DUNGEONS & DRAGONS (PG-13) In the film version of the popular fantasy/adventure role-playing game, a young empress (Thora Birch) must fight an evil wizard (Jeremy Irons) for control of a magical land of dwarfs, dragons and, well, dungeons. She recruits a ragtag band of unwitting individuals to help her in the race for a rod that controls the powerful red dragons and, thus, the kingdom.
PROOF OF LIFE (R) 1/2 Knowing about Meg Ryan and Russell Crowe's off-screen romance adds fuel to the tepid fire onscreen in Taylor Hackford's Casablanca-style action-romance that doesn't have enough of either. Instead of Bogie's mystique, Crowe might as well wear a neon "Hero" sign as the hostage negotiator who falls in love with Ryan while trying to free her husband (David Morse, taking acting honors) from banana-republic rebels. The script is needlessly complex in some areas while totally neglecting others, but the movie looks good and moves fast so you may not notice. -- SW
VERTICAL LIMIT (PG-13) 1/2 Spectacular scenery and sensational stunts are overwhelmed by crap-tacular everything else as a nature photographer (Chris O'Donnell) tries to rescue his little sister from certain death on the slopes of K-2, a 28,000-footer and the meanest mountain in the world. Who knew you could pile shit so high? -- EMDuly Noted
BURLESK KING (NR) 1/2 The late Lino Brocka's 1988 Macho Dancer started a genre of films about young, often straight men from the provinces who come to Manila and are exploited by being hired to dance nearly nude in clubs frequented by gay men. Prostitution and drugs often follow. Brocka had some political motivation, but his successor, Mel Chionglo, gives gay male viewers what they want: plots as soapy as the dancers' bodies, which there's plenty of time to observe. The films are pretty much interchangeable and Chionglo's not the filmmaker Brocka was, but he keeps the guys in focus, so no one complains. Dec. 1-7 at cinéfest. -- SW
EDWARD SCISSORHANDS (1990) 1/2 Tim Burton's cartoon-colored, modern-day fable about a scissorhanded naif (Johnny Depp), created a la Frankenstein by an eccentric inventor (Vincent Price), is a gothic comedy that skewers suburban life and speaks to the nobility of tolerance. Dianne Wiest is superb as the kindly Avon lady who takes Edward into her family. A blonde-wigged and newly-buxom Winona Ryder plays Edward's love interest. Dec. 8-14 at cinéfest. -- SVA
THE FLY (1958) Remade in 1986 with Jeff Goldblum, this sci-fi classic is about a scientist who accidentally turns himself into a fly-like creature while working on a transporter machine. Vincent Price adds life to his role as the skeptical brother. Dec. 8-14 at cinéfest.
GETTING TO KNOW YOU (NR) Debut director Lisanne Skyler offers a low-key but surprisingly satisfying adaptation of several Joyce Carol Oates stories. Welcome to the Dollhouse's Heather Matarazzo superbly plays a lonely teenager interacting with fellow travelers at a dreary bus station while flashing back to her parents' disastrous marriage. The film's deliberate stillness initially seems self-conscious, but by the end brings the disparate story threads together far more effectively than you expect. The Peachtree International Film Society, Dec. 8 at 7:20 p.m., Cinevision. -- CH
JAZZ Spanning nearly a century of jazz music, Ken Burns' black-and-white documentary covers all the jazz legends, including Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Miles Davis, Duke Ellington and others. A reception takes place at 6:30 p.m. Following the screening, Burns with hold a discussion. Dec. 12 at 7:30 p.m., The Carter Center.
METROPOLIS Director Fritz Lang's 1927 silent sci-fi film centers on a futuristic society where people are separated into a working or thinking class. The thinkers are the elite, dominating power who underestimate the workers until the underappreciated class stage a rebellion. Silent Film Society of Atlanta, Dec. 8 at 8 p.m., 112 White Hall, 480 Kilgo Circle, Emory.
