Movies are listed with theater location for today through Thursday. Call theaters for times.
LOVE JONES (***, R) A love story set in the world of Chicago's middle-class black artists and professionals. Larenz Tate and Nia Long star as a writer and photographer who meet at a poetry slam, fall in love, and then weather a rocky relationship where romance competes with misunderstanding. Sensuous, sexy and smart, it's a movie that doesn't go from A to B to a happy ending but shows how tricky and scary "commitment" can be. The actors have real charisma; embodying qualities we associate with Whitney Houston and Denzel Washington, they're fresh, have a sense of humor and are almost implausibly good-looking. Written and directed by Theodore Witcher.
Regency and Augusta Village.
RETURN OF THE JEDI (****, PG) Restored and refurbished, the third in the Star Wars trilogy is the least of the three films, although still stuffed with marvelous sights: Jabba's throne room and the fearsome dungeon beneath, the voracious desert monster, the hover-scooter chase on the forest moon. The story comes full circle with revelations about Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, and loose ends are tidied up. At the end of the trilogy, we've taken an epic fantasy journey.
Evans, Masters, Augusta Village and Aiken Mall.
THE ENGLISH PATIENT (****, R) A badly burned man (Ralph Fiennes) lies dying in a ruined Italian monastery, tended by a nurse (Juliette Binoche), as fragments of memory gradually rebuild the story of how he got there and what he left behind. Nominated for multiple Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actress for Kristin Scott Thomas, Best Actor (Mr. Fiennes), Best Director (Anthony Minghella), Best Supporting Actress (Ms. Binoche), Best Screenplay, Art Direction, Cinematography, Original Score, Costume and Film Editing.
JERRY MAGUIRE (***, R)Tom Cruise is a sports agent who loses his job, his fiancee and all clients but one (Cuba Gooding Jr.). But a lowly accountant (Renee Zellweger) believes in him and steals the show as a lovable young woman who inspires the weary road warrior to trust in his ethics. Oscar nominations for Best Picture, Best Actor (Tom Cruise), Best Supporting Actor (Cuba Gooding Jr.), Best Screenplay (Cameron Crowe) and Film Editing.
SHINE (***, PG-13) This Oscar nominee for Best Picture is the true story - compelling and mostly devoid of manipulation - of David Helfgott, the Australian pianist who went from child prodigy to the depths of mental despair. Geoffrey Rush stars, benefiting immensely from the performances of the two actors who play David as a boy and teen; the seamlessness among the three is remarkable.
SLING BLADE (R) Billy Bob Thornton's alternately tender and frightening parable of good and evil is a splendid example of poetic and imaginative Southern storytelling. Mr. Thornton also stars as a mildly retarded man who returns to his hometown after 25 years in a mental institution. With Dwight Yoakam, Lucas Black, Natalie Canerday and John Ritter. Mr. Thornton earned nominations as Best Actor and for Best Screenplay.
ABSOLUTE POWER (***, R) Clint Eastwood directs and stars in a superior thriller about a cat burglar who accidentally witnesses a murder involving the president of the United States (Gene Hackman). While cop Ed Harris doggedly pursues inconsistencies and White House chief of staff Judy Davis runs the cover-up with Secret Servicemen Scott Glenn and Dennis Haysbert, Mr. Eastwood goes into hiding.
Masters, Evans and Augusta Village.
BOOTY CALL (***, R) An unabashedly raunchy sex comedy, filmed with infectious cheerfulness and slapstick vulgarity. Two couples go on a double date that leads to an evening that might easily be retitled "Animal House Grosses Out."
Regency, Masters, Augusta Village and Aiken Mall.
DANGEROUS GROUND (R) Sometime rapper, sometime actor Ice Cube is cast as a one-time member of the South African resistance who left his homeland for Los Angeles at age 12. Returning on the occasion of his father's funeral, he ends up trying to rescue his crack-addicted brother from drug lords. With Elizabeth Hurley and Eric Miyeni.
DANTE'S PEAK (PG-13) Pierce Brosnan and Linda Hamilton star in a new movie that displays all the elements of the classic Hollywood disaster flick, circa 1975 Irwin Allen. The last 15 minutes are truly impressive, with fire and ash raining down all around as a wall of smoky debris bears down on the escaping protagonists. But who cares? They don't call it a disaster movie for nothing.
Evans, Augusta Village and Mark Twin.
DONNIE BRASCO (***, R) Johnny Depp plays an FBI undercover agent who infiltrates the mob through the friendship and trust of a hood played by Al Pacino. The older guy likes his young protege and hungers for someone to mentor. Then, gradually, Mr. Depp begins to like Mr. Pacino; is he drifting out of the FBI and into the world he inhabits?
Evans and Augusta Village.
THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK (****, PG) The best of the Star Wars trilogy, with special effects not hampered by a small budget. Amazing sights: the lumbering, elephant-like Imperial Walkers; the Cloud City; Yoda, the wise little creature who tutors Luke in the ways of the Jedi and the power of the Force. This is the darkest and most mysterious of the trilogy, the part where Darth Vader reveals his startling secret and where Luke begins to become worthy of the name Jedi.
Evans, Augusta Village, Regency and Masters.
FOOLS RUSH IN (***, PG-13) A formula comedy about opposites who attract, but with a fresh humor and many small touches of truth to redeem it. Matthew Perry is a WASP nightclub designer; Salma Hayek is a Mexican-American casino camera girl in Las Vegas; and it's love at first sight and then a series of comic misunderstandings.
