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Movie Picks

Bedazzled (PG-13)

This funny comedy stars Brendan Fraser as Elliot, a pitiful technical support geek. Elliot is in love with co-worker Alison, who has never noticed him. Elliot despairs. "I would do anything to have Alison in my life," he whines. Along comes Elizabeth Hurley as the Devil, offering him his heart's desire -- in exchange for his soul, of course. Of course, things don't work out -- in hilarious fashion. The real delight of this film is Brendan Fraser. Each time he finds himself in a new ridiculous situation, Frasier demonstrates amazing comic talent, using a very plastic face, a perpetually surprised expression and a slightly awkward physicality to produce the radical transformations. The film almost falls flat at the ending, where the writers couldn't seem to resist the temptation to moralize. Fortunately, however, this blip doesn't destroy the film, it just makes the comedown from hilarity a little abrupt. Otherwise, Bedazzled is a genial comedic take on Faust, and a good showing by a talented actor. See full review. AL

Chapel Hills; Tinseltown; Carmike 10

Best in Show

Best in Show is a clever, funny "mockumentary" about the people who love dogs and love to show them. Like all subcultures, dog people have all kinds of rules and etiquette that seem ludicrous to those on the outside. That, of course, is what leaves them wide open for the type of parody that writer/director Christopher Guest undertakes here. By using a mock documentary style, complete with some gritty handheld camera work, (the same that Guest used to great effect in This Is Spinal Tap and Waiting for Guffman), we are treated to less of a plot than a slow accretion of increasingly funny vignettes. Most of the characters are one-note-Nellies, not a lot of depth to any of them, which is why the movie had to grow on me. The comedy starts out a bit too broad, too over-the-top to be really funny. But as each of the characters plays out true to form, the real rewards come forth. See full review. -- AL


Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (R)

See full review.

Chapel Hills; Carmike 10; Tinseltown

*The Contender (R)

One-time film critic Rod Lurie wrote his political thriller specifically for Joan Allen (Nixon, Pleasantville) because he thinks she's "the best actress in the world." You'd be hard-pressed to argue because of Allen's pitch-perfect characterization of Democratic vice president nominee Laine Hanson. The Contender is a clarion call that challenges what is and isn't appropriate in the political process. If that sounds dry and boring, The Contender is exactly the opposite. There are more bitterly biting and cleverly funny scenes in this movie than in The Parallax View and The Manchurian Candidate put together. The Contender is a completely enticing and fun movie that audiences will be talking about for the rest of the year, a political movie that shows how far the genre can go in fleshing out ethics and principles while spinning suspense every step of the way. See full review. -- Cole Smithey

Chapel Hills

Coyote Ugly (PG-13)

John Goodman plays the father of Violet (Piper Perabo), a wannabe musician. Violet gets a gig as bartender at Coyote Ugly, where the gorgeous bartenders double as dancers. The audience might expect a buddy film -- the cinematic equivalent of a trip to a topless joint -- but there's not much to ogle at, except silly want-to-be-sexy scenes, where the girls get very close in their wet leather pants -- nothing more than highly conventional Playboy poses. The film is most interesting in its depictions of the contradictions and pitfalls of modern gender, sexuality, and the hazards for women attempting to reclaim sexual power. See full review. -- AL

Silver Cinemas

Disney's The Kid (PG)

Bruce Willis plays Russell Duritz, a very successful, and sometimes mean, image consultant. Two days before his 40th birthday, Russell is visited by Rusty (Spencer Breslin), the eight-year-old incarnation of himself, who is disappointed when he finds out how his life turned out. Willis does a fine job holding his own next to the pudgy, lisping and very cute Breslin. There is nothing offensive in the film, but if you take your kids be prepared to explain a lot -- The Kid is far more of an adult film than a child's. Pleasantly entertaining. See full review. -- AL

Silver Cinemas

*The Exorcist (R)

Given the numerous and terrible episodes of head-twisting, levitating and bile vomiting in the original Exorcist, audiences could hardly have guessed that director William Friedkin had already cut out 11 minutes of "excess" footage. Writer William Blatty was furious, believing that the movie had lost its moral center. Friedkin finally agreed to reexamine the missing scenes 25 years later and became inspired to rework much of the material back into the film. Significant is an added conversation between the two exorcists in which Father Merrin (Max von Sydow) explains to Father Karras (Jason Miller) the reason that this demon has chosen to consume the young girl. Overall, the newly restored scenes give the audience a much clearer understanding of Regan's possession and assign a stronger empathy with Father Karras as the film's protagonist. Though the supernatural incidents are resolved in the closing scenes of the movie, The Exorcist promises to haunt viewers with its classic, troubling images of evil. See full review. -- Cole Smithey


Hollow Man (R)

Filmmaker Paul Verhoeven's latest thriller is an empty, excruciating mess. Kevin Bacon stars as Dr. Sebastian Crane, a government scientist determined to become the first invisible human. Special effects aside, no other aspect of Hollow Man is entertaining or enlightening. To use the guise of invisibility the way Crane does defies the presence of brains or imagination -- his is the petty psyche of a Peeping Tom bent on menacing women. This overblown spectacle of a film rings empty, void, vacant, meaningless, superficial, delusive, ineffectual, unsatisfying -- in a word, hollow. See full review. -- KCE

Silver Cinemas; Broadmoor

The Little Vampire (PG)

See full review.

