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EVOLUTION * 1/2 (PG-13) Ivan Reitman may have made some amusing pictures in the distant past (Ghostbusters, Stripes), but more recently, he's attached his name (as producer and/or director) to such desperate affairs as Space Jam, Fathers' Day and Road Trip. Evolution, in which alien life forms crashland in Arizona and begin to take over, follows in this lamentable line of duds: It's obviously Reitman's attempt to duplicate the success of Ghostbusters, but it's so bereft of wit and charm that it's not even a worthy rip-off. Several of the otherworldly critters are fun to watch, and they perk up the proceedings from time to time; the human players (including David Duchovny, whose casting would seem to be a sly nod in the direction of The X-Files except for the fact that nothing's made of it) are burdened with nondescript roles. This comedy's greatest problem, obviously, is the fact that the screenplay by Don Jakoby, David Diamond and David Weissman simply isn't funny. Lord knows, everyone tries hard - a scene doesn't go by without somebody making a wisecrack or falling over the furniture -- but the end result is like a bad TV sit-com with a lot of bathroom humor added to lure the teens (typical line: "Give my friend back, you big sphincter!"). In fact, it's like Galaxy Quest all over again -- except that film at least had the sense to toss a few knowing winks at fans of the sci-fi genre it was sending up. By comparison, the makers of Evolution act as if they're barely aware that such a genre even exists --MB
THE GOLDEN BOWL ** 1/2 (R). The Merchant-Ivory filmmaking team has less success with Henry James' novels than they do with the work of E.M. Forster. Regarding a pair of penniless lovers (Uma Thurman and Jeremy Northam) who marry a wealthy father and daughter (Nick Nolte and Kate Beckinsale), the film's limited performances and heavy-handed symbolism keeps you from empathizing with the characters. --CH
IMAX Journey Into Amazing Caves (R) *** Nancy Aulenbach of Norcross, a cave rescue specialist, and Dr. Hazel Barton, a British microbiologist, explore caves in Arizona, Greenland and the Yucatan in search of extremophiles, "microbes which thrive in the harshest of conditions." This Journey is filled with visual excitement for sedentary types, visceral excitement for the Xtreme crowd and a bit of information it won't hurt any of us to know. Plays through Sept. 3. Ocean Oasis Experience the unbreakable bonds between a parched land, a rich sea and the plants and animals that thrive within, as you travel to Baja California. Swim with the huge schools of mysids, and follow jellyfish, jacks and tuna as they flourish beneath a rich sea. Through Jan. 1, 2002. Fernbank Museum of Natural History IMAX Theater.
KINGDOM COME (PG) *** Soul Food was just an appetizer for this African-American family comedy that brings a dysfunctional brood together to bury their patriarch. Whoopi Goldberg plays it almost straight as the widow while Loretta Devine takes comic honors as her ever-praying sister-in-law. Goldberg's sons, LL Cool J and Anthony Anderson, are in troubled marriages (to Vivica A. Fox and Jada Pinkett Smith) but no problems are too big to be resolved neatly for a feel-good ending. The actors and most of the script make up for technical shortcomings in the funniest funeral since Chuckles bit the dust. -- SW
A KNIGHT'S TALE ** (PG-13). Medieval knights joust to contemporary pop songs ("We Will Rock You," "Takin' Care of Business," etc.) in Brian Helgeland's period action film. If you can accept the quirky soundtrack, you can enjoy the film's anachronistic sense of humor for about an hour (Chaucer is a supporting character), but the mechanics of its predictable plot get the better of it, and eventually all the jousting scenes look alike. --CH
THE LUZHIN DEFENCE ** 1/2 (PG-13). Emily Watson finds herself drawn to an eccentric grandmaster (John Turturro) at an Italian chess tournament in an intriguing but unsatisfying adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov's novel. Turturro's unpredictability makes the film oddly compelling, but its melodramatic villain and emphasis on mental illness put its thematic ambitions in check. --CH
MEMENTO *** 1/2 (R) An investigator (Guy Pearce) suffering from short term memory loss tries to track down his wife's killer in Christopher Nolan's ingenious thriller. As in Harold Pinter's Betrayal the scenes unfold in reverse order, so both the audience and the forgetful hero are constantly thrust into the unknown. Complicated, exhilarating and dark, Memento's ending leaves your head spinning -- counterclockwise. --CH