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Movie Picks

I Dreamed of Africa
  • I Dreamed of Africa

*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. -- AL

Silver Cinemas; Broadmoor

*Beyond the Mat (R)

If you are a wrestling fan, Beyond the Mat may be a disappointment. Then again, maybe not. Writer and director Barry Blaustein (The Nutty Professor) uses Beyond the Mat as an excuse to meet wrestlers at all stages of their careers. He talks to fans and to promoters, but Blaustein's real interest is families, and it is in the documenting of the wrestlers' relationships with their wives and children that the movie really shines. Central in the film are three men at very different stages of their careers: Terry Funk, once the world's greatest wrestler; Jake "The Snake" Roberts who could have had it all were it not for his drug addictions; and Mick Foley (a.k.a. "Mankind"), a sweetheart in a frightening leather mask whose huge tolerance for pain has him at the top of the WWF heap. The schizoid lives of these men gives fascinating insight into the dilemma of contemporary masculinity. -- AL

Silver Cinemas

*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

*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, and to a compelling true story. 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

Chapel Hills; Tinseltown; Citadel Terrace

Frequency (PG-13)

Director Gregory Hoblit knows how to create tension, and succeeds here with dark lighting, a cast of compelling characters and the magnetic charm of late-1960s New York summer nights. Unfortunately, Hoblit was swayed somewhere in the production process, and gradually the threads of the story he set out to tell begin to unravel as he throws in new stuff such as cheap special effects in the climactic scene, and succumbs, finally, to a completely illogical and smarmy, happy, happy ending. The intent of the filmmakers and the cast is admirable, but delivery is side-stepped by overwrought sentiment. Frequency turns into mush, and the weary time traveler is left scratching his head, wondering what all the uproar was about. -- KCE

Tinseltown; Chapel Hills; Carmike 10; Academy Station 6

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

Silver Cinemas

*Gladiator (R)

See full review, page 48

Carmike 10; Chapel Hills; Academy Station 6; Tinseltown

*High Fidelity (R)

High Fidelity is based on the 1996 Nick Hornby novel of the same name that follows Rob (John Cusack), a thirty-something owner of a record store who begins a small and delightful odyssey to find his former girlfriends and find out what went wrong with their relationships. The film is blessed with subtle screenwriting and strong performances. Cusack as Rob is funny, self-deprecating, immature but loveable. Rob talks directly to the camera, which has the effect of translating the sensibility of the novel to the screen. Meanwhile beautiful Iben Hjejle, who plays Rob's ex-girlfriend Laura, delivers an understated performance as the girl who has grown up while her boyfriend has not. Working in Rob's store is Dick (Jack Black), the arrogant bastard who will fight you tooth and nail over whether a song title begins with a "the," while his counterpart is the insanely shy Barry, beautifully rendered by Todd Louiso. -- AL


I Dreamed of Africa (PG-13)

See full review, page 48

Carmike 10; Tiffany Square; Tinseltown

*Keeping the Faith (PG-13)

Gifted young actor and now director Edward Norton comes forward with a sweet Gen-X piece in which three childhood best friends -- Brian (Norton), now a Catholic priest; Jake (Ben Stiller), now a rabbi; and Anna (Jenna Elfman) -- are reunited at the crest of real adulthood, just as they turn 30. When Anna returns to New York City, Jake and Brian hook back up with her, and both of them immediately fall hopelessly in love. The resulting complications echo classic screwball romances of the 1940s. The three young actors maintain a believable, warm rapport throughout the film, and their story is absolutely endearing. Charming supporting performances by Anne Bancroft as Jake's mom, Milos Forman as head priest and Brian's mentor, and Eli Wallach as the rabbi who guides Jake, ground the film and lend it gravity. -- KCE

Tinseltown; Tiffany Square; Citadel Terrace

*Love & Basketball (PG-13)

First time writer/director Gina Prince-Bythwood has created a delightful film that mixes young love with good, old-fashioned sports rivalry in Love and Basketball, a lovely falling-in-love-with-the-boy-next-door movie, energized by a great dose of Title IX. Sanaa Lathan's Monica is tough and driven and far from perfect, but her obvious passion for basketball, and her attraction to Quincy (Omar Epps) are very compelling. There were numerous small moments in the film that were absolute treasures, not least of which was the first really erotic scene I can remember in a Hollywood film where the teenage participants used a condom. Prince-Bythwood should be nominated for an Oscar just for that scene alone. If you're not afraid of some explicitly sexual situations, I'd definitely recommend taking your daughter, or your son, to this one. It is a wonderful love story, but also a great view of the complex relationships between men and women who want the same thing. -- AL

