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Capsule reviews of recently reviewed movies 

Opening Friday

BODY OF LIES (R) See review.

CITY OF EMBER (PG) The city of Ember is illuminated by glittering lights, but when Ember's generator starts to fail, two teens must solve an ancient mystery before their city is swallowed by darkness. Directed by Gil Kenan (Monster House).

THE EXPRESS (PG) Rob Brown stars as real-life football star Ernie Davis, who was diagnosed with leukemia after being drafted into the NFL, in this biopic from director Gary Fleder (Runaway Jury).

A GIRL CUT IN TWO (NR) See review on.

I SERVED THE KING OF ENGLAND ***** (R) An elderly Czech ex-con (Oldrich Kaiser) reflects on his past as a waiter, lover and pawn of European history in this superb film from director Jiri Menzel. Ivan Barnev plays the character as a young man and demonstrates the physical humor and sad-sack sympathy of a silent film-era star. In its celebration of both physical comedy and physical beauty, the film presents a feast for the eyes, even as it builds to a stealthy but stinging critique of moral blindness. -- Curt Holman

QUARANTINE (R) A television reporter (Jennifer Carpenter) and her cameraman (Steve Harris) are on assignment with the L.A. fire department when a call takes them to an apartment building where an unknown infection leads to quarantine and carnage.

Duly Noted

CHRISTMAS ON MARS: A FANTASTICAL FILM FREAKOUT FEATURING THE FLAMING LIPS It's Christmastime on colonized Mars, and when technology begins to malfunction, the people are worried, until a benevolent alien super-being (the Flaming Lips' frontman Wayne Coyne, who also directed) arrives to help them. $9. Wed., Oct. 8, 7:30 and 9:30 p.m. Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave. 404-873-1939.

FOUND FOOTAGE FILM FESTIVAL A national touring festival that showcases strange and hilarious found video footage. Hosted by comedians Joe Pickett and Nick Prueher. $10. Sun., Oct. 12, 7:30 p.m. Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave. 404-873-1939.


MAN WITH THE MOVIE CAMERA (1929) (NR) Dziga Vertov's documentary of a day in the life of the Soviet Union and a day in the life of a Soviet filmmaker. Screened with the score by the Alloy Orchestra. Free. Wed., Oct. 8, 8 p.m. White Hall, Room 205, Emory University. 404-727-6761.

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. Midnight, Fridays at Plaza Theatre, and Saturdays at Peachtree Cinema & Games, Norcross.

UNDER THE INFLUENCE A showcase of the terrain and conditions faced by serious skiers and snowboarders around the world. Repeat show Wednesday. $15-$20. Tues., Oct. 14, 7:30 p.m. Sweetwater Brewing Company, 195 Ottley Drive. 404-691-2537.


ALLAH MADE ME FUNNY (NR) Live stand-up comedy from three Muslim-American comics: Mohammed Amer, Preacher Moss and Azhar Usman.

AN AMERICAN CAROL (PG-13) See review on.

ANOTHER GAY SEQUEL: GAYS GONE WILD (NR) In this sequel to Todd Stephens' Another Gay Movie, Andy, Nico, Jarod and Griff go to a resort in Fort Lauderdale and compete to see who can get the most notches in his bedpost over spring break.

APPALOOSA 3 stars (R) Two freelance marshals (Viggo Mortensen and Ed Harris, who directed and co-wrote the screenplay) bring law and order to Appaloosa in defiance of a powerful, sadistic rancher (Jeremy Irons in full "Uncle Scar" mode). Harris and Mortensen casually banter with each other and the shoot-outs are appropriately loud and sudden, along the lines of last year's 3:10 to Yuma, but the film's sexual politics (embodied by Renee Zellweger's free-thinking piano player) border on misogynistic. -- Holman

BABYLON A.D. (PG-13) French director Mathieu Kassovitz (Gothika) oversees this action-packed Vin Diesel vehicle about genetic manipulation. Based on the novel Babylon Babies by Maurice Dantec.

BANGKOK DANGEROUS (R) Nicolas Cage stars in this remake of a film about a hitman in the Thai capital, directed by brothers Oxide Pang Chun and Danny Pang.

