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ON THE SCREEN

The following movies are playing this weekend at local theaters. The Tech suggests using <http://www.boston.com> for a complete listing of times and locations.

HHHH Excellent

HHH Good

HH Fair

H Poor

Adventures in Wild California (HHH)

The theme of this movie, California’s wild nature, is the direct inspiration for the spirit of adventure, exploration, and innovation -- but it is the glorious visuals (sky surfing and regular surfing, snowboarding, helicopter flights) that provide real excitement. -- Vladimir Zelevinsky

Almost Famous (HHH1 2)

Almost Famous is the semi-autobiographical film of writer and director Cameron Crowe’s life as a 16 year-old Rolling Stone journalist. He follows around a band for four days and, in a bewildering, humorous, and didactic experience, understands the mantra of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. -- Devdoot Majumdar

Best in Show (HH)

The latest release by mockumentary filmmaker Christopher Guest spoofs the peculiar American phenomenon of the dog show, and focuses on nine would-be blue-ribbon winners, each more absurd than the last. The most unforgivable error Guest makes is in the film’s marketing. Best In Show is guilty of one of the most onerous offenses of bad action flicks: it gives away its best scenes during the film’s trailer. What’s left after the jokes that everyone’s already seen is a series of unrelated and mostly offensive stereotypical scenes, the theatrical equivalent of calling people names. It is too bad that Guest, given his considerable resumÉ and a great setup for a film, can’t grow up enough to intelligently poke fun at a decidedly deserving subject. -- Jed Horne

Billy Elliot (HHH)

A sweet, spirited, and enjoyable (albeit sometimes clumsily rendered) movie experience. A young British boy, hypnotized by dancing, begins studying ballet, much to the chagrin of his lower-class father. The seemingly obligatory political backdrop is awkward and unnecessary, but overall, it’s a heart-warming and amusing piece of light fare that recovers well from any of its missteps. Warning: thick British accents. -- Karen Feigenbaum

Bring it On (HHH)

One of the better movies of the summer merely because of its amusing banter and exaggerated characters. Stupid jokes and predictable conflicts are delivered throughout the film, but Bring It On doesn’t lose its cheer. Kirsten Dunst plays the captain of the Toros, a cheerleading squad that goes head-to-head with members of a Compton squad, which includes the members from R&B group Blaque. The one-liners and catty attitudes are let loose in director Peyton Reed’s silver-screen endeavor. -- Solar Olugebefola

Dancer in the Dark (HHH)

BjÖrk, Catherine Deneuve, and director/writer Lars von Trier team up in this ambitious musical. A heavy and tragic plotcollides with campy musical numbers to form a film that is better off as a drama than a musical. BjÖrk and Denueve’s performances are stellar, but the rest of the cast needs intense dance and vocal training in order to make a more convincing musical. The film’s music has traces of BjÖrk’s unique electronic style, but still feels held back and pulled in different directions. Bring tissues. -- Annie Choi

Dark Days (HH1 2)

Filmmaker Marc Singer’s first cinematic effort, follows the lives of about twenty homeless men and women living in the Amtrak tunnels under Penn Station in New York City. The film is a powerfully unique look at a group of people who are rarely depicted as more than stereotypes. Kudos to the film’s ambition, and the fascinating vignettes depicted throughout. However, Dark Days is ultimately unsatisfactory as a sociological study because it lacks any clear statement of purpose or vision, and over-humanizes homelessness in a patently offensive way. -- JH

The Exorcist (HHH1 2)

Re-released after 27 years, the new Exorcist has been received with interest; some have even named it the Scariest Movie of All Time. The main difference between this version and the version you can see on video is about eleven minutes of cut footage and some revamped sound effects. Compared to the flashy films of today, The Exorcist feels rather dry, but avid fans and those who have never seen the original classic should definitely check it out. -- Raja Mohan

The Legend of Drunken Master (HHH)

