Originally created 01/16/04

Movie reviews



THEATERS, RATINGS

Movies are listed with theater location through Tuesday. Reviews without star ratings are from critics other than Roger Ebert. Listings are subject to change. Call theaters for times. For an online movie guide, check out augusta.com/movies.

JUST OUT ALONG CAME POLLY (**, PG-13) Ben Stiller plays an insurance risk-assessor who takes all the wrong risks in his own life, starting with a disastrous marriage and moving on to an action-packed romance with Jennifer Aniston, who is his opposite in every way. Aiken, Augusta Exchange and Evans

HOUSE OF SAND AND FOG (****, R) A recovering alcoholic (Jennifer Connelly) has fallen behind on her taxes, and the house she inherited from her father is auctioned off to an Iranian immigrant (Ben Kingsley) struggling to rebuild the lives of his wife and son. Both have a moral claim to the house; neither can afford to let go of it. Evans and Augusta Exchange

TEACHER'S PET (PG) Disney animated fare about a dog (voiced by Nathan Lane) who has the Pinocchio dream of being a real boy. Aiken, Augusta Exchange and Evans

TORQUE (** 1/2 , PG-13) Martin Henderson stars as a biker who has been framed for the murder of rival biker Ice Cube's brother; this leads to a gang war crossed with a drug war and a police chase, in a film that is all surface, but skillfully done. Augusta Exchange, Evans and Aiken

WIN A DATE WITH TAD HAMILTON (PG-13) Preview of romantic comedy with Kate Bosworth, Topher Grace and Josh Duhamel. 7 tonight, Augusta Exchange, 7:20 tonight and 4 p.m. Sunday, Evans

ONGOING

21 GRAMS (***, R) Sean Penn, Benicio Del Toro and Naomi Watts star in three interconnected stories, told by Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu out of chronological order; sometimes we are ahead of the characters, sometimes they are ahead of us. Worth seeing, but might have been more effective in old-fashioned chronological order. Evans

BIG FISH (** 1/2 , PG-13) An old man named Edward Bloom (Albert Finney) is on his deathbed, still repeating the same fantastical legends he has told over and over and over again. His wife (Jessica Lange), who loves these stories, summons home his son (Billy Crudup), who is sick of them and would like to hear the truth for once. Directed by Tim Burton, whose usual visual and special effects mastery fail to rescue a story that is, in a sense, as blowhard as its hero. Aiken, Evans and Augusta Exchange

BROTHER BEAR (***, G) Three brothers have their destiny transformed when one is killed by a bear, another is changed into a bear and the third mistakenly targets his bear-brother for vengeance. Augusta Village, Masters

CALENDAR GIRLS (***, PG-13) A British woman's club, trying to raise money for charity, hits on the idea of having its members pose nude for a pinup calendar. It's an enormous hit, raising $1 million for the local hospital. Helen Mirren and Julie Walters co-star as the daring conspirators, in a sweet and good-hearted comedy. Augusta Exchange

CHASING LIBERTY (PG-13) Mandy Moore plays the daughter of the president. She tires of having her dates spoiled by the Secret Service and runs away in Europe with a British motorcyclist. Aiken, Evans and Augusta Exchange

CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN (***, PG) Steve Martin and Bonnie Hunt are lovable in a sweet remake of the 1950 classic, which starred Clifton Webb and Myrna Loy. Only difference: In those days, dad was a time-and-motion expert, much respected for running the family on a timetable. These days, in keeping with the general cultural devaluation of fatherhood, he is so disorganized he has to summon oldest daughter Piper Perabo back home to baby sit. Piper Perabo! Aiken, Augusta Exchange and Evans

COLD MOUNTAIN (***, R) Anthony Minghella's adaptation of the Charles Frazier best seller evokes a backwater of the Civil War with rare beauty, but establishes a torrid romantic magnetism between two big stars (Nicole Kidman and Jude Law), and then keeps them apart for almost the entire movie. Renee Zellweger leads an assortment of colorful supporting characters who save the day. Aiken, Evans and Augusta Exchange

ELF (***, PG) Will Ferrell plays an orphan who is raised as an elf in Santa's workshop and grows into a 6-foot man in a green tunic and yellow tights, wandering around New York City seeking his birth father. Augusta Village, Masters

FREAKY FRIDAY (***, PG) Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan play a mother and daughter who wake up to find themselves magically occupying each other's bodies.

