Originally created 04/10/98

Mini reviews



Movies are listed with theater location for today through Thursday. For an online guide to movies in the Aiken-Augusta area, check out Movies@ugusta. The service provides movie times, locations and reviews as well as maps and door-to-door directions to theaters. There's also information about restaurants, bookstores, nightclubs and other nearby businesses. See augustachronicle.com/features

Just out

BARNEY'S GREAT ADVENTURE (*** for children, parents, bring a Walkman, G)

Barney, the purple dinosaur who is a PBS phenomenon, stars in his own movie, which is frankly aimed at preschoolers and will be pretty slow going for anyone older than 7. That's OK; how many movies are there that a 3-year-old really understands?

Evans.

CITY OF ANGELS (***, PG-13)

The best of the recent Hollywood angel movies, with Nicolas Cage as an angel, solemnly regarding humanity, and Meg Ryan as a heart surgeon who, in a moment of despair, can actually see him. They fall in love. Inspired by Wim Wenders' 1988 film Wings of Desire, but broader and more obvious, with more plot and less spirituality.

Evans, Masters, Regency, Aiken Mall and Augusta Village.

MY GIANT (**, PG)

Starts promisingly, with funny stuff about a Hollywood agent (Billy Crystal) who finds himself down and out in Romania and is rescued, body and soul, by a gentle giant (NBA star Gheorghe Muresan). But then the movie turns soft-hearted and sentimental, and starts a long slog through pious banalities.

Evans, Masters, Regency, Aiken Mall and Augusta Village.

ODD COUPLE 2 (* 1/2 , PG-13)

Felix and Oscar meet up again after many years, when they discover their children are engaged to be married. They team up for a flight to Los Angeles and a drive during which they get lost, their car goes over a cliff, and they meet the usual assortment of colorful road movie characters. Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau struggle gamely with the characters they created in the 1968 movie, but the Neil Simon dialogue is mechanical and the plot is contrived and unconvincing.

Evans, Aiken Mall and Augusta Village.

PLAYER'S CLUB (***, R)

A young college student hopes to make easy money by stripping in a "gentleman's club" and finds herself drawn into a harrowing mix of crime, sex and danger. Written and directed by the rapper Ice Cube, this is a gritty black version of Showgirls, with a convincing performance by Lisa Raye and colorful, well-written supporting characters.

Regency and Aiken Mall.

SPECIES 2 (R)

Astronaut Patrick Ross (Justin Lazard) returns home from Mars a hero and a carrier of a deadly strain of alien DNA that's trying to take over his body. The hope for humanity is Eve (Natasha Henstridge) a half-human, half-alien clone of the lethal alien from the first Species.

Evans, Masters, Regency, Aiken Mall and Augusta Village.

Ongoing

AS GOOD AS IT GETS (***, PG-13)

Jack Nicholson plays a grumpy misanthrope who insults everyone around him, including a patient waitress (Helen Hunt) and a gay neighbor (Greg Kinnear). Then he's forced to care for the neighbor's dog, and his developing affection for the mutt unlocks a capacity for tenderness.

Evans and Augusta Village.

GOOD WILL HUNTING (***, R)

Matt Damon is effective as a Boston janitor who is also a natural mathematical genius. A professor (Stellan Skarsgard) spots his talent and tries to help him. So does a counselor (Robin Williams), a Harvard student who loves him (Minnie Driver) and his old neighborhood buddy (Ben Affleck).

Evans and Mark Twin.

GREASE (***, PG)

Is being revived as 1970s nostalgia, and is worth seeing for the John Travolta performance, but this is just an average musical, pleasant and upbeat and plastic. The characters look a decade too old for high school, and there's no sense of urgency in their manufactured romantic crisis; the movie doesn't identify, but condescends.

Evans, Aiken Mall, and Augusta Village.

LOST IN SPACE (* 1/2 , PG-13)

Dim-witted shoot-'em-up based on the old TV series. It's got cheesy special effects, a muddy visual look, and characters who don't represent an original or interesting idea among them. With William Hurt and Mimi Rogers as the parents of the Robinson family, marooned in space with villain Gary Oldman, pilot Matt LeBlanc and the three Robinson kids. If this movie fell into a black hole, you wouldn't be able to tell the difference.

Augusta Village, Masters, Aiken Mall, Evans and Regency.

