Crash -- This film strongly suggests that everyone in post-9/11 Los Angeles is angry, and that most of the population is pretty darn racist. Matt Dillon is a bad cop who doesn't realize it; Sandra Bullock is a horrible, wealthy shrew of a woman; Ludacris (in the film's best performance, in a film filled with great performances) is a carjacker. Lots of different stories take place in the rich and poor sections, in homes and on the streets. This is wrenching drama, real adult entertainment, constantly building in tension, with powerful payoffs. It's terrifically co-written and directed by Paul Haggis, who wrote Million Dollar Baby. (ES) Rated: R
Evil Dead 2 -- The second in director Sam Rami's Dead Trilogy is essentially a higher-budget, slightly flashier retelling of the first, again focusing on a group of goofy teenagers who plan to spend the weekend in a dilapidated backwoods cabin only to have malevolent, unseen spirits in the woods come alive to possess them one by one -- leaving the distraught antihero Ash (Bruce Campbell) to fend off his drooling, gore-oozing former friends as best he can. What makes the film far better than most of its ilk is Raimi's highly idiosyncratic visual style (characterized by intriguing angles, perspectives and fluid camera movements), his whiplash pacing and his liberal use of humor to break the tension and dread. (Mike Corrigan) Rated: R (Playing at midnight on Friday and Saturday nights at the Garland)
Fighter Pilot -- What audience does IMAX have in mind for Fighter Pilot: Operation Red Flag? As we follow Capt. John Stratton, an F-15 Eagle pilot, battling 125 pilots from six nations in the world's largest air war games, the realization settles in that Fighter Pilot works neither as you-are-there documentary, Air Force recruiting film or Top Gun razzle-dazzle. The preparations for and remote monitoring of the fly boys' loop-de-loops are more engaging than the war games themselves -- and that ain't good. (Michael Bowen) Not Rated.
Grand Canyon -- Seen by more than 220 million people and a designated "first stop" at the National Geographic Grand Canyon Visitor's Center, Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets is an IMAX classic. Segments include a wild whitewater rafting trip, a flight over -- and into -- the canyon's crimson and yellow striated depths and a closer look at Lake Powell. History gets its share here, too, as Grand Canyon examines the earliest native cultures of the area as well as the first European explorers to find it. Not Rated.
Hitch -- Breezy romantic comedy gets a big boost here with winning portrayals by Will Smith as the title character, a "date coach" for unsure men trying to win the women of their dreams, and by Kevin James (The King of Queens) as one of those men, who is shooting for the sky with a beautiful heiress (Amber Valletta). But the coach, himself, isn't having much luck with the ladies, and when his eyes pop over workaholic gossip columnist Eva Mendes, things get complicated. We all know how this is going to end. But getting there involves witty, sometimes slapstick fun. (ES) Rated PG-13
Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy -- Douglas Adams' popular novel comes to filmic life as Earthling Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) hitches a ride into outer space with his furtively alien pal Ford Prefect (Mos Def) when Earth is detonated to make way for a hyperspace bypass. Wacky aliens prevail as Arthur and Ford hitch their way onto a stolen spacecraft with a bi-polar (two-headed) President of the Galaxy, Zaphod Beeblebrox (Sam Rockwell) and Beeblebrox's cherished postmodern American assistant Trillian (Zooey Deschanel). It all unspools like an effortless compilation of humor from Monty Python, Men in Black, Mars Attacks and Brazil. It's a skeptical satire that fits slapstick physical humor with a biting sense of the importance of creative thought. (Cole Smithey) Rated PG-13,
House of Wax -- Wax is scary. You can't let it reach a boil and it's a bitch to get out of shag carpeting. What's even scarier is people made out of wax (sorry, Madame Tussaud). A hapless crew of college kids (including Elisha Cuthbert and Paris Hilton) has a weird nighttime incident with a voyeuristic trucker. Then, the next day, they wander into a town that surprisingly has no people but one awesome wax museum. You can see where the rest of this is going. Also, Paris Hilton apparently performs some sort of striptease. We'd expect nothing less. Rated: R
The Interpreter -- Nicole Kidman is a UN interpreter who overhears a plot to assassinate a bad guy African leader. Sean Penn is the FBI agent who checks her out, isn't sure if she's telling the truth and eventually must protect her. The biggest problems with the film are that it's dragged out to near-boredom territory, and there seems to be some sort of emotional wall between the two lead actors that neither one can climb over. (ES) Rated PG-13
