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Movie Picks

*American Beauty (R)

American Beauty proves, once again, that you don't have to have a new plot to make a fresh story. Instead, a strong visual style, fabulous acting, and quirky writing can 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 Benning 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 Sam Mendes has done a remarkable job of learning the vocabulary of filmmaking and using it to create a multilayered visual and psychological delight. -- AL

Tinseltown; Chapel Hills

*American Pie (R)

American Pie succeeds where most teenage sexploitation films fail, offering some of the best-developed characters in memory. TV soap star Jason Biggs is Jim, the quintessential smart guy in high school who is perpetually horny and can't get laid. Jim and his buddies vow to lose their virginity before high school's over, and the film chronicles their sexual misadventures toward that end. The girls in American Pie are too womanly, too wry, too mature and wise. Luckily, they are a secondary focus, and the filmmakers insights into the miseries of oversexed teenage males are so right-on, so tender and funny, that the girl problem can be overlooked. -- KCE

Silver Cinemas

*Anywhere But Here (PG-13)

See full review, page 43

Tinseltown; Chapel Hills; Carmike 10

The Bachelor (PG-13)

Pleasant enough and originally conceived in the beginning, The Bachelor sacrifices itself to the groaning weight of a grandiose Hollywood production scene in the end. Chris O'Donnell is fresh and attractive as Jimmy Shannon, a declared bachelor who must give up his freedom to meet the requirements of his grandfather's will, and Renee Zellweger is the love of his life, Ann. The Bachelor aspires to be a fresh take on romantic comedy -- as seen from the guy's point of view -- and almost succeeds. But the director just couldn't resist the appeal of a massive chase scene down the streets of San Francisco, involving, gulp,1,000 screaming women in bride's dresses. It's hard not to be offput by this excess, when the film could have been a tight, fresh take on the romantic conundrum. -- KCE

Chapel Hills; Citadel Terrace; Tinseltown; Academy Station 6

*The Basket (G)

Award-winning film The Basket features Peter Coyote and Karen Allen and tells the tale of a small Northwestern town trying to make sense of World War I. An unconventional schoolteacher (Coyote) comes to town, teaching a strange new game called basketball. Some of the film's intriguing aspects are a rare, on-screen look at the early, awkward days of basketball; and the operatic soundtrack, providing a dramatic backdrop and featuring more than 70 minutes of stirring music recorded by composer and musician Don Caron with the Hungarian Symphony Orchestra. While the independent film will ultimately make its way to video, director Rich Cowan says the glowing landscapes of The Basket are made for the theater. "[Cinematographer] Danny [Heigh] shot a movie too big for the small screen. On the big screen, it's just looks and feels right." See full review. -- David Kilmer

Tiffany Square

*Being John Malkovich (R)

Spike Jonze's bizarre adult comedy, Being John Malkovich, is a wonderfully acted, witty take on the lengths we will go for our 15 minutes of fame. John Cusack is marvelous as Craig Schwartz, a brilliant loser puppeteer who takes a filing job in a bizarre office building where he discovers a secret door. When he crawls through it, he is inexplicably drawn into the body and mind of actor John Malkovich where he remains for 15 minutes, then is spit out into a ditch off the New Jersey Turnpike. If this sounds terribly mundane, be assured it is not. Jonze's direction, the brilliant script by first-timer Charlie Kaufman, razor sharp cinematography by Lance Acord (Buffalo '66) and the outstanding ensemble cast combine to make this one whirlwind of a moviegoing experience. Unexpected turns keep the audience alert and interested, and the payoff is the film's ability to sustain the central conceit. Ingenious casting helps too. Orson Bean as Dr. Lester and Mary Kay Place as his receptionist Floris provide some of the film's silliest and funniest moments. And don't worry, you'll still like John Malkovich when it's all over -- the guy has one helluva sense of humor. See Full Review -- KCE


Bowfinger (PG-13)