BEAUTIFUL LOSERS (NR) A documentary about the emergence of do-it-yourself art in the early '90s, focusing on 10 artists -- self-proclaimed nerds and freaks -- with a unified aesthetic.

BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA (PG) A pampered pup named Chloe (voiced by Drew Barrymore) gets separated from her owners and must find her way back. On the way, she makes new friends and uncovers her rich chihuahua heritage.

BLINDNESS 3 Stars (R) Fernando Meirelles (the Brazillian director of City of God and The Constant Gardener) presents a heavily-allegorical thriller in which an epidemic of blindness sweeps an unnamed city. A still-sighted woman (Julianne Moore) joins her blinded husband (Mark Ruffalo) in a crowded quarantine facility, which soons resembles a cross between The Lord of the Flies and the New Orleans Superdome after Hurricane Katrina. Heavy-handed and at times infuriatingly contrived, the film redeems itself with Moore's raw performance and chilling set pieces that affirm Meirelles as a director with, uh, vision. -- Holman

BOTTLE SHOCK (PG-13) Bill Pullman and Alan Rickman star in this film, based on a true story, about a struggling California wine seller who changes the wine industry with a remarkable chardonnay.

BURN AFTER READING 3 stars (R) A pair of dim-witted gym employees (Frances McDormand and Brad Pitt) blackmail a disgruntled CIA analyst (John Malkovich) in this comedy from the Coen brothers. In contrast to their bleak Oscar winner No Country for Old Men, Burn After Reading offers a hilarious parody of spy thrillers, replete with sinister music and shadowy figures following the protagonists. The Coens' fondness for anticlimaxes diminishes the film's potential punch, but the hilarious performances alone would make it worth seeing, including Michael Clayton co-stars George Clooney and Tilda Swinton. -- Holman

CHOKE 2 stars (R) Character actor Clark Gregg adapted, directed and played a supporting role in this ineffectual version of the novel by Fight Club author Chuck Palahniuk. Sam Rockwell plays a "historical interpreter" at an 18th century village who struggles with sex addiction, tries to care for his demented mother (a charismatic Anjelica Huston) and chokes on food at restaurants so he can scam his rescuers. Choke retains Palahniuk's snide, aggressive voice and engineers some memorably dark gags, but the different plot threads never add up to much. -- Holman

COLLEGE (R) Drake Bell, Kevin Covias and Andrew Caldwell star as three high school students who visit a college campus for a weekend and destroy a fraternity.

THE DARK KNIGHT 4 stars (PG-13) Director Christopher Nolan's follow-up to Batman Begins features such sharp conflicts, gritty locations and breathless action scenes that the flamboyant hero and villain costumes seem almost superfluous. The late Heath Ledger's creepy, charismatic turn as the anarchic Joker could have earned the actor a second career playing movie bad guys, while Aaron Eckhart's portrayal of district attorney Harvey Dent, the "white knight" of crime-ridden Gotham City, gives the film the dimensions of classic tragedy. As Bruce Wayne, Christian Bale doesn't seem to mind being upstaged. -- Holman

DISASTER MOVIE (PG-13) The makers of Date Movie and Meet the Spartans present this comedic send-up of disaster movies.

THE DUCHESS 3 stars (PG-13) Kiera Knightley plays the glamorous Georgiana Spencer, an 18th century ancestor of Princess Diana, who endured a similar romantic triangle in her marriage to the emotionally remote Duke of Devonshire (Ralph Fiennes). Saul Dibb's adaptation of the acclaimed biography focuses on pre-feminist social predicaments and proves smarter than the average bodice-ripper. If not a particularly deep period piece, it's still a lively, juicy one about domestic power struggles and the public value of having children (a point with echoes in the current presidential campaign). -- Holman

EAGLE EYE (PG-13) Two strangers (Shia LaBeouf and Michelle Monaghan) are thrown together when they receive calls from a mysterious woman and are forced into dangerous and illegal situations.

