head. Burton revels in special effect, and his wild creation, the tree of the dead, is a memorable cinematic marvel. This Sleepy Hollow will, no doubt, prove to be a Halloween video classic. -- KCE

Silver Cinemas

*The Talented Mr. Ripley (R)

Anthony Minghella meticulously recreates the feel of the 1950s jazz era in Italy where everyone loves anything American. Matt Damon delivers a fine, nuanced performance that grows on the viewer. As Tom Ripley, a deeply disturbed young man who longs to be someone other than himself, Damon moves from fumbling geek to smooth expatriate with boyish intensity and dark charm. Brit Jude Law is a revelation as Dickie Greenleaf, object of Ripley's lustful admiration, a rich American kid who spends his days soaking up the sun and his nights in smoky jazz clubs. Glowing cinematography, a rich musical soundtrack, well-rounded characters, a literate narrative and nail-biting suspense are combined by Minghella to produce one of the richest, old-fashioned in the best sense of the word, films out of Hollywood this year. -- KCE

Silver Cinemas

*Toy Story 2 (G)

Toy Story 2 manages to construct even wilder gags, and to stretch even further the idea of the secret life of toys than the first, but it also leaves an even more bittersweet aftertaste. At its most heart-wrenching, this chipper cartoon is also a parent's stricken fantasy of being outgrown by their children. The mix of silliness, affection, and piercing nostalgia -- and yes, artistry -- keeps kids and adults engaged simultaneously. -- Jim Ridley

Silver Cinemas

*The Whole Nine Yards (R)

A comedy about a retired Mafia contract killer (Bruce Willis) who moves into a quiet Montreal suburban neighborhood. That The Whole Nine Yards is so amusing and unexpected is a tribute to really good writing. Screenwriting newcomer Mitchell Kapner has loaded the film with the kind of funny throwaway lines that you want to remember and repeat to your friends. The humor of the film also gets a lift from some decent physical comedy on the part of Matthew Perry. While the humor is very clever and tongue-in-cheek, the violence of the film is not. All the killing in the midst of the comedy was a little creepy. Squeamishness, and a deep wonder at our warped American psyche aside, however, The Whole Nine Yards is a lightweight, clever comedy, and writer Kapner will be one to watch. -- AL

Tiffany Square

*The World is Not Enough (R)

Pierce Brosnan can do no wrong. He gleams with all the requisite savoir-faire and charisma that James Bond demands. Robert Carlyle does a brilliant turn as the ruthless terrorist Renard. Michael Apted, best known for his fantastic 7 Up documentary film series and Coal Miner's Daughter, more than hits his directorial marks.The World Is Not Enough is, pound for explosion, a great return on your entertainment dollar. -- Cole Smithey

Silver Cinemas


OPENING THIS WEEK

Black and White (R)

An ex-debutante documentary filmmaker (Brooke Shields) decides to capture the worlds of hip-hop, basketball, Harlem and high school and the collision of cultures: white and black, rich and poor. Starring Mike Tyson, Shields, Ben Stiller and Robert Downey Jr.

Tinseltown; Carmike 10; Chapel Hills

Keeping the Faith (PG-13)

A rabbi (Ben Stiller) and a priest (Ed Norton) became best friends growing up together in New York. When Anna (Jenna Elfman), an old playmate comes back to town all grown up and beautiful, a very complicated love triangle ensues.

Tinseltown, Sat. April 7, 7:30 p.m.

Ready to Rumble (PG-13)

When a couple of die-hard loser wrestling fans' favorite wrestler is injured, they take it upon themselves to get him back into shape and back in the ring. With David Arquette, Oliver Platt, John Goodman, Scott Caan and Rose McGowan.

Tinseltown; Academy Station 6; Gold Hill Theaters; Chapel Hills; Carmike 10

Rules of Engagement (R)

When the U.S. embassy in Yemen is surrounded by a crowd of demonstrators, a Marine is ordered to secure the safety of the ambassador's family, even if it means killing over 80 people. Afterward, he finds himself on trial for violating the rules of engagement, and the very people who ordered him to do it are now abandoning him. Stars Samuel L. Jackson and Tommy Lee Jones.

Tinseltown; Citadel Terrace; Chapel Hills; Carmike 10

Saboteur (PG)

1942 Hitchcock film in which a man (Robert Cummings) is accused of murder and sets out to find the real killer before the law catches up with him.

Colorado Springs Fine Arts Center, 30 W. Dale St. Tues. April 11, 7:30 p.m.

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