Steve Martin plays the ever hopeful but perennially unsuccessful director Bobby Bowfinger, looking for his big break. His only hope for success is to draw a big-name star to his film that otherwise features a handful of eccentric wannabes. Eddie Murphy is terrific as a neurotic, grandiose superstar, and in a double-turn as his own geeky brother, Jiff. But Heather Graham, as an ambitious starlet, comes across as a stale stereotype. Crowded with too many Hollywood clichs, Bowfinger is simultaneously good-natured and cynical -- a fun romp but not fully successful as a spoof. -- KCE

Silver Cinemas

Deep Blue Sea (R)

Deep Blue Sea is a curious hybrid of the mad scientist flicks of the '50s and '60s and the high-tech horrors that started back in the '70s with Jaws. Updated for savvy '90s audiences, the mad scientist is now a woman, the devoted assistant is a hunky guy, and the script keeps us guessing who will be devoured next by the 45-foot long, brain-enhanced shark created in an undersea lab. Despite its overwhelming incredibility, Deep Blue Sea does what it sets out to do: bolts the audience out of their seats with high-pitched action and sends them home to shark nightmares. -- KCE

Silver Cinemas

*Dogma (R)

Dogma is utterly silly and pleasantly tinged with a mischievousness that's irresistible. Director Kevin Smith's script is typically verbose and vulgar, and the casting works wonderfully throughout, with stellar moments from Alan Rickman as the angel Metatron, nice low-key consistency from the disallusioned Linda Fiorentino, and a wonderful turn by Jason Lee as a demon up from Hell to assist fallen angels Loki and Bartleby (Matt Damon and Ben Affleck) in their scheme to get back to heaven. A bit too long, Smith should have foregone the special effects-driven scene that unleashes the demon Golgothan (an excrement slinging monster) and stuck with the delightful cast of characters, but overall Dogma is funny, even affirming in its exploration of the foibles of faith. See full review. -- KCE

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

Double Jeopardy (R)

Despite an excellent cast and clever premise, Double Jeopardy is plagued with problems. In the first place, a thriller requires suspense, and in this case, all mystery has been erased by an ambitious pre-release advertising campaign that gave away the basic plot of the film. All you really need to know is that seeing the film is not nearly as intriguing as watching the trailer. Ashley Judd is tough, fierce and intelligent as the wronged mother and wife, but her grit and good looks are wasted in an otherwise predictable, formulaic script. Tommy Lee Jones as her parole officer merely tags along. Gorgeous location shots of Vancouver and New Orleans provide momentary visual distractions but add little to the drama, and sloppy sound editing detracts throughout. -- KCE

Citadel Terrace; Tinseltown

Drive Me Crazy (PG-13)

Melissa Joan Hart and blue-eyed heartthrob Adrian Grenier star in this teenage trifle. Minus the big laughs of American Pie or the sophistication of last year's Rushmore, still features some incisive writing, and the familiar girl-falls-for-oddball-boy-next-door plot contains some smart commentary on popularity and individual choices. Britney Spears sings the title song and makes a brief appearance at the end. -- KCE

Silver Cinemas

*Fight Club (R)

Director David Fincher explores the currently hot psychological territory of the disaffected American male at the end of the 20th century. Edward Norton is the main character of Fight Club, turning in a performance that will likely draw comparisons to Robert DeNiro or Dustin Hoffman, placing him firmly at the top of his generation of Hollywood actors. Fincher is the perfect director for Brad Pitt -- who plays Norton's charismatic alter ego, Tyler Durden -- tapping into the smug arrogance that he does best. Too long by about a half-hour, the film would not have missed about half the fight scenes. But overall, Fight Club succeeds with a tight, often funny script, and compelling editing, design and cinematography throughout. This recommendation contains a strong warning, however: Fight Club is intensely, graphically violent in parts. Youthful viewers should be advised that Fight Club is an allegory, not an advertisement for random violence or dangerous behavior. -- KCE


*For Love of the Game (PG-13)

