Capsule reviews of recently reviewed movies 

Opening Friday


· SYRIANA (R) See review.

· TOUCH THE SOUND 2 stars. (NR) See review.

Opening Wednesday

· KING KONG (PG-13) This thoughtful meditation on the impact of modern civilization on the natural world dramatizes the problems that arise when an undomesticated animal is introduced to urban life. Or maybe it's about a giant gorilla clobbering dinosaurs and biplanes. Definitely one of the two.

Duly Noted

· IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE (2000) 4 stars. (PG) Like an achingly beautiful Chekhov short story of unrequited longing, Wong Kar-Wai's uneventful yet hypnotic cult film cultivates an atmosphere of desire and melancholy between two would-be lovers (Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung) married to cheating spouses. On a double-bill with its follow-up, 2046. Dec. 9-15. Cinefest, GSU University Center, Suite 211, 66 Courtland St. $5 ($3 until 5 p.m.). 404-651-3565. -- Curt Holman

· KAMIKAZE GIRLS (NR) Momoko, a girl obsessed with 18th-century France, brings some quirky life to a dull town in commercial Japan. Thurs., Dec. 8. Cinefest, GSU University Center, Suite 211, 66 Courtland St. $5 ($3 until 5 p.m.). 404-651-3565.

· THE KAISER'S LACKEY (1951) (NR) In this adaptation of Heinrich Mann's satirical novel, a sniveling coward on his honeymoon discovers an opportunity to do a favor for the kaiser. Wed., Dec. 14, 7 p.m. Goethe Institut Atlanta, 1197 Peachtree St. $3-$4. 404-892-2388.

· 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.

· 2046 4 stars. (R) Wong Kar-Wai's spellbinding sort-of sequel to In the Mood for Love is an even more voluptuous mood piece about a disillusioned writer (Tony Leung) and his love affairs (including Zhang Ziyi and Gong Li). Kar-Wai creates moments of such lushness that they provide their own justification, although you wonder if the director or his antihero is being lost in his own illusions. On a double-bill with In the Mood for Love. Dec. 9-15. Cinefest, GSU University Center, Suite 211, 66 Courtland St. $5 ($3 until 5 p.m.). 404-651-3565. -- Holman

· WALKING THE LINE (NR) This harrowing documentary depicts the chaos and absurdity along the U.S.-Mexico border in southern Arizona, where illegal immigrants cross a deadly desert, only to face volatile civilian militias upon arrival. Thurs., Dec. 15, 7:30 p.m., Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, 450 Auburn Ave. Free. 404-352-4225.


· AEON FLUX (PG-13) See review to right.

· CAPOTE 5 stars. (R) It's hard to take your eyes off Philip Seymour Hoffman as the vain, brilliant, manipulative and also haunted writer Truman Capote. Shrugging off the limitations of the usual biopic story arc, Bennett Miller's absorbing, thought-provoking, extremely well-crafted first fiction film (he directed the documentary The Cruise) focuses on a small but significant portion of Capote's life during the researching of his groundbreaking work of true crime nonfiction In Cold Blood, and the unhealthy mutual dependency that develops between the writer and one of the killers (Clifton Collins) of a Kansas farm family. -- Felicia Feaster

· CHICKEN LITTLE 1 star. (G) In this computer-animated catastrophe, Chicken Little (Zach Braff) of nursery-rhyme fame warns the cuddly critters of Oaky Oaks of an imminent alien invasion. Disney Animation flailingly emulates the pop references of the Shrek movies and, after about five minutes, stomps all over its promising jokes. In the spirit of such monickers as Foxy Loxy and Turkey Lurkey, Chicken Little would be better named Sucky Clucky. -- Holman

