Capsule blurbs of recently reviewed movies 

Opening Friday

· THE BAXTER (PG-13) Comedian Michael Showalter writes, directs and stars in this romantic comedy about a nerdy control freak worried that his upcoming wedding plans will go wrong. Featuring Elizabeth Banks, Justin Theroux and Michelle Williams.

· CRY_WOLF (PG-13) A group of nasty prep-schoolers try to prank the campus with rumors of a serial killer -- only to see their story start to come true. It's one of those PG-13 thrillers, so don't expect much sex or violence, just a radio-friendly soundtrack.

· HAROLD LLOYD COMEDIES (NR)

· JUST LIKE HEAVEN 2 stars (NR)

· Short Cut to Nirvana 2 stars (PG-13) See review. Director Maurizio Benazzo will answer questions after the evening performances Sat., Sept. 17. Landmark Midtown Art Cinema, 931 Monroe Drive. 678-495-1424.

· LORD OF WAR (R) Nicolas Cage plays an international arms dealer pursued by Ethan Hawke's Interpol agent in this thriller from writer/director Andrew Niccol, who specializes in paranoid fantasies like The Truman Show and Gattaca.

· NOVEMBER 2 stars (R)

Duly Noted

· "THE APPALACHIANS" (NR) This excerpt from a television history about the fabled mountain range reportedly features the last recorded interview with Johnny Cash, as well as commentary from Loretta Lynn, Ricky Skaggs and Marty Stuart. Sierra Club Fall Film Series. Thurs., Sept. 15, 7:30 p.m. Landmark Midtown Art Cinema, 931 Monroe Drive. $10 suggested contribution. 404-607-1262. www.georgia.sierraclub.org.

· THE BLUE LIGHT (1932) (NR) Renowned director Leni Riefenstahl made her feature film debut with the portrayal of a young woman in a mountain community and her strange relationship to mysterious blue lights that lead young men to their deaths. Film Retrospective: Leni Riefenstahl. Wed., Sept. 21, 7 p.m. Goethe Institut Inter Nationes, 1197 Peachtree St., Colony Square. $4. 404-892-2388.

· BRIDE & PREJUDICE 2 stars (2004) (PG-13) Bend It Like Beckham director Gurinder Chadha presents this splashy, Bollywood-style adaptation of Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice starring Aishwarya Rai, reputedly the most beautiful woman in world cinema. Thurs., Sept. 15, call for times. Cinefest, GSU University Center, Suite 211, 66 Courtland St. $5 ($3 until 5 p.m.). 404-651-3565. www2.gsu.edu/~wwwcft.

· COMMON GROUND (2002) (NR) Actor Federico Luppi collaborates with director Adolfo Aristarain in this portrait of a loving marriage amid Argentina's economic crisis. Latin American Film Festival. Sat., Sept. 17, 8 p.m. Woodruff Arts Center, Rich Auditorium, 1280 Peachtree St.; Wed., Sept. 21, 7:30 p.m. Landmark Midtown Art Cinema, 931 Monroe Drive. $5. 404-733-4570. www.high.org.

· LOST EMBRACE (2004) (NR) Argentina's nominee for the 2004 Academy Awards, this scruffy comedy set at a low-rent Buenos Aires shopping mall follows a young descendent of Eastern European Jews as he works at his mother's lingerie shop. Latin American Film Festival. Fri., Sept. 16, 8 p.m.; Sun., Sept. 18, 4 p.m. Woodruff Arts Center, Rich Auditorium. 1280 Peachtree St. $5. 404-733-4570. www.high.org.

