Capsule reviews of recently released movies 

Fuck, 10 Items or Less, Turistas

Opening Friday

FUCK 2 stars. (Not Rated) See review.


THE NATIVITY STORY 2 stars.(PG) See review.

10 ITEMS OR LESS (R) Morgan Freeman plays a persnickety movie star who becomes "stranded" at an ethnic market on the outskirts of Los Angeles while researching a role, but finds personal renewal when he befriends a cashier (Paz Vega).

TURISTAS (R) From director John Stockwell (Blue Crush), this thriller depicts an ill-fated band of American tourists stranded in a Brazilian beach town after a bus accident.

VAN WILDER: THE RISE OF TAJ (R) In this sequel to National Lampoon's Van Wilder, Taj (Kal Penn) transfers to a prestigious English university and teaches a band of misfits how to party. Directed by Mort Nathan.

Duly Noted

CHOCOLAT (2000) (PG-13) Juliette Binoche plays the free-spirited proprietor of a chocolate shop who sets tongues a-twitter in a conservative French town in 1959 in this movie directed by Lasse Hallstrom. The film will be followed by a tasting of some of the finest chocolates of Europe. Fri., Dec. 1, 7 p.m. Goethe-Institut Atlanta, 1197 Peachtree Rd. $15-$20. 404-892-2388.

PINKEYE: FAGSPLOITATION (Not Rated) The monthly queer film series presents "Fagsploitation, hot beefcake films served by steamy go-go boys and campy gay tunes." Wed., Dec. 6., 8 p.m. Eyedrum Gallery, 290 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. $6. 404-522-0655.

THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975) (R) The cult classic of cult classics, the musical horror spoof follows an all-American couple (Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick) to the castle of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry), a drag-queen/mad scientist from another galaxy. It's all fun and games until Meat Loaf gets killed. Dress as your favorite character and participate in this musical on acid. Midnight Fri. at Lefont Plaza Theatre and Sat. at Peachtree Cinema & Games, Norcross.<

TALES OF THE RAT FINK (Not Rated) This heavily animated documentary biopic (with the voices of John Goodman, Ann-Margret and Jay Leno) profiles Ed "Big Daddy" Roth, who specialized in customized cars, "monster" T-shirts and the 1960s' rodent Rat Fink. Dec. 1-7. $5 ($3 until 5 p.m.). Cinefest, GSU University Center, Suite 211, 66 Courtland St. 404-651-3565.


BABEL 4 stars. (R) A freak mishap has far-reaching repercussions that affect the lives of a pair of American tourists (Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett), two young Moroccan shepherds, a Mexican nanny (Adriana Barraza) and a deaf Japanese teenager (Rinko Kikuchi). Amores Perros director Alejandro González Iñárritu presents another gripping, gritty and well-acted set of intersecting narratives that feature raw performances (particularly from Kikuchi) and moments of nearly unbearable suspense. Iñárritu's themes of language, globalization and human connection don't quite come together, but Babel's passion and visceral images give it power that transcends borders. – Curt Holman

BOBBY (R) Emilio Estevez directs this period drama about multiple storylines involving the guests at Los Angeles' Ambassador Hotel on the same day as Robert F. Kennedy's assassination on June 4, 1968. The huge cast includes Anthony Hopkins, Sharon Stone, Demi Moore, Lindsay Lohan and Christian Slater.

BORAT: CULTURE LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN 4 stars. (R) British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen pranks the United States by traveling the nation in his guise as Borat Sagdiyev, a disarmingly cheerful but sexist, anti-Semitic and colossally ignorant journalist from Kazakhstan. The satiric humor stems partly from Borat's unbelievably filthy and inappropriate behavior, but also from his unsuspecting dupes, whose reactions range from polite horror to apparent agreement at his offensive statements. Briefly touching on such notions as the quality of the national character and what makes for "acceptable" comedy, Borat's silly mockumentary turns out to be more than the sum of its naughty parts. – Holman

CASINO ROYALE 3 stars. (PG-13) A necessary revision in the post-Austin Powers age, Martin Campbell's (GoldenEye) adaptation of Ian Fleming's first novel in his spy series begins at the beginning, with the British spy making his first kills, achieving 007 status and establishing the Bond mystique. In this noirish Bond, the super spy bleeds, suffers, falls in love and exhibits some unusual breaks from the jet-setting, quip-master tradition established by Sean Connery, et. al. The darker mood makes a welcome change from the formula and, while a distinct break from the smooth operators of yore, Daniel Craig adds a human element to his James Bond. – Felicia Feaster

COME EARLY MORNING (R) Joey Lauren Adams, best known for playing Amy in Chasing Amy, writes and directs this tale of a thirtysomething single woman (Ashley Judd) in a small Southern town as she tries to take stock of her life and her family.

