Alfie -- It's safe to say that Jude Law owns every frame of this remake of the 1966 Michael Caine film, the one that shot him to fame and will finally push Law to the top. It's time in the life of a cad, a real ladies' man, a guy who's simply into the joy of being with women. Updated and moved from London to New York, the story actually presents a sympathetic side to Alfie. But back to Law: He talks right to the camera, imbues Alfie with the gamut of emotional experiences, and makes us boo him and cheer him. Nice assistance from Marisa Tomei and Susan Sarandon as a couple of supposed conquests. (ES) Rated R
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
Hedwig and the Angry Inch -- "How did some slip of a girly boy from communist East Berlin become the internationally ignored song stylist barely standing before you now?" John Cameron Mitchell's weary, faux Marlene Dietrich delivery of those lines has gotta be one of the most sublimely wonderful moments in rock cinema history. Glam-rock Hedwig recounts her story -- from listening to American Forces radio in Berlin to "outgrossing monster trucks in Wichita" to being outshone by a Jesus freak prot & eacute;g & eacute;/boyfriend. An amazing supporting cast -- especially Miriam Shor and Andrea Martin -- rounds out this brilliant, strange, hugely entertaining film. (Sheri Boggs) Rated: R (Plays Friday and Saturday at midnight at the Garland)
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.
The Incredibles -- The likely final Pixar-Disney co-production is a major departure from Finding Nemo and Toy Story in that all of the characters are humans. One of them, Mr. Incredible (voice of Spokane native Craig T. Nelson) is a former superhero who was forced to retire and is now in insurance, but misses his old life. His wife, the former Elastigirl (Holly Hunter), is not happy when he has a chance to get back in the game, but no one is aware that it's a trap by an old enemy. Funny, scary, wild, thoughtful, filled with adult issues. The newest film from Brad Bird (The Iron Giant). (ES) Rated PG
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
The Polar Express -- The popular Chris Van Allsburg book gets the Robert Zemeckis treatment and a dazzling animated style that makes it look like a living Van Allsburg drawing. Never mind that train to Hogwarts. The one that pulls up at a young boy's house on Christmas Eve is headed for the North Pole and a certain jolly fat man. And it seems that the other young passengers have one thing in common: They're all wearing pajamas. Tom Hanks voices the conductor and four other parts, including the boy. Charming, wistful, with a nice dose of adventure. (ES) Rated G (Opens Wednesday, Nov. 10, at IMAX, AMC and Regal)
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
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
Superman -- This is Christopher Reeve the way we'd like to remember him - running around in disco-era spandex and fooling no one with those "serious" Clark Kent specs. The year was 1978, the girl was Margot Kidder, and the baddie was a hilariously over the top Gene Hackman as real estate developer Lex Luthor. Favorite Lex line? "Everyone's got their faults. Mine's in California." Goofy good times from the decade that spawned Blondie and Mork and Mindy. (SB; playing midnight Friday and Saturday at the Garland) Rated: PG
The Yes Men -- A documentary about two guys -- call them Mike and Andy -- who pull off some pretty impressive pranks. The best is when and how they impersonate two members of the World Trade Organization, manage to get some speaking gigs, then get up in front of convention crowds and deliver lectures on subjects that would make real WTO folks grimace. Very funny stuff, some of it slightly off color, most of it mind-boggling. (ES) Rated: R (Playing at the Met on Nov. 15-16 and Nov. 18, and Nov. 22-24 at 3 pm, 5:30 pm and 8 pm)
Capsule reviews are written by Ed Symkus (ES) and Ray Pride (RP) unless otherwise noted.
Publication date: 11/11/04