THE FAMILY THAT PREYS (PG-13) Two very different families (headed by Kathy Bates and Alfre Woodard, respectively) come together to overcome greed and scandal in local Tyler Perry's sixth feature film.

FLASH OF GENIUS (PG-13) The true story of Bob Kearns (Greg Kinnear), the inventor of the intermittent windshield wiper, whose idea was rejected and then stolen by three major car companies, and who sued them for more than $30 million.

FLOW: FOR THE LOVE OF WATER (NR) Irena Salina's award-winning documentary about the world water crisis and the privatization of Earth's most precious resource.

FLY ME TO THE MOON (G) Three houseflies stow away on the Apollo 11 spaceship and fly to the moon in this first-ever all-CGI animated 3-D film.

GET SMART 2 stars (PG-13) In this adaptation of the 1960s sitcom, eager espionage analyst Maxwell Smart (Steve Carell) is paired with gorgeous Agent 99 (Anne Hathaway) to track down Russian nuclear material. With supporting players including Alan Arkin as the slow-burning chief, the spy spoof features smart casting but can't decide whether Carell's role should be likably naïve or a bumbling, overbearing know-it-all like Don Adams in the original show. Get Smart's fat jokes and lumbering stunt scenes evoke the lame action-comedies of the 1980s, and topical gags about subjects like airport profiling were funnier in Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay. -- Holman

GHOST TOWN 3 stars (PG-13) A misanthropic dentist ("The Office's" Ricky Gervais) has a near-death experience and discovers he can talk to ghosts, including a pushy jerk (Greg Kinnear) who wants to scuttle the remarriage of his widow (Téa Leoni). David Koepp's supernatural comedy plays less like a spoof of The Sixth Sense than a variation on Groundhog Day's redemption of a jerky guy, but the jokes feel undercooked. Such questions haunt the film as "Wouldn't it be funnier if Kinnear and Gervais, cast against type, switched roles?" and "Should you really spend a rom-com hoping the guy doesn't get the girl?" -- Holman

HAMLET 2 2 stars (R) Failed actor turned failing high school teacher Dana Marschz (Steve Coogan) faces the closing of the drama department unless his misguided, autobiographical musical sequel to Hamlet turns out to be a hit. Although the comedy offers an overt spoof of inspirational-teacher films like Dangerous Minds, it's more reminiscent of Christopher Guest's portraits of American losers like Waiting for Guffman, only Coogan's overplayed characterization makes the jokes resemble shooting fish in a barrel. The show's opening night, with the musical number "Rock Me Sexy Jesus" is a hoot, but not enough to redeem the rest of the film. -- Holman

HANCOCK 3 stars (PG-13) Will Smith plays hilariously against his slick megastar image as John Hancock, a superhero with Kryptonian powers who's nevertheless a drunken, surly jerk who causes more problems than he alleviates. The first hour or so of Hancock has a great deal of fun with its premise, which satirizes superheroes and misbehaving celebrities, and gives Hancock an amusing foil in Jason Bateman's idealistic publicist (now there's a contradiction in terms). The last section throws logic, humor and audience goodwill out the window, and no one catches the movie when it falls. -- Holman

HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY 3 stars (PG-13) Wisecracking outcast demon Hellboy (Ron Perlman) and his ghostbusting pals try to stop a pissed-off prince (Luke Goss) of mystical beings from waging war on the human race. Pan's Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro may be a visionary filmmaker, but isn't much of a juggler, and here he takes on more themes, subplots and running gags than he can handle. With Hellboy II, he'll have to settle for offering one of the most outlandishly stylish screen fantasies ever made. -- Holman

THE HOUSE BUNNY (PG-13) This Adam Sandler-produced comedy stars Anna Faris as an ex-Playboy bunny who becomes the house mother for an unpopular sorority in desperate need of new pledges.

HOW TO LOSE FRIENDS AND ALIENATE PEOPLE (R) Shaun of the Dead's Simon Pegg stars as Sidney Young, a British celebrity journalist thrown into the foreign world of high fashion when he's hired by an upscale New York magazine. Based on the memoir by Toby Young.

