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Movie Picks

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*8 Mile (R)
The fact is Eminem's as talented and charismatic on screen as he is on his records and in concert. That's what got him where he is -- and that alone is enough to keep you in your seat for Curtis Hanson's 8 Mile. As I'm sure you've heard, the plot follows the same underdog-done-good formula as Rocky. Instead of a beef-pummeling Italian meatball coming up from the ghetto in Philadelphia, we have a bumper-pressing white-trash rapper coming up from the ghetto in Detroit. Instead of fists, we've got lips. Instead of a boxing match, we've got an MC Battle. Etc., etc. ... As far as the acting goes, Eminem is able to stay just far enough outside his various personas to seem almost like the person I would imagine "the real Marshall Mathers" might be. Brittany Murphy plays a perfect hot-'n'-slutty-feminist-out-for-herself type and Mekhi Pfifer, Evan Jones, Omar Benson Miller and D'Angelo Wilson form a believable coterie. Kim Basinger (as Stephanie, the mom) is adequate. But what ultimately makes 8 Mile most interesting and entirely likable is that it makes a valiant and competent attempt to dramatize and put a face on a new generation of class struggle. White "middle class" is now waking up to find itself where most American minorities have been all along -- in poverty -- and Eminem's giving a voice to those issues. -- Noel Black

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*Die Another Day (PG-13)
As Pierce Brosnan has remarked in an interview, Die Another Day is like one-and-a-half Bond films in one. For fans of the incredibly lavish series, it is everything one could expect. For those new to the innumerable glories of James Bond, the movie is a gorgeous and exciting introduction to the stylized cinematic roller-coaster ride that audiences have savored for the past 40 years. The film's most concrete secret weapon is Halle Berry, who has signed a three-movie spin-off deal for her character Jinx. -- Cole Smithey

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

The Emperor's Club (PG-13)
This isn't a bad film, just one so mechanically made that there is not a single surprise in its entire two-hour duration. Kevin Kline is all sanctimony and gravitas as a teacher of the classics at St. Benedictus School for Boys, where he uses the examples of ancient Romans and Greeks to pound lessons of character, honesty and morality into the heads of his charges. Unfortunately, it's so packed with these well-meaning life lessons that one begins to wonder when "Pomp and Circumstance" will start playing. (Actually a version of it does play, incessantly, in a musical score so pompous and earnest that we are tempted to stand at attention every 15 minutes or so.) The genre of boarding school drama generally offers idyllic settings, well-spoken protagonists, the scurry of adolescent energy and a moving life lesson or two, and this film is no exception. Unfortunately, the moral lessons of The Emperor's Club are worthwhile but sodden in the telling. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*Far from Heaven (PG-13)
By now you've heard that this film is Todd Haynes' homage to Douglas Sirk's 1950s melodramas. (If you've never seen Wind in the Willows or Imitation of Life, their social commentary disguised in sentimentality is well worth your time.) Haynes does not engage in "retro" camp, nor is the film's historicity its main selling point. What makes this film so wonderful is the way it tackles enduring taboos surrounding race and sexuality without preaching -- that, and the stellar performance of Julianne Moore. She captures an astonishing range of emotions in the role of Cathy Whitaker, a radiant and dutiful homemaker whose faade is annihilated when she discovers her husband (Dennis Quaid) getting his freak on with another man. Far from Heaven offers little by way of comfort or resolution, but its potent dose of honesty is its greatest redemption. -- John Dicker

Kimball's Twin Peak

*Frida (R)
For a movie whose pre-release publicity promised visual innovation and imaginative treatment, Frida tells the life story of Mexican painter and pop culture icon Frida Kahlo in a surprisingly straightforward, chronological fashion. Salma Hayek certainly has the look for the starring role, and dressed in bright folk costumes with elaborately braided hair ornaments, she captures all that we know of Kahlo except her despair, her worldliness, her sophistication and her passion as a painter. Hayek's range as an actor, as well as the script (penned by at least four screenwriters -- always a bad sign), ultimately limit the film's emotional effect. That said, what's worthwhile -- indeed sublime -- about Frida is the production design, the art direction and the exquisite musical soundtrack. And Alfred Molina as the larger-than-life muralist Diego Rivera practically steals the movie. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Kimball's Twin Peak

Friday After Next (R)
Comedy starring Ice Cube and Mike Epps as Craig and Day-Day, who get robbed by a phony "ghetto" Santa and are forced to work as low-rent security guards while they try to track him down. -- Not reviewed

Carmike 10, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (PG)
Let's accent the positive: this film is a better movie than its predecessor, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. However, the two movies, while sturdy and workmanlike, haven't yet captured the charm and magic of the Harry Potter books. That said, when a movie sets out to be sequel-ized, a special dynamic sets in; the artists and the audience understand they're in it for the long haul and, with each movie, the world and the characters within it stand less on their own -- and the strength or weakness in the work becomes visible through accretion, film by film. So, go see Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and then wait and see. You may not be able to tell whether this movie works until, let's see, perhaps 2010, when the series is finally put to bed. -- Andrea Lucard

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

I Spy (PG-13)
Loosely based on the late-'60s TV show, this comedy stars Owen Wilson as a CIA agent whose assignment is to recover the Air Force's newest weapon: a stealth bomber. Eddie Murphy plays his reluctant partner. -- Not reviewed

Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*My Big Fat Greek Wedding (PG)
A delightful confection of a film. The pacing of the first half of the film is a little slow, but it picks up nicely when the whole crazy extended family gets into the act. Romantic comedies require a deft touch, and the writing of Nia Vardalos (who also plays the lead) provides it. -- Andrea Lucard

Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

The Ring (PG-13)
A remake of a 1998 Japanese thriller about a journalist (Naomi Watts) who finds and watches a videotape with a disturbing history -- everyone who has watched it has died within seven days. -- Not reviewed

Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Santa Clause 2 (G)
Eight years after the original, Tim Allen returns as Santa. -- Not reviewed

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones (PG)
Only five theaters in the country is showing Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones on the IMAX screen and Colorado Springs is one of them.

Cinemark IMAX

Sweet Home Alabama (PG-13)
Reese Witherspoon is so chipper and attractive that she almost carries Sweet Home Alabama off, but the actress who swept us away with her brilliant performance as the bratty good girl in Election is nowhere apparent here. That script demanded smart acting and a keen understanding of character. This script relies on pretty faces, cliches and soggy stereotypes. In the end, you don't care if her character comes home or not. You just want to get out of the theater before that blasted song starts again. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Cinemark 16

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