Out of three things this Jackie Chan martial arts extravaganza tries to do, two succeed: the way it works as a window into everyday Chinese life, and the superb martial arts choreography (the final battle is nothing short of stunning). The middle section, which tries to mix drama with slapstick comedy, is largely dispensable, but the rest of the movie makes it easy to ignore the parts that don’t work. -- VZ

Lost Souls (H1 2)

From Janus Kaminski, the acclaimed cinematographer of Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, comes Lost Souls, a generic and tasteless addition to the recent surplus of apocalypse-like films. Maya Larkin (Winona Ryder) must convince Peter Kelson (Ben Chaplin) that he’s destined to be the living embodiment of the Devil come his 33rd birthday so they can, ultimately, save the world. Though it attempts to mimic The Exorcist and Rosemary’s Baby, Lost Souls ultimately fails to reinvent the horror classic for the modern day audience. -- Ryan Klimczak

Meet the Parents (HHH)

From the director of Austin Powers comes this offbeat and original romantic comedy about hapless Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) and his attempts to impress his future father-in-law (Robert DeNiro). Pam’s (Teri Polo) father, Jack Byrnes, instantly decides that he’s unimpressed by his daughter’s husband-to-be and what follows is a disastrous family weekend during which things just keeping getting worse. With laugh-out-loud humor and an endless array of gut-busting scenes, this film proves to be Stiller’s greatest success since There’s Something about Mary. -- RK

Nurse Betty (HH)

Renee Zellweger stars in this film as the neurotic Nurse Betty, a small-town soap opera aficionado traumatized into an alternate personality. Obsessed and dedicated, she seeks out soap opera star Dr. David Ravell, played by actor George McCord (Greg Kinnear), on A Reason to Love under the misconception that he is her ex-fiancee. Along the way, she is followed by two hit men played by Morgan Freeman and Chris Rock, and, as this illogical but humorous story continues, it stumbles somewhere between humorous originality and perplexing irrationality. -- RK

Pay it Forward (HHH1 2)

With an outstanding and talented cast of actors, Pay it Forward proves to be one of this year’s most emotionally evocative movies. Social studies teacher Eugene Simonet (Kevin Spacey) creates an assignment of impossible standards: “Think of an idea to change the world -- and put it into action.” The persistent and imaginative Trevor McKinney (Haley Joel Osment) constructs an ambitious plan known as pay it forward, whereby one act of kindness is reciprocated by three new acts of kindness, and so on. Inspiring, original, and thought-provoking, this film takes us on a spiritual journey on the nature of humanity. -- RK

Remember the Titans (HHH)

This is a beautifully directed movie about the social and racial conflicts of the 1970’s. Inspired by real events, the movie examines the relationship between two football coaches, one white and one black, trying to overcome racial differences that tear the whole community apart after an all-white school and an all-black school are united. Featuring great actors and lovely music from the 70’s, this movie depicts stirring aspects of human nature. A must-see. -- Bogdan Fedeles

Urbania (HHH)

Urbania tells the story of Charlie, a man introduced as having suffered a tragic loss and intent on regaining normalcy in his life. Charlie stumbles through the hyper-reality of New York City, voyeuristically obsessed with “urban legends” -- peculiar vignettes which, the film argues, help us cope with reality’s capriciousness. These tales become a metaphor for Charlie’s own experience and provide a backdrop for his neurotic obsession with an ex-lover and the possibility of a redemptive relationship with a homophobic acquaintance. Urbania confronts some interesting issues about sexuality, revenge, and love, but its choice of a homosexual focus, while downplayed, makes it easily dismissed as a member of a genre of films that is hokey at best, even if Urbania itself is an exception. -- JH

Urban Legands: Final Cut (H)

A disappointing sequel to the original Urban Legends movie, this film provides an unorthodox approach to its forerunner as film student Amy Mayfield (Jennifer Morrison) directs her thesis film on a murderer who kills people based on urban legends. At the same time, a psychopath is killing her crew in the same format as her movie, leading Mayfield on an unexpected -- and confusing -- trail to unmask the killer before she too becomes an urban legend. Directed by John Ottman, Urban Legends II: Final Cut proves to be a cheesy and overdone addition to the teen-horror genre. -- RK