· SIN CITY 2 stars (R) Based on Frank Miller's hard-boiled cult comic books of the same name, Sin City wallows unapologetically in violence, T&A and other preoccupations of adolescent boys of all ages. Co-directors Miller and Robert Rodriguez leer over interlocking tales of chivalrous antiheroes (led by a hulkingly charismatic Mickey Rourke) who take on a corrupt city's sadistic power brokers. Though the film's black-and-white images can sear your retinas, its repetitive plots, grisly slapstick and predictable misogyny can leave you embarrassed to be a geek. Thurs., Sept. 15, call for times. Cinefest, GSU University Center, Suite 211, 66 Courtland St. $5 ($3 until 5 p.m.). 404-651-3565. www2.gsu.edu/~wwwcft. -- Curt Holman

· UNLEASHED 3 stars After being treated like a dog his entire life by a Glasgow mobster (Bob Hoskins), a henchman (Jet Li) finds comfort in his friendships with a blind piano tuner (Morgan Freeman) and his stepdaughter (Kerry Condon). While the thrilling set pieces goose the proceedings, it's the acting that dominates: Freeman packs his usual authority, Condon is an absolute delight, and Hoskins clearly relishes the return to the U.K. underworld milieu of The Long Good Friday. And then there's Jet Li, whose puppy-dog demeanor adds some tears to the expected blood and sweat. Sept. 16-22, call for times. Cinefest, GSU University Center, Suite 211, 66 Courtland St. $5 ($3 until 5 p.m.). 404-651-3565. www2.gsu.edu/~wwwcft. -- Matt Brunson

Continuing

· THE ARISTOCRATS 4 stars (NR) George Carlin, Gilbert Gottfried, Sarah Silverman, John Stewart, Whoopi Goldberg and scores of other comedians take turns telling -- or commenting on -- an old, notoriously offensive joke usually reserved for other comedians, instead of their audiences. Depending on your tolerance for humor based on every imaginable human depravity, you might not always find "The Aristocrats" a very funny gag, but this documentary (from Paul Provenza and Penn Jillette) earns some honest laughs while offering fascinating -- and uncomfortable -- insights into the minds of professional jokemeisters. -- Holman

· BROKEN FLOWERS 2 stars (R) Cinema's two reigning Zen masters of deadpan understatement, Bill Murray and filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, dial it back a little too far in this melancholy comedy. Murray's aging Don Juan road-trips to see which of four ex-lovers (played superbly by Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange and Tilda Swinton) is the mother to the son he never knew. With such self-conscious tedium and heavy-handed symbols, Broken Flowers feels wasteful of its terrific cast, although Murray's touchingly subtle work strikes some highly affecting chords in the last 15 minutes. -- Holman

· THE BROTHERS GRIMM 1 star (PG-13) Inveterate scenery chewer and slapstick fan Terry Gilliam directs the blandly Caucasian team of Matt Damon and Heath Ledger in an annoyingly manic action-adventure yarn. The two 19th-century German brothers Wilhelm and Jacob, who wrote fairy tales like "Rapunzel" and "Snow White," become swashbuckling adventurers in screenwriter Ehren Kruger's hands. The brothers fight to exorcise a haunted German forest of its ghouls. A tangled, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink storyline proves Gilliam was not paying attention when he re-read all of those simple but effective Grimm tales. -- Felicia Feaster

· THE CONSTANT GARDENER 4 stars (R) In this flashy, faithful adaptation of John Le Carré's espionage bestseller, Ralph Fiennes plays impressively against type as a meek diplomat in Africa investigating the murder of his activist wife (Rachel Weisz). Director Fernando Mereilles brings a similar intensity and eye for telling detail that marked sizzling City of God and makes The Constant Gardener one of the rare political thriller's that's actually about politics. Too many characters seem to exist simply for exposition instead of insight, but the film stirringly blends suspenseful paranoia, tragic romance and indignation at corporate misdeeds in the Third World. -- Holman

· THE DEVIL'S REJECTS (R) The wait is over: Musician Rob Zombie has written and directed another movie, taking up where House of 1000 Corpses left off. I guess House of 1001 Corpses wasn't as good a title.

· THE EDUKATORS 4 stars (R) A fiction film answer to anti-globalist docs like The Yes Men and The Corporation, this humanist, deep-thinking, punk rock German thriller pits three sexy young anarchists against a Berlin filled with greedy yuppies and the corporate power structure that enables them. Sure, the Marxist jaw-flapping can get heavy-handed and the film tends to drag near the end. In an era when most cinematic displays of youthful brio unfold in the bedroom and the dance floor, it's a refreshing change of pace to see young hipsters fighting for human rights and a moral way of life. -- Feaster

· THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE 2 stars (PG-13) A morally conflicted, atheist attorney (Laura Linney) defends a brooding priest (Tom Wilkinson) of negligent homicide in the wake of an unsuccessful exorcism. With an Oscar-caliber cast and a premise that blends courtroom drama with supernatural conflicts, this supernatural thriller promises scares and thoughtful content, and fails to deliver them both. You'd do better with a Halloween episode of "Law and Order" than Exorcism's lame legal plot points and muddled spirituality. -- Holman

· THE 40 YEAR-OLD VIRGIN 4 stars (R) Can a sheltered, geeky electronics store employee ("The Daily Show's" Steve Carell, who co-wrote the script) discover the joys of man-on-woman action, or will fate conspire comedically against him? This raunchy but surprisingly sweet comedy with a relaxed, engaging cast takes great pleasure in examining society's sexual obsessions and the anxiety it engenders. It's a little long, but like the cable cult-flick Office Space, it gets plenty of mileage of taking place in the same generic, chain-store America where must of us live, work and play. -- Holman

· FOUR BROTHERS 3 stars (R) The adopted sons (two white, two black) of a slain Detroit woman seek the truth about their mother's death. This lo-fi urban thriller from John Singleton may be heavy-handed and silly, but it captures the spare, edgy fun of cult blaxploitation films far better than the director's own remake of Shaft. Atlanta's Andre Benjamin of Outkast fame comports himself comfortably as the most respectable of the title siblings. -- Holman

· GRIZZLY MAN 3 stars (R) Legendary German director Werner Herzog contemplates the call of the wild by recounting the true story of ill-fated wildlife activist Timothy Treadwell, the self-appointed "guardian" of Alaska's grizzly bears up until he and his girlfriend were fatally attacked by one. Herzog edits nearly 100 hours of Treadwell's own footage to reveal a man so dedicated to wildlife that he lost perspective on its genuine dangers. Herzog's intrusive narration diminishes Grizzly Man's impact, but the film's portrayal of nature -- at once beautiful and brutal -- has a lingering force. -- Holman

· HUSTLE & FLOW 4 stars Writer/director Craig Brewer mixes a heady cocktail of pimp life and crunk hip-hop in one of the best films of 2005 -- and arguably the most honest, eye-opening screen portrayal of rap music ever made. Terrence Howard gives a sensitive, complex performance as Djay, a two-bit Memphis pimp and pusher who sees hip-hop as his last chance to escape criminal life. We don't sympathize with him, exactly, but Hustle & Flow doesn't do justice to Djay's contradictions: talented artist, exploiter of women, melancholy soul. Brewer captures the infectious thrill of musical creation in Djay's makeshift recording sessions (you'll find yourself singing along to his song "Whoop That Trick") and even generates nail-biting suspense when he tries to win the favor of rap star Skinny Black (played with appropriate arrogance by Atlanta's Ludacris). -- Holman

· IMAX THEATER: The Living Sea (NR) Humpback whales, golden jellyfish and giant clams star in this documentary about the diversity of undersea life, with music by Sting and narrated by Meryl Streep. Mystery of the Nile (NR) this IMAX adventure follows a small group of reporters and filmmakers as they travel 3,000 miles up the Nile river. Fernbank Museum of Natural History IMAX Theater, 767 Clifton Road. 404-929-6300. www.fernbank.edu.

· JUNEBUG 4 stars (R) This deeply charming, tender story about a Southern homecoming, bristles with honest observation and wit, much of it transmitted by Amy Adams as a pregnant Southern ball of fire. George (Alessandro Nivola) and his sophisticated new wife Madeleine (Embeth Davidtz) head from their Chicago home to visit his folks in North Carolina where they find a South defined by close, unspoken family ties and no small amount of heartbreak, as captured by first-time director Phil Morrison and screenwriter Angus MacLachlan. -- Feaster

· THE MAN 1 star (PG-13) Eugene Levy plays Andy Fidler, a Wisconsin dental product salesman in Detroit for a conference; Samuel L. Jackson plays Derrick Vann, a federal agent trying to nail the gun runners who murdered his partner. In a sequence of staggering stupidity, Andy is mistaken for Derrick, so the pair must team up in an attempt to set things right. But why go on? Even at 85 minutes, this is a tedious timewaster, featuring two -- count 'em, two -- scenes that milk Andy's flatulence like a Hershey cow. -- Brunson

