The Forgotten -- When a young mom (Julianne Moore), distraught over the death of her son, is told by her husband and shrink that the son never existed, she freaks out, then starts to find pieces to the puzzle in her confused head. With the help of a fellow (Dominic West) who lost a daughter in the same plane crash, she finds lots of clues, all the while being chased by mysterious agents. (ES) Rated PG-13
Forces of Nature -- Kevin Bacon is your host on this jaunt into the path of tornadoes, volcanoes and earthquakes. The National Geographic/IMAX filmmakers are hot on the pursuit of tornadoes from Texas to North Dakota, in one instance, coming within 400 feet of being swept up in an F-3 twister. Not Rated.
Friday Night Lights -- High school football is a way of life in Texas, and in this portrait of a town and team in the late 1980s, it feels like it is life itself. Billy Bob Thornton, in calm mode, plays the coach who tries to keep the young men on track, despite the pressures of the now adult former players who are living in the glory of their past. There's terrific action, but the crisp and thoughtful script also provides excellent character development. This is no throwaway sports movie; it's as engrossing as it is entertaining. (ES) Rated PG-13
The Grudge -- A ghost or a curse or some such does bad things to anyone who enters a serene house in Tokyo, where Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar) has taken a job caring for a dementia-riddled woman. Things go wrong and get worse for our heroine and everyone around her. But the filmmakers don't dole out enough information about what the hell is going on. It's scary, due to lots of visual shockeroos and creepy sounds. But in the end, even with all kinds of explanations, nothing much makes sense. (ES) Rated PG-13
I Heart Huckabees -- I don't know if I like I Heart Huckabees, but big chunks of this mad philosophical trampoline act I simply love, and the last half hour finds an almost serene equipoise as it completes its buoyant mosaic of unlikely comic and philosophical conceits. Yes, the movie asks big questions, and among the confused are Jason Schwartzman, Lily Tomlin, goofy Dustin Hoffman, Jude Law, Isabelle Huppert, the radiant Naomi Watts, and a tender, funny Mark Wahlberg. (RP) Rated: R
IMAX Nascar -- Kiefer Sutherland is your personal pit boss on this up-close look at life behind the wheel. With in-car footage reaching 180 miles an hour, a 12,000-watt sound system and five stories of heart-stopping action. Not Rated.
Ladder 49 -- When a veteran firefighter (Joaquin Phoenix) is trapped within a high-rise inferno, the chief (John Travolta) and his crew must figure out how to find and rescue him. The film plays out through as series of flashbacks that chronicle the man's life -- in and out of the firehouse -- over the past decade, from deadly situations to goofy pranks. The story maintains a high degree of intensity but is flawed in its use of tired clich & eacute;s, some overacting, and an ending that's too maudlin. (ES) Rated PG-13
Ray -- Jamie Foxx delivers an astoundingly rich performance as musical legend Ray Charles. As one would expect, the music is great and the cast (especially Kerry Washington, Sharon Warren and Regina King) is exceptional. But in the end, this is Foxx's film, and he makes the most of it. Far from an impersonation, his performance is a respectful and accurate tribute to the man, suffused with passion, love, and pain. (Chuck Koplinski) Rated: PG-13
The Motorcycle Diaries -- The Motorcycle Diaries is a movie of little epiphanies, not grand ones. Feeling like a familiar story of Kerouac-style rebels on the open road, The Motorcycle Diaries is an exotic travelogue and a fable about growing up. Sure, these guys (Gael Garcia Bernal, Rodrigo de la Serna ) on their 1939 Norton 500 have ideals and dreams of a better world, but they seem to belong to the Easy Rider tradition of individualism, and almost metaphysical transformation. This is the story of Che Guevara divorced from politics and history, rendered as a young American. While some will lament that The Motorcycle Diaries isn't political enough, some may find it too sober. This reviewer, however, found it a lovely and moving experience, a haunting symphony in a minor key. (Andrew O'Hehir) Rated: R
Saw -- Recommended, but only with the strenuous caveat that Saw, even as a coming attractions trailer, may be one of the most disturbing movies I've ever seen. Put up against Se7en, its inventive mind warps go up to about 16.7. (RP) Rated: R
Shall We Dance? -- An American remake of the Japanese art house hit about a bored attorney (Richard Gere) who goes through a life change when he signs up for dance lessons after getting a look at the school's hot teacher (Jennifer Lopez). His wife (Susan Sarandon) thinks he's working late. Things get a little weird at home, but grow funny and impassioned at the studio. An outrageously bewigged Stanley Tucci plays another dancer. Directed with flash and pizzazz and gentleness by Peter Chelsom (Funny Bones). (E.S.) Rated PG-13
Shark Tale -- This underwater animated feature tells of a dreamer fish named Oscar (voice of Will Smith), who thinks he'll get ahead in the world by taking credit for killing a bad shark. When the shark's crime boss father (Robert De Niro) hears of Oscar's bragging, it's score-settling time. The film is quite funny, with plenty of positive messages for young viewers, and excellent computer animation. (ES) Rated PG
Surviving Christmas -- Hit and miss -- mostly miss -- affair about a rich, selfish Chicago adman (unfunny Ben Affleck) renting a family for the holidays, including James Gandolfini, the always-brilliant Catherine O'Hara and a fetching Christina Applegate. There are some dark laughs, but it's mostly a sleigh-crash of contrivance. (RP) Rated: PG-13
Taxi -- OK folks, here's your story problem: SNL's Jimmy Fallon plays a cop who loses his car privileges. Queen Latifah plays the fastest cabbie in all of Manhattan. If a trio of supermodel bank robbers is traveling west at 60 miles an hour and Queen Latifah is heading east at 70 miles an hour, how many times will Jimmy Fallon a) make a funny "panicked white guy" face or b) think about having sex with said supermodels? Extra credit: Explain how Ann-Margret deigned to join this car wreck in order to play Fallon's mother. Rated: PG-13
Team America: World Police -- South Park duo Parker and Matt Stone's action comedy is a brilliantly mindless, wickedly profane, relentlessly acerbic satiric alliance of Bruckheimer's worldview and the scary marionettes from Gerry Anderson's 1960s British TV series, Thunderbirds. There are layers of contrariness, puppet sex and the best puke scene since The Exorcist. (RP) Rated: R
The Village -- Even if my expectations weren't low, I think I would have been happily shocked by the alchemy of M. Night Shyamalan's latest puzzle-box narrative. Some viewers have felt cheated, but I was pleased with how the strands of the story resonate with the dangers of fear and isolationism. (RP) Rated: PG-13
Capsule reviews are written by Ed Symkus (ES) and Ray Pride (RP) unless otherwise noted.
Publication date: 11/04/04