Originally created 02/12/99

Mini reviews



Movies without star ratings were not reviewed by Roger Ebert. Listings are subject to change. Call theaters first.

Just out

BLAST FROM THE PAST (*** PG-13)

Christopher Walken and Sissy Spacek are a California couple who think nuclear war has started in 1962, and use time locks to seal themselves into a bomb shelter for 35 years. They have a son, named Adam (Brendan Fraser), and when the locks open, he visits the surface of a world his parents haven't prepared him for. He dreams of meeting a girl "who doesn't glow in the dark," and finds Alicia Silverstone, who thinks he's weird, but then, of course, he is. A sly and observant comedy with satirical undertones even in the obligatory scenes.

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

MESSAGE IN A BOTTLE (** PG-13)

High romance most of the way, high goofiness at the end. Robin Wright Penn is a Chicago newspaper researcher who finds a message in a bottle, and traces it back to its author: Kevin Costner, a shipwright who wrote it to his great, now dead, love. When Penn meets him, it's love -- but guardedly, because he's afraid and she doesn't want to scare him. Costner's father (Paul Newman) lends moral support. The three stars are good to watch, but the movie's story is too muted.

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

MY FAVORITE MARTIAN (**, PG)

A spaceship from Mars crash-lands and is found by TV producer Jeff Daniels. The alien inside (Christopher Lloyd) moves in with Mr. Daniels, bringing along his suit, named Zoot, which has a life of its own, and some gumballs that change people into fearsome monsters. Recommended for viewers up to the low double digits in age.

Evans, Augusta Village and Aiken Mall.

SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE (****, R)

This Best Picture Oscar nominee is a rollicking backstage romp through Elizabethan London, as young Will Shakespeare (Joseph Fiennes) struggles to finish Romeo and Juliet while falling in love with a rich girl (Best Actress nominee Gwyneth Paltrow) engaged to marry a lord. Lots of stagecraft and high and low comedy, in a film that sometimes plays like a contest between Masterpiece Theater and Mel Brooks.

Masters, Evans and Augusta Village.

Sneak previews

OCTOBER SKY (PG) A youth (Jake Gyllenhaal) growing up in the coal mining hills of West Virginia in 1957 sees no future for himself until a Soviet satellite flies overhead. The world suddenly gets biggers.

Augusta Village, Sunday only, 5:30 p.m..

Ongoing

A BUG'S LIFE (***1/2 , G) Pixar, the computer animation studio that made Toy Story, returns with another great-looking feature-length cartoon. It's about an ant colony held subservient to grasshoppers until the plucky little Flik (Dave Foley) recruits some insects he thinks are mercenaries. Actually, they're refugees from a flea circus.

Evans.

A CIVIL ACTION (*** 1/2 , PG-13) John Travolta plays a lawyer whose small firm bets all of its resources on a case involving 12 children who may have died because of pollution. Best Supporting Oscar nominee Robert Duvall is the lead attorney for the defendants. A wise legal veteran, he knows better than anyone else what the likely outcome is and bases his strategy on reality, not emotion.

Evans and Aiken Mall.

DOWN IN THE DELTA (*** 1/2 , PG-13) In this directorial debut from poet Maya Angelou, Alfre Woodard stars as an aimless, unemployed Chicago woman who drinks too much and sometimes neglects her two children. She lives with her mother (Mary Alice), who issues an ultimatum: Spend the summer with the kids on the family land in Mississippi, or else.

Regency Exchange.

THE FACULTY (R) Students at Herrington High have to save the world from their evil alien teachers.

Regency Exchange.

IN DREAMS (*1/2 , R) A silly thriller, with Annette Bening as a woman whose dreams are controlled by a psychopath. Aidan Quinn plays her husband; Stephen Rea is the psychiatrist; Robert Downey Jr. is a deranged villain; and the plot tries to cram in far too much material, including a drowned village and a hostile garbage disposal.

Pal Theater.

PATCH ADAMS (* 1/2 , PG-13) This movie extracts tears individually by liposuction, without anesthesia. Robin Williams plays a troubled man whose mission in life is to care for the sick by making them laugh. Pumped up with a sense of his own uniqueness, Patch becomes a problem for his deans at medical school while inflicting himself on helpless patients.

Evans, Thomson and Aiken Mall.