· ME AND YOU AND EVERYONE WE KNOW 2 stars (R) Performance artist and filmmaker Miranda July's debut film has garnered awards at the Cannes and Sundance film festivals, though its mixture of saccharine sweetness and sordid sexual provocation makes for a very overspiced brew. In this quirky, deadpan love story, geeky video artist Christine (July) falls for recently separated geeky shoe salesman Richard (John Hawkes). Like a feel-good Todd Solondz, July interweaves into that spazzy romance countless poetic moments that range from the keenly observed to the self-consicously precious. -- Feaster

· MUST LOVE DOGS 3 stars Many of the elements that have made the contemporary romantic comedy such a grueling, formulaic experience are present in Must Love Dogs, and yet the movie nonetheless will work for those willing to surrender to its dreamy passion. Diane Lane, so beautiful that it almost hurts to look at her, plays a recent divorcee who takes a chance on meeting single men who contact her through an Internet dating service. John Cusack, so adorable that even heterosexual men might feel inclined to give him a big bear hug, portrays Jake Anderson, one of her prospective suitors. You either buy into this fantasy or you don't -- me, I happily wallowed in it. -- Matt Brunson

· PRETTY PERSUASION 1 star (R) Former music video director Marcos Siega thinks he has some penetrating, Election -- style satire on his hands in this nasty teen dramedy. In fact, his mean, slutty little film is an extended wallow in the director and writer Skander Halim blandly misanthropic Maxim sensibility, which sees fit to both loathe and lust after its Heathers-esque opportunistic teen hottie (Evan Rachel Wood) who accuses her drama teacher of molesting her. Everyone gets dragged through the mud in Siega's unfocused social commentary, until he cops an absurdly moral point of view in the film's final act. -- Feaster

· RED EYE 3 stars Red Eye qualifies as the best movie that director Wes Craven has ever made: Unlike his usual junk (The Last House on the Left, Scream), this at least feels like an A-list project rather than the masturbatory exercises in misogyny he tends to foist upon the public. Rachel McAdams delivers a strong performance as Lisa Reisert, whose flight home to Miami turns into a terror trip once she discovers that the charming guy (Cillian Murphy) sitting next to her will involve her in an attempted political assassination. Red Eye may not expand the parameters of the thriller genre but it certainly knows how to make its way inside its well-established conventions. Unfortunately, that can only take it so far, and even at 85 minutes, the movie begins to coast as it reaches its obvious climax. -- Brunson

· THE SKELETON KEY 3 stars (PG-13) Kate Hudson stars as Caroline Ellis, a caretaker hired to look after a stroke victim (John Hurt) residing in a creaky mansion in the middle of the Louisiana swamps. The patient's wife (Gena Rowlands) views Caroline with suspicion, but before long it's Caroline who has to keep her guard up, as mysterious events suggest that a paranormal presence might be living within the house. The supernatural element might extend to Rowlands, whose high camp performance suggests she was possessed by Bette Davis circa What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? While enjoyable, her overripe turn dilutes the story's potency, though the movie rights itself in time for a satisfying twist ending. -- Brunson

· SKY HIGH 3 stars Better than Fantastic Four but falling far short of The Incredibles, Sky High is yet another feature film that centers on a family of superheroes. Here, teen Will Stronghold (Michael Angarano), tries to live up to the expectations of his parents, superhero legends The Commander (Kurt Russell) and Jetstream (Kelly Preston), by excelling in school. As long as Sky High tweaks the superhero genre, it remains on solid ground, thanks to savvy dialogue and smart casting (Russell and Bruce Campbell have the square jaws required of superheroes, and former Wonder Woman Lynda Carter appears as the school principal). But whenever the movie gets distracted by the conventions of the typical teen flick, it becomes a pale imitation of Mean Girls, Clueless and half the John Hughes oeuvre. -- Brunson

· A SOUND OF THUNDER 1 star (PG-13) In the year 2055, a reckless company arranges time-traveling dinosaur hunts, but a minor change in the past changes evolution and overruns "present-day" Chicago with lethal flora and fauna. Edward Burns, Catherine McCormack and Ben Kingsley commit to sturdy B-movie performances, but the illogical script and fakey effects deserve extinction. Still, it's hard to completely hate a film that features red-faced dinosaur-baboons. -- Holman

· TRANSPORTER 2 (PG-13) Jason Statham reprises his role as a former Special Forces operative who kicks ass, takes names and transports stuff. Here he must rescue a pair of kidnapped twins, so think The Pacifier without the laughs. Assuming The Pacifier had laughs.

