Opening Friday 

Capsule reviews of films by CL critics

Opening Friday
BEST IN SHOW (PG-13) Mockumentarian Christopher Guest reunites his Waiting for Guffman collaborators (including Eugene Levy, Parker Posey and Catherine O'Hara) for a similar venture about the eccentric participants at a national dog show. A bit disappointingly, Guest and company rely on easy targets (tacky middle Americans and fatuous city dwellers) but also show a surprising affection for canine pageants and their four-legged contestants. -- CH

THE CONTENDER (R) An all-star cast is featured in this drama about politics, scandal and the lengths people will go to for power and influence. Sen. Laine Hanson (Joan Allen) is a serious contender for the Vice Presidential nomination until a sex scandal erupts, threatening to assassinate her good name. The movie delves into the politics behind politics in Washington, a place where your motives determine your morals.

DR. T AND THE WOMEN (R) 1/2 Robert Altman follows up last year's sleeper, Cookie's Fortune, with another laid-back venture down South, depicting a beloved Dallas OB-GYN (Richard Gere) whose personal and professional life is inundated with women (including Helen Hunt, Farrah Fawcett and Kate Hudson). The film's tone, music and performances couldn't be more agreeable, but it never makes much of a point and tries to convey an appreciation for women while, paradoxically, painting most of them as foolish or flighty. -- CH

LADIES' MAN (R) The "Saturday Night Live" skit makes its big-screen debut with the help of Leon Phelps, a randy talk show host trapped in a 1970s state-of-mind. After Leon gets canned for his lewd comments and bad advice, he must figure out which of his wealthy ex-lovers sent him a letter begging for a second chance. To find the potential benefactress, Leon has to deal with a number of wacked-out women and their angry husbands.

LOST SOULS (R) The world is once again in danger of unholy terror as Satan prepares to make an entrance by taking over the body of a man (Ben Chaplin of The Truth About Cats and Dogs). This time, however, Winona Ryder and a team of exorcists will attempt to prevent the Anti-Christ from materializing. Fresh off the Autumn in New York debacle, the film marks Ryder's return to doing what she does best -- playing the inwardly tortured misfit.

URBANIA (R) Not to be confused with the Urban Legends slasher flicks, Urbania is a dark journey into the psyche of Charlie (Dan Futterman), a haunted man struggling to come to terms with his sexuality and past. Through flashbacks, the movie shows how urban legends have affected his life.

Duly Noted
THE ADVENTURES OF GOD Argentine director Eliseo Subiela's latest film is a psychological thriller with a Hitchcock-esque twist. A young couple finds themselves trapped in a surreal 1930s seaside hotel with an eccentric group of guests. Their investigation of the mysterious situation leads them to believe one of the offbeat characters might be dreaming them up. Subiela will introduce the film, which is in Spanish with subtitles. Fils at the High, 2000 Latin-American Film Festival, Oct. 13 at 8 p.m., Rich Auditorium.

BUT I'M A CHEERLEADER! (R) 1/2 Director Jamie Babbit's first feature-length film is a queer coming-of-age story about an otherwise American-as-apple-pie girl. Megan (Natasha Lyonne) is a cross-wearing, pom-pom toting cheerleader, going steady with the captain of the football team. Her parents, however, are worried about the posters of Melissa Etheridge on her wall, her boyfriend suspects she doesn't enjoy kissing him, and her fellow cheerleaders think she's overly affectionate. They stage an intervention to save Megan from her homosexual tendencies, and send her off to a rehabilitation camp for homosexuals, True Directions, where RuPaul, out of drag, plays an "ex-gay" counselor. Oct. 13-19 at GSU's cinéfest. -- KL

CHILDREN OF HEAVEN Set in Tehran, the Iranian film is a heart-warming tale of two children who go to extraordinary lengths to cover up the theft of a pair of school shoes. Since his family is too poor to buy his sister new shoes, Ali hatches a plan to share his pair with his sister. Unfortunately, the scheme gets complicated as the duo fall into one sticky situation after another. Peachtree International Film Society, Oct. 14 at 7:30 p.m., Cinevison.

DARK SIDE OF THE HEART The dark comedy follows a narcissistic poet who rejects all opportunities for love in an attempt to locate his ideal mate, a woman who can fly. When Oliverio finally meets her, he's devastated to learn that the prostitute wants to keep the affair strictly professional. Director Eliseo Subiela's 1992 film is in Spanish with subtitles. Films at the High, 2000 Latin-American Film Festival, Oct. 17 at 8 p.m., Rich Auditorium.

