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Capsule reviews of recently reviewed films 

Alpha Dog, Arthur and the Invisibles, The Aura, Course of the Golden Flower, others.

Opening Friday

ALPHA DOG (R) Nick Cassavetes directs this crime drama inspired by the life of Jesse James Hollywood, a drug dealer who became one of the youngest men ever on the FBI's Most Wanted List. The cast includes Emile Hirsch, Bruce Willis, Justin Timberlake and Harry Dean Stanton.

ARTHUR AND THE INVISIBLES (PG) In this half live-action, half computer-animated film from Luc Besson, a boy embarks on an adventure with fairy-like beings to save his grandfather's house. The plot reminds us of The Ant Bully and features voice performances from celebrities as diverse as Madonna, Robert De Niro and Snoop Dogg.

THE AURA 4 stars (R) See review.


NOTES ON A SCANDAL 4 stars (R) See review.

PRIMEVAL (R) A news crew ventures to South Africa to find a legendary 25-foot crocodile in this horror flick that appears reminiscent of J-Lo's Anaconda.

STOMP THE YARD (PG-13) A troubled 19-year-old dancer from Los Angeles enrolls in Atlanta's fictional Truth University, where he gets caught up in romance and the "step show" competitions of black fraternities. Directed by Sylvain White.

Duly Noted

JET LI'S FEARLESS (PG-13) Acclaimed martial arts megastar Jet Li kicks and punches for the last time -- allegedly -- in this visually opulent period-piece action flick. Jan. 8-25. Cinefest, GSU University Center, Suite 211, 66 Courtland St. $5 ($3 until 5 p.m.). 404-651-3565.

KOLBERG (1945) (NR) Filmed during World War II in 1943 and 1944, this historical epic about East Prussia's resistance to Napoleon was meant to motivate the German population, but the film completed when the war as nearly over. Looking at History. Wed., Jan. 17, 7 p.m. Goethe Institut Atlanta, 1197 Peachtree St. $3-$4. 404-894-2388.

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.


BABEL 4 stars (R) A freak mishap has far-reaching repercussions that effect 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 Rinko Kikuchi) and moments of nearly unbearable suspense. On reflection, Iñárritu's themes of language, globalization and human connection don't quite come together, but Babel's passion and visceral image give it power that transcends borders. -- Curt Holman

BLACK CHRISTMAS (R) Michelle Trachtenberg and Lacey Chabert star in this remake of the 1975 thriller (also known as Silent Night, Evil Night) about a slasher stalking a sorority house.

BLOOD DIAMOND 3 stars (R) A white soldier-turned smuggler (Leonardo DiCaprio) and a black fisherman (Djimon Hounsou) become unwilling partners in the effort to recover a huge, uncut diamond amid the chaos of a civil war in Sierra Leone. Glory's Edward Zwick directs a crisply paced, superbly photographed film, replete with magnificent vistas and harrowing action scenes. Despite the film's justified indignation over "conflict diamonds," however, the plot proves utterly familiar and the horrific black-on-black violence will more probably stick with the audience more than contempt for the Western corporations that profit from it. -- 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. -- Felicia Feaster

CHARLOTTE'S WEB 3 stars (G) Like a marketing genius, a friendly spider (voiced by Julia Roberts) used web-based messages to boost the profile -- and spare the life -- of a runty but good-hearted young pig named Wilbur (Dominic Scott Kay). This live-action adaptation of the classic children's book features barnyard, bodily-function humor that would have been unthinkable in author E.B. White's day. -- Holman

CHILDREN OF MEN 5 stars (R) In England of 2041, following a global epidemic of infertility, a cynical Englishman (Clive Owen) becomes caught up in a revolutionary group's plan, hinging on the miraculous secret of a young woman (Claire-Hope Ashitey). Alfonso Cuaron, director of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, retains the premise but departs from the spirit of P.D. James' novel to focus on xenophobia, homeland security and urban unrest. Trading high-tech sci-fi trappings for gritty, present-day concerns, Children of Men practically shimmers with tense scenes and rich themes, culminating with a breathless, wordless extended sequence that pleas for peace and the recognition of our shared humanity. -- Holman

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