Alaska -- A solid natural history documentary that explores the beauty and harsh realities of nature in an extreme environment, Alaska is deserving of its 1997 Oscar for best documentary short. Gorgeous cinematography shows Alaska through the seasons, from severe winter storms to the promise of spring. At the IMAX. (Randy Matin)
A Beautiful Mind -- Based on the life of mathematician John Nash, who claimed some fame in the '40s and '50s, the film also delves into his family life (Jennifer Connelly plays his wife), and -- here's what it's all about -- his longtime battles with inner demons. The movie achieves greatness in the way Howard has managed to let viewers see the world through Nash's eyes. (ES) RATED: PG-13
Beauty and the Beast -- Disney's 1991 animated masterpiece more than stands the test of time in this new version, digitally remastered for the IMAX screen. The new format shows what an astonishing piece of art the original was. A song intended for the original makes its debut, complete with two new scenes. Most of all, Beauty and the Beast survives on the strength of its narrative. (Sheri Boggs) RATED: G
Big Trouble -- Wildly uneven and just too chock-full of storytelling, the tale of goofy people and a nuclear warhead all coming together in Miami is fast-paced and very funny, until you need to take a breath instead of laughing at yet another gag. Stanley Tucci as a nasty rich man and Dennis Farina as an assassin get most of the laughs, but the film is loaded with solid acting. There might be some wincing in the now unfunny airport security scenes (the film was finished before Sept. 11). (ES) Rated: PG-13
Black Hawk Down -- Leave it to director Ridley Scott to create one of the most visceral film experiences ever (a feat he has accomplished before, with Alien and Blade Runner). This time it's the look and the feel of war, as we're plopped right in the middle of the horrific and badly botched American military action in 1993 Somalia. This is a powerful film in which Scott makes it quite clear that war really is hell. (ES) RATED: R
Blade 2 -- Wesley Snipes returns as a part-human, part-vampire Daywalker, who is forced to form an uneasy truce with the bad guys he set out to vanquish in the original Blade. A new race of zombie folk, the Reapers, are indiscriminate in their zeal to wipe out both vampires and humans, and it's up to Snipes to save the day in this stylish, violent horror pic. RATED: R
Clockstoppers -- A teenage boy (Jesse Bradford) gains access to his scientist dad's latest invention, a wristwatch device that stops time. Rad!! But just as he's trying to decide whether to use his new powers for good or evil, some bad guys come along and make the decision for him. RATED: PG
Death to Smoochy -- Danny Devito is one of Hollywood's reigning monarchs of bad taste, and Death to Smoochy won't change that. While there's joy to be had in the beating and berating of a purple kid's show rhinoceros (played by Edward Norton) strangely similar to Barney, the biggest laughs, and shock to some gentle ears, will be in Robin Williams' performance as a fired kid's show host whose language is a cyclone of post-Tourette's filth. (RP) RATED: R
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial -- It's been 20 years, but the Spielberg blockbuster still both stands up and briefly falls down for the same reasons as back then. Elliot (Henry Thomas) brings home E.T., who has been stranded on Earth, and hides him from Mom (Dee Wallace Stone) and the government authorities who are hunting him. Lots of great comic moments, believable family situations and adventure, but the film is marred by a pretentious, supposedly heart-tugging last reel. Unseen original footage has been reinserted, but nothing of major importance. It remains a really good family film. (ES) RATED: PG
The Fellowship of The Ring -- The world of Tolkien's Middle-earth comes vividly to life in Kiwi director Peter Jackson's adaptation of the story of little Frodo (Elijah Wood), big Gandalf (Ian McKellen) and the other hobbits, elves and humans. Together, they undertake a long trek, where they must conduct some business about a powerful magic ring. The film is of epic proportions, with great performances in front of and among stunning visuals. (ES) RATED: PG-13
Gosford Park -- Robert Altman returns to the large-ensemble format with about 200 major characters (I'm joking) meeting up for a weekend of hunting and eating and drinking and, it turns out, a murder or two, in the 1930s English countryside. A fabulous cast (Helen Mirren, Alan Bates, Maggie Smith, Emily Watson and more) plays the "upstairs-downstairs" game. (ES) RATED: PG-13
High Crimes -- Ashley Judd plays a high-powered defense lawyer who faces her toughest case ever: defending her husband in a military courtroom. He's been charged with committing mass murder in Central America, and Judd has to find a way to prove his innocence, even while she's not entirely sure of it herself. Morgan Freeman comes to the rescue as a former judge and present-day advocate attorney. RATED: PG-13
Ice Age -- Cute and not-so-cute animals from long ago try to make their way to fertile grounds as things start freezing over. But a small group heads the other way, with a rescue mission in mind. Some good-looking computer animation accompanies flat dialogue and a grating voice characterization by John Leguizamo as an obnoxious sloth. (ES) RATED: PG
Iris -- Oscar winner Jim Broadbent is agonizingly good as the elder Bayley, a shambling sort who was an anchor for the mercurial, pansexual free spirit, played as a gorgeous, willful vision by Kate Winslet (as the younger soul) and as sputtering sorrow by Judi Dench (as the elder, Alzheimer's-stricken writer). (RP) RATED: R
4/11/02 Monster's Ball -- Billy Bob Thornton plays a death-row prison guard from a racist family who takes up with the widow of one of his prisoners. Halle Berry, as the widow, is allowed to go way over the top, but when she is good, she is remarkable, and I truly love the movie's restrained ending. RATED:R (RP)
National Lampoon's Van Wilder -- A student at Coolidge College for seven years, leisure studies major Van Wilder may have to face the real world. But even though his rich father is tired of paying tuition, resourceful Van knows all sorts of other ways to extend his college experience. Starring Ryan Reynolds and Tara Reid. RATED: R
Panic Room -- One location, one night, one goal: a divorced mother (Jodie Foster) must protect her daughter (Kristen Stewart) against home invaders (Forest Whitaker, Jared Leto, Dwight Yoakam). Her greatest weapon? A secret, cement-lined, steel-reinforced "panic room" hidden in the middle of the house. Panic Room works like the scare machine it's meant to be, calibrated for bursts of fear and kinetic beauty. Foster's portrayal of the emotional pain, the physical courage of the put-upon Mom may be one of her most meticulous performances. (RP) RATED: R
The Rookie -- Dennis Quaid is the high school baseball coach who coulda been a contender, if not for an injury. But after a decade away from trying for a baseball career, he tries again, bringing up questions not only about whether can he do it, but also about what it would do now to his family. Charming, funny, uplifting, emotional -- a solid family movie. (ES) RATED G
The Time Machine -- Guy Pearce roams around looking lost, as if he's bored by this acting assignment. And if not for the visual effects viewers would be pretty bored, too. The story barely resembles the H.G. Wells novel, and lacks the humor that made the original film sparkle. (ES) RATED: PG-13
We Were Soldiers -- Mel Gibson turns in a great performance as the American officer who led the first battle against the Vietcong in 1965. The true story looks at the outnumbered Americans on the field, at the families who were waiting for them back home and at the Vietnamese soldiers who were also fighting valiantly, but for a very different cause. (ES) RATED: R n
Capsule reviews are written by Ed Symkus (ES) and Ray Pride (RP), unless otherwise noted.
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The new one is smart and funny and action-packed, and it’s bigger and better and sleeker. And Downey does it again, this time ramping up Stark’s arrogant wisecracking, telling anyone who’ll listen (mostly women) that, via the creation of his powerful Iron Man suit, he’s brought years of uninterrupted peace to the world.