DECK THE HALLS (PG) See review.

DÉJÀVU (PG-13) An ATF agent (Denzel Washington) travels back in time to save a woman from being murdered in the first film shot in post-Katrina New Orleans. Expect the requisite slickness from director Tony Scott, who directed Washington in Man on Fire. The trailer looks bizarrely similar to Taye Diggs' new TV series "Daybreak."

THE DEPARTED 4 stars. (R) In this exciting, almost insanely intricate crime thriller set in Boston, Leonardo Dicaprio plays an undercover cop trying to ingratiate himself with an Irish mobster (Jack Nicholson), who has a mole in the police force passing as a high-level cop (Matt Damon). Nicholson oversells his naughty-Jack shtick and Vera Farmiga fails to engage our interest in the psychiatrist attracted to both undercover cops in this remake of the superb Hong Kong flick Infernal Affairs. But in his best film since Goodfellas, director Martin Scorsese makes an invigorating return to form that doesn't let the grand thematic gestures spoil the guilty pleasures of suspense scenes, rock soundtracks and profane repartee. – Holman

ENCOUNTER POINT (NR) This documentary explores the experiences of a wounded Palestinian, a grieving Israeli mother and other members of a grassroots movement pushing for peace in the Middle East.

FAST FOOD NATION 4 stars. (R) Dazed and Confused director Richard Linklater presents a fictionalized adaptation of Eric Schlosser's best-selling expose of the unappetizing dietary and workplace consequences of America's huge fast food corporations. Despite a tendency to preach at the audience, Fast Food Nation generates a surprising level of empathy for the ordinary characters in its interlocking narratives, including a hapless fast food marketing veep (Greg Kinnear), a teenage burger-slinging cashier (Ashley Johnson) and an illegal immigrant (Catalina Sandino Moreno) maltreated at a dehumanizing meat-packing plant. They could all use a break today. – Holman

FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS 3 stars. (R) Director Clint Eastwood reveals the history behind one of the 20th century's most famous images: the Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima. The film suffers from a convoluted flashback structure and spells out its themes about heroism with an unnecessarily heavy hand at the end. The battle scenes, however, reminiscent of Saving Private Ryan, convey the staggering scale of a world war, and the centerpiece story about the "Iwo Jima Marines" and their role in a 1945 bond drive explores some unexpectedly skeptical and complex ideas about selling war to a weary U.S. public. – Holman

FLUSHED AWAY 3 stars. (PG) A posh London pet rat (voiced by Hugh Jackman), travels the bathroom plumbing down to a zany, rodent-ruled metropolis in the English sewer system. Trading plasticene for pixels in its first computer-animated feature, Aardman Animation downplays its deadpan whimsy for the Shrek model of pop gags and bathroom humor. Despite the uncouth material, the film proves surprisingly fleet and funny while never apologizing for its overt "Englishness." Coming off a year of countless goofy-mammal movies, Flushed Away leaves the rest of the competition circling the drain. – Holman

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION 3 stars. (PG-13) Filmmaker Christopher Guest reunites with his usual comedic cohorts from< Waiting for Guffman and it's follow-ups for this portrait of the distorting effects that "Oscar buzz" has on a lame-looking, low-budget Southern drama called Home for Purim. The film suffers from too many characters and tired Hollywood stereotypes, like co-writer Eugene Levy's insincere agent. But at least it has some plot (unlike Guest's prior outing, A Mighty Wind) and it provides plenty of score-settling insights into the price of fame. – Holman

THE FOUNTAIN 4 stars. (PG-13) In director Darren Aronofsky's heady sci-fi flick, Hugh Jackman plays men in three time-lines trying to prove his love for a woman (each played by Rachel Weisz): a Spanish conquistador seeking a Mayan secret, a present-day surgical researcher and a far-future space traveler braving the distant reaches of the cosmos. The Fountain presents some of the most beautiful visions ever created by cinematic special effects. Yet the film also avoids tidy answers and unfolds as a kind of M.C. Escher puzzle, forever looping back on itself to offer more clues to universal mysteries. – Holman

A GOOD YEAR 2 stars. (PG-13) A competitive, status-driven London financier (Russell Crowe) learns to slow down and appreciate life's simpler pleasures when he inherits a chalet in Provence from his beloved uncle (Albert Finney). Crowe and his Gladiator director Ridley Scott both attempt a change of pace with this drowsy romantic comedy, but you're all too aware of the broody actor's efforts to lighten up and the filmmaker's restlessness with the flimsy material. Scott nevertheless gives the film a sunny sheen worthy of glossy-magazine travel porn, and three actresses of different ages – Abbie Cornish, Marion Cotillard and Isabelle Candelier – bring plenty of ooh-la-la. – Holman

HAPPY FEET 3 stars. (PG) Forever improving on nature, Hollywood offers an animated answer to the crowd-pleasing penguin doc March of the Penguins. A mix of environmental message and "American Idol"-song and dance extravaganza, the energetic adventure centers on a penguin who, unlike his peers, cannot sing, but can hoof like there's no tomorrow. – Feaster

HARSH TIMES (R) Christian Bale and "Six Feet Under's" Freddy Rodriguez play old friends trying to stay on the straight and narrow but increasingly drawn to the lifestyle of crime and drugs on Los Angeles' mean streets.