PAYBACK (***, R) Mobsters owe Mel Gibson $70,000, and that's what he wants -- no more, no less. His obsession for collecting the money fuels a blood-soaked plot with a whimsical undertone and lots of surprise twists, double-crosses and booby traps.

Masters, Evans, Augusta Village and Regency Exchange.

THE PRINCE OF EGYPT (*** 1/2 , PG) An epic of animation, telling the story of Moses from the day he is plucked from the Nile until he brings the Ten Commandments down from the mountain.

Regency Exchange, Evans and Mark Twin.

SAVING PRIVATE RYAN (****, R) Steven Spielberg's Best Picture Oscar nominee is a World War II epic that stars Tom Hanks (Best Actor nominee) as an officer assigned to lead a group of men into battle and find Private Ryan (Matt Damon), whose three brothers have already died in the war. The Army brass wants Ryan brought home to his mother as a publicity gesture. But Mr. Hanks and his men take a more realistic view of the war and of their duty, in a philosophical film about war that is told almost entirely in terms of action, not words.

Masters.

SHE'S ALL THAT (** 1/2 , PG-13) When the most popular kid in high school (Freddie Prinze Jr.) is thrown over by his sexpot girlfriend (Jodi Lyn O'Keefe), he makes a bet with his buddies that he can take the class dork (Rachael Leigh Cook) and transform her into the prom queen.

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

SIMPLY IRRESISTIBLE (PG-13) Sarah Michelle Gellar portrays a Manhattan chef who discovers her ability to concoct mystical recipes. She uses her powers to snare a high-powered executive (Sean Patrick Flanery), who finds her irresistible until he becomes suspicious of her culinary chicanery.

Evans.

STEPMOM (**, PG-13) Fashion photographer Julia Roberts is dating businessman Ed Harris and thinks it's time to be trusted with his two kids. But Mr. Harris' ex-wife, Susan Sarandon, is fiercely possessive and encourages the kids to dislike the new woman.

Evans, Regency Exchange and Aiken Mall.

VARSITY BLUES (**, R) Not your average sports movie. In a football-obsessed Texas town, a second-string quarterback (James Van Der Beek from Dawson's Creek) would rather win an academic scholarship than be a hero jock. His coach (Jon Voight) is a fanatic about winning and pushes his team to the limit. Director Brian Robbins steers around some sports cliches and adds some quirky satire. The movie has some good scenes, but they don't add up as well as they might.

Augusta Village, Evans, Aiken Mall and Masters.

YOU'VE GOT MAIL (***, PG) Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan star as two people who fall in love via anonymous e-mail while not realizing they know each other in real life. Worse, Mr. Hanks' giant megastore is running Ms. Ryan's little children's bookstore out of business. Think of the irony as she turns to her e-mail friend for advice and consolation.

Evans and Aiken Mall.

Budget theaters

ENEMY OF THE STATE (***, R) Will Smith (Independence Day) stars as a Washington lawyer who unwittingly comes into possession of dangerous evidence.

Columbia Square.

I STILL KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER (*, R) Jennifer Love Hewitt stars as a survivor of massacres by a slasher who dresses like the Gorton's Fisherman and impales his victims on a fishhook.

Mark Twin.

MIGHTY JOE YOUNG (***, PG) An energetic, robust adventure tale: not too cynical, violent or fragmented for kids, not too tame for adults. It's about a very big gorilla that just wants to be left in peace; a woman (Charlize Theron) who treasures the gorilla; and a zoologist (Bill Paxton) who loves the woman.

Columbia Square.

THE RUGRATS MOVIE (**, G) The popular Nickelodeon series inspired this feature-length animated comedy about Tommy Pickles and his family and friends. There's a lively sound track by such artists as Busta Rhymes, the B-52s and Lou Rawls.

Columbia Square.

THE WATERBOY (*, PG-13)-- Adam Sandler stars as a gratingly obnoxious simpleton from the Louisiana bayous who, at 31, is fired after 18 years as waterboy for a championship football team and talks his way into a job on a losing team coached by Henry Winkler.

Mark Twin and Columbia Square.

Theaters

Aiken Mall,

300 Eastgate Drive, 641-0000.

Augusta Village,

1323 Augusta West Parkway, 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.

Cinema Triple,

128 Laurens St. N.W., Aiken, (803) 649-6257.

Pal Theatre,

134 W. Broad St., Louisville, Ga., (912) 625-9998.

Thomson Twin Cinema,

Main Street, 595-7317.