Chapel Hills; Carmike 10; Tinseltown

*Meet the Parents (PG-13)

Within the framework of what, on the surface, looks like a typical family comedy lurks a biting satire on the empty material satisfactions of WASP existence in America. Ben Stiller is the unfortunately named Gaylord "Greg" Focker, a Jewish male nurse who immediately unravels when he has to meet the parents of his girlfriend Pam (Teri Polo) -- a blonde with an Oyster Bay pedigree. Robert DeNiro gives a pitch perfect performance as Daddy Dearest for whom no suitor of his precious Pammy will ever measure up. Uproarious scenes of physical comic chaos meld with an interesting perspective on the untruths we tell to make ourselves look better in this ultimately sweet and very funny film. Owen Wilson turns in a killer appearance as Pam's too perfect, but all alone, ex-fianc Kevin. Stiller and DeNiro spar with graceful comic ease, and ultra-suburbia has rarely been drawn more convincingly. -- KCE

Tinseltown; Chapel Hills; Carmike 10; Gold Hill Theaters

*The Original Kings of Comedy (R)

The best live performance film in memory and, surprisingly, one of the most touching films this year. Shot with 10 cameras over three days, Kings ventures backstage briefly, but the heart of the film is onstage, and director Spike Lee masterfully captures the give-and-take of four stand-up comics and their audience. In one brilliant moment, host Steve Harvey leads the audience through a critique of hip-hop and into a Marvin Gaye celebration of love songs. Next D.L. Hughley observes the not so subtle differences between white and black folks. Cedric the Entertainer provides a low-key segue between Hughley and Bernie Mac, the most in-your-face of the comics, with more observations on the racial gap. Mac's stage presence is mesmerizing, gathering power with every round of laughter. By the end of his segment, the audience is empowered by his courage and candidness. See full review. -- KCE

Silver Cinemas

Pay It Forward (PG-13)

Haley Joel Osment is Trevor, a latchkey kid, weary of his mother's (Helen Hunt) problems with alcohol. Eugene Simonet, a scar-faced Kevin Spacey, is Trevor's social studies teacher who gives his class a confusing and challenging extra-credit assignment: Think of an idea to change our world -- and put it into action. Trevor comes up with an ingenious solution: do a good deed, then ask that person to pay it forward to three others in need. The result is an exponential eruption of good-deed-doing that quickly crosses state lines. Hunt plays the hard-ridden, recovering alcoholic, single mom with grit and heart. And given Spacey's compelling performance, their dance of romance is genuinely moving. But instead of ending as a love story with a social message, Pay It Forward succumbs to grandiosity, insisting on becoming a forced religious allegory. Any power that the film built up with its lovely characterizations and charming story is quickly released like a gush of air from a balloon. This is a classic example of a very good movie ruined by the director's ambitions for a blockbuster ending. See full review. -- KCE

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

The Perfect Storm (PG-13)

The Perfect Storm turns out to be something of a wash. While there are plenty of white-knuckle moments, the film's stolid attempts at inciting reverence for the famed crew of the Gloucester fishing vessel, the Andrea Gail, tend to throw a wet blanket over the compelling true-life events recounted by Sebastian Junger in his best-selling book. Director Wolfgang Petersen's clunky manner of making this obvious point feels heavy-handed and artificial. An editor could have done wonders with the film, but unfortunately we're stuck with what we've got -- a few spectacular scenes and some strong performances mish-mashed with too much forced solemnity and enough clichs to gag a whale. The Perfect Storm is well worth seeing, but it's far from perfect. -- See full review. KCE

Silver Cinemas

Remember the Titans (PG)

Remember the Titans glorifies youth, manhood and the pursuit of football as the best avenue for social justice. The field of justice is, in this case, an Alexandria, Va., high school ordered to desegregate in 1971. To emphasize the desegregation order, the school board hires a black man, Coach Boone (Denzel Washington) to coach their successful Titans football team. As usual, Washington manages to hit just the right note throughout the film, helping to redeem a fairly cheeseball script and bring out its nobility. Other notable performances include the white team captain Bertier (Ryan Hurst) and Big Ju (Wood Harris) who becomes Bertier's best friend. As with the best military movies, this buddy relationship becomes the emotional center of the film. It helps if you're willing to believe that the struggle against racism is best fought by men on the model of a war. Whether the male/war model contributes to lasting change is questionable. But war makes for good un-nuanced drama, and Remember the Titans takes full advantage of that. -- See full review. AL

Tinseltown; Chapel Hills; Carmike 10; Gold Hill Theaters

The Replacements (PG-13)

Keanu Reeves in full surfer-speak is Shane Falco, an All-American college football star who never made it to the big leagues.When the Washington Sentinels' players go on strike, legendary coach Jimmy McGinty (Gene Hackman) is brought in to put together a team of replacement players to carry the Sentinels through. Falco is recruited as quarterback because he possesses a quality missing in the regular crew -- heart. The bulk of the action takes place on the football field. Every scene is utterly predictable. The dialogue is so lame that even the worst clichs are repeated over and over. Even the formidable Gene Hackman couldn't save this giant gridiron groaner. -- See full review. KCE

Silver Cinemas

Scary Movie (R)

Scary Movie, a ripoff of teen slasher flicks Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer, may win the overall competition for grossest gross-out jokes of any film ever. The brothers Wayans seem to have a concept here but they set up every joke so tediously and assiduously that by the time the punchline appears the joke is dead already. Given a big budget, the Wayans seem to wander, aggrandize, overcompensate and falter. The competent cast play imperiled teenagers adequately, and some of their lines are genuinely funny, but to watch Scary Movie is, basically, to suffer through an extended doo-doo riff with accents of snot, pee-pee and semen. -- KCE

Silver Cinemas

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