IMAX THEATER Deep Sea (NR) Get an up-close-and-personal look at sea turtles, giant octopi and other strange and colorful marine life in this visit to the ocean floor. Greece: Secrets of the Past (NR) This documentary explores the archaeological secrets of ancient Greece and features the Parthenon in its original glory as well as the volcanic eruption that buried the island of Santorini. Fernbank Museum of Natural History IMAX Theater, 767 Clifton Road. 404-929-6300.

THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND 3 stars. (R) Based on Giles Foden's novel, this thriller imagines 1970s Ugandan dictator Idi Amin (Forrest Whitaker) appointing a naive Scottish doctor as his personal doctor. As their relationship develops, Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy) also becomes Amin's political confidante, witnessing his growing paranoia and murderous reign firsthand. The film begins as a rousing study of Amin's charismatic, outsize personality amid a black power and folk music-infected Africa. But it soon descends into a kind of Halloween-goes-African, an absurd white man's nightmare as Garrigan finds himself trapped in the baroque horrors of Amin's Uganda. Though there is implausibility galore and a disturbing use of Africa as the source of both the white world's fantasies and fear, Whitaker rises above the often exploitative material to deliver a performance of astounding humanity and appeal that gets you into the dark, divided heart of the dictator. – Feaster

LET'S GO TO PRISON (R) Will Arnett, beloved as the jerky, pretentious "illusionist" in "Arrested Development," plays a doofus who finds himself wrongfully jailed in this raunchy comedy directed by "Mr. Show" co-creator Bob Odenkirk.

LITTLE CHILDREN 4 stars. (R) One of the rare films that improves on a novel, Todd Field's film adaptation of Tom Perrotta's (Election) snarky social comedy has real tenderness for and insight into its characters despite their myriad problems ranging from selfishness and porn addiction to antisocial sexual urges. Kate Winslet and Patrick Wilson are the married parents of young children who meet on the playground and soon tumble into bed in a leafy Massachusetts suburb where adultery is just a way of momentarily escaping deeper anxieties. – Feaster

MARIE ANTOINETTE 3 stars. (PG-13) Eighteenth-century Versailles meets high school in Sofia Coppola's confectionary, girly-girl take on France's most famous teenage queen. Kirsten Dunst is pearly perfection as the Austrian babe traded to the French as the wife to future King of France XVI (Jason Schwartzman), who prefers his hunting-dude pals to making babies with Marie A. Coppola has never failed to let her cool-girl flag fly, and her injection of '80s pop tunes and California attitude into the 18th-century royal court is often a gas. But it's not enough to cover for Marie A.'s distinct lack of an inner life (gazing wistfully out of windows doesn't count), or some compelling take on this famous female rebel. – Feaster

THE PRESTIGE 4 stars. (PG-13) Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman play rival Victorian-era stage magicians in an enchanting, intricate period piece. Director Christopher Nolan (Memento, Batman Begins) raises the suspense and emotional stakes of Christopher Priest's seemingly unfilmable novel, which features fascinating behind-the-scenes details of an illusionist's craft as well as the eternal tension between showmanship and technical perfectionism. The Prestige provides plenty of razzle-dazzle and clever construction that will reward a second viewing, even if the ambiguous ending prompts arguments about how they did it. – Holman

THE QUEEN 4 stars. (PG-13) Helen Mirren is enthralling as the emotionally flummoxed Queen Elizabeth II who finds herself stuck in the middle of royal protocol and modernization when former princess Diana dies. The grieving British masses demand a public funeral, but the monarch resists and chipper new Prime Minister Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) steps in to run interference. An often hilarious portrait of the bizarre WASP rituals of the royals and the media blitzkrieg surrounding Diana's death, Stephen Frears' exceptionally enjoyable tragicomedy is a tour de force all around. – Feaster

THE RETURN (PG-13) In this supernatural thriller directed by Asif Kapadia, Sarah Michelle Gellar plays a young woman haunted by visions of a murder, and tries to solve the mystery before the killer targets her.

