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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. The result is a series of romantic-comedy sketches that prove that if first dates usually suck, 50 of them are even worse. (Marty Demarest) Rated: PG-13





Agent Cody Banks 2: Destination London -- Frankie Muniz plays the teenage secret agent, still plagued with debilitating shyness around girls. Quite frankly, we think this would be a lot funnier if he vomited, a la South Park's Stan, every time he got around a cute girl, but that's just us. This time around, our pubescent young hero has a new secret agent partner and an assignment in London. Rated: PG





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





Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen -- Lindsay Lohan has made her young career out of playing the ol' switcheroo. In The Parent Trap, she connives with her twin (played by herself) to reunite their parents. In Freaky Friday, she wakes up one morning to find out she's become her mother. And in her latest film, Confessions of a Teenage Drama Queen, she goes from being the most popular girl in her school to being just another new kid in the suburbs, which are already presided over by their own drama queen. But there's nothing that a teenage drama queen likes more than scheming against and plotting the downfall of another teenage drama queen. Rated: PG





Hidalgo -- A guy and his horse get on a boat... but this isn't the start of a bad joke. It's 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





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 -- Here we go again -- another underdog sports movie, this time a true story, about the 1980 U.S. Olympic Hockey team, made up of college players, and their spirited bid for victory over the Russian machine of a team that might as well be professional. The film is well made, and there's a solid performance by Kurt Russell as Herb Brooks, a man who was convinced he was right about everything, especially his relentless and sometimes brutal coaching of the team. But it goes on too long, is padded with unnecessary side stories, and hey, 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. 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 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





The Passion of the Christ -- A loud, thudding lockstep depiction of torture and murder with little about philosophy, goodness or celebration, 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 -- 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





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, and ends by trying to make a protagonist out of a supporting character. Even John Turturro, playing an unhinged writer, is wasted as his role goes from ominous threat to mere plot device. (Marty Demarest) Rated: PG-13





Spartan -- David Mamet's initially confounding, eventually fascinating story of a kidnapping, and the special forces group that's trying to foil it, gets more involved as it goes on. Val Kilmer is a tough former Marine Ranger who is called in to assist in the rescue of "an important man's" daughter, who might have been taken from her Boston school to the Middle East as a sex slave. But the case is full of dead ends, as well as violence. It seems that the closer he gets, the farther he gets. Plot twists galore feed the air of mystery. Riveting stuff with, as always with Mamet, sharp and bare-bones dialogue. (ES) Rated: R





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, an emphasis on comedy, and a setting in the mid-1970s. 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





Twisted -- Whaddya do if you're a cop and someone keeps coming along and killing all your one-night stands? You hunt that rat bastard serial killer down, sister! Ashley Judd plays the cop-with-a-vengeance; Morgan Freeman (do they have to be in every movie together?) plays her suspicious boss. Andy Garcia plays her equally suspicious cop partner. Rated: R





Welcome to Mooseport -- Former U.S. president Gene Hackman retires to a quaint New England village where he hopes the bucolic setting and quieter lifestyle will enable him to write his memoirs. The townspeople have other ideas -- who better to fill the vacant mayoral seat than someone who knows political life inside and out? Just when it looks like a shoo-in, hardware store owner Ray Romano shows up as Hackman's surprisingly fierce competition. 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





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





Publication date: 03/17/04

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