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By Inlander Staff


*** The Big Empty -- Jon Favreau is a schlubby would-be actor whose days are spent in menial set jobs and whose nights are spent practicing his various "looks" in the mirror. He is rescued from his quiet desperation by creepy neighbor Neely (Bud Cort) who blackmails him into delivering a locked suitcase to Baker, Calif., where, subsequently, nothing goes as planned. Lots of big names in this North by Northwest co-production, including Darryl Hannah, Joey Lauren Adams, Rachael Leigh Cook, Kelsey Grammer, Sean Bean and more. Also, this marks North by Northwest's foray into more indie-oriented cinematic fare. (Sheri Boggs) Rated: R





Brother Bear -- Disney's latest stars Joaquin Phoenix as the voice of a young man whose older brother is killed by a bear. Hoping to avenge his brother's death, Kenai (Phoenix) sets out on a heroic mission, only to find himself suddenly developing a strong craving for honey and enjoying the company of an owl, a piglet, a donkey and a rabbit. Oh wait. Wrong bear. No, Kenai turns into the very thing he set out to destroy -- a great big sharp-clawed, fur-covered, meat-eating grizzly bear. Rated: G





The Cat in the Hat -- When will kids learn not to open the door to strangers? When Mom's away the Cat (Mike Meyers) will play, and maybe even change the control-freak tendencies of Sally (Dakota Fanning) and the misbehavior of Conrad (Spencer Breslin) while he's at it. The set is more wildly colored and chemically sweeter than a huge bag of Skittles; the script is by three former Seinfeld writers. Throw in Grinch producer Brian Grazer and you know this kitty is gonna be rolling in U.S. currency catnip. Rated: PG





Elf -- Li'l baby Buddy crawls into Santa's bag of toys and ends up at the North Pole, where the kindly elves raise him as one of his own. Now an adult Buddy (Will Ferrell) is no longer content to make toys nor is he especially eager to study dentistry on the side or counsel lovelorn young reindeer. So it's off to Manhattan to find his real dad (James Caan) and teach the urbanites a thing or two about the meaning of Christmas (which probably has something to do with licensing). Rated: PG





*** Gothika -- Lurid, self-conscious ghost-story bunkum, done with style (and secondary characters) to burn. With Halle Berry and Robert Downey Jr., both slumming; and with Charles Dutton, Jr. and John Carroll Lynch, each chewing the walls. Directed by Mathieu Kassovitz (the photo booth-obsessed love interest in Amelie). (RP) Rated: R





*** The Human Stain -- Directed by Robert Benton, this adaptation of Philip Roth's intense novel is about the later years of an academic accused of being un-PC (Anthony Hopkins) who has, in fact, been passing as white for decades. His memories of his youthful revisionism come to mind when he starts a relationship with an abused younger woman (Nicole Kidman); they each strike sparks that warm them, but confound the community. Bluntly stated, intensely acted, and dramatically valuable. (RP) Rated: R





*** Looney Tunes: Back in Action -- Director Joe Dante (Gremlins) saves the Looney Tunes and delivers a movie that updates Bugs, Daffy and everyone else. What this movie really is - for adults, at least - is a satire of Hollywood and of corporate mentality in general. But the kid in everyone will love the classic Looney Tunes timing and wit that's been brought to live-action levels. It's that rare gem of a movie - it's smart without being snotty, and playful without being stupid. Steve Martin, as the bad guy, is priceless; and, yes, at times it's as cool as Roger Rabbit. (MD) Rated: PG





**** Lost in Translation -- Bill Murray is a middle-aged actor in Tokyo to film a whiskey commercial for $2 million. Scarlett Johansson is a newly-married twenty-something in town with her celebrity photographer husband. Both of them, searching for themselves, find each other (and the intensity of Japan), in director Sofia Coppola's second film. It's hilarious and romantic, Murray and Johansson give two of the year's best performances. (Marty Demarest) Rated: R





*** Love, Actually -- All kinds of British folks (and one American) are falling in and out of love, searching for it or mourning the loss of it in this sprawling comedy-drama from the writer of Four Weddings and a Funeral. The ensemble piece (Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Colin Firth, Laura Linney, many more) has a little too much going on: Just as one story gets interesting, it jumps to another. It's funnier than it is sad, but it could use some trimming. (ES) Rated: PG-13





* Luther -- A medieval Ralph Lauren ad for Christianity starring Joseph Fiennes as Martin Luther. Expect a spin-off -- Reformation -- weekly on the WB. (Marty Demarest) Rated: PG-13