THE TINGLER A pathologist (Vincent Price) studying the impact of fear on the body discovers a centipede-like creature that lives in people and feeds off their pent-up fear. Director William Castle's 1959 horror movie creates a world where people have to scream for their lives, literally. Dec. 8-14 at cinéfest.
THE WILD BUNCH The 1969 controversial classic features plenty of shoot-outs, blood and all-around good violence. A group of aging outlaws plan a big-time heist while bounty hunters and the changing times are nipping at their heels. Dec. 13 and 16 at 7:30 p.m., 208 White Hall, 480 Kilgo Circle, Emory.
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
BAMBOOZLED (R) 1/2 Spike Lee's vicious, witty satire of a black television executive who concocts a "New Millennial Minstrel Show" to save his troubled network's ratings, is a color-blind comedy of the stereotypes perpetuated by both blacks and whites. Sharp and often laugh-out-loud funny in its first half, Bamboozled loses a little steam in its preachy denouement but remains a must-see fantasy of how the media eventually renders even the most offensive subject matter palatable. -- FF
BEDAZZLED (PG-13) 1/2 A good multiple-personality showcase for Brendan Fraser and, to a lesser extent, Frances O'Connor ("Mansfield Park") also proves that a little of Elizabeth Hurley's Joan Collins-wannabe routine goes a long way. The film fausts--er, foists--a very tired plot on us in a nominal remake of the 1967 Peter Cook/Dudley Moore comedy. Good-hearted but socially inept Fraser sells his soul to the Devil (Hurley) in exchange for seven wishes, which never turn out as he wishes they would. Things turn preachy with a spiritual and a humanist message in addition to the obvious "Be careful what you wish for." -- SW
BENJAMIN SMOKE (NR) Though the stylistic imprint of its makers can often overwhelm their subject, Jem Cohen and Peter Sillen's documentary of the late Atlanta singer/iconoclast Benjamin remains an affecting, respectful tribute to this unique drag queen, speed freak and profoundly talented man. Set in and around Benjamin's Cabbagetown residence as he struggles with the degenerative effects of addiction and HIV, the film is a cursory treatment of Benjamin's personal history, favoring instead the inspired, impromptu musings of the singer who fronted legendary local bands the Opal Foxx Quartet and Smoke. -- FF
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
BILLY ELLIOTT (R) A hybrid of the miserable-English-childhood film and performing-British-nonconformist movies such as The Full Monty, Billy Elliott depicts an 11-year-old coal miner's son (Jamie Bell) who develops an improbable passion for ballet. Some of the self-conscious flourishes (like the soundtrack prominent with T-Rex) can be strange, but it's an endearingly idiosyncratic film that puts some new moves on its "feel-good" premise. -- CH
BOUNCE (PG-13) Almost any movie would benefit from comparison to Random Hearts, which also used a plane crash as the catalyst for romance, but this one's good on its own. A total change of pace for writer/director Don Roos (The Opposite of Sex), it's a tearjerker in which the often overrated Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow do some of their best work. External script details are sometimes ludicrous, but the emotions ring true. -- SW
THE BROKEN HEARTS CLUB (R) A contrived effort to market gay life to a mainstream audience, this fluffy romantic comedy seems to believe shallow, one-dimensional characters and sitcom situations will lure a "Friends" viewership -- in that sense it may achieve the expected results of making its gay characters bland and superficial enough for any taste. Set in the Los Angeles gay enclave of West Hollywood, the film concerns six bosom buddies who are trying to overcome bad habits like promiscuity and self-hatred while they search for love on a competitive, looks-oriented dating scene. -- FF
CHARLIE'S ANGELS (PG-13) On the theory that velocity is a substitute for quality, music video director McG zips through a series of sketches that were apparently more fun to shoot than they are to watch. Angels Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu find time between costume changes and dance numbers to solve the case of kidnapped techno-mogul Sam Rockwell. As their giggling constitutes a laugh track, I was reminded more of "The Carol Burnett Show" than the original "Charlie's Angels." Bill Murray is good as Bosley, the eunuch in their harem. -- SW
