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Movie Picks

*Cast Away (PG-13)

Cast Away is not a great film -- it wanders in the end and loses dramatic momentum almost fatally -- but Tom Hanks' is a great performance. Hanks is touching, funny, painfully human, passing his time on a desert talking to a volleyball, washed ashore in a FedEx package. When he is finally rescued and returns to civilization, we don't give a damn about what will happen with his girlfriend at home, nicely played by Helen Hunt, we just want to see how he will adjust his life, given what he has learned. Director Robert Zemeckis missteps and gives us what we don't want, but we can forgive him because the moments on the island were so entertaining, so beautifully executed and so remarkably well acted. See full review. -- KCE
Carmike 10; Chapel Hills; Cinemark 16; Tinseltown

Charlie's Angels (PG-13)

This Charlie's Angels is no television throwback, but a tongue-in-cheek, over-the-top female martial arts fantasy in which every uttered word is a sexual innuendo -- and a funny one at that. Cameron Diaz, Lucy Liu and Drew Barrymore are utterly engaging as three gorgeous chicks with all the usual hangups who just happen to also be secret agents capable of dismantling the high-tech world's most sophisticated security system. Diaz, in particular, shows terrific comic flair. -- KCE
Silver Cinemas

*Chocolat (PG-13)

This latest endeavor by director Lasse Hallstrom (My Life as a Dog, Cider House Rules) is a charming little movie that follows the story of Vianne (Juliette Binoche), a free-spirited single mother who, along with her daughter Anouk (Victoire Thivisol) blows into a small French town in the 1950s. The actors in the film are quite delightful, if cast and costumed in the most stereotypical melodramatic ways. Despite that, and some very silly French accents, the film is a pleasure. Depp is delicious as the romantic leading man, Judi Dench is her usual subtle and magnificent self as a crotchety landlady and abandoned grandmother, and Carrie-Anne Moss radiates betrayal and hurt as her widowed daughter. See full review. -- AL
Chapel Hills; Tinseltown

*Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (PG-13)

With Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, director Ang Lee resurrects a popular form -- the swordplay kung-fu film of 1960s Hong Kong -- and turns it into something so beautiful that we forget we've been watching a martial arts flick. The story depicts the struggle for the soul of a disciple, and is filmed in Chinese dialects with English subtitles. The astonishing fight scenes have warriors catapulting across rooftops, through the branches of trees, and flying over waterfalls. For all of its profound beauty, Tiger does not pretend to be profound; it's loaded with humor and tongue-in-cheek bows to Hollywood traditions. If I could choose only one film of 2000 as an absolute must-see, I'd go with the resplendent Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. See full review. -- KCE
Cinemark 16; Kimball's Twin Peak; Tinseltown

*Extreme (not rated)

After seeing Extreme in Imax I now know why playing extreme sports must be such a rush. This is not a 3D film, so you won't go home feeling like you were strapped to a surfboard riding 30-foot waves, but the stunts featured are indeed extreme. World class surfers, skiers, snowboarders and climbers fill the giant screen, taking the viewer into the world of daredevil sports and into the minds of the people that perform them. Backed up by a killer soundtrack from Soulfood featuring everything from world music to hip hop. -- John Lindsay
Cinemark 16 IMAX

Finding Forrester (PG-13)

Finding Forrester lags and lurches like an old Volkswagen navigating potholes in a bad neighborhood. Newcomer Rob Brown, an inexperienced, 16-year-old non-actor, does a perfectly respectable job in the role of Jamal, a well-read, basketball-playing, aspiring writer. But Director Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting) lingers too long on setting up the characters before the story kicks in, and gives an overwrought weight to endless scenes between Jamal and his writing mentor William Forrester (Sean Connery). See full review. -- Cole Smithey
Carmike 10; Chapel Hills; Cinemark 16; Tinseltown

Hannibal (R)

See full review.

