ALIEN (R) There's virtually nothing in this "director's cut" of Scott's sci-fi/horror classic that you won't see in the DVD version, but the movie is still a scream. It's worth the price of admission just to experience the movie on the big screen, digitally restored with a brand new, six-track stereo mix. Scott's mix of science fiction and Gothic trapped-in-a-haunted-house horror story is quarter of a century old, but still scary after all these years. Stars Sigourney Weaver, Tom Kerrit, John Hurt and Ian Holm. Opens Oct. 31 at local theaters.
BEYOND BORDERS (R) Although it spews political messages like so much projectile vomit, and spans several decades and a slew of exotic locations, Angelina Jolie's latest project feels about as much like a serious epic as one of her Lara Croft: Tomb Raider romps. Jolie stars as a socialite with a social consciousness, torn between her marriage and a brash but charismatic doctor/political activist (Clive Owen). Despite a handful of powerful (albeit seriously exploitative) moments, the movie is a terribly clumsy mix of sloganeering and soap opera, clumsily comprised of three loosely connected acts, each taking place in an international trouble spot more awful than the last. Time passes, marriages dissolve (hers), deals with the devil (his) are struck and then largely forgotten, and Jolie and Owen's love appears to be the only saving grace in a world populated by very bad people with even worse teeth. The opening sequence in famine-ridden Ethiopia (complete with digitally generated starving infants) is particularly disturbing, and Jolie, who ages nary a day over the movie's 20 year span, gets a chance to wear some really cute outfits along the way. Also stars Noah Emmerich.
BROTHER BEAR (G) There's nothing particularly bad about Disney's latest animated feature, but not much really stands out either. Joaquin Phoenix provides the voice for Kenai, a brash young warrior who learns about humility and love when he's magically transformed into a bear and forced to walk a mile in the shoes — er, paws — of the very critters he's blithely killed. The lush animation is mostly of the old-fashioned 2-D variety, the obligatory, ultra-cute talking animal sidekick is on hand (a little cub called Koda), and the moral instruction offered by the movie, while well-meaning and potentially valuable, is a bit too preachy for both tykes and their parental units. It's all several notches up from straight-to-video, but there's a blandly familiar, weirdly generic feel to the story and characters (sort of Lion King meets Pochahantas' Native American mysticism). And while it's a treat to see Rick Moranis and Dave Thomas reprising their classic Mackenzie Brothers routine in the form of a pair of hop-loving Canadian moose, even that can't compensate for Phil Collins' pompous, New Agey muzak. Also features the voices of D.B. Sweeney, Jeremy Suarez and Michael Clarke. Opens Nov. 1 at local theaters.
BUGS! (PG) Overflowing with incredible microphotography, great 3-D effects and bug's-eye views galore, Bugs! is structured as a sort of day in the life of two of the critters for which it's titled. The movie personalizes its protagonists by giving them names, so we follow a benign little caterpillar named Pipilio and a not-so benign praying mantis named Hierodula as they creep along the jungles of Borneo, doing all the things that insects do. We get amazing, ultra-up-close-and-personal 3-D footage of bugs eating, mating, hunting, avoiding danger and exploring an exotic and often dangerous landscape. It's all beautifully shot, utilizing crisp, deep focus photography that really makes the 3-D effects pop. 1/2
CASA DE LOST BABYS (R) John Sayles' ambitious new film aims its sights on six U.S. women as they bide their time at a South American hotel waiting for the chance to adopt babies from a local orphanage. The film is just as talky as you'd imagine, but most of the chatter is intriguing, touching on topics as monumental and far-flung as the clashes of culture and class, the ties that bind and break women apart, and the urge for motherhood. If there's a real problem with the movie, it's that it never quite finds a central focus, and ultimately doesn't add up to much beyond its scattered insights and a handful of fascinating character sketches. Stars Maggie Gyllenhaal, Lili Taylor, Mary Steenburgen, Marcia Gay Harden and Daryl Hannah. 1/2
COLD CREEK MANOR (R) Director Mike Figgis puts his cerebral experimentations on the back burner with this supernatural thriller about a yuppie couple who buy a country home that turns out to be possessed. The early reviews on this one are almost universally negative. Stars Dennis Quaid, Sharon Stone and Stephen Dorff. (Not Reviewed)
DIRTY PRETTY THINGS (R) One of the happiest and most unexpected surprises I caught at last year's Toronto Film Festival was this delightfully quirky thriller set within London's diverse immigrant community. In its own small, singular way, director Stephen Frears' Dirty Pretty Things has all the makings of a cult hit. The film features some great local color, an offbeat but steadily gripping plot involving black marketers and organ-selling, a star turn by lead actor Chjwetel Ejiofor, and Amelie's Audrey Tautou as an illegal immigrant from Turkey, with a moustache. Also stars Sophie Okonedo. 1/2