· DERAILED 1 star. (R) The inaugural feature from The Weinstein Company recalls the formation of TriStar Pictures back in the '80s, when the quality of its initial slate was so dreadful that one critic suggested the company should change its name to OneStar. The film stars Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston as unhappily married business drones whose attempt at an affair gets interrupted by a French thug (Vincent Cassel) with blackmail on his mind. I figured out the major plot twist even before stepping into the theater, yet this movie is so fundamentally brain-dead on so many levels that predictability turns out to be the least of its problems. -- Matt Brunson

· DORIAN BLUES 2 stars. (NR) At times suggesting a cream puff version of Gregg Araki's Mysterious Skin, this meringue-light indie directed by first-timer Tennyson Bardwell is a gay coming-of-age dramedy with the look and feel of a John Hughes 1980s teen comedy. Michael McMillian plays a cute gay teen having a hard time explaining his homosexuality to his conservative, homophobic father in a story line that tries desperately to cover moments of goofy physical comedy and a violent homosexual near-rape in its all-over-the-board progress. -- Feaster

· FIRST DESCENT (PG-13) From the press release: "First Descent chronicles the rebellious, inspiring and sometimes controversial rise of snowboarding." One can assume this documentary will be "extreme" -- but just how extreme will it get?

· GET RICH OR DIE TRYIN' 2 stars. (R) Rapper 50 Cent may have set the music world on fire, but as a movie star, he's as relevant as a dead mic. His starring vehicle, about a drug dealer trying to make it as a rap star, is yet one more uninspired crime pic. Yet the movie it most resembles -- coincidentally, given the proximity of the release dates -- is this past summer's Hustle & Flow (in which a pimp tried to make it as a rapper). It's fascinating to place both films side by side and see how one succeeds while the other doesn't. With its rich characterizations and pungent atmosphere, Hustle flows, while Get Rich or Die Tryin', with its frayed theatrics and stiff performance by 50 Cent, isn't worth a plugged nickel. -- Brunson

· GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK 5 stars. (PG) In the early 1950s, Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn) used his CBS show "See It Now" to take on U.S. Sen. Joe McCarthy's "witch hunt" tactics. Every creative decision pays off in George Clooney's second film, a black-and-white homage to the "greatest generation" of broadcast journalists, whose courage in the face of enormous pressures makes the Bush administration press corps look timid by comparison. The film succeeds enormously well at getting you under the skin of Murrow's reporters and anticipating the increasing influence of entertainment on broadcast news. See it now. -- Holman

· HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE 4 stars. (PG-13) Love and death are in the air at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry in the fourth Harry Potter film. Director Mike Newell presents the grandest, scariest spectacle in the franchise so far, featuring an exciting dragon chase and the worth-the-wait appearance of Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). In bringing a novel of more than 700 pages to the screen, Newell can resemble a frantic vaudeville plate-spinner: He revs up one subplot, and the others slow down. But Goblet proves an exciting and mature chapter in a (seemingly) never-ending story. -- Holman

· THE ICE HARVEST 2 stars. (R) John Cusack's sleazy lawyer and Billy Bob Thornton's smut peddler skim $2 million from a Wichita mob boss (Randy Quaid), but bad weather, double-crosses and Christmas Eve festivities thwart a clean getaway. The slick adaptation of Scott Phillips' noir novel feels more like a vehicle for 61-year-old director Harold Ramis and his screenwriters (director Robert Benton, 73, and novelist Richard Russo, 56) to work out their macho midlife crises. For all the film's soul-searching, its misogyny and lack of big laughs put a likable cast on thin Ice. -- Holman

· IMAX THEATER -- 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. Grand Canyon: The Hidden Secrets (NR): This exploration of one of America's greatest natural wonders retraces the canyon's history, from Native Americans to modern-day whitewater rafters. Fernbank Museum of Natural History IMAX Theater, 767 Clifton Road. 404-929-6300.

· IN THE MIX (PG-13) Haven't seen an usher in a cinema in a while? That changes when singer Usher plays a DJ who saves a Mafia princess and becomes her de facto bodyguard.