Carmike 10; Chapel Hills; Cinemark 16; 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). Robert DeNiro gives a pitch perfect performance as Daddy Dearest for whom no suitor of his precious Pammy will ever measure up. An interesting perspective on the untruths we tell to make ourselves look better. -- KCE
Silver Cinemas

Miss Congeniality (PG-13)

Nobody does bumbling and endearing better than Sandra Bullock and here she lets it rip. Unfortunately, the filmmakers decided to rely almost completely on her excellent physical comedy and practically forgot the need for a script. Not sublime silliness, but dumb comedy. See full review.
Chapel Hills; Cinemark 16; Tinseltown

*O Brother, Where Art Thou? (PG-13)

God love the Coen brothers. What kind of mind imagines Homer's Odyssey set in Depression-era rural Mississippi? This funny, slight idea is lovingly and solidly conceived and executed. George Clooney is pitch perfect as Ulysses Everett McGill, a smart-talking, slick-looking con man who breaks away from a penal farm chain gang and drags along the two guys who happen to be hooked up to him on either side -- dour Pete (John Turturro) and hapless Delmar (Tim Blake Nelson). Of all the Coen brothers' comedies, O Brother is the lightest with far less of the brutal humor and violent consequences their movies usually contain. Tim Blake Nelson's performance is as sweet and friendly as a good old hound dog. Best musical soundtrack of the year. See full review. -- KCE

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 which quickly sets off an exponential eruption of good-deed-doing. Hunt plays the hard-ridden, recovering alcoholic, single mom with grit and heart, and her dance of romance with Spacey 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. This is a classic example of a very good movie ruined by the director's ambitions for a blockbuster ending. See full review. -- KCE

*The Pledge (R)

Jack Nicholson proves once again that he can do more than smirk and wax evil or neurotic in Sean Penn's dark tale of certain doom. Based on the 1957 detective novella by Friedrich Drenmatt, The Pledge is the story of Jerry Black (Nicholson), a retiring police detective who, at the last minute on his final day at work, gets involved in the investigation of a brutal child murder. Unfortunately, neither Nicholson's fine performance, nor a slew of tasty cameos by the likes of Vanessa Redgrave, Helen Mirren, Harry Dean Stanton, Sam Shepard and Mickey Rourke can save The Pledge from Penn's relentlessly gloomy persistence of vision. That said, this film's cinematic detailing, the dark, frustrating story and the central character's spiral downward stay with you long after the theater lights come up. See full review. -- KCE
Cinamark 16, Tinseltown

*Quills (R)

See full review.

Kimball's Twin Peak, Tinseltown

Remember the Titans (PG)

Remember the Titans glorifies youth, manhood and the pursuit of football as the best avenues for social justice. The field of justice is, in this case, an Alexandria, Va., high school ordered to desegregate in 1971, where 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. See full review. -- AL
Silver Cinemas

*Save the Last Dance (PG-13)

Save the Last Dance is well-intentioned, well-crafted and well-acted, and if it doesn't exactly revolutionize race relations in the United States, it does a damn sight better than recent claptrap like The Legend of Bagger Vance. It manages to find its way around stupid racist pitfalls by giving the two main characters -- Sara (Julia Stiles), a white suburban girl, and Derek (Sean Patrick Thomas), a black inner city boy who dreams of getting out of the ghetto -- equal weight. Almost everything about Save the Last Dance works smoothly. See full review. -- AL
Carmike 10; Chapel Hills; Cinemark 16; Tinseltown

Snatch (R)

British writer/director Guy Ritchie's gallows humor and blistering quick pacing create a slick kind of modern slapstick noir that entertains in brief bursts with wicked aggression. Because the story clumps together Russian, English, Jewish, Irish, Black and American gangsters, the movie plays like a roulette wheel of cultural sampling. Ritchie stomps so heavily over his variety of cartoonish stereotypes that there isn't an opportunity to question some misjudged message of political incorrectness. Ritchie has an ear for spunky dialogue and a knack for casting. Brad Pitt isn't the only actor working some cinematic magic in this nearly good gangster sendup. See full review. -- Cole Smithey

Sugar and Spice (PG-13)

Sugar and Spice follows the fate of Diane (Marley Shelton), an "A" squad cheerleader who falls in love with Jack (James Marsden), the star quarterback of the high school team. When Diane becomes pregnant with twins, Jack and Diane are stuck trying to make their way alone. The "A" squad, led by chirpy Diane, soon decides that the only way they're going to come up with enough money to support the baby is to rob a bank, which skill they're going to learn by watching old bank robbing movies. What follows is an amusing hour or so of capers, cheerleading style. Novice writer Mandy Nelson balances the nasty and nice, the goofy and gleeful very well. See full review. -- AL