IGOR (PG) Igor (voiced by John Cusack), a hunchbacked, dime-a-dozen mad scientist's assistant, dreams of one day being a great mad scientist himself in this animated twist on monster movies.

THE INCREDIBLE HULK 3 stars (PG-13) In this snappy do-over sequel to Ang Lee's sluggish, overthought Hulk in 2003, fugitive scientist Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) seeks a cure for the anger-management condition that turns him into raging green giant. Transporter 2 director Louis Leterrier not only sets a fast pace and crafts plenty of CGI mayhem, he and the cast (including Liv Tyler, Tim Roth and William Hurt) find the soap-operatic heart of the story. All comic book movies should be at least this good. -- Holman

INDIANA JONES AND THE KINGDOM OF THE CRYSTAL SKULL 3 stars (PG-13) The latest Indy flick embraces the franchise's nostalgia for itself, but the sentimental streak seems justifiable given the 19-year interim between chapters. It isn't exactly a fresh film adventure -- an automotive chase through the jungle feels like an undisguised retread of Raiders of the Lost Ark's truck chase. But Crystal Skull comes across not as lazy, but laid-back, as though the filmmakers have too much confidence to panic about trying to top the earlier films, or compete with their younger selves. -- Holman

KIT KITTREDGE: AN AMERICAN GIRL 3 stars (G) This big-screen extension of the American Girl line of dolls and merchandise depicts a plucky would-be reporter (Little Miss Sunshine's Abigail Breslin) and the challenges she faces when her family tries to weather the Great Depression. Parents will appreciate the film's lack of vulgar humor and scary intensity, although it ventures into some unexpectedly grim (and unfortunately timely) themes of the toll of economic downturns on family life. -- Holman

KUNG FU PANDA 4 stars (PG) In fairy-tale, talking-animal China, a fat panda named Po (voiced by Jack Black) is improbably chosen to be the all-powerful "Dragon Warrior." The studio that gave us the Shrek movies downplays the pop references and body-function humor for a satisfying CGI action/comedy that features a splendid visual design and surprisingly exciting fight scenes, including a chopstick fight between Po and his diminutive teacher (voiced by Dustin Hoffman). -- Holman

LAKEVIEW TERRACE (PG-13) Samuel L. Jackson stars as a Los Angeles police officer determined to get rid of his new neighbors, a young interracial couple (Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington).

THE LUCKY ONES (R) Three Iraq war veterans (Michael Pena, Tim Robbins and Rachel McAdams) embark on a road trip, which turns out longer -- and more meaningful -- than they expected.

MAMMA MIA! 3 stars (PG-13) The songs of 1970s Swedish supergroup ABBA inspire this musical, which trades sequins and disco for the sun and sand of a gorgeous Greek isle. A bride-to-be (Amanda Seyfried) invites the three men who may be her father (Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth and Stellan Skarsgård) to her wedding, without the knowledge of her single mother (Meryl Streep). The dads can't sing at all, and choreography is practically nonexistent, but the catchy melodies and Streep's upbeat portrayal should give the film plenty of appeal to women of a certain age. Christine Baranski steals the show with a saucy rendition of "Does Your Mother Know." -- Holman

MEET DAVE (PG) Eddie Murphy and Norbit director Brian Robbins come together again in this sci-fi comedy in which a crew of tiny aliens travels to Earth inside Dave (Murphy), their human spacecraft.

MIRACLE AT ST. ANNA (R) This latest endeavor from Spike Lee tells the story of four soldiers from the all-black 92nd Buffalo Soldier Division stationed in Tuscany in World War II, and how a young boy changed everything.

MIRRORS (R) Kiefer Sutherland stars as Ben Carson, an ex-cop working as a museum security guard, who discovers evil lurking in the mirrors at the museum and in his home.

THE MUMMY: TOMB OF THE DRAGON EMPEROR 3 stars (PG-13) In post-WWII China, retired treasure hunters Rick and Evelyn O'Connell (Brendan Fraser and Maria Bello) must stop resurrected Chinese Emperor Han (Jet Li) from finding Shangri-la, becoming immortal and raising an unstoppable army of terra-cotta warriors. -- Holman

MY BEST FRIEND'S GIRL (R) Tank (Dane Cook) takes girls on bad dates to get them back with their ex-boyfriends, but when his best friend (Jason Biggs) makes the same arrangement with his ex (Kate Hudson), it leads to an awkward love triangle.