DR. SEUSS' HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS (PG) 1/2 The 1957 book, adapted into a 1966 half-hour television cartoon, has been stretched to four times that length in a live-action version by adding Jim Carrey shtick, flashbacks, sentimental pap and general overproduction. Carrey, behind a ton of makeup, exhibits flashes of comic brilliance but never finds a consistent voice for the Grinch. Taylor Momsen (considering the potential, not too annoying) plays Cindy Lou Who, who is too old for Santa and too young for Jesus, so she and the Grinch help each other discover the meaning of the holiday. I prefer the cartoon, but this could have been worse. -- SW
IMAX AT FERNBANK ADVENTURES IN WILD CALIFORNIA (NR) It's "California Dreamin'" for the new millennium as IMAX and Everest director Greg MacGillivray pack a lot of extreme sports and environmentalism into 40 unhurried minutes, including sky- and sea-surfing sequences that put Hollywood movie stunts and special effects to shame. You'll see baby otters and bald eagles being prepared by humans for life in the wild and trees that have lived for 3000 years. You'll ride a roller coaster at Disneyland, walk down the red carpet at the Academy Awards and descend 125 feet into a hollow space in an ancient sequoia. -- SW Shows daily at 11 a.m. and 1, 3, 5 and 9 p.m. on Fridays MYSTERIES OF EGYPT Omar Sharif hosts this sensory exploration of the Nile, the Valley of the Kings and modern Egyptian culture. Shows daily at 10 a.m., noon, 2 and 7 p.m. on Fridays DOLPHINS Narrated by Pierce Brosnan, this documentary takes a playful look at the life and times of Atlantic spotted, dusky and bottlenose dolphins. 4 p.m. daily and 10 p.m. on Fridays. Films run from Sept. 5 through Jan. 1 at Fernbank Museum, 767 Clifton Road.
INTO THE ARMS OF STRANGERS: STORIES OF THE KINDERTRANSPORT (PG) The big picture of the Holocaust is well known, so the new trend is micro-coverage of specific topics through personal testimonies of survivors. Eight women and four men, now in their 60s and 70s, relate their experiences as some of the 10,000 children sent to foster homes in England just before the Nazis closed the borders. There are touching stories of children having to leave their parents; most of them were never reunited. Different anecdotes will strike chords and push buttons in different people, but I doubt anyone will be totally unmoved. Judi Dench narrates beautifully. -- SW
THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE (PG-13) 1/2 A mysterious, Zen-talking caddy (Will Smith) helps a haunted WWI vet (Matt Damon) in a mythic 1930s golf tournament. As prettily shot and self-consciously archetypal as Robert Redford's starring vehicle The Natural, the film strains to make the central golf match into an allegory for life itself but ultimately proves just a tribute to the sport as a pastime for privileged whites. -- CH
LITTLE NICKY (PG-13) 1/2 Adam Sandler goes to Hell in Little Nicky, and everyone involved should only follow him. As the good son of Satan (Harvey Keitel), Sandler falls in love with Patricia Arquette while chasing his bad brothers around New York. A few good effects, including a talking bulldog, are the only reason to see this no-joke comedy, which manages to make Sandler even less appealing than usual and leaves a lot of funny people adrift with unfunny material. You might argue that its ultimate affirmation of goodness makes it Capra-esque. Well, Frank Capra could have shit a better movie than this. -- 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
MEN OF HONOR (R) 1/2 Despite an overly melodramatic approach, director George Tillman Jr. (Soul Food) makes an honorable attempt to tell the story of Carl Brashear (Cuba Gooding, Jr.), who became the U.S. Navy's first black Master Diver despite the efforts of several white men, especially head instructor Billy Sunday (Robert De Niro, sometimes bordering on caricature), to hold him back. Even after Brashear reaches his goal, there are new challenges to confront, leading to spontaneous audience applause at the designated moment. -- SW
