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by Inlander Staff


Are We There Yet? -- With one of the most hackneyed expressions in children-based comedies, Are We There Yet? fulfills every low expectation that its urban target audience will bring to the cinema. Nick (Ice Cube) plays a 35-year-old case of arrested development who makes the mistake of playing foot servant to Suzanne (Nia Long), a divorcee with two hateful children. Rated: PG





Assault on Precinct 13 -- The tension is high, as is body count in this remake of the 1976 thriller, updated and slightly replotted, and starring Ethan Hawke as a troubled cop and Laurence Fishburne as a troubling criminal. Along with a ragtag group of cops and criminals, they must defend a police station against some very nasty, well-armed men. (ES) Rated R





The Aviator -- Scorsese, DiCaprio, Hughes -- as in Howard -- are director, star and subject of this splendid look at three busy decades in the life of the industrialist, filmmaker and airplane nut. The script gives plenty of leeway for DiCaprio to show his acting chops. The power-packed cast includes Cate Blanchett as Katharine Hepburn, Kate Beckinsale as Ava Gardner and Alan Alda as a nasty senator. (ES) Rated PG-13





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 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. (RP) Rated: R





Coach Carter -- Based on the real-life coach who made in headlines in 1999 for benching his entire undefeated basketball team, Coach Carter uses Samuel L. Jackson and some Pulp Fiction-worthy speechifyin' to drive home the importance of school. Rated: PG-13





Elektra -- If you didn't happen to see Daredevil -- starring Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner -- don't worry. Even though Garner's character (comely ninja assassin Elektra Natchios) was introduced there, you really don't need much more background than that. Raised from the dead by the mysterious Order of the Hand, Elektra is sent out on various exotic killing assignments -- some of which threaten to turn her new life upside down. Rated: PG-13





Finding Neverland -- A dramatic, yet kind of whimsical look at how J.M. Barrie (Johnny Depp) was inspired to write the play Peter Pan -- by meeting a widow (Kate Winslet) with four young boys who definitely could use a father figure. (ES) Rated PG





The Grudge -- A ghost or a curse or some such does bad things to anyone who enters a serene house in Tokyo, where Karen (Sarah Michelle Gellar) has taken a job caring for a dementia-riddled woman. (ES) Rated PG-13





House of Flying Daggers -- Contemporary cinema's view of love tends to favor scabrous, gender-warring fare like We Don't Live Here Anymore and Closer, so the heights of romantic ecstasy on display in House of Flying Daggers feels like a miraculous leap of faith. People die for love, kill for love and vow eternal fidelity. Few filmmakers deal with matters of honor writ so histrionically large, or with visuals this intense. (Felicia Feaster) Rated: PG-13





In Good Company -- Generation clash is right up front in this tale of corporate downsizing, resulting in a veteran magazine adman (Dennis Quaid) getting a new eager-beaver boss (Topher Grace) who is half his age, and knows not even half of what's necessary for the job. There's also some complicated involvement for both guys -- one romantic, one fatherly -- with the adman's daughter (Scarlett Johansson). Witty script, great acting. (ES) Rated PG-13





The Incredibles -- This is a major departure from Finding Nemo in that all of the characters are human. One, Mr. Incredible is a former superhero who was forced to retire and is now in insurance, but misses his old life. (ES) Rated PG





Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events -- At once bleak, sinister, comic and, above all, weirdly beautiful, imaginary author Lemony Snicket's tale of three resourceful orphans pitted against their evil distant relative, Count Olaf, resonates with real peril. While the plot does sometimes get lost, the three children playing the young Baudelaires inhabit their parts with a genuine, unaffected charm. Not for younger kids. (Sheri Boggs) Rated: PG





The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou -- Wes Anderson's new film pays a visit to washed-up oceanographic filmmaker Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) as he embarks on an "Ahab-like" journey to get the shark that ate his best friend. (ES) Rated R





Meet the Fockers -- In Meet the Parents, Jack Byrnes (Robert De Niro) asks, "What sort of people name their son Gay M. Focker?" In this sequel, he finds out. In fact, the kind of people are Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand, and the Byrnes are off to meet the Fockers before their daughter marries Gay forever. 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 is the supposed final clue is on the back of the Declaration of Independence. (ES) Rated PG





Ocean's Twelve -- George Clooney, Brad Pitt and all the rest are back in a rousing follow-up to Ocean's Eleven that turns out to be a much looser romp through the now international heist scene. Told in convincing manner that they must return the $160 million they stole the first time around, they head for Europe and some bigger jobs. It's one of those rarities: a sequel better than the original. (ES) Rated PG-13





Pee-Wee's Big Adventure -- To be in your late teens/early twenties when Pee-Wee's Big Adventure was first released was to feel like you were in on a magnificent cinematic joke. Aside from the central premise -- bizarrely dressed man-child goes on cross-country search for stolen bike -- there were all the hilarious, soon-to-be in-jokes. Tim Burton's manic direction, Paul Reubens' weirdly lovable character and Danny Elfman's zippy score make Pee-Wee's Big Adventure a thing of pure joy. (Sheri Boggs) Midnight Fri. and Sat. at the Garland. Rated: PG





The Phantom Of The Opera -- The Andrew Lloyd Webber sensation gets a rousing cinematic treatment. It's hard to figure which will be more popular -- the usually bombastic, sometimes tender score, or the story of the masked man (Gerard Butler) who mentors, then falls for, the chorus girl (Emmy Rossum). Spectacular, lavish, well sung and more than a little campy. (ES) Rated PG-13





Racing Stripes -- Every animal of the Kentucky farm can talk, including a visiting pelican named Goose, and they're all smarter than the people around them. But the plot of this live-action film hinges on a young zebra (voice of Frankie Muniz) who thinks he's a racehorse, and, of course, ends up in a major race. The talking animal effects are perfect, but the script -- despite a solid message about tolerance for young viewers -- is shallow and simplistic. And there are lots of poop jokes. (ES) Rated PG





Ray -- Jamie Foxx delivers a rich performance as musical legend Ray Charles. As one would expect, the music is great and the cast is exceptional. But in the end, this is Foxx's film. 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





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. 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. (ES) Rated R





Spanglish -- Adam Sandler plays it cool and calm as a chef and restaurateur married to a New Age, politically correct, babbling loony (Tea Leoni). Their lives take an interesting turn when they hire housekeeper and single mom Flora (Paz Vega), who has sneaked over the Mexican border with her daughter (Shelbie Bruce). The film's serious center is balanced by comic surroundings, and there's a sweetness to it all. (ES) Rated PG-13





The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie -- The first 20 minutes of this movie are hilarious, but then it drags badly. 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.)





White Noise -- The spirits who communicated through hissing TV screens in Poltergeist were a lot more convincing. Then again, nothing is even of slight interest in this boring ghost movie. Michael Keaton plays the bereaved husband of a woman who now supposedly talks to him via videotapes. (ES) Rated PG-13





The Work and the Glory -- In the early 1800s, the Steed family moves to still-wild upstate New York to make a new life for themselves. Once there, they find themselves embroiled in religious controversy while the two Steed brothers vie for the attentions of a wealthy merchant's daughter. Rated: PG n





Publication date: 1/27/04

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