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Movie Picks

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Monsters, Inc.s Mike (left) only has an eye for one girl, snake-haired cyclops receptionist, Celia
  • Monsters, Inc.s Mike (left) only has an eye for one girl, snake-haired cyclops receptionist, Celia

American Pie 2 (R)
The first American Pie was one of the funniest, most original teen flicks of last year. Unfortunately, the sequel plays to the lowest common denominator. We are dealt one scene after another of gross-out sex jokes, skits that are as predictable in their assured outcome as the first film was unpredictable. All the smart girls, with the exception of flute-playing Michelle, are assigned peripheral roles, and we don't get any of the wise girl-guy interchange that characterized American Pie 2's predecessor. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Silver Cinemas

*Bandits (PG-13)
Barry Levinson (Diner, Rainman) might seem an unlikely director to helm a bank heist comedy in which a couple of escaped prisoners become outlaw heroes. Pratfalls, snappy dialogue and snazzy character work make Bandits a laugh-out-loud movie that even manages to pull off a surprise ending. The real treat at the bottom of the cinematic box of this film is Billy Bob Thornton's comic physicality and controlled vocal range. Bruce Willis stays in his signature mannered mode, allowing Thornton to steal scenes at will.-- Cole Smithey

Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

Captain Corelli's Mandolin (R)
Director John Madden has plenty of good material to work with here -- genuine historical context, a fine cast, breathtaking location, and the boundless cinematographic skills of John Toll (Braveheart). But he's managed to goof it all up by using all those goods in service of a trite romance. Starring Nicholas Cage and Penelope Cruz. -- Patton Dodd

Silver Cinemas

*The Glass House (PG-13)
As anyone who saw the previews for this slick piece of nothing knows, The Glass House is supposed to be a thriller. Unfortunately, the thrill is gone about 15 minutes into the movie when we understand, without having to think too hard, how the story is bound to play out. Bottomline: skip the overpriced ticket to this stinker; wait until it comes out on video or DVD. -- Kathyrn Eastburn

Silver Cinemas

*Heist (R)
Fondness for director David Mamet's work is something that's acquired. Mamet intentionally creates a great distance between viewer and film, and he likes to play with our expectations of what a movie is going to do, by turns ruining them or meeting them out of spite. But even for those who don't care for Mamet, Heist is worth seeing for the pleasure of watching three actors at the top of their game. Gene Hackman and Danny DeVito are equally devilish, hamming it up with Mamet's flowing, brutish dialogue. Ricky Jay is their perfect comic foil, and his performance is among the best supporting work we've seen on film this year. (Be warned: the eponymous heist involves an airliner hijacking set at Boston's Logan Airport; though the plane is grounded, it will undoubtedly invoke uncomfortable memories for some viewers.) -- Patton Dodd

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back (R)
Director Kevin Smith (Clerks, Mallrats, Chasing Amy) apparently set out to retire his two best known characters, Stoner Jay (Jason Mewes) and his wide-eyed side kick Silent Bob (Smith), by deliberately making the worst film imaginable. Amazingly, the shtick works. A heist/road flick packed with guest appearances by Smith's actor and director friends (Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Gus Van Sant, Wes Craven and others), Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back is crude, rude, and funny as all get-out. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Silver Cinemas

K-PAX (PG-13)
There are just too many mysteries in this film. For example, when the main character, Prot (Kevin Spacey), arrives suddenly in the middle of Grand Central Station, did he arrive on a beam of light or on the 4:17 local? When Prot is then hauled off to a tony psychiatric institute in mid-Manhattan and treated by Dr. Mark Powell (Jeff Bridges) for severe psychological trauma, is it he or the doctor who is crazy? Or what about this: When the director (Iain Softley), writer (Charles Leavitt, working off the novel by Gene Brewer) and director of photography (John Mathieson) sat down to discuss making K-PAX, had they resolved all of the mysteries for themselves or had they just decided to inflict undramatic uncertainty on their audience just to see how it came out? Their refusal to take a position themselves on whether Prot is alien or human undermines the main characters and ceases to be captivating about mid-way through the film. -- Andrea Lucard

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

The Last Castle (R)
A year after his self-written and directed milestone The Contender, Rod Lurie falls inside Hollywood's movie machine to direct a lackluster prison/military action picture. Robert Redford exerts his standard workaday acting technique as General Irwin, a three-star General sentenced to a maximum-security military prison where he leads an uprising against the prison's immoral warden, Colonel Winter (James Gandolfini). -- Cole Smithey

Chapel Hills, Tinseltown

Life as a House (R)
See full review, page 60.

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*Monsters, Inc. (G)
Remember when the most pressing news of the day was the California energy crisis? In the fine American tradition of taking the serious and animating it, director Pete Doctor has created a fanciful take on the problems of powering all that we desire. In Monsters, Inc., the creatures of a parallel world, Monstropolis, get their energy from the terrified screams of children. John Goodman is the voice of Sully, the scariest monster of them all, and Billy Crystal plays his sidekick, Mike Wazowski, a giant neon green eyeball with arms and legs and not much more. There is a ton of tongue-in-cheek humor, and frame after frame is packed with pop cultural references, sight gags and just plain cool action. The writers clearly went to town in amusing themselves with, for example, action-packed international chase scenes where the characters pop in and out of doors from Paris to rural Nepal. Wow. Go see it for the cool factors, but leave your hopes for decent social commentary behind. -- Andrea Lucard

Carmike 10, Chapel Hills, Cinemark 16, Tinseltown

*My First Mister (R)
See full review, page 61.

Kimball's Twin Peak

Riding in Cars with Boys (PG-13)
Director Penny Marshall has created a perfectly passable film that nonetheless misses the boat. Riding in Cars with Boys gets sidetracked by too many small issues to fully explore the common, but still poignant, story of Beverly (Drew Barrymore) who, in 1965, gets pregnant by a perfectly nice but rather dull-witted Ray (Steve Zahn), when she is only 15. Barrymore does an OK job, though she really needs more work with her physicality; she relies too heavily on her face to do the acting work. The truly compelling acting comes from Steve Zahn who makes you love him even when you hate him, and who manages, with little help from the script, to convey the subtle pain of a man who wants to do his best but simply cannot.-- Andrea Lucard

Tinseltown

Serendipity (PG-13)
Serendipity is sweet but ultimately flavorless. John Cusack stars as Jonathan Tragar who bumps into lovely Sara Thomas (Kate Beckinsale) while both are Christmas shopping at Bloomingdale's. It's clear to the audience that they are meant to be together, but naturally, it doesn't happen quite that simply and seven years later, Jonathan and Sara begin to dwell on what might have been. The movie enters a hide-and-seek, cat-and-mouse chase formula which annoys more than anything else. When it's finally all over, we wish that Sara and Jonathan had hooked up about an hour earlier. -- Kathryn Eastburn

Chapel Hills

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