102 DALMATIANS (G) 1/2 Second verse, same as the first--with a little less energy. Cruella De Vil (Glenn Close, more subdued this time) steals another hundred or so puppies and is the catalyst for another couple of dog-lovers (Ioan Gruffudd, Alice Evans) to fall in love with each other. Gerard Depardieu does the heavy camping as Le Pelt, a coat-urier who joins fur-ces with Cruella as history repeats itself. Had I seen 102 Dalmatians before 101 I'd probably like it better, but seeing them in the correct sequence there's too much "Been there, done that" to appreciate the sequel fully. -- SW
PAY IT FORWARD (PG-13) A crass, manipulative tearjerker aimed at the knee-caps of the Oprah crowd, Mimi Leder's tiny tot social-issue melodrama features The Sixth Sense's waif Haley Joel Osment as an 11-year-old inspired by his new teacher (Kevin Spacey) to go out and change the world by performing good deeds. Osment starts at home, where he tries to fix up his boozer mom with his straight-laced teacher. -- FF
RED PLANET (PG-13) 1/2 Lacking Brian DePalma's neat-o set pieces that made March's Mission to Mars marginally tolerable, this similarly-themed and structured film sends a team of astronauts on a spectacularly botched mission to the fourth planet. With a cast featuring Val Kilmer and Terence Stamp, The Matrix's Carrie-Anne Moss is the only stand-out, and the menace of a malfunctioning, panther-like robot generates little suspense. -- CH
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
REQUIEM FOR A DREAM (NR) 1/2 Actually, Pi director Darren Aaronofsky's follow-up feature only deserves a single for dishing up an old-hat, moralistic diatribe about the dangers of drug addiction, but why pick nits? Solid performances by Jennifer Connely, Ellen Burstyn and Marlon Wayans and genuinely phenomenal camera work and cutting make this story about the woes of 20- and 60-something junkies one of the year's most impressive outings. -- EM
RUGRATS IN PARIS: THE MOVIE (G) 1/2 A child's first lesson in international awareness (through largely stereotypical French and Japanese characters), the sequel has celebrity voices and references to R-rated movies for baby-sitters. Coco La Bouche (Susan Sarandon), a milder, French-accented Cruella De Vil, brings the gang over so Stu Pickles can do Reptar repair at EuroReptarland. Coco needs to marry for a promotion and widowed Chas Finster wants a new mommy for Chuckie, so Coco goes to work. Adult issues are seen mostly from the children's point of view, and there's still plenty of time for jokes about the Rugrats' real concern: body functions. -- SW
THE 6TH DAY (PG-13) 1/2 Morally complex issues around human cloning are reduced to a basic shoot-'em-up in Arnold Schwarzenegger's best vehicle since True Lies. It would be even better if it didn't degenerate into a series of familiar action sequences that go on far too long. The first half is a good-humored sci-fi movie set in the near future, but once Arnold is accidentally cloned while he's still alive and has to fight to stay that way, it becomes a routine action movie. The sun sets too early on The 6th Day, but half a good sci-fi thriller is far above the recent average. -- SW
UNBREAKABLE (PG-13) When a stadium security guard (Bruce Willis) emerges unscathed from a train wreck, an enigmatic dealer in comic book art (Samuel L. Jackson) suspects him of having extranormal abilities. With the same star, style and Philadelphia setting as The Sixth Sense, M. Night Shyamalan's follow-up provides comparable suspense and craftsmanship, even as the idiosyncratic plot teeters at the brink of comic book camp. -- CH
YOU CAN COUNT ON ME (R) A tender, beautifully written character study about the complicated relationship between a grown brother and sister whose lives have been marked by the deaths of their parents when they were children, this first film from Kenneth Lonergan is a closely observed, thoughtful look at family in an age of much lip service to "family values" with little attention to the subtleties of family dynamics. Laura Linney is the seemingly balanced, responsible single mother, and Mark Ruffalo is her directionless, pothead brother who comes to visit his sister in her small upstate New York town and becomes a significant influence on her 8-year-old son. -- FF
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