Chapel Hills; Tinseltown

*Ninth Gate (R)

The Ninth Gate is an extremely well-crafted and entertaining horror film. While director Roman Polanski chooses to lilt over the horrific trajectory that tugs mercenary book dealer Dean Corso (Johnny Depp) toward the gates of Hell, rather than embrace his protagonist's terror as he did with such shockers as Rosemary's Baby (1968) or The Tenant (1976), he stakes out his own ground rules and adheres to them flawlessly. Johnny Depp uses a vocal texture that rumbles from the screen in a dark pitch that catches you off guard. From the movie's textbook opening scene to the thorough European pacing over which the devilish story unfolds, The Ninth Gate takes the audience on a joyfully evil descent into perplexing other-worldly shadows.

Silver Cinemas

*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

*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

28 Days (PG-13)

Pretty, feisty Sandra Bullock is Gwen, a New York party girl and writer (one of those who is fabulously successful despite the rare appearance of any work in her life), whose drinking and drugging lifestyle eventually lead her to a court-enforced stay in a rehab center. Once there, Gwen falls in with an eccentric cast of inmates who spend the bulk of the movie intoning the tenets of addiction treatment programs while looking like the cast of Friends. This kind of dark comedy is hard to pull off, and director Betty Thomas' interpretation of Susannah Grant's script is merely functional -- it gets the point across, but loses any memorable characterizations in its predictability. Eminently watchable, but strangely lightweight. -- KCE

Chapel Hills; Tinseltown; Citadel Terrace

Where the Heart Is (PG-13)

Director Matt Williams has a solid handle on the rough-hewn, working class sensibility of white middle America, but shows here he knows far less about structuring a movie whose story spans almost six years. Screenwriters Lowell Ganz and Babaloo Mandel treat Letts' book like a serial sit-com, lining up all the funny tales in a row, interrupting the flow of what's good in the movie -- namely, the cast. Natalie Portman is Novalee Nation, a pregnant 17-year-old who gets dumped by her boyfriend outside an Oklahoma Wal-Mart. She plays the part well but, ultimately, is miscast. Her inate coolness and sophistication make it impossible to believe her as a free-spirited, dirt poor savant who has managed to survive in spite of a compete lack of worldliness. Stockard Channing is marvelously spaced-out and eccentric as Sister Husband, a mother hen type who takes in Novalee. Ashley Judd is solid as Lexie Coop, a local woman with a brood of babies named after snack foods, who can't seem to find or keep a decent man. The story contains domestic violence, including a sexual assault on a child, and plenty of other adult subject matter, so viewers should think twice before taking their young children along. -- KCE

Academy Station 6; Chapel Hills; Tinseltown


Battlefield Earth (PG-13)

John Travolta is the leader of the Psyclos, a race of giant aliens that conquer Earth and turn it into a mining colony. It is up to the hero, Johnny Goodboy, to save the planet. With Forrest Whitaker.

Tinseltown; Kimball's Twin Peak; Carmike 10; Academy Station 6; Gold Hill Theaters

Held Up (PG-13)

After Mike Dawson's (Jamie Foxx) girlfriend dumps him and his prize car is stolen by a 14-year-old, he wanders into a convience store and finds himself in the middle of a hold-up.

Tiffany Square

Road Trip (R)

In order to save a college boy's lifelong romance, a group of college kids trek across the country from the East Coast to Texas. With Tom Green and Andy Dick.

Tinseltown sneak preview on Sat., May 13, 7 p.m.; Citadel Terrace sneak preview on Friday, May 12, 7 p.m.

Screwed (R)

Norm MacDonald is a chauffeur who devises a plan with his friend David Chappelle to bilk his old boss out of a huge amount of money, but when things go wrong they have to call in creepy mortician Danny DeVito to cover their tracks.

Tinseltown; Carmike 10; Academy Station 6; Tiffany Square

We're No Angels (not rated)

Humphrey Bogart, Aldo Ray and Basil Rathbone are prison escapees who alter their plans when they grow fond of the family who hides them.

Fine Arts Center, 30 W. Dale St. 634-5583. Tues. May 16, 7:30 p.m.

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