IN THE CUT (** 1/2 , R) Meg Ryan plays a sexually hungry schoolteacher who meets a cop (Mark Ruffalo) investigating a murder; a severed limb was found beneath her window. As these two sexually bold characters challenge each other, the possibility grows that the cop is the killer. But Ryan's character walks in a musky daze, going so willfully into danger we grow incredulous. Strong performances, but the movie deserves more believable motivations and a less clunky solution. Augusta Village

LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION (***, PG) Daffy Duck walks out of Warner Bros. in a salary dispute, and when Bugs Bunny finds they can't make the picture without him, he and some humans (including Brendan Fraser and Jenna Elfman) chase him down to Las Vegas, where Acme tycoon Steve Martin gets involved, along with Mr. Fraser's secret agent father (Timothy Dalton) and spy weapons consultant Joan Cusack. Augusta Village

LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING (*** 1/2 , PG-13) At last the full arc is visible, and the Lord of the Rings trilogy comes into final focus. This is the best of the three, redeems the earlier meandering, and certifies the Ring trilogy as a work of bold ambition at a time of cinematic timidity. Aiken, Augusta Exchange and Evans

LOVE DON'T COST A THING (***, PG-13) Nick Cannon (Drumline) stars as a nerd who bribes the most popular girl in school (Christina Milian) to date him for two weeks, so her popularity will rub off. It works, but he turns into an egotistical showoff. Augusta Exchange and Aiken

MASTER AND COMMANDER: THE FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD (****, PG-13) An exuberant sea adventure told with uncommon intelligence, re-creating the world of the British Navy circa 1805 with detail and intensity. Russell Crowe stars as Capt. Jack Aubrey, and Paul Bettany is ship's surgeon Stephen Maturin. Augusta Exchange

MATRIX REVOLUTIONS (***, R) A giant mechanical screw is sent by the Machines to drill through the subterranean dome of Zion, the final hideout of humanity. Morpheus and Niobe race to the rescue while men don robot suits to shoot down the octopod Sentinels, and Neo visits the Oracle to demand the 411. Terrific action, but the philosophical payoff is underwhelming. Augusta Village, Masters

MONA LISA SMILE (PG-13) Julia Roberts plays an inspiring art history teacher, circa 1953, who trades in the bohemian freedom of Berkeley, Calif., for a crack at Wellesley's future corporate wives. The supporting cast is a roll call of talent: Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Ginnifer Goodwin, Juliet Stevenson, Marcia Gay Harden. Augusta Exchange and Evans

MY BABY'S DADDY (PG-13) Three babies born out of wedlock create a radical lifestyle change for their fathers (Eddie Griffin, Anthony Anderson, Michael Imperioli). Evans and Augusta Exchange

OUT OF TIME (***, PG-13) Denzel Washington plays the sheriff of a sleepy Florida backwater who is cheating with a married friend (Sanaa Lathan) when circumstances converge to make him look guilty of arson, theft and murder. Bad luck: The detective on the case is his ex-wife (Eva Mendes). Augusta Village

PAYCHECK (**, PG-13) Ben Affleck plays a computer whiz who hires out to reverse-engineer hot cyber products so they can be ripped off by his employers. Then they wipe his brain so he can't testify against them. His biggest assignment: Allcom, a megacorp run by Aaron Eckhart, wants to steal the code for an invention that can see the future. Augusta Exchange and Evans

PETER PAN (*** 1/2 , PG) Not a simple-minded kiddie fantasy, but a version that takes its story very seriously indeed, and even allows a glimpse of underlying sadness. To be Peter Pan is fun for a day or a year, but can it be fun forever? Augusta Exchange and Evans

RADIO (***, PG) Ed Harris is an Anderson, S.C., high school football coach who befriends a mentally disabled young man (Cuba Gooding Jr.) and makes him the team mascot and cheerleader. Augusta Village, Masters

SCARY MOVIE III (* 1/2 , PG-13) Some laughs in the opening titles with Jenny McCarthy and Pamela Anderson, but the movie doesn't skewer its targets so much as feed off them. It has stars such as Charlie Sheen, Anna Faris, Queen Latifah and Simon Rex (as Eminem), but few laughs. Augusta Village, Masters

SCHOOL OF ROCK (*** 1/2 , PG-13) Jack Black plays Dewey Finn, just kicked out of the band he founded, who fakes his way into a substitute teaching job and turns his class into a rock band. Augusta Village

SOMETHING'S GOTTA GIVE (*** 1/2 , PG-13) Jack Nicholson has never dated a woman older than 30. Diane Keaton thinks dating is behind her, and suddenly she finds herself being courted both by Mr. Nicholson and by a young doctor (Keanu Reeves). Aiken, Augusta Exchange, Evans and Pastime

THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (0 stars, R) A contemptible film: vile, ugly and brutal. There is not a shred of a reason to see it. Augusta Village, Masters

THE FIGHTING TEMPTATIONS (***, PG-13) Cuba Gooding Jr. gets fired from a New York ad agency just as his Aunt Sally dies in his Georgia hometown. Her will would make him rich - if he can lead the local choir into a gospel competition. Augusta Village

THE LAST SAMURAI (*** 1/2 , R) Tom Cruise plays a shabby Civil War veteran who meets a proud samurai warrior (Ken Watanabe) in a Japan moving away from its traditions. Hired as a mercenary, Mr. Cruise is captured by the warrior, who is leading a rebellion against modernism. Augusta Exchange and Evans

TIMELINE (**, PG-13) A technology corporation invents a