Movie Listings

Ratings:* = Awful** = Worth a look*** = Good**** = ExcellentReviewers: Loey Lockerby, Dan Lybarger and Jon Niccum

American Pie 2
Screenwriter Adam Herz works with bodily discharges and fetishes the way a jazz musician handles melodies and instruments. The storyline for the sequel pretty much follows the first "American Pie," but Herz and director J.B. Rogers ("Say It Isn't So") manage to elicit a surprising amount of guilty chuckles for a retread. This time around the guys (Jason Biggs, Chris Klein, Thomas Ian Nicholas, Seann William Scott and Eddie Kaye Thomas) are fresh out of their first year of college and are living together in a Lake Michigan beach house. Herz has a pretty good idea of what worked in the first movie, so there is more of Eugene Levy as Jim's well-meaning but intrusive dad, and Alyson Hannigan ("Buffy the Vampire Slayer"), who stole the last film as a band camp devotee, has a more substantial and affectionate role. It's encouraging that the new film's funniest gag involves a trombone that has no kinky complications. If Herz and his collaborators keep up this type of comedy, they may one day succeed at making flicks that don't rely on violating innocent flutes or pastries. (R) -- DL
*** Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.

America's Sweethearts
It sounds like a great idea: make a romantic comedy with three big stars and set it in the glossy, absurd world of studio press junkets. But even the best ideas can be sabotaged by bad writing and poor casting choices, as "America's Sweethearts" proves all too well. A love triangle between movie star ex-couple Eddie and Gwen (John Cusack and Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Gwen's mousy sister (Julia Roberts), the film tries hard to be charming and satirical at the same time. Unfortunately, the script by co-star Billy Crystal and Peter Tolan only goes for the most insultingly obvious jokes, and the actors just don't have the chemistry to rise above the material. Instead of skewering Hollywood shallowness, "America's Sweethearts" ends up being just another example of it. (PG-13) -- LL
** Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.

Jurassic Park III
Sam Neill reprises his paleontologist role, this time reluctantly agreeing to act as guide for a wealthy adventurer couple (William H. Macy and Tea Leoni) who wish to fly over a dino-infested island. Inevitably, they become stranded there. While the original star of "Jurassic Park" returns for this sequel, the original director doesn't. Joe Johnston ("October Sky") replaces Steven Spielberg, competently keeping the action flowing with some key scenes -- including one set in a giant birdcage that houses Pteranodons, and a running gag concerning a Spinosaurus who announces his arrival via the noise of a swallowed satellite phone. The audience probably won't maintain much interest or sympathy for the stock characters to whom these events are happening, though. (Macy and Leoni's relationship woes are especially sleep inducing.) But the film's worst aspect is its abrupt conclusion, which is the digital equivalent of the cavalry riding in. While "Jurassic Park III" reeks of consumer pandering with its lazy plot and recycled scenarios, it musters just enough slick sequences to keep the blockbuster series from becoming extinct. -- JN
** Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.

Legally Blonde
In films like "Election" and "Freeway," actress Reese Witherspoon convincingly plays against her cute, cherubic demeanor by portraying women whose perkiness masks darker dimensions. As her latest movie repeatedly points out, that's hard to do when you're blonde. In "Legally Blonde," Witherspoon stars as Elle, a fashion-obsessed sorority girl who has overachieved her whole life -- except at anything that actually matters. When her Harvard Law School-bound sweetheart dumps her to get "serious" with his career ambitions ("I need to marry a Jackie not a Marilyn"), Elle hatches a scheme to get into Harvard so that she can win him back. By keeping the rivalries shifting and by introducing a murder trial (though, admittedly, a very bogus one), the filmmakers hoist this light comedy above its one-joke premise. But they still manage to throw in such inanities as an irrelevant dance montage and a mawkish ending. Like its lead actress, "Legally Blonde" falls into the category of "cute." If only the movie itself could have maintained the same underlying depth that Witherspoon always brings to her roles. (PG-13) -- JN
** 1/2 Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.

Osmosis Jones
Gross-out kings Peter and Bobby Farrelly tone down their act with this partially animated flick about a white blood cell (voiced by Chris Rock) duking it out with a mean virus (Laurence Fishburne) for the fate of their host body (Bill Murray). The switches between animation (which was actually directed by Piet Kroon and Tom Sito) and live action is sometimes awkward, and some of the logic behind the film seems a little off. Why would the body's mayor (voiced by a rather amusing William Shatner) encourage Murray to live an unhealthy lifestyle when doing so would put the political cell out of a job? There are some really funny bits here and there (the newscasts inside of Frank's body are a scream), but there is nothing quite as explosively funny as the stuff the directors cranked out in "Kingpin" or "There's Something about Mary." "Osmosis Jones" is pleasant and sporadically amusing, it's not nearly as much fun as when the brothers are fully in touch with their inner juvenile delinquents. -- DL
** Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.

