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Along Came Polly -- Ben Stiller plays a guy who researches germs and risks for a living; Jennifer Aniston plays his love interest. Rated: PG-13





Barbershop 2: Back in Business -- It's back to the south side of Chicago where Calvin (Ice Cube) and the gang (Cedric the Entertainer, Sean Patrick Thomas, Eve) are still cutting hair and cracking wise. Enter some big bad developers who want to open a franchise -- "Nappy Cuts" -- across the street, and Queen Latifah as the sassy (could she be anything else??) stylist next door. Rated: PG-13





The Big Bounce -- One of those who's-doublecrossing-whom capers -- set in Hawaii -- with district judge Morgan Freeman, pretty criminal Sara Foster and scheming developers Gary Sinise and Charlie Sheen. Rated: PG-13





**** Big Fish -- Tim Burton's newest fantasy is more down to earth than his recent films. A son (Billy Crudup) finally tries to get to know his elusive, story-spinning father (Albert Finney) when Dad is on his deathbed. An amazing past is revealed, filled with circuses and strange towns and huge people and short people, and lots of love. The young Finney character is flawlessly played by Ewan McGregor. (ES) Rated PG-13





* The Butterfly Effect -- Long shelved, The Butterfly Effect premiered at Sundance this week before griming theaters across the country, a callow and cruel grab-bag of time-travel pretension. (RP) Rated: R





Calendar Girls -- Aging Yorkshire wives and mothers go the Full Monty route when the husband of one is diagnosed with leukemia. The ladies set out to star in a tastefully photographed pin-up calendar, the proceeds of which will all be donated to cancer research. Rated: PG-13





* Catch That Kid -- It's a sorrow to report that with the fairly godawful Catch That Kid, director Bart (Mr. Julianne Moore) Freundlich is just as tonally incomprehensible a director of kiddie-techno diversions as he is of his own inconsequential child-of-privilege maundering, like The Myth of Fingerprints and World Traveler. A ridiculously slack attempt at kinetic heist thrills for the younger set, Kid lacks the giddy invention and simple glee of Robert Rodriguez's Spy Kids franchise. (RP) Rated: PG





** Cheaper by the Dozen -- This cleaned-up version of the 1950s true-life comedy turns more to slapstick than heartfelt humor for its laughs. Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt play the parents of 12 children. When Dad gets a new job in the city, family life gets too crazy for all. (ES) Rated PG





**** City of God -- An adaptation of the novel by Paulo Lins, which is a fictionalization of the author's youth in the favelas (slums) outside of Rio de Janeiro. Indelibly fun to watch --and recently recognized with Oscar nominations -- City of God is a self-mythologizing portrait of the allure and despair of juvenile crime in a milieu that offers no other escape. It's dizzying, dazzling and never flinches from the harshness of what its many characters go through. It's the kind of art that genuinely confronts the question, what is the value of human life? And why are we so reckless with the fate of the youth of the world? (RP) Rated: R





**** 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





*** Girl With A Pearl Earring -- Scarlett Johansson plays the title character in a fiction about a servant who poses for Dutch artist Johannes Vermeer's lovely and haunting painting. Played with long wig and great period costumes by Colin Firth, Vermeer is a lonely man, saddled with a horrid family, who can only breathe when he's at a canvas -- until he stumbles upon young Griet (Johansson) cleaning his studio, as someone who actually understands his work. Stunning photography and production design. (ES) Rated PG-13





**** The Last Samurai -- Tom Cruise and Ken Watanabe are the washed-up American soldier and the soon-to-be-extinct Samurai warrior who are initially at odds but eventually come to respect each other. (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





**** 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. (Marty Demarest) Rated: R





**** Master And Commander -- 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. (ES) Rated: PG-13





*** 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. Neither of the characters provides even the least positive note, and it's difficult to root for either of them. Theron, putting on some pounds and some drastically unflattering make up, has reached a high point in her career. The film is tough to take, but fascinating to watch. (ES) 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





* The Perfect Score -- The word "perfect" simply doesn't belong in the title. This is a fluffy, often nonsensical tale of a sextet of high school seniors who attempt to steal an SAT exam to ensure they get good scores on their second tries. (ES) Rated PG-13





*** Peter Pan -- The boy who won't grow up (Jeremy Sumpter) opens up a new world to young Wendy (Rachel Hurd-Wood) and her brothers when they all fly off to Neverland to get away from their parents. But unlike any cartoons or musicals before this one, the tale, sticking to the original play, turns dark: Mermaids become deadly, and Captain Hook (Jason Isaacs) kills off those he doesn't like. A visual treat, even if it is rather intense. (ES) Rated PG





**** The Return of the King -- The emotional climaxes that ring throughout the three-and-a-half hours of The Return of the King make up for a movie with many, many endings, all of them sad. 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





*** Something's Gotta Give -- Jack Nicholson's rogue Harry likes a younger woman (Amanda Peet), a younger man (Keanu Reeves) swoons over Diane Keaton's tired-of-love Erica, and all the audience can do is root for the two pairs to get sorted out. It's fresh, breezy and funny, and features comedic nude scenes from both leads, as well as some sweet romance. (ES) Rated PG-13





** Win a Date With Tad Hamilton! -- Hollywood hunks get a light skewering in this light and frothy comedy about Hollywood hunk Tad Hamilton (Josh Duhamel), who's losing his boy-next-door image, and the na & iuml;ve young fan (Kate Bosworth) from West Virginia who does what the title suggests. The slight plot involves her sad puppy-eyed boss (Topher Grace), who has a crush on her, and what happens when Mr. Hollywood follows her back home, hoping some of her goodness will rub off on him. Funny stuff from Gary Cole as her father, but the film never digs in or takes off. (E.S.) Rated PG-13





You Got Served --You can tell the solidity of a friendship by such heartfelt utterances as "I know you better'n anybody. I know when you're trippin'!" Not to be confused with the as-yet-unmade sequels to either the Matthew Perry/Elizabeth Hurley romantic vehicle Serving Sara, nor the Tom Hanks/Meg Ryan sapfest You've Got Mail, You Got Served is the story of best friends David and Elgin, whose hip-hop crew has just lost a huge jackpot to a bunch of rich white kids from Orange County. Can they win their dignity back at the big $50,000 prize hip-hop competition? Will their friendship survive one guy dating the other guy's little sister? Rated: PG-13





Young Black Stallion -- With an exclusive engagement at IMAX, Young Black Stallion -- a prequel to the 1979 hit The Black Stallion -- is Disney's first live action foray into large format. 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





Publication date: 02/12/04

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