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by Inlander Staff


50 First Dates -- Drew Barrymore is cute as hell, and she has genuine sparks with a (surprisingly) sweet Adam Sandler. But neither of them brings any sense of character to this story about a relationship that must start anew each day due to Barrymore's short-term memory loss. (Marty Demarest) Rated: PG-13





Cold Mountain -- Anthony Minghella's adaptation of Charles Frazier's bestseller. Some performances are steeped in sorrow -- Jude Law's - and others are crackerjacks -- Renee Zellweger's hillbilly sprite and Natalie Portman's lonely widow. Nicole Kidman portrays an object of longing, a woman who comes into focus. It's lovely and tragic. (RP) Rated: R





Dawn of the Dead -- There are a few interesting performances in this quick 'n' twitchy remake of the 1978 zombie classic. Unfortunately, none of them are from the undead, and the scares are sparse. If you saw 28 Days Later, you won't miss anything by skipping this. (Marty Demarest) Rated: R





Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind -- The newest film from writer Charlie Kaufman and director Michel Gondry (their last was Human Nature) is up the in the rare air of the Kaufman-Spike Jonze collaborations. Shy Joel (Jim Carrey) and extrovert Clementine (Kate Winslet) are an item until one tires of the other and has a scientific procedure that can erase a person from another's mind. Complications follow. This is an often funny, often very sad, constantly startling look at relationships and the fragility of memory. Philosophical issues run right up against emotional ones. Solid acting, imaginative direction, brilliant writing. (ES) Rated R





Hidalgo -- This is a film about Frank Hopkins (Viggo Mortensen) and his Mustang, Hidalgo -- members of the Buffalo Bill Cody Wild West Show, both a bit long in the tooth, but nevertheless expert riders. A sheikh (Omar Sharif) invites them to take part in a 3,000-mile desert race for big stakes, and the rest is a big entertaining movie, with a couple of extraneous visual effects, but some splendid action, acting and storytelling. (ES) Rated PG-13





The Human Body -- It's the human body, like you've never seen it before! Seriously, consider what it means to see the inner workings of the lungs via endoscope and then picture that five stories up on the IMAX screen. In addition to lots of fascinatingly "ewwww" footage, The Human Body also features "the fusing of a father and mother's DNA inside a newly fertilized human egg, a sequence which took nearly a year to capture." Yeah, we can imagine. Not rated.





Jersey Girl -- Writer-director Kevin Smith eases up on his penchant for making outrageous movies -- the most recent was Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back -- and goes for a dollop of charming schmaltz in a story of a single father (Ben Affleck) who has no idea how to raise his young daughter (Raquel Castro), even with the help of his crusty dad (George Carlin). Enter an inquisitive and free-spirited woman (Liv Tyler) to help get his life back together. This is safe, commercial territory for all involved, but it's well acted and funny, and carries a few surprises. (ES) Rated PG-13





The Ladykillers -- This misfire from the usually brilliant Coen Brothers is a fine example of not leaving well enough alone. The story is a good one: A smooth-talking con man (Tom Hanks) manages to move himself and his "musician friends" into the home of a na & iuml;ve, elderly woman (Irma P. Hall), but he is really setting up shop for a big heist. The problem is that it was done so much better and with so much more class and style in the 1955 British version. Overacting from Hanks and an embarrassing performance by Marlon Wayans as a loud, foul-mouthed lackey doesn't help. (ES) Rated R





Lewis & amp; Clark -- The IMAX folks have packed a lot into this vivid account of the two adventurers' travels across the American wilderness. (ES) Unrated





Miracle -- This true story about the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey team and their spirited bid for victory over the Russian machine of a team is a well made film. There's a solid performance by Kurt Russell as Herb Brooks. But it goes on too long, is padded with unnecessary side stories, and most people know how it ends. (ES) Rated: PG





Monster -- Real-life prostitute turned serial killer Aileen Carol Wuornos is played with startling dedication to her craft by Charlize Theron, in a film that never strays from the unpleasant road it sets out on. Her young, na & iuml;ve lover is played by Christina Ricci, also terrific in the part. Theron, putting on some pounds and some drastically unflattering makeup, has reached a high point in her career. (ES) Rated R





Mystic River -- 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





Never Die Alone -- Wouldn't this be a great title for the latest Bond flick? Yeah? Well, too bad. This one stars rapper DMX as a violent crime lord who returns to his hometown seeking redemption. Instead, his past comes back to haunt him and he spends his dying moments recounting his story -- via flashbacks -- with aspiring journalist David Arquette. Based on novelist Donald Goines' street-noir thriller of the same name. Rated: R





The Passion of the Christ -- Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ is a protracted representation of the last 12 hours of Jesus Christ's life. Not for the faint of heart and especially not for children or even teenagers, Gibson's dark vision focuses on Christ (Jim Caviezel) having his flesh rent into tatters, shredding into gobs of viscera. In short, Gibson's Gospel is one of brutality and suffering. (RP) Rated: R





The Return of the King -- Peter Jackson is a maestro of ceaseless and varied visual raptures, including both awe-inspiring armies of the dead, and a daughter-avenges-father scene on the battlefield that might be the best thing onscreen all year. (RP) Rated: PG-13





Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed -- The crime-solving gang leaps to the big screen again, taking on a foe who's bringing their past enemies to life. This time, the live-action Velma is as pitch-perfect as Shaggy. But director Raja Gosnell doesn't know how to take the cartoon premise and make it fill a movie. So he crudely crams fart and underwear jokes next to drug and gay humor. The result is bad in entirely new ways. (MD) Rated: PG





Secret Window -- Johnny Depp's oddball approach to roles -- though always interesting -- can either work for or against the movie. Here, playing a successful writer going through a divorce, his tics make sense. Unfortunately, the rest of the film is a hackneyed, predictable affair that lurches from laughter to suspense without succeeding at either. (MD) Rated: PG-13





Starsky and Hutch -- It's a smooth and hip translation from old TV show to new movie, with Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson in the leads. The two "difficult" cops are teamed up to take on a murder case that turns out to be drug-related. Stiller gives us a terrific by-the-books uptight character, and Wilson is just as good going the laid-back route. With Snoop Dog as a slippery Huggy Bear, plenty of leisure suits and Afros, and the hard-charging red Torino flying through the air in slo-mo. (ES) Rated PG-13





Taking Lives -- There's identity theft like the kind you see on those amusing Citibank commercials, and then there's identity theft like that in Taking Lives. Not content just to steal your information and maybe buy a new pickup, the identity thief of Taking Lives likes to take actual lives and then assume the identities of his hapless victims. Angelina Jolie plays the FBI profiler assigned to the case. Also starring Kiefer Sutherland, Gena Rowlands and Ethan Hawke. Rated: R





Young Black Stallion -- Young Neera is separated from her father in World War II-era North Africa. Left to fend for herself in the desert, she befriends a wild young colt -- who helps her reunite with her family. Rated: G





Capsule reviews are written by Ed Symkus (ES), Ray Pride (RP) and Marty Demarest (MD) unless otherwise noted.





Publication date: 04/01/04

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