LAST IMAGES OF THE SHIPWRECK In his 1989 film, director Eliseo Subiela takes his audience on a magical journey through poverty-stricken Buenos Aires. The movie centers on a down-on-his-luck clerk who becomes embroiled in a passionate love affair with a blue-collar woman. When her colorful family gets involved, the clerk's world is turned upside down. Subiela will introduce the feature, which is in Spanish with subtitles. Films at the High, 2000 Latin-American Film Festival, Oct. 14 at 8 p.m., Rich Auditorium.

THE MOST TERRIBLE TIME IN MY LIFE As the first installment of director Kaizo Hayashi's fast-paced trilogy, the film introduces the audience to Maiku Hama, a bad-ass private detective hired to find a client's missing brother. The investigation takes a turn for the worse when Hama finds himself double-crossed and stuck in the middle of a gang war. Oct. 13-19 at GSU's cinéfest.

SLEEPY HOLLOW (R) 1/2 Tim Burton's gleefully gruesome spin on the classic ghost story has Constable Ichabod Crane (Johnny Depp) taking on a headless assassin terrorizing a New York town in 1799. Ingenious plotting, hair-raising action sequences, and the best beheadings since the French Revolution make this the Citizen Kane of decapitation films. Oct. 18 and 21 at 7:30 p.m., 208 White Hall, 480 Kilgo Circle, Emory. -- EVM

WINTER SLEEPERS The producers of Run Lola Run team up to prove there's a reason winter is the season of hibernation. Two young couples spend their time indulging in self-analysis and each other while staying in a remote skiing village. At the foot of the mountains, a poor farmer struggles to keep his family fed. On an icy road, their worlds are about to collide. Director Tom Tykwer's film is in German with English subtitles. Oct. 18 at 7 p.m., Goethe-Institut Atlanta.

ALMOST FAMOUS (R) 1/2 Jerry Maguire director Cameron Crowe romanticizes his experiences as a 15 year-old Rolling Stone reporter, on tour with a fictional band called Stillwater. The film oversells the puppyish cuteness of leads Kate Hudson and Patrick Fugit but offers a pleasingly nostalgic portrait of a rock writer and the rock industry's loss of innocence, with terrific turns by Billy Crudup, Jason Lee and Philip Seymour Hoffman. -- CH

THE ART OF WAR (R) 1/2 Framed for murder while working on a top-secret UN security force, Wesley Snipes has to clear himself in an overlong but visually dazzling action flick with a reasonably intelligent and pleasantly fanciful script. Director Christian Duguay (TV's Joan of Arc) has no trouble filling a wide screen with some of the most interesting work of any western director in this genre. It's no milestone in the art of cinema, but it offers fair competition to the Mission: Impossible films, with a lot less hype to live up to. -- SW

BEAUTIFUL (PG-13) Directing her first feature film, Sally Field takes on the world of beauty pageants in this tale about a woman (Minnie Driver) determined to become the next Miss America no matter what the cost. In her pursuit of the title, Mona's dreams change as she bonds with Vanessa, played by Hallie Kate Eisenberg (the annoyingly cute girl from the Pepsi commercials), forcing her to come to terms with her own painful childhood.

BRING IT ON (PG-13) 1/2 For a long while it's hard to tell whether this is a seriously comic look at high school cheerleaders or a tongue-in-cheek satire of teen flicks, and by the time it turns relatively serious you'll be caught up in the story and you won't care. Kirsten Dunst leads the all-white San Diego squad and Gabrielle Union is her inner-city counterpart in the face-off at the national finals. Eliza Dushku and Jesse Bradford bring LA attitude and romance to the (California) Southland. -- SW

THE CELL (R) The director of the "Losing My Religion" video offers a psychotropic serial killer thriller in which the mind of a murderer looks like an evening of MTV's "120 Minutes." When Jennifer Lopez makes a mental interface with deranged Vincent D'Onofrio, the film yields plenty of voluptuous, nightmarish images, which ultimately amount to no more than window-dressing to a high-tech knock-off of The Silence of the Lambs. -- CH

COYOTE UGLY (PG-13) Producer Jerry Bruckheimer brings his Midas touch to this crowd-pleaser about a pretty Jersey girl who moves to Manhattan to pursue her songwriting career but becomes sidetracked by her glamorous, sexy job as a dancing babe bartender at the rollicking Coyote Ugly bar. Expect the expected and you won't be disappointed by the mindless fun of this Hollywood guilty pleasure. -- FF

THE CREW (PG-13) 1/2 Richard Dreyfuss, Burt Reynolds, Dan Hedaya and Seymour Cassel play lovable OldFellas who inadvertently trigger a mob war when they pretend to be back in business to save their South Beach retirement hotel from the trendoids. The visual motif of this sitcommy chucklefest is built around Jennifer Tilly's breasts. -- SW