Kicking & amp; Screaming -- Will Ferrell, Robert Duvall and Mike Ditka appear together in a film that sings the praises of kids' soccer and caffeine addiction. Ferrell mucks about in his trademark clueless schmo routine, Duvall is the tough-as-nails old codger, and Ditka is Ditka, which makes Kicking & amp; Screaming roughly as entertaining as watching your neighbor's kid's soccer game -- not because you want to, but because you have to. Feh. (Marc Savlov) Rated: PG
Kingdom of Heaven -- Ridley Scott's newest epic is not a bad film -- it has scope and visual splendor and good acting and a compelling story. But neither is it very good, due to too many weak spots. The part about the young Balian (Orlando Bloom) rising so quickly from blacksmith to warrior is a stretch; the reasoning behind the Christians-versus-Muslims battle for Jerusalem circa 1200 is muddled; there isn't a lick of soul in the performance by Eva Green as the love interest; and the vultures hovering above a field of dead bodies are awfully reminiscent of the winged monkeys in The Wizard of Oz. (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. Narrator Jeff Bridges does pretty much all the speaking, while actors play out the scenes. And those scenes are played out in breathtakingly beautiful settings. Unrated
Monster-in-Law -- The only reason this doesn't get a "turkey" is because of Jane Fonda's truly funny performance as the title character. She disapproves of her surgeon son (Michael Vartan) falling for his multi-careered new girlfriend (Jennifer Lopez), and she will go to any devious lengths to split them up. That's where the funny stuff comes in. But Fonda acts insanely large circles around ever-smiling Lopez (a very limited actress), and Vartan is stuck with a badly written part that makes his character look incredibly na & iuml;ve and uncaring. Bad moviemaking, filled with cliches. (ES) Rated PG-13
Mystery of the Nile -- The cinematography is gorgeous, but this isn't one of IMAX's best efforts. Pasquale Scaturro and Gordon Brown are to be commended for successfully completing a previously impossible feat -- running the entire Nile River -- but the whole thing starts to feel like an episode of Survivor. Still, it's pretty to watch and carries a few IMAX moments. Not Rated
Robots -- The makers of Ice Age return with a computer-animated fable about a na & iuml;ve young robot heading for the big city to make it as an inventor, but clashing with a money-hungry industrialist. The story is clich & eacute;-ridden, the sound is headache-inducing and the script desperately wants to be hip. (ES) Rated PG
Sahara -- If the filmmakers were hoping to instill in their audience the same sensations -- blurred vision, deadening thirst and above all, fear of never escaping -- that one might experience while trapped in the desert, they've succeeded. Based on the novel by Clive Cussler, Sahara's incoherent plot includes treasure hunters, sexy doctors, West African despots, plague, quasi-European bad guys and exploding vehicles. (SB) Rated: PG-13
STAR WARS: EPISODE III: Revenge of the Sith -- George Lucas hits his stride with the final chapter. He neatly ties the six films together, ending it on the planet Tatooine, where Episode IV begins. This one may have a few plot problems and stiff performances from a couple of lead players, but it's a rip-snorting, action-packed outer space epic. This thing opens with 20 relentless minutes, presents a superb performance by Ian McDiarmid as Chancellor Palpatine, and, for you lightsaber fans, offers multiple thrilling battles with the flashy weapons. Excellent effects all the way through, with a mostly solid story. (ES) Rated PG-13
Target Earth -- An early 1950s sci-fi scream about an army of robots from Venus invading Chicago. After the city is evacuated, a small group of humans hole up in an abandoned hotel and try to figure out what to do next. Eventually the invaders' Achilles heel is discovered and they are defeated. The ultra cheap production budget of Target Earth allowed for the construction of only one robot costume, which is why you never see any more than one member of the fearsome robot army at a time. (Mike Corrigan) Playing at Center Stage on Saturday, May 28, at 11 pm.
Unleashed -- Luc Besson disciple Louis Leterrier's debut feature is something of a wild card, a tale of a feral wild child Danny (Jet Li) who has been raised by murderous Scottish mobster Bart (Hoskins) to act as his semi-human enforcer. Out on his own, Danny is taken in by blind piano tuner Sam (Morgan Freeman) and his daughter Victoria (Kerry Condon), who recognize the innate decency behind Danny's scarred and savage facade. Unleashed comes equipped with a bold (if sometimes cloyingly sentimental) script, courtesy of Besson, and fight choreographer Yuen Woo-ping spares no expense when it comes to utilizing Li's impressive physicality as his weapon of choice. It's Li's first major Western role of any depth, and he acquits himself admirably as both mad dog and melancholy master. (Marc Savlov) Rated: R
Publication date: 05/26/05