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Movie Picks


3000 Miles to Graceland (R)

Do not be deceived. This despicable film has about as much to do with Elvis or Elvis impersonators as Memphis has with maple syrup. Character development is non-existent. What passes for action might better be characterized as "dances with guns." 3000 Miles to Graceland's incorporation of Elvis impersonators was just a convenient marketing ploy -- a way to make a good trailer that would attract hordes of unsuspecting fans to a blood bath, infused with misogyny, racism and gratuitous violence and barely suitable for any viewer -- least of all one who might happen to be an Elvis fan.

Carmike 10, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*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. 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

Down to Earth (PG-13)

Chris Rock plays Lance, a bike messenger cum amateur comedian who dies too early and demands a second chance. "The boss" agrees, and puts him in a loaner body until a more suitable one shows up, so he ends up as Charles Wellington III, a wealthy and sleazy scion of New York society whose wife has just killed him. Fundamentally, Down to Earth has a good comedic structure and, by rights, should be an amusing send up of black, white, rich and poor. But Chris Rock, who co-wrote the screenplay, relies too heavily on stereotypes instead of characters, and the romantic story arc ends up trumping the comedic one. See full review. -- AL

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*Extreme (not rated)

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

Family Man (PG-13)

A perfectly acceptable takeoff of the Frank Capra/ Jimmy Stewart film It's a Wonderful Life, although missing virtually all of the magic. In this version, Nicholas Cage plays a fabulously successful investor who does a good deed, and is rewarded with what his angel (Don Cheadle) calls "a glimpse" into what might have been if he had stayed with his college sweetheart Kate (Ta Leoni). But alas, The Family Man is remarkably ignorant of economic realities. What is missing is all the substance of its great predecessor: the sense of uplifting spirit, of connection, of community, of dignity and reward in self-sacrifice. See full review. -- AL

Silver Cinemas; Broadmoor

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

Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Hannibal (R)

In Hannibal, sequel to the wildly successful Silence of the Lambs, we follow Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins) to Florence where he surfaces after a few post-escape years in exile. Hopkins is completely disarming with his greasy charm, and Julianne Moore works well as the matured, toughened FBI agent Clarice Starling, but director Ridley Scott loses his way early in the film, allowing it to become a lurid, overblown comic book adventure featuringthe grossly disfigured Mason Verger (Gary Oldman) and his henchmen as the bad guys. Any suspense is drowned out by the oddly giddy blood antics and, for the most part, we end up being mildly entertained by the lovely art direction and camera work. Any discourse about the nature of evil is lost in the spectacle. See full review. -- KCE

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

The Mexican (R)

See full review, page 53.

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Kimball's Twin Peak, Tinseltown

Monkeybone (PG-13)

I suspect that director Harry Selick's major problem with Monkeybone is that he tried to do way too much. The vision that can carry a comic book, where the imagination fills in the spaces between illustrations, needs to be radically pared down when it comes to a live-action movie. With no space between frames and no time to process a convoluted plot, contrasting visual worlds and various film parodies, the result is a weird little mess of a movie that, I suspect, will live in its own little purgatory populated by a subculture of male fans who can appreciate this kind of thing.-- AL

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). The Coens create a perfectly imagined universe, inhabited by fiends and angels of all sorts. 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


*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. See full review. -- AL

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Tinseltown

Sweet November (PG-13)

There are more than a few problems with this newest remake of a timeworn tale. It's too pretty to be true, too vapid to be bittersweet, too perfect to be real. Keanu Reeves' character is such a full-blown jerk in the beginning that we can barely swallow Charlize Theron's attraction for him. And her San Francisco apartment rivals the Friends set for charm, but must cost a small fortune in rent. Oh, and did I mention neither she nor he has a job? Theron and Reeves are so pretty onscreen one can almost forgive and forget these quibbles, but the oh-so-irritating dramatic climax devours all the pleasant moments in any film of this Love Story remake genre. 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. The complex plot is 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, Tinseltown

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

As a story, T-Rex is dull and predictable but, who cares? We are here to see the dinosaurs. Unfortunately, they don't see as much screen time as one would hope. 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. -- John Lindsay

Cinemark 16 IMAX

Unbreakable (PG-13)

Bruce Willis is David Dunn, a Philadelphia security guard who mysteriously emerges unscathed from a train derailment that kills every other passenger. He is pursued by Elijah (Samuel L. Jackson), an erudite gallery owner and comic book collector who tries to convince the survivor that he possesses superhuman powers that explain his invincibility. Director M. Night Shyamalan's visual style is compelling, but Unbreakable, lovely as it may be, is doomed by its bizarre script. The film is plagued with a cheap-shot ending that is not just distasteful but downright inedible. The result is a complete derailment, and not even Dunn survives. See full review. -- KCE

Silver Cinemas

Vertical Limit (PG-13)

While it 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

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. See full review. -- Cole Smithey

Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

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; Silver Cinemas


15 Minutes (R)

See full review, page 53.

Carmike 10; Cinemark 16; Tinseltown

Get Over It (PG-13)

Burke Lawrence's (Ben Foster) dreams of being a high school basketball superstar are shattered when his girlfriend Allison (Melissa Sagemiller) dumps him. He quits the team to take drama and win her back, but he ends up learning that his best friend's little sister (Kirsten Dunst) is the one who might just help him get over Allison instead.

Chapel Hills; Cinemark 16; Tinseltown

Malena (R)

In 1941, 13-year-old Roberto's life in a sleepy Sicilian village is forever changed by Malena (Monica Bellucci), the beautiful young war widow who has become the desire of every man and the envy of every woman. Because of her, Roberto finds himself in places he never imagined. Directed by Giuseppe Tornatore.

Chapel Hills

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