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· FIRST DESCENT (PG-13) From the press release: "First Descent chronicles the rebellious, inspiring and sometimes controversial rise of snowboarding." One can assume this documentary will be "extreme" -- but just how extreme will it get?
· FUN WITH DICK AND JANE (PG-13) Jim Carrey and Tea Leoni play cash-poor yuppies who resort to grand larceny to make ends meet. The 40 Year-Old Virgin's director Judd Apatow co-wrote the screenplay based on the 1977 Jane Fonda/George Segal comedy.
· GET RICH OR DIE TRYIN' 2 stars. (R) Rapper 50 Cent's starring vehicle, about a drug dealer trying to make it as a rap star, is yet one more uninspired crime pic. Yet the movie it most resembles -- coincidentally, given the proximity of the release dates -- is this past summer's Hustle & Flow (in which a pimp tried to make it as a rapper). It's fascinating to place both films side by side and see how one succeeds while the other doesn't. With its rich characterizations and pungent atmosphere, Hustle flows, while Get Rich or Die Tryin', with its frayed theatrics and stiff performance by 50 Cent, isn't worth a plugged nickel. -- Brunson
· GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK 5 stars. (PG) Every creative decision pays off in George Clooney's second film, a black-and-white homage to the "greatest generation" of broadcast journalists, whose courage in the face of enormous pressures makes the Bush administration press corps look timid by comparison. The film succeeds enormously well at getting you under the skin of Murrow's reporters and anticipating the increasing influence of entertainment on broadcast news. See it now. -- Holman
· HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE 4 stars. (PG-13) Director Mike Newell presents the grandest, scariest spectacle in the franchise so far, featuring an exciting dragon chase and the worth-the-wait appearance of Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). In bringing a novel of more than 700 pages to the screen, Newell can resemble a frantic vaudeville plate-spinner: He revs up one subplot, and the others slow down. But Goblet proves an exciting and mature chapter in a (seemingly) never-ending story. -- Holman
· THE ICE HARVEST 2 stars. (R) John Cusack's sleazy lawyer and Billy Bob Thornton's smut peddler skim $2 million from a Wichita mob boss (Randy Quaid), but bad weather, double-crosses and Christmas Eve festivities thwart a clean getaway. The slick adaptation of Scott Phillips' noir novel feels more like a vehicle for 61-year-old director Harold Ramis and his screenwriters (director Robert Benton, 73, and novelist Richard Russo, 56) to work out their macho midlife crises. For all the film's soul-searching, its misogyny and lack of big laughs put a likable cast on thin Ice. -- Holman
· IN THE MIX (PG-13) Haven't seen an usher in a cinema in a while? That changes when singer Usher plays a DJ who saves a Mafia princess and becomes her de facto bodyguard.
· JARHEAD 3 stars. (R) In Sam Mendes' adaptation of Anthony Swofford's memoir, a Marine sniper (Jake Gyllenhaal) flirts with madness as he awaits combat in the Gulf War. Jarhead presents snappy bits of barracks humor and some haunting images (Kuwait's burning oil fields look like hell itself), but inevitably feels anticlimactic: The "jarheads" suffer a kind of existential dilemma as they long to kill but never see combat. Admirably sympathetic to the pressures brought upon the modern military, Jarhead still proves disappointingly evasive in its lack of opinion on the current Iraq War. -- Holman
· JUST FRIENDS (PG-13) Rejected by his high-school crush, Ryan Reynolds grows up to be an incorrigible Don Juan -- until he encounters the same woman (Anna Faris) as an adult.
· KING KONG 3 stars. (PG-13) The heart of Peter Jackson's lavish, slavish remake lies not in the giant ape's improbable love for a screaming starlet (Naomi Watts), but the Oscar-winning filmmaker's almost blind adoration of the original, also set in 1930s New York (and Skull Island). Jackson's version contains sights that truly astonish -- an attack by giant bugs, the Empire State Building sequence, Kong's vivid personality -- while feeling overly faithful to a story we know all too well. Still, despite labored comedy and some spotty special effects, the Beauty and the Beast story at the core can win over the most savage detractor. -- Holman
· MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA 2 stars. (PG-13) See review on page 54.
· PRIDE & PREJUDICE 3 stars. (PG) Director Joe Wright and screenwriter Deborah Moggach have done an exemplary job of making us care all over again about the plight of the Bennet sisters, whose busybody mom (Brenda Blethyn) sets about finding them suitable husbands against the backdrop of 19th-century England. The oldest daughter, Jane (Rosamund Pike), immediately lands a suitor, but the independent Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) finds herself embroiled in a grudge match with the brooding Mr. Darcy (Matthew MacFadyen). Romanticists who fell hard for Colin Firth's Darcy in the 1995 BBC miniseries may or may not warm to MacFadyen (who's fine in the role), but there's no quibbling over Knightley's intuitive, note-perfect work as Elizabeth. -- Brunson
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