Amelie (NR) Plucky, quintessentially quirky Amelie (saucer-eyed Audrey Tautou) spends her time choreographing good deeds and love connections for her neighbors and, eventually, herself. Amelie, which is as much a fairy tale as it is a cartoon, brims with imagination and emotion.
A Beautiful Mind (PG-13) A Russell Crowe performance that has Oscar written all over it is the main reason to see this atypically twisty Ron Howard production about an emotionally fragile genius whose life spins out of control in all sorts of unexpected ways. The movie's later sections feel a little too close for comfort to a disease-of-the-week movie, and the whole thing could be shortened by at least 20 minutes, but A Beautiful Mind is still rarely less than engaging.
Beauty and the Beast (G) The modern Disney classic is alive with great scenes, songs and characters, and features a script by turns clever and emotionally resonant, and stripped down the essence of its timeless tale. Playing at IMAX Dome Theater and at Channelside Cinemas IMAX. Call theaters to confirm.
Big Fat Liar (PG) Malcolm in the Middle's Frankie Muniz stars as an irate kid who tracks down the bigshot Hollywood producer who stole his class paper and turned into a hit movie. Also stars Paul Giamatti and Amanda Bynes.
Birthday Girl (R) The less one knows about Birthday Girl the more one is probably apt to enjoy it, so don't expect a full plot run-down here. Suffice to say that the movie starts out being about the oddly touching romance between a bashful British bank clerk (Ben Chaplin) and his Russian mail order bride (Nicole Kidman), and then transforms into something quite different and, in its way, exciting.
Black Hawk Down (R) Black Hawk Down takes the opening sequence of Saving Private Ryan and basically extends it into a 143-minute movie, prolonging and amplifying the graphic intensity into a rush of sheer adrenaline and consummately crafted chaos. Black Hawk Down is basically just a breathless account of the last hours of a small group of American soldiers trapped deep within enemy territory in Somalia and brutally besieged by hordes of unseen enemies hell-bent on making them bleed. The movie's agenda is a purely visceral one, putting us squarely into the fray, and Scott films it all in a pumped-up but gritty, claustrophobic manner that seems to suck all the air out of the room. Stars Josh Hartnett, Eric Bana, Ewan McGregor, Tom Sizemore and Sam Shephard.
Brotherhood of the Wolf (R) Imagine a vintage '60s Hammer horror flick starring Peter Cushing, albeit a buffed-up, ass-kicking Cushing trading moves with Bruce Lee (or even Jet Li), and with production credits shared by Merchant-Ivory and John Woo. That's The Brotherhood of the Wolf, a big-budget French import constructed from elements that will appeal to art film buffs and popcorn movie fans alike, although for completely different reasons. Taking as its source a famous French legend, Brotherhood takes place circa 1765 in rural area in France being terrorized by what is said to be a monstrous, wolf-like creature. Hot on the beast's trail are the naturalist Gregoire de Fronsac (Samuel Le Bihan, sporting a tres unfortunate David Lee Roth coiffure) and his Iroquois blood brother Mani (Mark Dacascos of Crying Freeman fame) — both of whom just happen to be world-class kung-fu experts.
Collateral Damage (R) Arnold Scharzenegger single-handedly takes on the international network of terror in this murky and not terribly exciting action vehicle. Schwarzenegger basically assumes Charles Bronson's Death Wish role, making for a sort of Arnold vs. mock-Osama mano a mano, as our hero goes to the ends of the earth (well, Colombia) tracking down the terrorist who snuffed his wife and kid.
The Count of Monte Cristo (PG-13) Director Kevin Reynold's big screen adaptation of Alexandre Dumas' classic plays even more like a Cliffs Notes version than we might have imagined, although that doesn't necessarily make the film unwatchable. The movie looks good, the action scenes are fairly well choreographed and some of the performances are worth a look. Jim Caviezel, in the title role, starts off typically wispy and whiny and grows believably more confident as the story unfolds, while Guy Pearce makes one of the most memorable screen villains since Tim Roth in Rob Roy or Gary Oldman in almost anything (he's as malevolently regal as Brian Jones in his dark prime.
Crossroads (PG-13) Pop star Britney Spears stars as young woman taking a cross-country trip with her two best pals from childhood. Also stars Zoe Saldana and Taryn Manning. Opens Feb. 15 at local theaters.
Gosford Park (PG-13) Just a few years shy of his eighth decade of life, Robert Altman has ventured into virgin territory once more in Gosford Park, although the results lack the fire and sheer imagination of Altman's best works. Gosford Park is Altman's spin on one of those English dramas where a bunch of well-heeled types congregate at someone's swanky country estate for the weekend and, eventually, someone gets murdered. Stars Emily Watson, Ryan Phillippe, Helen Mirren, Maggie Smith, Jeremy Northam and Alan Bates.