· 2046 4 stars (R) Obsessive Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai crafts a sort-of-sequel to his art-house hit In the Mood for Love. Replacing unconsummated romance with unattached intimacy, 2046 proves an equally lush but more complex study in style and mood, as Tony Leung's dissolute writer becomes involved with some of Asia's most beautiful women, most prominently Crouching Tiger's Zhang Ziyi as a heartbroken call girl. Rather than try to decode all of the director's post-modern plot twists, you'll have a more satisfying time bathing in the film's voluptuousness. -- Holman

· UNDERCLASSMAN (PG-13) Drumline's Nick Cannon plays a streetwise L.A. cop who goes undercover at an elite private school. Presumably Martin Lawrence was too old for the role. The cast includes Cheech Marin, Kelly Hu and Ian Gomez.

· AN UNFINISHED LIFE 2 stars (PG-13) A gruff cowboy (Robert Redford) who still blames his daughter-in-law (Jennifer Lopez) for his son's death isn't thrilled when she shows up uninvited with her young daughter (Becca Gardner) in tow. It's good to see Redford playing a character who's more ornery than iconic, and the impressive Gardner provides a boost to every scene in which she appears -- she especially blossoms opposite Morgan Freeman, cast as Redford's trusty companion. Yet the camaraderie between the Redford and Freeman characters isn't always convincing -- it plays like an inferior version of the Freeman-Eastwood tag team in Million Dollar Baby -- while the heavy-handed moralizing leads to all the expected climaxes and conclusions. -- Brunson

· VALIANT 2 stars (G) The most interesting moment in this turgid animated feature is the revelation that of the 53 Dickin Medals given to animals for bravery during World War II, 31 of them went to pigeons. That sounds like a compelling subject for a live-action documentary (March of the Pigeons?), but instead, the topic has been tossed away on a rigidly rote cartoon that features the usual mix of uninspired computer-animated graphics, obvious morals aimed at small children and, oh yeah, flatulence gags. Ewan McGregor, in his second 2005 tour of duty in a mediocre cartoon (following last spring's Robots), provides the voice for the title character, who gets to prove his mettle by delivering important messages as part of the Royal Homing Pigeon Service. -- Brunson

· WAR OF THE WORLDS 3 stars (PG-13) A deadbeat dad (Tom Cruise) learns to be an attentive, protective father when alien war machines attack the American heartland. Director Steven Spielberg uses a sci-fi action premise comparable to Jurassic Park or Close Encounters of the Third Kind to air some serious themes about how a catastrophe brings out the best and worst in Americans. Imagery reminiscent of 9/11 abounds and Spielberg's command of terrifying set pieces remains unequaled, yet the script feels thinner than it should be and the "easy" resolutions make the end of the world feel oddly inconsequential. -- Holman

· WEDDING CRASHERS 2 stars(R) Jeremy (Vince Vaughn) and John (Owen Wilson) spend their weekends crashing weddings in a search for Ms. Right Now, but trouble strikes when the duo ends up falling for their prey. Although Wilson and Vaughn provide loads of snappy banter, Crashers just can't seem to consistently sustain the laughs. Ultimately, the film comes across as a great setup without a satisfying punch line. -- Hargro

· YES 4 stars (R) Director Sally Potter (The Tango Lesson, Orlando) has created a wholly original, ambitious and often patience-testing love story about an independent Western scientist (Joan Allen) who engages in a life-changing affair with a working class Lebanese cook (Simon Abkarian). -- Feaster

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  • Re: Fresh air

    • Local band Manchester Orchestra, who provided the soundtrack, probably would have appreciated a shout-out.

    • on June 29, 2016
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