For Love of the Game is as good a sports movie as you could hope to see, and it's a capable romantic comedy as well. Kevin Costner plays Billy Chapel, aging pitcher for the Detroit Tigers. Just prior to a game that may be his last, the love of Billy's life (aside from baseball), Jane (Kelly Preston), announces it's over between the two of them. The most charming aspect of For Love of the Game is the film's depiction of the pitcher's inner monologue while on the mound. We believe that Costner can play ball, and Billy Chapel's final game is an absolute blowout. -- KCE

Silver Cinemas; Broadmoor

*The Insider (R)

Russell Crowe turns in the best performance of his career as the beleaguered Jeffrey Wigand -- the corporate whistleblower who brought big tobacco to its knees -- lending his character the heavy, tangible weight of conscience and family responsibility. And as CBS producer Lowell Bergman, Al Pacino gives a fine, modulated performance. Given the opportunity to be holier-than-thou, Pacino frequently stoops to breast beating, but here he tones down his righteousness. Christopher Plummer is perfectly cast as anchorman Mike Wallace, and Mann's depiction of the journalist paints a picture of a dignified, aging celebrity caught in one of the most difficult moments of his career -- one where he makes the wrong choice, but we are led to understand his flawed reasoning. Director Michael Mann's style with the camera works well with this material -- in most of the movie's scenes, we are made aware that more is happening than just what we see in the foreground. Shots are framed off-center, creating a tension between what we can and cannot see, between what we know and don't know.See full review. -- KCE

Chapel Hills; Tinseltown

The Messenger: The Story of Joan Of Arc (R)

See full review, page 43

Tiffany Square, Academy Station 6; Tinseltown; Carmike 10

The Omega Code (PG-13)

With Springs actor, Ziggy Wagrowski.

Tiffany Square

Runaway Bride (PG-13)

Garry Marshall's heavily hyped re-joining of Julia Roberts and Richard Gere. Most of the film is merely a set-up for the eventual coupling of Mr. Drop Dead Gorgeous and Ms. Drop Dead Gorgeous, though a star turn by Joan Cusack as Roberts' best friend makes you wish Ike would sweep her away and dump Julia. -- KCE

Silver Cinemas

*Sixth Sense (PG-13)

Sixth Sense is a fluid, compelling and genuinely scary ghost story starring Bruce Willis as Malcolm Crowe, a child psychologist. Willis' character leads a charmed life with his wife (Olivia Williams) and his 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

Chapel Hills; Tinseltown

*Three Kings (R)

Bold, adventurous and in-your-face. Director-writer David O. Russell (Spanking the Monkey) has penned a tight, provocative script that combines some of the best elements of a good war film with heavy doses of contemporary social commentary. George Clooney plays Special Forces Captain Archie Gates, cynical, worn-out and two weeks from retirement. Mark Wahlberg and Ice Cube play reservists with dead-end jobs back home, called up for the Gulf War. Spike Jonze is Private Conrad Vig, an overgrown juvenile delinquent from Texas who alternates between a sort of lovable stupidity and delirious combat lust. Dwelling on the crass, commerciality of the Gulf War and the narrow perception at home of the damage wrought to Iraqi citizens by our carpet bombing and premature pullout there, Three Kings disturbed me all over again, and comforted me in an odd way. I couldn't help hoping George Bush gets a chance to see it. -- KCE

Chapel Hills; Academy Station 6


The Limey (R)

To avenge his daughter's death, an English ex-con travels to L.A. After surviving a near-death beating, the Limey decides to dish out some bodily harm of his own. With Terence Stamp, Lesley Ann Warren, Peter Fonda, Luis Guzman and Barry Newman.

Chapel Hills

Sleepy Hollow (R)

Christina Ricci and Johnny Depp star in Tim Burton's retelling of Washington Irving's classic horror story of the headless horseman.

Carmike 10; Chapel Hills; Citadel Terrace; Tinseltown

The World is Not Enough (PG-13)

Pierce Brosnan returns as James Bond, fighting bad guys and seducing beautiful women in order to save the world's oil supply. With sexy Sophie Marceau and sophisticated Robert Carlyle.

Kimball's Twin Peak; Carmike 10; Chapel Hills; Academy Station 6; Tinseltown

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