MERCURY RISING (**, R)

A 9-year-old autistic boy (Miko Hughes) deciphers the most sophisticated cipher system ever known. He looks at a word game in a puzzle magazine, and while the sound track emits quasi-computeristic beeping noises, he figures out the code concealed there, and calls the secret phone number, causing two geeks in a safe room to leap about in dismay. Bruce Willis plays an FBI agent who tries to protect him from less benevolent federal agents out to kill the child. Here are the two most obvious problems that sentient audiences will have with the plot. (1) Modern encryption cannot be intuitively deciphered without a key. And (2) if a 9-year-old boy can break your code, don't kill the child; kill the programmers.

Augusta Village, Masters, Evans and Regency.

PRIMARY COLORS (****, R)

The movie resonates with its parallels to the lives of Bill and Hillary Clinton, but it's a lot more than a disguised expose. It's a superb film -- funny, insightful and very wise about the realities of political life. John Travolta and Emma Thompson, as a presidential candidate and his wife, preserve a certain distant mystery; the movie sees them through the eyes of their aides, including characters played by Adrian Lester, Billy Bob Thornton and Kathy Bates -- whose dynamo "dust-buster" is an Oscar-caliber performance.

Augusta Village, Aiken Mall, Masters and Evans.

RIDE (R)

Melissa De Sousa, Malik Yoba, Cedric The Entertainer, Snoop Doggy Dog and Luther Campbell star in this hip hop comedy. The plot loosely focuses on a group of young rappers who set off for Miami to appear in a music video.

Regency Mall.

TITANIC (****, PG-13)

This 194-minute, $200 million film of the tragic voyage is in the tradition of the great Hollywood epics. It is flawlessly crafted, intelligently constructed, strongly acted and spellbinding.

Masters, Evans and Augusta Village.

U.S. MARSHALS (** 1/2 , PG-13)

Tommy Lee Jones is back in the role that won him an Oscar for The Fugitive. As Marshal Sam Gerard, he pursues another innocent man wrongly accused. Wesley Snipes is the fugitive.

Augusta Village and Aiken Mall.

WILD THINGS (***, R)

Neve Campbell solidifies her standing as the queen of slick exploitation, in a three-way collision between a soft-core sex film, a soap opera and Florida noir. After a rich kid (Denise Richards) accuses a high school teacher (Matt Dillon) of raping her, Ms. Campbell's character says she was raped, too. But is there more to the story? Kevin Bacon is the local cop, and Bill Murray is hilarious as a storefront lawyer, in a film that combines a lurid trash plot with sneaky satire.

Augusta Village and Evans.

Budget theaters

HARD RAIN (*, R)

A small town is flooded and abandoned, except for an armored car driver (Christian Slater) who tries to hide cash from a local gang (led by Morgan Freeman). Minnie Driver is the girl who becomes Mr. Slater's sidekick, and Randy Quaid is the sheriff.

Columbia Square.

MOUSE HUNT (PG)

Kind of like Home Alone 3, but with a mechanical mouse creating the mayhem.

Columbia Square and Mark Twin.

SPHERE (* 1/2 , PG-13) --

A giant spacecraft is found on the floor of the Pacific Ocean, and a team is assembled to descend and study it. The team includes psychologist Dustin Hoffman, mathematician Samuel Jackson and biologist Sharon Stone, with Peter Coyote in command of the Navy's undersea habitat.

Columbia Square.

SPICE WORLD ( 1/2 -*, PG)

The Spice Girls are easier to tell apart than the Mutant Ninja Turtles, but that is small consolation. What can you say about five women who are so detached they can't even successfully lip-sync their own songs.

Columbia Square.

WAG THE DOG (****, R)

A lashing satire that invites us to see international crises as the playthings of political need. When the president is trapped in a sex scandal, a spin doctor (Robert De Niro) hires a Hollywood producer (Dustin Hoffman) to help him concoct and market a phony war -- to draw attention away from the president's troubles and cast him in a heroic light.

Columbia Square.

THE WEDDING SINGER (*, PG-13) --

CREDIT: At least in the 1930s they knew this plot was goofy. In the dumbed-down 1990s we have to sit through the same inane material played sincerely. Adam Sandler plays a wedding singer who falls in love with a waitress (Drew Barrymore), although they're both involved with other people who are wrong for them. They avoid happiness for most of the movie, although not as successfully as we do.

Mark Twin.

Theaters

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.