Based on his experiences in the early '70s as a 15-year-old reporter for Rolling Stone, writer/director Cameron Crowe ("Jerry Maguire") weaves a stunning ode to the "industry of cool" that is part real events and part fiction, but one that attains a towering level of truthfulness. Newcomer Patrick Fugit interprets Crowe's experience as William, a San Diego teen assigned to cover the (fictional) band Stillwater. Introducing William into the bus-concert-hotel regimen is a young but worldly groupie (Kate Hudson in a career-making role) who the journalist falls in love with as quickly as he does the new lifestyle. "Almost Famous" succeeds as a terrific coming-of-age story, an accurate depiction of the music industry, a treatise on journalism and an affectionate recreation of a time and place. Ultimately, it is the best "serious" movie ever made about rock. (R) -- JN
- *** Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.
Bring It On
The world of cheerleading competitions is the setting for this teen comedy, which stars Kirsten Dunst as the head of a suburban squad who learns that her predecessor stole the group's routines from an inner-city school. "Bring It On" bypasses the opportunity to deal with the class and race issues involved in such a story, preferring instead to address weightier topics like dating and cheer choreography. That said, though, "Bring It On" is a likable movie with a pleasant cast (including scene-stealers Eliza Dushku and Gabrielle Union) and just enough attitude to make it genuinely fun to watch. (PG-13) -- LL
- * 1/2 Plaza Six, 2339 Iowa.
Former film critic Rod Lurie moves to the other side of the screen with "The Contender," an enthralling political portrait whose ever-shifting alliances play like a Washington variant of "Survivor." Sen. Laine Hanson (Joan Allen) is nominated by the outgoing president (Jeff Bridges) to be the first woman to hold the office of vice president. Her selection encounters strong opposition from a rival senator (Gary Oldman in an uncharacteristically restrained performance), who heads the committee that must approve Hanson. Lurie's writing is sharp and believable, especially in his initial attempts at establishing the moral ambiguity of all those involved. Unfortunately, the film's final act crumbles faster than a Ross Perot campaign. After a number of silly revelations, the plot turns Hanson into a saint and her adversaries into actual criminals with an ending that smacks of revision as the result of studio test marketing. (R) -- JN
** 1/2 Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.
Dr. T and the Women
Richard Gere stars as a Dallas OB/GYN whose "understanding" of the opposite sex is tested by the unraveling of his personal life. Director Robert Altman shows his usual flair for energetic, improvised comedy and gets enthusiastic performances from his cast (which includes Helen Hunt, Farrah Fawcett and Kate Hudson). There's something emotionally hollow about the whole thing, however, and Altman seems uncertain of where he wants to go with the story. A bizarre deus ex machina finally brings the movie to a screeching halt but does nothing to tie up the many loose ends Altman leaves dangling for no apparent reason. (R) -- LL
** Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.
The Exorcist: The Version You've Never Seen
Once upon a time, horror movies weren't pseudo-hip attempts at tongue-in-cheek; they were actually scary. Twenty-five years later, William Friedkin's "The Exorcist" puts the current crop of slasher flicks to shame even if the digital effects and added scenes (including a truly pointless epilogue) distract more than they enhance. Ellen Burstyn ("Requiem for a Dream") plays an actress who discovers her daughter (Linda Blair) has an illness (whose symptoms include projectile vomiting and a rotating head) that mere medicine can't solve. While the gore runneth over, Friedkin and writer William Peter Blatty put in just enough suspense and clever plotting to frighten the hardest of viewers. Now, if they could only exorcise those damn changes. (R) -- DL
- ** 1/2 Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.
Watching the current remake of the 1970 British classic "Get Carter" is like eating a piece of chocolate-covered broccoli. A grim story about a gangster (played by a sleepwalking Sylvester Stallone) investigating his brother's death is laced with a "Touched by an Angel" sentimentality. This juxtaposition results in neither attitude seeming authentic. An ace supporting cast (including Miranda Richardson and Alan Cumming) is squandered on Stephen Kay's confusing "I want to be John Woo when I grow up" direction. The presence of original Carter Michael Caine (who still seems meaner than Stallone) is a sad reminder that this "Get Carter" should get lost. (R) -- DL
- Plaza Six, 2339 Iowa.
The Ladies Man
Billy Dee Williams is so suave playing a bartender that he can be forgiven for inhabiting a lazy film like "The Ladies Man." The other filmmakers on this big-screen version of the "Saturday Night Live" skit should keep their evening gigs. Tim Meadows reprises his Leon Phelps character, a lisping call-in show host who offers dopey, lurid advice on love. Despite his stupidity, he seduces many women because he's a dreamboat in comparison to their men. Those who find the mere utterance of "doggie-style" amusing will howl; others will find this to be an excellent argument for celibacy. (R) -- DL
- Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.
