Outtakes

Ali (R) Sitting through all two-and-a-half hours of director Michael Mann's Ali is a lot like being locked in a small room with a feisty 8-year-old with Attention Deficit Disorder. Between the jittery, distracted style-gymnastics and a story line that flits willy-nilly from one event to another, Ali gives us a scattershot picture, at best, of this iconic figure. Will Smith is passable as Ali, but fails to bring the considerable grandeur, gravity and, frankly, raw charisma that this role demands. Also stars Jamie Foxx, Jon Voight and Mario Van Peebles.

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 takes so many curious detours, in fact, that it's difficult to describe without giving too much away. Suffice it to say that it's nice to see the director-formerly-known-as-Opie flexing his filmmaking muscles with something this interesting. 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. And did we mention Russell Crowe's performance? Also stars Jennifer Connelly.

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.

Behind Enemy Lines (R) This film was completed before 9-11, so instead of jihad-crazy Muslims, the nasty bad guys here are the murderous Serbs who shoot down bored Yankee fly-boy Owen Wilson during a routine reconnaissance mission over Bosnia. Wilson then spends the entire movie on the run from his vicious pursuers while his NATO superiors bicker over the delicate particulars of his rescue. The movie has all the depth of a Little Lulu comic, but director John Moore shoots the action in such a blatantly visceral, hyper-kinetic manner that we just can't look away.

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. Opens Feb. 8 at local theaters.
(Not Reviewed)

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. The movie's just kinky enough to keep us on our toes, and Kidman is marvelously expressive, especially considering she's either silent or speaking Russian for the entire first hour of the movie. The writing style is just a touch too glib and stage-bound to be completely effective as cinema (writer-director Jez Butterworth's roots are deep in the theatre, after all), but Birthday Girl is charming without being sappy, with more than its fair share of pleasant surprises. Also stars Vincent Cassel and Mathieu Kassovitz.

Black Hawk Down (R) 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. For most of the movie's running time, there is only noise, speed, fire, confusion and grimy bodies being blown apart. It's horrible and ugly and utterly undignified, and probably uncomfortably close to what it actually feels like being in the middle of a down-and-dirty shooting war in today's treacherous and tragically hostile world. 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. Some of the special effects are a bit cheesy and the movie's overall shape ultimately feels a bit ungainly, but Brotherhood is generally very entertaining. Also stars Vincent Cassel, Emilie Dequenne, Monica Bellucci and Jeremie Renier.

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