** Mona Lisa Smile -- West Coast art history prof Katherine Watson (Julia Roberts) heads east for a teaching stint at stuffy, early-1950s Wellesley College, where she gets her charges to think for themselves, rather than just read books and learn how to be good wives. Her free-spirited thinking causes some waves among both students and faculty, but she does create some change for the better. Good acting, but not much new ground covered in the teachers-who-make-a difference genre. Call this Dead Artists Society. (ES) Rated PG-13
**** The Return of the King -- The emotional climaxes that ring throughout the three-and-a-half hours of The Return of the King make up for a movie with many, many endings, all of them sad. Peter Jackson is a maestro of ceaseless and varied visual raptures, including both awe-inspiring armies of the dead, insurgent in green vapor, and a daughter-avenges-father scene on the battlefield that might be the best thing onscreen all year. It's the best of the trilogy. (RP) Rated: PG-13
**** Don't Miss It *** Worth $8 ** Wait For The Video * Save Your Money
Capsule reviews are written by Ed Symkus (ES) and Ray Pride (RP), unless otherwise noted.
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Publication date: 12/18/03