Can demon possession and the coming of the Antichrist actually be dull? They can if you're watching "Lost Souls," an incredibly slow-moving pastiche of "The Exorcist," "Rosemary's Baby" and the "Omen" films. Ben Chaplin plays a skeptical writer who discovers that he is destined to be the earthly vessel for you-know-who, unless he accepts the help of Winona Ryder and a group of rogue Catholic priests. "Lost Souls" is directed by Oscar-winning cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, who seems to think that quick edits and fuzzy, poorly lit imagery will somehow make up for the derivative incoherence of the story. As usual, they don't. (R) -- LL
- 1/2 Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.
Love and Sex
Writer-director Valerie Breiman says little that's new in "Love and Sex," but her observations are frequently on target and hilarious. Famke Janssen ("X-Men") plays a frustrated magazine writer who can easily explain arousing sexual acts but is clueless about what makes a lasting relationship. Breiman has a great eye for absurdity and pens some juicy dialogue (an uncredited cameo by David Schwimmer is worth the ticket price). Nonetheless, the main reason to catch this film is Janssen. The Dutch actress proves that she can be a likable, commanding lead even without being surrounded by special effects. (R) -- DL
- ** Liberty Hall Cinemas, 644 Mass.
Meet the Parents
Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro may not seem like an obvious comedy team, but they play off each other beautifully in this surprisingly restrained comedy from "Austin Powers" director Jay Roach. As the disapproving father of Stiller's girlfriend, De Niro shows what a great actor can do with a slight script, while Stiller has just enough intensity to make a worthy adversary. The humor goes over the top at times, but Roach is usually smart enough to stay out of his actors' way. (PG-13) -- LL
- * 1/2 Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.
The Original Kings of Comedy
This concert film has a grainy look (it was shot on video), muddy sound and contagious laughter. The quartet of standup artists (Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, Cedric the Entertainer and Bernie Mac) outgrossed boy band The Backstreet Boys on its last tour. It's easy to see why. Even though they play a large area, the show is remarkably interactive (Hughley has a field day teasing the crowd). Director Spike Lee doesn't do anything terribly innovative here, but he does capture the energy of being in the court of these monarchs. (R) -- DL
- ** Plaza Six, 2339 Iowa.
Remember the Titans
While it becomes heavy-handed and simplistic, "Remember the Titans" can be forgiven because its heart is in the right place. Based on an actual 1971 football season in Alexandria, Va., the movie recalls how white and black athletes were forced to play side-by-side and how a reluctant but militaristic black coach (the terrific Denzel Washington) and his white defensive coordinator (Will Patton) led them to victory. While the film suffers from predictability, director Boaz Yakin ("Fresh") shows a remarkable prowess with the young cast and creates a believably tense environment. (PG) -- DL
- * 1/2 Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa.
Replaced by chimps during the Eisenhower-era space program, Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland and James Garner play retired Air Force personnel called back to duty to repair an antiquated Russian satellite. Director Eastwood and cast are most enjoyable when poking fun at their aging tough guy/womanizing personas, but the movie's shopworn plot is as weathered as the lines on Eastwood's face. It's apparent the director spent more time watching John Glenn footage than attending any recent movies, because the film unabashedly pilfers entire scenes from "Armageddon" and "Deep Impact." The charisma of its four principals is the lone element that makes this space hokum tolerable, especially during the film's confusing climax, which is rife with scientific implausibilities. (PG-13) -- JN
** Plaza Six, 2339 Iowa.
The Tao of Steve
Dex (Donal Logue) is an overweight, pot-smoking slob who mysteriously attracts women in droves. His secret is following the Tao of Steve (as in McQueen). In other words, by acting indifferent, he becomes oddly sexy. Logue's boyish charm makes what could have been a cynically manipulative character downright likable. Freshman director Jenniphr Goodman creates a bizarre but tasty blend of philosophical musings and classic romantic comedy. The setup for "The Tao of Steve" is familiar, but how many times do we hear discussions of how slackers and Buddhist monks are equal? (R) -- LL
- ** Liberty Hall Cinemas, 644 Mass.
What Lies Beneath
Alfred Hitchcock said he could play an audience like an organ. In "What Lies Beneath," director Robert Zemeckis ("Forrest Gump") plays them like a broken kazoo. The movie incorporates a lot of the master's favorite devices (skewed camera angles and dissonant music). Still, the story of housewife (Michelle Pfeiffer) and her professor husband (a badly miscast Harrison Ford) being disturbed by their neighbors and his own indiscretions is funnier than Zemeckis' "Death Becomes Her." Thanks to the director's affinity for needless special effects, this attempt at reaching adult audiences feels more strained than supernatural. (PG-13) -- DL
* 1/2 Plaza Six, 2339 Iowa.