*Thirteen Days (PG-13)

An exceptionally competent political thriller that takes us back to the dark days of the Cuban missile crisis during the short administration of President John F. Kennedy. Screenwriter David Self chooses to view the story through the eyes of White House special adviser and consummate insider Kenny O'Donnell (Kevin Costner), an old Harvard football buddy of Attorney General Bobby Kennedy (Steven Culp). There's some outstanding character acting here by Culp and by Bruce Greenwood as John Kennedy. Thirteen Days could easily have fallen into the ranks of made-for-TV movies, but rises above that with its tight, intelligent screenplay, great visuals of the air over Cuba and the blockade at sea, and generally superb acting. See full review. -- KCE
Chapel Hills; Cinemark 16; Tinseltown

*Traffic (R)

With Traffic, director Steven Soderbergh (Erin Brockovich) delivers his most complex, pertinent, gritty, opinionated and well-acted film yet. Traffic should probably be viewed twice to appreciate the complexity of the plotting, moved forward by four separate stories that eventually intersect. All illustrate the impossibility of winning the War on Drugs -- a monumental battle resulting in loss of life, personal tragedy, untold loss of public funds thrown at the problem and massive profits for the suppliers. Soderbergh films his outstanding ensemble cast with a handheld camera, upping the immediacy of the action, and colors the segments with different filters, reminding us of where we are and color-coding our emotional response. Among the actors, Benicio Del Toro and Don Cheadle are standouts as is Erika Christensen in her feature film debut as a young drug addict. See full review. -- KCE
Carmike 10; Chapel Hills; Cinemark 16; Tinseltown

*T-Rex: Back to the Cretaceous (not rated)

T-Rex is dull and predictable (and contains way too many close-ups of our lead) but, who cares? We are here to see the dinosaurs. Unfortunately, they don't see as much screen time as one would hope -- Jurassic Park this ain't. That aside, when the big guys do appear, the 3D effects will have you jumping in your seat. Some scenes may be a little intense for younger kids, but overall this should be a great family moviegoing experience. -- John Lindsay
Cinemark 16 IMAX

Vertical Limit (PG-13)

While the film promises a sophisticated thrill-ride, Vertical Limit succumbs to the same hackneyed ideas that weighed down other mountain-climbing movies like Cliffhanger and K2. By the time the fifth nitro-fueled explosion occurs, you may well ask yourself if it was the actors or the audience that the writers were mocking when they wrote the script. Undoubtedly a very difficult film to shoot, it stands as a technical achievement of sorts, but all of the well-observed details in the world can't redeem Vertical Limit for its penchant for explosions. See full review. -- Cole Smithey
Silver Cinemas

What Women Want (PG-13)

What do women want? According to this film, we want empathy, sympathy, love and a good time in bed, preferably with Mel Gibson. Gibson plays Nick Marshall, a chauvinistic ad exec whose boss (Alan Alda) passes him over for a promotion in favor of Darcy Maguire (Helen Hunt) who is supposed to help their Chicago ad firm get more of a female touch. When Nick has an accident with a hairdryer and a bathtub that miraculously makes him able to hear what women think, he uses his newfound power to undermine Darcy in her new position. Some cute comedy from Gibson and an empathy-enducing performance by the hapless Hunt who longs for everyone to understand that she isn't really a ball buster, just a nice girl doing a hard job. See full review. -- AL
Cinemark 16

The Wedding Planner (PG-13)

To say that there is even a dash of screen chemistry between leading lady Jennifer Lopez (Mary Fiore) and her vacillating love interest Matthew McConaughey (Dr. Steve Edison) would be like calling the Bush/Gore election fair. Like Mary's repeated point about the 14-month divorce expectancy of couples who choose Olivia Newton John's "I Honestly Love You" as their wedding song, Steve's occasional brushes with gay innuendo seem to predict a certain limited marriage life for Steve and the woman of his latest choice. No matter how you cut it, The Wedding Planner is an exercise in futility. See full review. -- Cole Smithey
Carmike 10; Chapel Hills; Cinemark 16; Tinseltown

*You Can Count on Me (R)

See full review.
Kimball's Twin Peak

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