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
**** Plaza Six, 2339 Iowa.
Brendan Fraser takes over from Dudley Moore in this remake of the 1967 cult classic, about a sweet-natured loser who makes a deal with the Devil to get the girl of his dreams. This time around, the Devil is played by model Elizabeth Hurley, who prances around in sexy leather outfits and delivers every line as if she'd just taken e-lo-cu-tion lessons. Fraser is much better, showing remarkable versatility, as the fulfillment of his wishes requires him to play everything from a Colombian drug lord to a sophisticated New York writer. "Bedazzled" has plenty of snappy dialogue but not much else, and it comes off as just another forgettable, you could say "soul-less," Hollywood offering. (PG-13) -- LL
** Southwind Twelve, 3433 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 Plaza Six, 2339 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.
Michelle Rodriguez has great eyes. In a single glance at the camera, she communicates dozens of emotions and holds an audience spellbound. As a New York teen-ager who takes up boxing to vent her rage and give herself purpose in life, Rodriguez is a sturdy cornerstone to writer-director Karyn Kusama's gritty, compelling debut. There are some pacing problems, but Rodriguez's performance and Kusama's atmosphere always feel authentic. Even though the story progresses in a standard manner, Kusama's odd visual style (lots of ringside point-of-view shots) and ear for boxing lingo help her earn every cheer the movie elicits. (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
- Plaza Six, 2339 Iowa.
The Legend of Drunken Master
While packaged as a new movie, "The Legend of Drunken Master" is actually a dubbed stateside release of Jackie Chan's 1994 sequel to his 1978 breakthrough movie "Drunken Master." The flick requires heavy suspension of disbelief (Chan looks older than the actors playing his parents) and has a thin plot. The latter trait is actually a bonus because the story leads drunken boxing virtuoso Wong Fei-hung (Chan) into a series of jaw-dropping hand-to-hand battles that include a bout with a thief that takes place in, under and around a train. Chan also manages to hold his own against a legion of axe-wielding bandits. "The Legend of Drunken Master" features gorgeous period production and is one the finest showcases for Chan's unique brand of martial artistry. (R) -- DL
- ** Southwind Twelve, 3433 Iowa
The Little Vampire
Jonathan Lipnicki (that impossibly cute kid from "Jerry Maguire") stars in this adaptation of the popular children's book, about a young boy who befriends a family of vampires. Filmed in Scotland and Germany, the flick has plenty of atmosphere, with crumbling graveyards and grand, gothic bloodsuckers (led by the wonderful Richard E. Grant). The "normal" characters aren't nearly as much fun, though, and the movie goes flat whenever it spends too much time with them. "The Little Vampire" is smarter and less shrill than most kids' fare, and should provide an entertaining -- if generally forgettable -- Halloween distraction for the young ones. (PG) -- LL
- * 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.
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.
Pay It Forward
Grounded on a premise that's almost too simple, "Pay It Forward" seems to work in spite of itself. Haley Joel Osment ("The Sixth Sense") devises a favor system that winds up having implications far beyond his own attempts to follow it. Screenwriter Leslie Dixon and director Mimi Leder ("Deep Impact") exceed their quota of implausibilities, cliches and extraneous details. Nonetheless, a terrific performance from Kevin Spacey as Osment's aloof teacher and Leder's occasionally edgy handling help make the movie seem less like a sappy "Afterschool Special." (PG-13) -- DL
** 1/2 Southwind Twelve, 3433 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.
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.