by Inlander Staff
Along Came Polly -- Ben Stiller recreates the kind of role he does best -- anxious would-be suitor a la There's Something About Mary and Meet the Parents -- in this romantic comedy. Stiller plays a guy who researches germs and risks for a living; Jennifer Aniston plays his love interest, a girl from his past who walks a blind ferret, wears no discernible undergarments and encourages him to eat bowel-disrupting foods. Rated: PG-13

*** The Cooler -- Imagine yourself not only an unlucky schmo, but one who can pass your bad luck on to others: call it schmojo. Wayne Kramer's dark, sometimes brittle first feature is a dark little fantasy about a professional "cooler" -- someone hired by a casino to break winning streaks by sitting down at the right table at the wrong time. William H. Macy gets his best role since Fargo as the deep-in-debt loser who may become a successful failure. Alec Baldwin has a role as a pit boss that reminds you of why he was considered such a terrific actor several rants and many pounds ago. But Macy and Maria Bello, as a showgirl wannabe, have the breakout scene: a tender, intimate sex scene. (RP) Rated: R

*** Torque -- Linear but loony, this 81-minute cavalcade of self-mocking attitude, fast cuts and motorcycle chase mayhem is the flash and the spurious, all the color of candy and fireworks: it's modern moviemaking as a Red Bull and Milk Dud headrush. Biker Cary Ford (Martin Henderson) skips town and hides out in Thailand; six months later he returns to reconnect with the girlfriend he left behind (Monet Mazur) but also to straighten out some misunderstanding he's caused between two biker gangs. But the plot's immaterial -- just an excuse to make pictures and blow stuff up. Everybody's pretty, the men perhaps even more so than the women. (RP)

*** 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

Pieces of April -- While the rest of the country got to see this Thanksgiving-themed comedy in November, Spokane audiences can now enjoy it in... January. But no matter. Katie Holmes plays a free spirit living on New York's Lower East Side who decides to invite her straight-laced Pennsylvania family for Thanksgiving dinner. Ovens malfunction, relatives bitch and neighbors are effortlessly odd in this lively farce. Rated: PG-13 Playing at the Met Jan. 21-23

Teacher's Pet -- In an obvious paean to literacy, Disney's latest effort involves a dog (voiced by Nathan Lane) who teaches himself to read and -- eager for more education than obedience school might provide -- starts attending class at his young master's elementary school. Rated: PG

**** Don't Miss It *** Worth $8 ** Wait For The Video * Save Your Money

& lt;i & Capsule reviews are written by Ed Symkus (ES) and Ray Pride (RP), unless otherwise noted. & lt;/i &

Follow these links for movie times and tickets at & lt;a href= " & amp;house_id=6584 & amp;.submit=Search " target= "_blank " & & lt;font size= "2 " & AMC & lt;/font & & lt;/a & & r & and & lt;a href= " & amp;txtCityZip=99202 " target= "_blank " & & lt;font size= "2 " & Regal & lt;/font & & lt;/a & & r & .

Publication date: 1/15/04

Thursday Night Live (TNL) @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Third Thursday of every month. Continues through Sept. 16
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