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by Inlander Staff


Alexander -- You know from an early scene of tiresome exposition by Anthony Hopkins that Oliver Stone's three-hour sword-and-sandal epic is doomed when a giant scar across the right side Hopkins' forehead mysteriously moves to the left side of his head between shots. Ever-controversial, Stone inserts a soft-peddled bisexual affair, bizarrely colored battle shots and a rather Oedipal mother-son relationship, but for all of its attention to detail (especially in two reasonably good battle scenes) Stone's movie fails to tell the complex story of one of the most enigmatic conquerors in history. (Cole Smithey) Rated: R





Bridget Jones: The Edge Of Reason -- This sequel is nothing more than a rehash of the original, in reverse. It's a few weeks later, and slightly plump Bridget (Renee Zellweger) is now happily involved with dullard Mark Darcy (Colin Firth). That's different. But when caddish Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) happens by, she goes all goofy on him again -- maybe because he adores her big panties. The problem: No one is even likeable. Mark is above everyone, Daniel is a jerk, and Bridget, well, poor Bridget is a self-deprecating dummy. An exasperatingly unfunny comedy. (ES) Rated R





Christmas with the Kranks -- The John Grisham novel Skipping Christmas transfers sloppily to the screen, spreading its holiday "joy" with a story of recent empty-nesters (Tim Allen, Jamie Lee Curtis) who decide to forget about Christmas for one year -- including mindless celebrations with everyone on their ornament-happy block -- to go on a cruise. But the neighborhood is not happy about this, and the film starts to turn from laughs to threats. Even the slapstick comic sequences don't work under the mistimed direction of studio head Joe Roth, who should stick to producing. (ES) Rated PG





Closer -- All the things you've thought and felt but never put into precise and profane language at the moment you're most wounded: That's the black heart of the scarring, scarily funny language of Patrick Marber's play. Earning their acting chops and the R rating in a game of sexual musical chairs are brash dermatologist Clive Owen, self-pitying obits writer Jude Law, photographer Julia Roberts and unformed life force Natalie Portman. Directed by Mike Nichols. (RP) Rated: R





Donnie Darko -- Donnie Darko lies in a suburban cul-de-sac not far from the intersection of John Hughes and David Lynch Streets. Set in 1988, the film opens with Jake Gyllenhaal announcing "I'm voting for Dukakis." Things only get stranger from there. Moody, possibly schizophrenic Donnie (Gyllenhaal) starts seeing a giant demonic rabbit named Frank -- who tells him, among other things, that the world will end in 28 days. Disturbing, funny, lovely and bleak all at once, Richard Kelly's directorial debut is an astonishing cult favorite that will leave you feeling vaguely, rewardingly haunted. (Sheri Boggs) Rated: R Showing at the Garland at midnight on Friday and Saturday night.





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





Napoleon Dynamite -- One person's geek is another's superhero. Such is the appeal of indie effort Napoleon Dynamite, starring John Heder as the titular hero, who lives with his grandmother and brother in rural Idaho. Rated: PG-13





National Treasure -- An absurdly plotted story has a third-generation treasure hunter (Nicolas Cage) believing that he's finally closing in on some long-lost glittery spoils from thousands of years past. The only problem now is that the supposed final clue is on the back of the very well protected Declaration of Independence, and he's not the only guy after it. The script relies too much on coincidences and long-winded speeches that lead only to more clues. But despite all of this, it's a pleasant enough, relatively harmless romp. (ES) Rated PG





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





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)





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





Sideways -- Miles (Paul Giamatti) and Jack (Thomas Haden Church) are two pals who go on a West Coast wine-tasting tour, just before Jack is to get married and Miles is to find out if his novel is being published. Miles is an unhappy sweetheart of a guy who knows his wine. Jack is a carefree, womanizing cad who will drink anything put in front of him. They both meet women on the road (Virginia Madsen and Sandra Oh), and the film jumps back and forth between vibrant comedy and emotional distress, all the while offering great insight on the joys of wine. (ES) Rated R





The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie -- Rumor has it that the creative team behind this Nickelodeon phenomenon resisted the siren call of taking their cartoon to the big screen. They probably wondered how to stretch something that thrives in a 12-minute format into 70 minutes. You can see why they worried: The first 20 minutes of this movie are hilarious, especially the live-action opening, but then it drags badly, especially in another live-action sequence near the end. SpongeBob and Patrick go on a spiritual journey to prove they are men -- and to keep Bikini Bottom provisioned with crabby patties. They're as funny as ever, but this is really Plankton's movie -- he's the Yosemite Sam of the modern cartoon era, and his plan for undersea domination is diabolica-licious. Rated: PG (Ted S. McGregor, Jr.)





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





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





Publication date: 12/09/04

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