- Josh Hartnett stars as Trip Fontaine in the Virgin Suicides.
*The Big Kahuna (R)
The Big Kahuna is an adaptation of the play Hospitality Suite by Roger Rueff. On the 16th floor of a Wichita hotel, three employees of an industrial lubricants firm are trying to convince a potential client to buy their product. This man is "the big kahuna," the one they have to catch to stay afloat. There's Phil (Danny DeVito), an accomplished salesman somewhat past his prime. His caustic, blunt sales partner Larry is played by Kevin Spacey. They are joined by a young researcher named Bob (Peter Facinelli), whose naivete and piety are almost enough to send the two sales veterans over the edge. Spacey does a wonderful job as a theater actor, engaging the audience. The real revelation, however, is DeVito. His character has a range of emotion that allows the actor to shine. Young Peter Facinelli does a perfectly competent job, but he is outclassed by his seniors. Where The Big Kahuna suffers is where the majority of plays-brought-to-screen suffer: the most brilliant dialogue in the world doesn't make a great movie. Nevertheless, with two excellent actors at its center, a strong, if somewhat predictable premise and a terrific confrontational climax, The Big Kahuna is an interesting theatrical experience, even if it does take place in a movie house. See full review. -- AL
*Center Stage (PG-13)
Themes of loss of innocence, fierce physical training vs. fun, talent vs. determination, real life vs. art, the sexy lead male dancer vs. the earnest up-and-coming rookie are all played out with intelligence and style in Center Stage. And best of all, they are largely staged on the dance floor, enacted by a whirlwind cast of beautiful, incredibly talented young dancers, including American Ballet Theater's rising star, Ethan Stiefel. Director Nicholas Hytner's (The Madness of King George, The Crucible) staging and camera work are exemplary. We are treated to overhead shots that emphasize the patterns of the ballet; foot level shots that reveal the intricacies of the dance; long shots, short shots and swirling crane shots that embrace the beauty and difficulty of ballet with affectionate and knowledgeable vision and virtuosity. Center Stage is extraordinarily sensitive, well-told and visually compelling.See full review. --KCE
Chapel Hills; Tinseltown; Citadel Terrace
*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.See full review. -- KCE
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 too much new stuff -- like 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. See full review.-- KCE
Tinseltown; Chapel Hills; Academy Station 6; Citadel Terrace
Russell Crowe (The Insider) acts up a righteous storm in his Roman get-up, proving once and for all that his versatility as an actor matches his prowess. Though director Ridley Scott would like you to think Gladiator is about strength, honor, duty, democracy and the danger of mob rule, in truth, it is an old-fashioned revenge drama -- and a pretty good one at that. Crowe as Maximus, beloved general of Roman troops turned slave, then gladiator, and Joaquin Phoenix as Commodus, insecure usurper to the throne, make marvelous foes. Phoenix is a sinister little chicken who begrudges Maximus the affection of his late father, and Crowe is marvelously stoic in his carefully choreographed revenge. Some characters, like Commodus' sister and nephew, thrown in to thicken the plot, serve only to slow the momentum of the film once the blood-letting games have begun. Unfortunately, Scott is so enamored of his production team's ability to show heads, hands and other body parts being severed, that the fight scenes become clamorous and redundant. See full review.-- KCE
Carmike 10; Chapel Hills; Academy Station 6; Tinseltown
I Dreamed of Africa (PG-13)
I Dreamed of Africa is based on the 1995 memoir of Kuki Gallmann (Kim Basinger), a wealthy young Italian woman who marries an adventurer (Vincent Perez) and goes, with him and her 7-year old son, to live on a decrepit ranch in Kenya. Despite exciting battles with wild animals, gorgeous scenery and a good soundtrack, the film moves incredibly slowly. Writer Paula Milne didn't seem to know how to get the characters in and out of a scene. The dialogue is expository and awkward because there is no conflict at the heart of I Dreamed of Africa. The creators could have taken liberties with Kuki Gallmann's life and made a real story out of it, but they chose mostly to stick to the biographical facts. This explains the episodic nature of I Dreamed of Africa -- it is a set of independent events, some of them terribly interesting in their own right, but none of them inexorably leading to a climax..See full review.-- AL
*Keeping the Faith (PG-13)
*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. See full review. -- KCE
M: I-2 (Mission: Impossible 2) (PG-13)
Mission: Impossible 2 revels in the seductiveness of masculine super action with all the bells and whistles of techno-gadgets, fast cars and explosions attached. It's more romantic than anything in a James Bond movie and boasts better Kung Fu scenes than The Matrix. Director John Woo keeps similarities to director Brian De Palma's 1996 Mission Impossible to a minimum in this very dissimilar sequel by incorporating his signature slow motion, ballet-of-bullets action sequences against the taut resolve of Tom Cruise's most ambitious action performance to date. Cruise performed his own stunts, much to the chagrin of Paramount studio execs. The film's realism of danger allows it to operate on a higher level of believability and determination. Woo's summer blockbuster is surely the most elegant and graceful example of advanced cinema technology so far. See full review.-- Cole Smithey
Tinseltown; Citadel Terrace; Carmike 10; Chapel Hills; Gold Hill Theaters
*Timecode (R) See full review.
Kimball's Twin Peak
*The Virgin Suicides (R)
Twenty-seven-year-old director Sofia Coppola's screen adaptation remains absolutely true to Jeffrey Eugenides' novel, sticking with the book's dramatic structure, maintaining a voiceover narration (provided by Giovanni Ribisi) and filling each frame with the mordant and often hilarious details of adolescent life and angst in the ultra-corny 1970s. The Virgin Suicides is the story of the Lisbon sisters -- Cecilia, Lux, Bonnie, Mary and Therese -- an ethereal looking set of blondes whose quiet, secret life with their over-protective parents (Kathleen Turner and James Woods) is told from the point of view of the boys who live across the street in an upper middle-class Michigan suburb, quietly obsessing over the girls, all of whom manage to kill themselves within a year's time. Grim as it sounds, the film, like the book, is packed with enough period detail to create a fine sense of irony. Coppola's skill as a designer serves her well as a film director. A fine cast of actors, a terrific though eery musical score and a delicate production quality combine to make The Virgin Suicides a successful mood piece and a well-told tale. See full review.-- KCE
Kimball's Twin Peak
Where the Heart Is (PG-13)
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. See full review. -- KCE
Academy Station 6; Tinseltown; Citadel Terrace; Tiffany Square
OPENING THIS WEEK
Big Momma's House (PG-13)
Martin Lawrence plays an FBI agent who must pose as a 70-ish Southern grandmother in order to catch a criminal. With Nia Long.
Kimball's Twin Peak; Carmike 10; Tinseltown; Academy Station 6; Tiffany Square
Grand Hotel (not rated)
A jewel thief, a ballerina, a dying man and a bitter industrialist become involved in each other's lives when they spend 24 hours together in a swank Berlin hotel. With John Barrymore, Joan Crawford, Greta Garbo and Ferdinand Gottschalk.
Fine Arts Center, 30 W. Dale St. Tues., June 6, 7:30 p.m.