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Opening Films 

by Inlander Staff

The Aviator -- Scorsese, DiCaprio, Hughes -- as in Howard -- are director, star and subject of this splendid mainstream look at three busy decades in the life of the industrialist, filmmaker and airplane nut. John Logan's script focuses on some of Hughes' quirks, and goes as far into his later lunacy as an episode of his collecting his urine in bottles, but gives plenty of leeway for DiCaprio to show his acting chops and develop his character. The power-packed cast includes Cate Blanchett as Katharine Hepburn, Kate Beckinsale as Ava Gardner, Alan Alda as a nasty senator, and lots of cameos, from Jude Law, Alec Baldwin, Ian Holm, Willem Dafoe and Brent Spiner. (ES) Rated PG-13

Darkness -- This was reportedly supposed to go straight to video, but Darkness, a creepy little film about a family whose new house is already, uh, inhabited, got the gift of last-minute nationwide release. Stars Lena Olin, Anna Paquin and Iain Glen. Rated: PG-13

Fat Albert -- "Hey, hey, ho. Say it ain't so." Sorry Albert, but it is. Bill Cosby, who created and did all the voices in the beloved 1970s animated TV series Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids, is largely responsible for Hollywood's latest assault on our beloved childhood memories. Here the big guy and his goofy friends literally step out of the animated past and into the live action present. No Junkyard Band. This time, Albert raps. Rated: PG-13

Kinsey -- Liam Neeson has the title role in this examination of the formative years and the specialized career of the researcher who checked out the sex lives of Americans in the 1950s. Besides working himself to the bone in collecting data, data and more data, Kinsey, according to the script, along with his wife (Laura Linney) and associates, also did a little, you know, experimenting -- some early free love. But the film doesn't try to be titillating, it's just telling a story, and the story, despite good acting, turns out to be kind of mundane. (ES) Rated R

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. Most of the film is set at sea, with strange and strained relationships between Anderson's regular company: Murray, Owen Wilson (who may or may not be Zissou's long-lost son), and Anjelica Houston (as Zissou's ex), here joined by Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum, Bud Cort (!) and the seemingly ubiquitous Cate Blanchett. It's a funny and offbeat film about some sad souls. Listen for a batch of David Bowie songs in Portuguese. (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. We're betting they meet and that De Niro investigates the Fockers, with wackiness ensuing. Rated: PG-13

The Phantom Of The Opera -- The Andrew Lloyd Webber stage sensation gets a rousing cinematic treatment by Batman series veteran director Joel Schumacher, who gives the film even more pizzazz than the play. 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 lives in the catacombs and mentors, then falls for, the chorus girl (Emmy Rossum) who's picked to become a star. Spectacular, lavish, well sung and more than a little campy. (ES) Rated PG-13

Publication date: 12/23/04

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