NICK & NORAH'S INFINITE PLAYLIST 4 stars (PG-13) Michael Cera and Kat Dennings play teenage music fans who meet and might fall in love during a whirlwind night amid Manhattan's rock scene. Even if you don't know Vampire Weekend from Bishop Allen, director Peter Sollett's film charmingly captures the anxiety and exhilaration of new love while easily integrating the hip musical acts into the atmosphere of the character's lives (and the soundtrack). Plus, it's a seductive love letter to New York, where teens can apparently run free and park anywhere on the street without adult supervision. -- Holman

NIGHTS IN RODANTHE 2 stars (PG-13) In this adaptation of a novel by Nicholas Sparks, a single mom (Diane Lane) and a soul-searching plastic surgeon (Richard Gere) get to know each other as the only residents of a beachside B&B in North Carolina. Reuniting after their acclaimed pairing in Unfaithful, Lane and Gere again make an attractive screen couple, but the film's predictable, tear-jerking plot twists and slowpoke pace never rise above the tame material. -- Holman

PINEAPPLE EXPRESS 2 stars (R) A process server (Seth Rogen) witnesses a murder and goes on the run in Los Angeles with his friendly neighborhood pot dealer (James Franco) in this comedy that would only be more clichéd if they fled cross-country with a bag of money. Grumpy Rogen and half-baked Franco make likable comedic foils, but the film's familiar plotting and surprisingly violent action scenes undermine its attempt to charm the audience. Of all the films by producer Judd Apatow (who worked with Rogen on Knocked Up and Superbad), Pineapple Express disappoints the most, sending high expectations up in smoke. -- Holman

RELIGULOUS 3 stars (R) Comedian/talk show host Bill Maher launches an irreverent attack against organized religion in this documentary from Borat director Larry Charles. Most of Maher's interviewees seem to be chosen for silliness reasons and not intellectual rigor -- does he really expect to get an air-tight theological argument from a theme-park Jesus? -- and some of the film's jokey subtitles and editing choices seem beneath him. Nevertheless, until the too-serious conclusion, Religulous offers persistent laughs and makes some intriguing points about how some religious tenets fail to hold up to close scrutiny. -- Holman

RIGHTEOUS KILL (R) Al Pacino and Robert De Niro star in this psychological thriller about a serial killer who targets criminals.

THE SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELING PANTS 2 (PG-13) This sequel finds best friends Tibby, Carmen, Bridget and Lena reunited after a year away at college and struggling to keep in touch against the odds. Based on the series of novels by Ann Bradshare.

SPACE CHIMPS (G) A group of chimps embark on a dangerous space mission led by Ham III (voiced by Andy Samberg), the slightly incompetent grandson of the first chimp astronaut.

STAR WARS: THE CLONE WARS 1 star (PG) Jedi knight Anakin Skywalker (voiced by Matt Lanter) and his new apprentice Ahsoka Tano (Ashley Dane) must rescue Jabba the Hutt's kidnapped son, which could tip the scales in an intergalactic war. Set between the events of Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith, this computer-animated lead-in to an upcoming Cartoon Network series revives all of the most irritating aspects of the Star Wars prequels, including horrible dialogue, infantile characterization and bad jokes, without any of the modest virtues, such as intensity and sci-fi skullduggery. If you thought Jar-Jar Binks was annoying, wait'll you meet Jabba's sissy Uncle Ziro. -- Holman

STEP BROTHERS 2 stars (R) Two immature fortyish men (Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly) become despised roommates after the wedding of their single parents (Mary Steenburgen and Richard Jenkins). Ferrell and Reilly seem to have had more fun making the movie than the audience has watching it, and though Ferrell's and Reilly's sibling rivalry generates some belly laughs, the familiar premise and thin story make the film perfectly forgettable. On the plus side, it's the least unfunny of this summer's big, star-driven comedies. -- Holman

SWING VOTE (PG-13) Due to a ballot error in the presidential election, the fate of the free world hangs on the vote of one man -- apathetic single father Bud Johnson (Kevin Costner).

