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A "Sixth Sense"-meets-"Ghost" wannabe, this Costner vehicle is never eerie enough

or tender enough to make us give a hoot whether Costner's Dr. Joe is crazy or

not. Even the likes of Kathy Bates and Linda Hunt can't quite enliven this DOA


"All About the Benjamins"

— For those who can't wait for the next Ice Cube and Mike Epps installment of

the popular "Friday" series comes this tale of two misfits trying to track down

a winning lotto ticket. Ice Cube plays Bocum, a Miami bounty hunter; Epps is

Reggie, a skinny, dimwitted, small-time scam artist. At first at odds, the two

end up teaming up as they go searching for $60 million worth of stolen diamonds,

in addition to that misplaced winning lottery ticket. But the action quickly

turns tedious as Bocum and Reggie engage in the obvious — trading insults while

dodging bullets.ΓΏ

"Queen of the Damned"

— Campy, vampy and g-o-r-y, gory, this second big-screen haunting by Anne Rice's

reluctant bloodsucker/hero Lestat leaves a lot to be desired. At the opposite

end of the spectrum from Neil Jordan's classy, moody and seductive "Interview

with the Vampire," this tale has easy, cheesy chills. It is also the final film

performance by sweet R and B singer Aaliyah, who died tragically in a plane

crash last August. As the reigning monarch of the title, Aaliyah brings a radiant

beauty and ferociousness to the role of Akasha, the mother of all vampires.

Asleep encased in stone for numerous millennia, she is awakened by Lestat's

(Stuart Townsend) pounding Goth-rock rhythms. And when she takes the stage,

well, all hell finally breaks loose.

"We Were Soldiers" — Mel

Gibson reunites with "Braveheart" screenwriter-turned-director Randall Wallace

for this well-intentioned retelling of the 1965 battle in Vietnam's Ia Drang

Valley. The movie gives the outmaneuvered and outmanned American soldiers a

testament to their bravery. But demon Hollywood takes over, and the plot and

pacing turn into typical war-movie stuff. Gibson plays Lt. Gen. Harold G. Moore,

who leads the men in his Seventh Air Cavalry into the brutal firefight. In keeping

with the recent graphic trend of war movies, "We Were Soldiers" fills the screen

with plenty of blood, guts, limbs and sinew flying amid the chaos of battle.

Also deserving of praise is the movie's rare attempt to get into the psyches

of its female characters as well as the male/soldier mindset.

"Iris" — Funny, sad and

moving, this behind-the-chintz exploration of the relationship between British

freethinking novelist Iris Murdoch and her ardent admirer/husband, John Bayley,

is never less than engrossing. Without losing either momentum or the power of

the moment, director Peter Eyre moves between '50s-era Oxford (where John and

Iris first meet) and the late '90s cottage-comfy (where Alzheimer's begins stealing

the best and brightest of Iris). Much of the credit, however, belongs to the

incredible tandem tour de force performances from Kate Winslett and Judi Dench

as the young and aging Iris, respectively. Equally impressive, though more understated,

are Hugh Bonneville and Jim Broadbent as (respectively) Bayley the young and

the elder. Touching without ever resorting to weepy melodrama, "Iris" captivates

on a distinctly human level. We may never understand Iris or her philosophy

of love and life, but we certainly feel the slowly gnawing ravages of Alzheimer's.

For those who find Iris tough to embrace, Broadbent's astonishing turn as Iris'

protector, acolyte and ultimately frustrated husband offers an equally moving

access point to the horror of the dimming effects of Alzheimer's.

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