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This week's premieres

photo: Continental Film

The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (Pán prsteňov: Návrat kráľa) - Fantasy/Epic by Peter Jackson. Little needs to be said to preface this film, the completion of Jackson's ambitious, successful trilogy. Lord of the Rings purists may continue to grumble over inaccuracies or variations from JRR Tolkien's text; instead, they should join the rest of the world in awe. With parts I and II (and surely with part III, shot concurrently), Jackson achieved an epic quality not seen consistently since the peak of the Hollywood studio system (1930-1960) and expanded upon it with computer technology. It is difficult to say when live-action fantasy/epic filmmaking will be done this well again - perhaps next time Jackson releases a film (King Kong, scheduled for 2005). In the meantime, fortunately, we have The Return of the King.

photo: Tatrafilm

In the Cut (Smrtiaca vášeň) - Erotic thriller by Jane Campion. Best known for 1993's The Piano, New Zealand's Jane Campion gave Nicole Kidman one of her first serious roles (in 1996's The Portrait of a Lady) and has continued to solidify her own reputation as one of contemporary mainstream cinema's most challenging directors. In the Cut, her first film in four years, has been surrounded by controversy. In addition to its apparently explicit depiction of sex, it stars Meg Ryan, who - along with Julia Roberts - competed for the title of sappy Hollywood romantic comedy queen during the 1990s. Whereas Roberts has retained her immense popularity, Ryan fell from grace a couple years back, due to a widely publicized affair with Russell Crowe that supposedly broke up her marriage to Dennis Quaid. Undoubtedly, In the Cut capitalizes on the shattering of Ryan's "good girl" image, as it details the intensifying sexual relationship between a police detective (Mark Ruffalo) and an English teacher (Ryan), who may have seen something that could assist a murder investigation.

photo: Touchstone Pictures

Moonlight Mile (Polnočná miľa) - Comedy drama by Brad Silberling. Drawing from the experience of his girlfriend's murder, writer/director Silberling tells the story of Joe Nast, played by the wonderful Jake Gyllenhaal, who develops a strong relationship with his deceased fiancée's parents (Susan Sarandon and Dustin Hoffman). But, as they mutually grieve and become a makeshift family, Joe becomes unsure of how exactly to handle his increasing attraction to somebody else - Bertie (Ellen Pompeo). Also featuring Holly Hunter, Dabney Coleman, and a soundtrack of sentimental 1970s pop music.

Other movies playing

photo: Tatrafilm

Intolerable Cruelty (Neznesiteľná krutosť) - Romantic comedy by Joel Coen. Do not be alarmed or fooled by the romantic comedy label. Though that is exactly what this film is, it is also, after all, a Coen brothers' film and thus reaches a level of cynicism and absurdity not seen in the genre since the heyday of the 1940s screwball comedies of Preston Sturges and Ernst Lubitsch or the 1950s/1960s work of supreme cynic Billy Wilder. The kings of contemporary genre filmmaking, the Coens consistently put their own irreverent spin on classical Hollywood forms, managing to make even their lesser films (which Intolerable Cruelty is) infinitely more enjoyable and clever than almost anything else Hollywood currently produces. George Clooney and Catherine Zeta-Jones are delightful as the battling would be/want-to-be lovers. Geoffrey Rush, Cedric the Entertainer, Edward Herrmann, and Billy Bob Thornton each have memorable, smaller roles.

photo: Continental Film

How to Deal (Láskou buchnutá)- Comedy/Drama by Clare Kilner. Mandy Moore has always been a second-tier teen pop star. Despite sharing Britney Spears' (initial) pretty girl-next-door persona, she lacks the barely contained sexual energy that has made Spears so marketable and tabloid-worthy. Neither she nor Spears has the incredible voice of Christina Aguilera, who has easily eclipsed all her teen-pop peers in over-the-top sexuality. Less publicly, Moore has proven herself to be the most deserving of the chance to mature as an actor. Though her proper acting debut, A Walk to Remember, was hardly a masterpiece, this was due more to a hollow, overly sappy story than to Moore, whose surprisingly intelligent performance made the film watchable for more than the mere cringe and curiosity factors, something that cannot be said about Spears' debut in the train wreck that was Crossroads. In How to Deal, in her second leading role, she plays a cynical girl who refuses to believe love actually exists - until a tragic event makes her start to believe otherwise. Is it brilliant? Probably not, but just as Aguliera's musical career and Spears' tabloid career are worth following, Moore's acting career is worth more than a dismissive glance.

Mystic River (Tajomná rieka) - Drama/Mystery by Clint Eastwood. Proving worthy of its immense praise, Eastwood's latest expertly communicates the sadness, loss (of life and innocence), and dread that hover around three men (Sean Penn, Kevin Bacon, and Tim Robbins) initially separated by a tragedy during childhood, to then be reunited in difficult and unexpected ways by a tragedy well into adulthood. Working-class Boston has never been so bleakly engrossing.

photo: Continental Film

Kill Bill - Action by Quentin Tarantino. Hollywood's enfant terrible returns from hiding with this sprawling, bloody pastiche. The first of two parts. As the avenging heroine, Uma Thurman displays intense focus, something the rest of the film clearly lacks. But, this seems to be Tarantino's purpose: to shove as many of his idiosyncratic cinematic loves and obsessions into mainstream multiplexes as possible, using Hong Kong action, Japanese samurai films, and the incredibly beautiful Thurman as his starting point. It is the clearest distillation so far of Tarantino's varied, often marginalized tastes. Defiantly and decidedly not for everyone, but highly recommended for those who have ever grown excited by a movie described as "trash".

Prepared by Jonathan Knapp

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