· JARHEAD 3 stars. (R) In Sam Mendes' adaptation of Anthony Swofford's memoir, a Marine sniper (Jake Gyllenhaal) flirts with madness as he awaits combat in the Gulf War. Jarhead presents snappy bits of barracks humor and some haunting images (Kuwait's burning oil fields look like hell itself), but inevitably feels anticlimactic: The "jarheads" suffer a kind of existential dilemma as they long to kill but never see combat. Admirably sympathetic to the pressures brought upon the modern military, Jarhead still proves disappointingly evasive in its lack of opinion on the current Iraq War. -- Holman

· JUST FRIENDS (PG-13) Rejected by his high-school crush, Ryan Reynolds grows up to be an incorrigible Don Juan -- until he encounters the same woman (Anna Faris) as an adult.

· THE LEGEND OF ZORRO 2 stars. (PG) Mr. and Mrs. Zorro (Antonio Banderas and Catherine Zeta-Jones) divorce after 10 years of marital smoldering and squabbling, but can their oh-so-cute son (Adrian Alonso) -- and a lot of obvious computerized special effects -- help them thwart a conspiracy that threatens the future of America? Despite reuniting the director and stars of 1998's rousing The Mask of Zorro, this belated sequel proves so sloppy, silly and overacted, it contaminates your memories of the prior film. -- Holman

· PARADISE NOW 3 stars. (PG-13) The kind of incendiary film that will vindicate some and infuriate others, Hany Abu-Assad's non-sequitur mix of dark comedy and thriller follows two hopeless young Palestinian men (Kais Nashef and Ali Suliman) who have decided to become suicide bombers and travel with bombs strapped to their bodies, from the West Bank to Tel Aviv. Too didactic and structurally rambling to be a great film, Abu-Assad's is instead a smaller, imperfect human drama that dares to humanize people that others would prefer to write off as terrorists. -- Feaster

· PRIDE & PREJUDICE 3 stars. (PG) Director Joe Wright and screenwriter Deborah Moggach have done an exemplary job of making us care all over again about the plight of the Bennet sisters, whose busybody mom (Brenda Blethyn) sets about finding them suitable husbands against the backdrop of 19th-century England. The oldest daughter, Jane (Rosamund Pike), immediately lands a suitor, but the independent Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) finds herself embroiled in a grudge match with the brooding Mr. Darcy (Matthew MacFadyen). Romanticists who fell hard for Colin Firth's Darcy in the 1995 BBC miniseries may or may not warm to MacFadyen (who's fine in the role), but there's no quibbling over Knightley's intuitive, note-perfect work as Elizabeth. -- Brunson

· PROTOCOLS OF ZION 2 stars. (NR) Marc Levin's documentary begins with the post-Sept. 11 conspiracy theory that Jewish workers were warned to stay away from the World Trade Center the day of the terrorist attacks, then digs deeper into anti-Semitism in the 21st century, much of it an extension of the fears expressed in a 1905 document, The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. That historical hoax concocted by the Czarist secret police decades ago, which claims Jews are planning to takeover the world, still finds true believers today, including many, according to Levin, in the Arab world. Levin finds much depressing evidence that anti-Semitism is among us, though his over-reliance on crackpots and fringe groups, from the hate website Jew Watch to Arab loafers hanging out on the streets of New York, seriously detracts from his message. -- Feaster

· RENT 3 stars. (PG-13) In Chris Columbus' adaptation of the Broadway musical, a group of twentysomething artists (played mostly by the now-thirtysomething original cast) wrestle with AIDS, drug addiction and creative compromise in Manhattan. At best, numbers like "La Vie Boheme" capture the same intoxication of creative urban youth in the film Fame; at worst, the overwrought, operatic romance plays like a long-form Bon Jovi video. Unlike the Oscar-winning Chicago, it seldom finds the right scale to play on the big screen, but it hits enough high notes to justify renting a theater seat for a couple of hours. -- Holman