JUNGLE 2 JUNGLE (*, PG) The plot of Jungle 2 Jungle, has been removed from a French film called Little Indian, Big City. The operation was a failure, and the patient dies. Tim Allen stars as a broker who learns that he has a 13-year-old son, raised by his estranged wife (JoBeth Williams) in the Amazon. He brings the kid back to New York, where the "fish out of water" plot wheezes along without inspiration.
Evans, Masters and Augusta Village.
MARVIN'S ROOM (***, PG) Diane Keaton plays a woman who has devoted her life to caring for a sick father, only to grow ill. Perhaps a marrow transplant can save her; that would mean a reunion after 20 years with her estranged sister (Meryl Streep) and her sister's sons (Leonardo DiCaprio and Hal Scardino). Ms. Streep takes her family for a visit that is fraught with emotion, confession and a rich vein of humor.
NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VEGAS VACATION (PG) The Griswalds try to make funny in Vegas.
Evans, Augusta Village and Aiken Mall.
PRIVATE PARTS (***, R) Radio's bad boy, Howard Stern, walks the finest of lines between enough and too much. Beginning as a geek with a bad radio voice, he finds his formula ("I have to talk about myself") and shocks some listeners while winning millions more. The underlying tone of the movie is surprisingly sweet, showing Mr. Stern as a family man devoted to his wife (Mary McCormack). Mr. Stern and sidekick Robin Quivers are convincing and engaging playing themselves.
Regency, Evans, Masters and Augusta Village.
ROSEWOOD (***, R) Based on the true story of a race riot by whites against blacks in 1922 in a small Florida town. Ving Rhames stars as the mysterious stranger who helps lead the defense; Jon Voight is the well-meaning but clueless local white grocer; and Michael Rooker is the sheriff who knows the lynch mob is misguided but is paralyzed by indecision and racism. Well directed by John Singleton (Boyz N the Hood).
Regency, Augusta Village and Aiken Mall.
SCREAM (***, R) A self-aware horror movie, in which the characters are teen-age horror-film fans. When a slasher attacks, they know what to do - they think. With Neve Campbell as the heroine, Courteney Cox as a TV reporter, Drew Barrymore as a victim and Henry Winkler as the high school principal. Perhaps too gruesome for some, but horror fans will understand the special effects and appreciate the in-jokes.
STAR WARS (****, PG) George Lucas has not only restored his 1977 classic but refurbished some of the special effects, using more modern techniques, and added some scenes, including a waddle-on by Jabba the Hut. The movie remains sensational entertainment, a marriage of a strong story with an active imagination. A masterpiece then, a masterpiece now.
Evans, Regency and Aiken Mall.
THAT DARN CAT (PG) It's by and large an inane reworking of Disney's beloved 1965 release, but Christina Ricci, as a 16-year-old bored with her small-town existence, and Bess Armstrong, as her amusingly prissy and obtuse mother, make good impressions. With Doug E. Doug.
Evans, Augusta Village and Aiken Mall.
THE EVENING STAR (*, PG-13) An unnecessary sequel to Terms of Endearment (1983), continuing the saga of Aurora Greenway (Shirley MacLaine), who lost her daughter (Debra Winger) in the earlier movie, and this time has to deal, in one way or another, with three more deaths.
JACKIE CHAN'S FIRST STRIKE (***, PG-13) The Hong Kong superstar is featured in a surrealistic plot as he chases nuclear warhead thieves from the Ukraine to Australia. This may be the only movie ever made to feature both ski chases and shark fights.
ONE FINE DAY (**, PG) Michelle Pfeiffer and George Clooney are divorced parents, unexpectedly saddled with child care for the day, who drag their kids along to their jobs and whose paths keep crossing - as they fall in love. A tired formula story, but the stars are appealing.
THE PREACHER'S WIFE (***, PG) Sweet, good-hearted story about an inner-city pastor (Courtney B. Vance) and his wife (Whitney Houston), whose lives are changed when an angel (Denzel Washington) answers their prayers. Good songs from Ms. Houston and a warm story, but the villain (Gregory Hines) isn't bad enough to generate suspense.
Columbia Square and Mark Twin.
RANSOM (***, R) Mel Gibson stars as an airline owner whose young son is kidnapped by a gang led by crooked cop Gary Sinise. Director Ron Howard reveals the identity of the kidnappers at the beginning because the heart of the movie is a cat-and-mouse game between Mr. Gibson and Mr. Sinise.
SPACE JAM (***, PG) Michael Jordan co-stars with Bugs, Daffy, Elmer and the rest of the Looney Tunes gang in a high-energy combination of live action and state-of-the art animation. After the Tunes are kidnapped by aliens, Mr. Jordan agrees to help them in a high-stakes basketball game.
Aiken Mall, 300 Eastgate Drive, 641-0000.
Augusta Village, Bobby Jones Expressway at Wrightsboro Road, 860-4990.
Columbia Square Cinemas, 4020 Washington Road, 863-3366.
Evans 12 Cinemas, Belair Road at Washington Road, 869-1269.
Masters 7 Cinemas, 2824 Washington Road, 736-4444.
Regency Exchange 8, 2870 Regency Blvd., 790-7460.
Mark Twin Cinemas, 124 Newberry St. S.W., Aiken, (803) 641-4758.