Armed only with his mysterious mental connection to the feral minds of studio executives, the Movie Guru reveals just how good or bad this week's new releases will be:

The Aviator (PG-13)
Leonardo DiCaprio plays the eccentric tycoon, director, producer, womanizer, germ-phobe Howard Hughes, whose greatest obsession was with aviation. Martin Scorcese’s film focuses on Hughes’ desire to be the next Lindbergh, with Cate Blanchett as Katharine Hepburn and Kate Beckinsale as Ava Gardner.
Now Showing: Wynnsong 16, Farragut Towne Square, Knoxville Center, Foothills 12, Tinseltown USA, Halls Cinema 7

Darkness (PG-13)
A nice family with cute daughter (Anna Paquin) moves into a big country house that turns out to be haunted. Be prepared for spooky children.
Now Showing: Carmike 10, West Town, Tinseltown USA, Halls Cinema 7

Fat Albert (PG)
When the wholesome and goofy characters of Bill Cosby’s comedy monologues jump out of a TV into the harsh, unanimated reality of the 21st century, Fat Albert and friends (including Rudy, Mushmouth and Russell) learn a few things about life in the modern world.
Now Showing: Wynnsong 16, Farragut Towne Square, Knoxville Center, Foothills 12, Tinseltown USA, Halls Cinema 7

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (R)
The film’s mixed reviews might lead one to believe that some folks get the wacky imaginings of director/screenwriter Wes Anderson (The Royal Tennenbaums, Rushmore) and some people just don’t. But with a cast that stars Bill Murray, Owen Wilson, and Cate Blanchett in this story of an oceanographer out for revenge against a jaguar shark, you’ve got to see this one to find out in which camp you land.
Now Showing: Downtown West

Meet the Fockers (PG-13)
In 2000’s Meet the Parents, Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) succeeded in winning his bride’s hand from her overbearing, ex-CIA father (Robert DeNiro). Now, they’re all going to visit their future in-laws, the Focker family—Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand—in Detroit.
Now Showing: Foothills 12, Carmike 10, West Town Mall, Farragut Towne Square, Tinseltown USA, Halls Cinema 7

Phantom of the Opera (PG-13)
Based on the musical based on the novel, Phantom is the story of a masked man (Gerard Butler) who hangs out at the Paris Opera House and falls in love with a lovely young soprano named Christine (Emmy Rossum) who kind of loves him back but also has feelings for her old flame Raoul Viscount De Changey (Patrick Wilson). The Phantom turns creepy kidnapper to keep Christine for himself.
Now Showing: Downtown West

A Very Long Engagement (R)
Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s (Amelie) adaptation of the dark and darkly funny war novel by Sebastien Japrisot has received mixed reviews for being too cute for its bleak subject matter. Audrey Tautou stars as a woman whose young fiancé disappeared during World War II, and, despite proof that he is dead, she endeavors to find out what happened to him. In French with subtitles.
Now Showing: Downtown West

Just Plane Dull

One of the most tedious and aggravating things in life is to be stuck in an airport waiting on a delayed flight. Steven Spielberg’s The Terminal mirrors this extreme state of boredom by basing its entire plot around one man’s very long delay.

Tom Hanks plays an Eastern European man, Viktor Navorski, who is attempting to travel to New York City but loses his identity in transit when his country breaks out in war and he is denied entry to America. As a result of this unlikely event, Navorski is forced to live in the airplane terminal until the proper authorities decide what to do with him.

Learning the basics of the English language seemingly overnight, Navorski begins to better understand his surroundings and the conflict pending in his country. If this plot premise isn’t absurd enough for the viewer, it gets worse. A romantic interest between a flight attendant Amelia (Catherine Zeta-Jones) and Navorski is slipped in as a nonsensical subplot to add a little sex appeal to this otherwise drab and drawn-out comedy/drama.

The film is inspired by the true story of Iranian refugee Merhan Nasseri, whose passport and UN refugee certificate were stolen, but this fact doesn’t make the film any more believable or interesting. Why doesn’t he try to flee, and why is the Security Manager so dead-set against Navorski entering the U.S.? Is this what Homeland Security has come to? Terminal employees throw in some much-needed comic relief, especially Kumar Pallana, an Indian who works in the terminal for fear of being arrested if he returns to his native land. His plate-juggling and other antics lighten the mood when necessary throughout the film.

Overall, this film makes you wonder why this predictable and stodgy film took two hours to be resolved. H.L. Mencken once said, “No one ever lost any money by underestimating the intelligence of the American public.” Between box office earnings and the millions of dollars spent in hefty advertising campaigns dispersed throughout the airplane terminal in the film, this point holds true.

—Melissa Elkins

December 23, 2004 * Vol. 14, No. 52
© 2003 Metro Pulse