TELL NO ONE (NR) Pediatrician Alexandre Beck (François Cluzet) finds out his wife, murdered eight years earlier, might still be alive and is instructed to "tell no one" in this adaptation of Harlan Coben's international best seller.

TRAITOR (PG-13) Guy Pierce stars as an FBI agent investigating an international conspiracy, when he finds that all the clues seem to lead back to a former U.S. Special Ops officer named Samir Horn (Don Cheadle).

TRANSSIBERIAN 3 stars (R) A middle-American couple (Emily Mortimer and Woody Harrelson) hope to rekindle their marriage on an "adventurous" trip across Asia on the Transsiberian Railway, but when they meet a mysterious younger pair (Eduardo Noriega and Kate Mara), they find more excitement than they bargained for. Director Brad Anderson proves to be a close student of Alfred Hitchcock thrillers, cultivating a skin-crawling sensation of paranoia amid the former Soviet locations. It's the perfect film for audiences who find the Hostel films too lowbrow, and The Darjeeling Limited too twee. -- Holman

TROPIC THUNDER 2 stars (R) A Hollywood cast and crew (including Ben Stiller, Robert Downey Jr., Jack Black, Brandon T. Jackson and Jay Baruchel) on location for a Vietnam War movie gets plopped into real danger thanks to some studio shenanigans. Stiller's script, co-written with Justin Theroux and Idiocracy screenwriter Etan Cohen, delivers spot-on jokes about Hollywood and war-movie clichés, and with comedic talents such as Downey, Black and surprising scene-stealer Baruchel, there's enough hammy fun to last a while. But Stiller's grating dullard character wears thin fast, and the drawn-out conclusion robs the comedy of its zip. -- David Lee Simmons

VICKY CRISTINA BARCELONA 3 stars (PG-13) During a summer in Spain, two smart American hotties (Scarlett Johansson and the impressive newcomer Rebecca Hall) become romantically involved with a smoldering artist (Oscar-winner Javier Bardem) who has an unbalanced ex-wife (the superb Penelope Cruz). Perhaps the warm weather and flamenco music invigorated 72-year-old writer/director Woody Allen, whose creative juices were clearly flowing with this film's lively, stormy love affairs. Allen still overthinks his dialogue and ideas, but this time they don't muffle the sensuality of the film's locale or the characters. -- Holman

WALL-E 4 stars (G) "WALL-E," a lonely, trash-compacting machine that might be the last entity on Earth, pursues his love for a sleek, feminine robot to the titanic starship that contains the human race. Finding Nemo director Andrew Stanton crafts a story with the intelligence and heart that's the trademark of Pixar Studios (creators of the Toy Story movies), as well as the stunning images and visionary ideas of the best science fiction. Some audiences may be put off by the film's sharp-edged satire of consumer culture, but WALL-E, like its robotic namesake, should last another 700 years. -- Holman

WANTED 2 stars (R) A miserable young accountant (Atonement's James McAvoy) discovers that his long-lost father belonged to an ancient "Fraternity" of assassins with magic hitman powers. Nightwatch director Timur Bekmambetov overdoses on flash in an effort to outmuscle The Matrix without capturing the other film's ingenious sci-fi rules or its sparks of wit. The film features enough outlandish money shots to make it a hit (Angelina Jolie's sexuality qualifies as its own special effect), but Wanted's insolent attitude caters to just the kind of white-collar douchebags the film pretends to make fun of. -- Holman

THE WOMEN 2 stars (PG-13) Meg Ryan plays a wife and mother whose privileged life crumbles when she discovers her husband is having an affair with a perfume counter clerk (Eva Mendes). "Murphy Brown" creator Diane English mishandles this remake of the classic 1939 screwball comedy with an all-female cast. Annette Bening stands out as a caustic magazine editor who struggles with professional compromises, but otherwise The Women offers conventional you-can-have-it-all uplift while sending mixed messages about label-obsessed materialism. -- Holman

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