The Others
The old dark house movie makes a comeback with this creepy ghost story, thanks to writer-director Alejandro Amenabar's gift for creating subtle chills and loads of atmosphere. Set on a remote, fog-enshrouded English estate during World War II, "The Others" gives its star, Nicole Kidman, a virtual one-woman show, as a mother trying to protect her children (Alakina Mann and James Bentley) from all manner of threats, both natural and supernatural. The audience is treated to an unusually intelligent ghost story, where discussions of religion, loneliness and familial devotion are comfortably intertwined with the things that go bump in the night. Kidman's performance is as layered and unnerving as the rest of the film, which moves slowly, but delivers its jolts by making viewers use their imaginations. In this era of shallow, noisy spectacles passing themselves off as horror films, that's a rare gift indeed. (PG-13) -- LL
*** 1/2 Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.

Planet of the Apes
Tim Burton brings his twisted sensibilities to the 1968 sci-fi classic, taking the basic plot, about an astronaut (Mark Wahlberg) who crash-lands on a world where apes (led by a terrifying Tim Roth) enslave humans, and giving it the patented Burton touch. That means creating a unique, fantastical world and throwing in lots of twisted humor. It also means going overboard with that humor (Charlton Heston shows up to say one of THOSE lines at a pivotal dramatic moment) and tacking on a surprise ending that's really freaky, but makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Burton never fails to be interesting, but his sillier impulses make it hard to tell what kind of movie he's trying to make -- or if he even knows himself. (PG-13) -- LL
** 1/2 Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.

The Princess Diaries
Garry Marshall does it again, turning a virtual unknown into a real movie star in less than 2 hours. In 1990, it was Julia Roberts in "Pretty Woman." This time, it's Anne Hathaway in a fluffy fairy tale about a teen-ager who discovers she's the heir to a European throne. Hathaway's character learns to be regal from her grandmother, played by Julie Andrews, who could give lessons in class and elegance to anyone by simply standing in the same room. Hathaway is a quick study, and she's charming enough to carry the film without too much help. This is a perfect confection for its target preteen audience, who haven't had many movies made for them, let alone one as likable as this. (G) -- LL
** 1/2 Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.

Rush Hour 2
The pairing of veteran Hong Kong star Jackie Chan with loudmouth comic Chris Tucker isn't quite as novel with "Rush Hour 2," but there is enough of Chan's comic acrobatics to compensate for some of Tucker's less charming moments (what exactly IS he doing in Hong Kong besides making a jerk of himself?). This time around, Chief Inspector Lee (Chan) and Detective Carter (Tucker) try to take out a murderous gang of counterfeiters. The new film has a stronger villain. Zhang Ziyi from "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" may be pint-sized but she's all cold menace -- not bad for someone who doesn't speak a word of English on-screen. Chan gets to put a wastebasket to novel use, and Tucker has a couple of bits (one where he demolishes a Michael Jackson song and another at a craps table) where he demonstrates some chops we haven't seen before. The story's thin and a bit flat, but there's enough action to feed the rush. (PG-13) -- DL
** 1/2 Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.

Sexy Beast
"Sexy Beast" starts off as a conventional British heist film but progresses in delightfully strange and unpredictable ways. Ray Winstone ("Nil by Mouth") stars as a retired British gangster who is bullied back into crime by a small but demonically persistent criminal named Don Logan (Ben Kingsley). The veteran Kingsley is so fearsome and eerily amusing that one almost forgets the other performers, and the fact that he once won an Oscar for portraying Gandhi. Winstone, who normally plays heavies, is suitably likable, and Ian McShane (TV's "Lovejoy") is terrifying as the cold-hearted mastermind of the robbery. Rookie feature director Jonathan Glazer picked up a lot of camera tricks from helming Radiohead videos, but he thankfully uses them for the benefit of the story. The folks behind this flick sometimes err on the side of outrageousness. Nonetheless, in a summer full of "poxy" flicks that aim for formula and fail at even that lowly goal, "Sexy Beast" is a ferocious alternative. (R) -- DL
*** 1/2 Liberty Hall Cinemas, 644 Mass.


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