CROUPIER This look at a would-be novelist's venture into the seamy aspects of a London casino reveals fascinating details of gambling and has a crisp, efficient directing style. But though Clive Owen, in the title role, is meant to be detached and voyeuristic, the twists at the end muddy the precedings rather than illuminate them. Alex Kingston affirms her acting potential as a quirky and enigmatic high roller. -- CH

DANCER IN THE DARK (R) Danish upstart Lars von Trier's latest film continues the director's love of feverish melodrama. Icelandic avant-garde pixie Bjork stars as a Czech immigrant factory worker who is gradually losing her sight but finds escape in the music of her mind as the world crumbles around her. This winner of the Palme d'Or and a Best Female Performance for Bjork at the Cannes Film Festival is a risk-taking marvel sure to divide audiences who will either love or hate it. -- FF

DARK DAYS (NR) Until 1997 when Amtrak routed them, a community of homeless people lived in railroad tunnels under New York City. With no previous filmmaking experience and using the residents as his crew, Marc Singer documented their last five years underground. Some of the results are what you'd expect, but the photography is surprisingly good and the people themselves may catch you off guard. -- SW

DIGIMON: THE MOVIE (PG) Based on the animated television series, the movie is an attempt by 20th Century Fox to compete with Warner Bros. and its Pokémon films in the anime market. The big-screen version centers on the show's main children characters who, along with the help of the good Digital Monsters, must save the world from a new, diabolical Digimon and its cohorts.

DUETS (R) Character actor Bruce Paltrow directs his Oscar-winning daughter Gwyneth in an odd dramedy about three couples on a cross-country collision course at a karaoke contest. The film is never as revealing about "karaoke kulture" as you might expect, but it's probably wise to emphasize the mismatched buddies of burnt-out businessman Paul Giamatti and ex-con Andre Braugher (the only one of the leads who doesn't do own singing). -- CH

THE EXORCIST A longer cut of the head-spinning, soup-spewing 1973 classic includes the restoration of creepy (if unnecessary) scenes and sound effects of supernatural goings-on, as well as more dialogue for Max Von Sydow in the title role. The re-release has undiminished power to horrify, and, more strikingly, offers a telling reminder of how textured and mature the films of the 1970s could be. -- CH

GET CARTER (R) The Italian Stallion is back and seeking vengeance in this remake of the 1971 film. In the new version, Sylvester Stallone's character, Jack Carter, walks a fine line between revenge and redemption after he returns home to attend his brother's funeral. Carter, a loan shark collector, soon discovers that his brother's death wasn't an accident, and he reluctantly teams up with his teenage niece, played by Rachael Leigh Cook (She's All That), to solve the mystery and bring his brother's killers to justice.

GIRLFIGHT (R) This smart, beautifully assured debut film from Karyn Kusama follows Brooklyn mean-streets teen Diana from aimless troublemaker to self-assured boxing diva. Michelle Rodriguez is remarkable in the lead, refusing to cave into the world of girly-girls and he-males but instead defining her identity on her own terms in this clever but never less than wholly entertaining riff on sexual politics. -- FF

HIGHLANDER: ENDGAME (R) 1/2 Like a TV series clip episode, Endgame jumps around in time and place to try to resolve conflicting mythologies of the movie and TV Highlanders - including retroactively inventing previous meetings between the immortal brothers MacLeod, television's Duncan (Adrian Paul) and the movies' Connor (Christopher Lambert). If you've never seen a "Highlander" don't start now. If you have, you may understand why one MacLeod has to die for their combined energy to defeat their immortal enemy, Jacob Kell (Bruce Payne). After the summer movies, it will take better stunts and effects than this production can muster to impress you. -- SW

MEET THE PARENTS (PG-13) 1/2 This movie is banal, moronic, plodding and predictable. Starring Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro, the film is intended to appeal to those enamored of director Jay Roach's previous Austin Powers flicks and no doubt it will. For those fortunate enough to have missed the latter, ask yourself whether a family being splashed with the muck from an overflowing septic tank is your kind of humor? -- RJ

REMEMBER THE TITANS (PG) Producer Jerry Bruckheimer's films tend to be as slick as TV ads, but this depiction of a newly integrated high school football team's victories on the field and off plays more like a public service announcement on steroids. Glossy and shamelessly manipulative, it's nevertheless involving in spite of itself, with Denzel Washington leading an agreeable cast of young actors. Filmed in Atlanta -- CH


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

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