RUNNING WITH SCISSORS 2 stars. (R) In this A-list adaptation of Augusten Burroughs' best-selling memoir, an unbalanced mother (Annette Bening) dumps her loving teenage son (Joseph Cross) at the squalid home of her psychiatrist (Brian Cox) and his loopy family. "Nip/Tuck" creator and first-time director Ryan Murphy gets the film's suburban "Me Decade" look exactly right while completely missing the book's deadpan sense of humor and relying on the soundtrack music for the film's emotional heavy lifting. Bening certainly acts her heart out, but her efforts are virtually for naught, since we pretty much know everything about her character from the moment we set eyes on her. – Holman

THE SANTA CLAUSE III: THE ESCAPE CLAUSE (PG) Tim Allen once more dons the white beard and red felt as a regular guy who takes to his newfound career as Kris Kringle. In this outing, Santa invites his new in-laws (Ann-Margaret and Alan Arkin) to the North Pole at the same time as Jack Frost (Martin Short) attempts a hostile takeover. It sounds sort of like a cross between Meet the Fockers and "Mr. Cold Miser."

SAW III (R) Like watching the leaves turn color and fall to the ground, the release of the latest Saw film in late October has become an annual autumn tradition. In the third installment, directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, serial killer Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) introduces an apprentice to his dismembering mind games.

SHORTBUS 2 stars. (NR) Beware directors who say they're going to make the definitive sex movie. With just one (albeit an exceptional one) film under his belt, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, John Cameron Mitchell feels it's time to tackle porno-quality sex married to an actual art-house story. The explicit sex is frank, all right – much of it placed front and center in the film's introduction – but is tied to a corny, shallow story about sexy New Yorkers having a hard time in bed. Mitchell suggests post-Sept. 11 angst is to blame, but cardboard characters and dialogue out of a '60s encounter session just might be the real problem. – Feaster

SHUT UP AND SING (NR) This documentary blends performance footage and behind-the-scenes sequences to recount the firestorm that surrounded country music stars the Dixie Chicks following singer Natalie Maines' criticism of President Bush during a 2003 concert.

STRANGER THAN FICTION 3 stars. (PG-13) Dull IRS agent Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) learns that he has inadvertently become the lead character in a book being written by reclusive author Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson). Despite the innovative premise, this never matches the existential, mind-bending depths of, say, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and remains resolutely mainstream, with flights of fancy that lightly tickle the brain but never really challenge it. The upside is that this allows a love story to take root amid the high concept, and as enacted by Ferrell and Maggie Gyllenhaal (playing a baker who awakens Harold's dormant passions), it's both charming and disarming. – Matt Brunson

TENACIOUS D IN THE PICK OF DESTINY 2 stars. (R) Jack Black and Kyle Gass bring their hilarious, "heavy acoustic" comedy duo, Tenacious D, to the big screen with frustrating results. As Black and Gass's deluded, open-mic-night losers embark on a quest to find a black magic guitar pick, The Pick of Destiny seems to have everything going for it, including hilariously overwrought songs, Tarot-style animated titles and cameos from Sasquatch, Satan and Tim Robbins. Rather than hit the raunchy heights of South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut, however, director Liam Lynch achieves no better than the level of an old Cheech and Chong movie, and watching the film's weak comedic timing is like seeing a great live act diminished by feedback distortion. – Holman

THIS FILM IS NOT YET RATED 3 stars. (NR) Documentary filmmaker Kirby Dick takes aim at the secrecy and de facto censorship practices of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), which gives American movies their ratings from "G" through "NC-17." The film raises provocative questions about "acceptable content" when it reveals the MPAA's bias toward the major studios and independent filmmakers, and toward gory violence over realistic sexuality. Dick's decisions to hire a private investigator, literally root through garbage and reveal the MPAA's raters on camera raise myriad ethical red flags, but undeniably make for compelling viewing, particularly when he submits his work-in-progress to the MPAA. – Holman

UNKNOWN (R) Five men awaken in a locked warehouse with no memories of who they are in this thriller whose plot suggests Reservoir Dogs by way of Saw. Directed by Simon Brand and starring James Caviezel, Joe Pantoliano, Barry Pepper and Greg Kinnear

WRESTLING WITH ANGELS 4 stars. (Not rated) Freida Lee Mock's (Maya Lin: A Strong Clear Vision) documentary offers a modest but revealing portrait of the gay, socialist, activist, Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner (Angels in America). Following Kushner from Sept. 11 to the 2004 presidential election, Mock captures the endearingly down-to-earth playwright in personal moments, celebrating his father's 80th birthday in Kushner's hometown of Lake Charles, La., or delivering an impassioned speech at a pre-Iraq invasion antiwar rally in his home base of Manhattan. It is hard not to respect a man who so passionately interweaves his political beliefs with a great compassion and empathy for the human condition. – Feaster


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