· SARAH SILVERMAN: JESUS IS MAGIC 3 stars. (NR) In a kind of unofficial follow-up to The Aristocrats, gorgeous -- and outrageously profane -- comedienne Sarah Silverman violates nearly every racial, sexual and religious taboo imaginable in her persona as a ditzy narcissist. There's about 40 minutes of terrific concert footage interspersed with hit-and-miss song satires and sketches, making Jesus Is Magic an imperfect showcase for a hilarious, invaluable talent. -- Holman

· SHOPGIRL 2 stars. (R) With two shallow characters and a blandly gloomy story line, this adaptation of Steve Martin's novella feels like Pretty Woman putting on airs: a wistful, therapy-culture fairy tale for the New Yorker crowd. Martin, who is 60, plays a wealthy man who sweeps a pretty Saks Fifth Avenue clerk (Claire Danes, age 26) off her feet -- a lingering mystery considering Martin's performance as a corpse-like, unctuous moneybags. The only pleasure comes from Jason Schwartzman as a clueless slacker who vies with Mr. Big for the shopgirl's affection. -- Feaster

· THE SQUID AND THE WHALE 3 stars. (R) It's a hard fact of life whether crowed by Tammy Wynette or Park Slope eggheads: Breaking up is hard to do. Filmmaker Noah Baumbach offers a semi-autobiographical remembrance of divorce's toll on the kids. The year is 1986, two bookish Brooklyn intellectuals (Laura Linney and Jeff Daniels) -- based on Baumbach's film critic mother and novelist father -- split, shuttling their two sons (Owen Kline and Jesse Eisenberg) between their homes and unleashing some major anguish and anxieties. Often darkly funny in charting the effects of D-I-V-O-R-C-E for the over-analytical set not supposed to experience such mundane traumas, the film is too emotionally distant and too inconclusive to offer more than that age-old assertion that divorce sucks. -- Feaster

· USHPIZIN (PG) The appealingly named Giddi Dar directs this realistic comedy about an ultra-orthodox Jewish couple in Israel.

· WALK THE LINE 3 stars. (PG-13) This biopic of legendary but troubled country music star Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) focuses on his decades-long relationship with singer and muse June Carter (Reese Witherspoon). Witherspoon offers a fresh, original portrayal of a weary celebrity in a vastly different era of pop culture from our own, but James Mangold's film reveals little of Cash's inner life beyond his drug problems and crush on June, so Phoenix often comes across as merely sullen. The cast impressively sings their own songs, and the early rockabilly tours (with Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis) convey the excitement of rock's early days. -- Holman

· YOURS, MINE AND OURS 1 star. (PG) A descent into the pits of hell disguised as a motion picture, Yours, Mine and Ours is the sort of broad, insincere schmaltz that movie-goers seem to eat up at this time of year (see: Cheaper by the Dozen in 2003 and Christmas With the Kranks in 2004). A widower (Dennis Quaid) with eight kids bumps into his former high school sweetheart, now a widow (Rene Russo) with 10 children. On a whim, they decide to get married, but managing a household comprised of 18 minors proves to be a formidable challenge. A remake of a pleasant 1968 film with Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball, this jettisons all semblance of wit for the sake of one noisy, overwrought sequence after another. Somebody please kill this before it breeds again. -- Brunson

· ZATHURA 3 stars. (PG) Like Jumanji, this is based on a children's picture book by Chris Van Allsburg. Despite both involving a magical board game, this film differs in that it's set in outer space, showcases better visual effects, and replaces Jumanji's Robin Williams with a manic, defective robot (on second thought, that last point might not qualify as a difference). Imaginative without being particularly exciting, Zathura will appeal immensely to young viewers while causing adults to be the ones to occasionally fidget in their seats. Grown-ups, however, will be the ones who benefit from the script's funniest quip, a throwaway line involving the indie flick Thirteen. -- Brunson


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