**** Master And Commander: The Far Side Of The World -- The man of the title is Captain "Lucky" Jack Aubrey, whose ship, the Surprise, is attacked off the coast of Brazil at the time of the Napoleonic Wars. The decision to go after the bigger, faster bad guys leads to a gigantic adventure story, with stunning photography and effects (a storm at sea is terrifying); smart, emotional tempered performances from Crowe and Paul Bettany as the ship's doctor; and some great storytelling twists. Based on two of the series of books by Patrick O'Brian. (ES) Rated: PG-13





*** The Matrix Revolutions -- The kicky, streamlined finale to the trilogy dispenses with much of the philosophy and gets down to loud, sustained action set-pieces that will thrill the younger set and test the patience of anyone over 30. There's a sweet climax, cheesy but pleasant. Directed by the Wachowski brothers. (RP) Rated: R





**** Mystic River -- An excellent adaptation of the Dennis Lehane crime thriller and character study by screenwriter Brian Helgeland and director Clint Eastwood. Three urban boyhood pals grow apart and come together years later, each with inner demons. The thug, Jimmy (Sean Penn), is grieving over his daughter's murder; the investigative cop, Sean (Kevin Bacon) can't get over his wife leaving him; and possible suspect Dave (Tim Robbins) keeps reliving a horrible incident from his youth. Powerful stuff. (ES) Rated R





Pulse -- A Stomp "odyssey," filmed in Africa, Asia, Europe, South America and the American Southwest. In addition to the usual sounds generated by brooms, trash cans, old metal sinks and PVC pipe, Pulse captures the ancient song and dance traditions of the world's peoples. Not Rated





Radio -- South Carolina high school football coach Ed Harris befriends developmentally disabled Cuba Gooding Jr. in this "yoohoo, Oscar, over here" drama. Radio is inspired by a Sports Illustrated article on the two principal characters and their enduring, real-life friendship. Rated: PG





*** Runaway Jury -- Things heat up quickly in this adaptation of the John Grisham courtroom thriller. Fans of the book may be heated over the fact that the plot's been changed from a tobacco trial to a gun trial, but the story works nicely anyway. Honest lawyer Dustin Hoffman goes after a gun manufacturer whose weapons lead to a murder. Unscrupulous "consultant" Gene Hackman intends to tamper with the jury for the other side. But a whole other plot is going on between juror John Cusack and his wily girlfriend Rachel Weisz. Twists and turns galore. (ES) Rated PG-13





*** Santa vs. the Snowman -- Steve Oedekerk, the twisted mind behind Nickelodeon's Jimmy Neutron, has revitalized the Christmas special with just the right mix of the familiar and the original. When the Snowman covets Santa's beloved status, the future of Christmas is at stake. Armies of elves and tiny snowmen can't settle things, so it's up to a little girl to show everyone the real meaning of Christmas. This is a half-hour filled with lots of laughs; the big battle scene alone is worth the price of admission. Not Rated. Only at Imax. (TM)





Scary Movie 3 -- The Scary Movie franchise gets a little help this time out from deadpan actor Leslie Nielsen, writer Kevin Smith and Airplane! director David Zucker. Look for spoofs of The Ring, The Others, The Matrix, Signs and even 8 Mile. Rated: PG-13





*** Seabiscuit -- Seabiscuit was a washed-up loser when he was discovered by trainer Tom Smith (Chris Cooper) in the mid-1930s. When "Team Seabiscuit" came together -- Smith, owner Charles Howard (Jeff Bridges) and jockey Red Pollard (Tobey Maguire) -- a national folk hero came into being. (ES) Rated: PG-13





** Under the Tuscan Sun -- The popular Frances Mayes book about life, food and home improvement in Italy becomes an overly sappy exercise in making plots up to make the non-story seem interesting. Diane Lane is quite good as the divorcee who's sent to Tuscany to jump-start her life and ends up in a series of deliriously happy circumstances. (ES) Rated: PG-13





**** Don't Miss It *** Worth $8 ** Wait For The Video * Save Your Money








& lt;i & Capsule reviews are written by Ed Symkus (ES) and Ray Pride (RP), unless otherwise noted. & lt;/i &





Follow these links for movie times and tickets at & lt;a href= "http://www.movietickets.com/house_detail.asp?exid=amc & amp;house_id=6584 & amp;.submit=Search " target= "_blank " & & lt;font size= "2 " & AMC & lt;/font & & lt;/a & & r & and & lt;a href= "http://www.fandango.com/my_box_office.asp?remotefilter=REGL & amp;txtCityZip=99202 " target= "_blank " & & lt;font size= "2 " & Regal & lt;/font & & lt;/a & & r & .





Publication date: 11/27/03

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