DETERRENCE (R) *** Film critic Rod Lurie's first feature has divided the critics. I'm on the pro side. In a stroke of casting genius, Kevin Pollak stars as an unpopular US president who grows into his role - as Pollak does before our eyes. Snowbound in a Colorado diner, the president responds to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait by threatening to nuke Baghdad. The story unfolds in virtual real time. What might have been a rack to hang political arguments on is a gripping, entertaining drama (and a strong candidate for stage adaptation) first and foremost. Don't let politics deter you from seeing it. SW
GOSSIP (R) ** 1/2 Until it turns silly at the end, this good-intentioned variation on Cruel Intentions spins a swell yarn about the potential danger of spreading rumors. Things get out of hand after charming cad James Marsden, intriguingly inconsistent Lena Headey and spacey artist Norman Reedus start the story that Kate Hudson's no longer the only virgin on campus. SW
JOE GOULD'S SECRET (R)** In this nostalgic period piece, Big Night's Stanley Tucci directs himself as a New Yorker writer who makes a temporary celebrity of an eloquent, mercurial Greenwich Village street person (Ian Holm). While Holm gives a pleasingly cantankerous performance, Tucci never gets under the skin of his character (the bogus Southern accent doesn't help), and despite a genuine affection for mid-century Manhattan, the film leaves you feeling like you saw the slides of someone else's visit. CH
LOVE AND BASKETBALL (PG-13) *1/2 Love and Basketball stars Sanaa Lathan and Omar Epps as two gifted basketball-playing neighbors who begin a relationship as children, which may or may not blossom into love as adults. Nope, the ending isn't a surprise. Nope, it's not directed very well. Nope, it's not written very well. Nope, co-star Alfre Woodard never gets to reveal the talent we've come to appreciate. And nope, it's not really worth your time. RJ
U-571 (PG-13) *** Lt. Matthew McConaughey proves his worth in battle as writer-director Jonathan Mostow (Breakdown) confirms his skill in the straight-ahead, kick-ass, nail-biting, action-suspense genre. Don't look for character development, or even characters just a series of tense situations where WWII submarine jockeys go out of the frying pan onto the firing line on a fictional mission to secure Germany's Enigma code. Action fans may be put off by the opening 10 minutes of subtitled German aboard the title sub. SW
EVIL DEAD TRAP A Japanese cult classic that includes the immortal subtitle: "I was so scared my balls shrank with fear." GSU's cinéfest, April 21-27.
FIGHT CLUB (R) *** 1/2 A spoof of cures for millennial malaise evolves into something darker, then takes a turn of Sixth Sense proportions. Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) loosens and toughens Edward Norton's unnamed character, and spectators at their Saturday night fights want to participate. Burned-out punkette Helena Bonham Carter isn't much to fight over, but she'll do. Director David Fincher may have overestimated the intelligence of American moviegoers, and isn't that refreshing! GSU's cinéfest, April 17-20. SW
I STAND ALONE (NR) *** And you thought the French were all Derrida, tiny coffees, smart ensembles and disdain-filled looks. The debut film from Gaspar Noe, about a jobless butcher on a hateful, racist, misogynist bender is a sojourn to the other side of the tracks the France of rampant unemployment, an influx of immigrants, lumpen people and barren, postindustrial boulevards without a touch of Vigo fairy dust. Relentlessly brutal, Noe's film suggests a more formally rigorous, intellectually tight Abel Ferrara. Moments of nasty humor (if castration, impotency and marital despair strike you as amusing) peek through the desolation, in this nevertheless engrossing study of a contemporary, very ordinary sociopath. GSU's cinéfest, April 14-20. FF
KALTE HEIMAT (COLD HOMELAND) (1995) Volker Koepp's documentary about Soviets who found a home in the northern part of East Prussia, which was German for 700 years but fell to the USSR at the end of WWII. German with English subtitles. Goethe Institut Atlanta, "A Look to the East," April 19 at 7 p.m., Colony Square, plaza level.
ALL ABOUT MY MOTHER (R) *** 1/2 A lovely mix of campy humor and heartfelt affection for the sacrifices made by the women who made us, Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar's film follows a bereaved mother (Cecilia Roth) who's just lost her teenage son on her odyssey to Barcelona, to inform the boy's father of his death. Fierce performances by a cast of high-octane women, including Roth, Marisa Paredes as a flinty stage actress and Antonia San Juan as a goofy, loveable transvestite, enhance this fiery, earnest meditation on the multiple roles women play, and the thin, permeable divide between film and life. FF
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