Short subjectives 

Capsule reviews of films by CL critics

Opening Friday
THE ANNIVERSARY PARTY 1/2 (R) Jennifer Jason Leigh and Alan Cumming wrote, directed and star in this zeitgeisty psychodrama of a hip Hollywood couple and their high-powered friends who find their evening of celebration turning into an Ecstasy-fueled meltdown where clothes come off, truths get told and everyone undoubtedly wakes up with an ugly "what did I say?" hangover. Though there is plenty of emoting on display, the film often feels like a keyhole glimpse into the reality of life in a Hollywood fishbowl, as well as the more universal anxieties about faithfulness, aging, children and career. -- FELICIA FEASTER

DR. DOLITTLE 2 (PG) This time around veterinarian Dr. Dolittle's (Eddie Murphy) mission is to save the forest and the endangered Pacific Western bear. But the species has no chance of surviving if the bear doesn't have a mate. Dolittle searches and finds Bruno, a big-hearted, loveable performing bear with a fondness for fast food. Dolittle's challenge: to reintegrate Bruno into the wild, help him make a love connection and save the forest. The trick: he has only three weeks to do it.

THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS 1/2 (PG-13). This loud, overblown B-movie about illegal street racing goes nowhere but gets there fast. Director Rob Cohen offers a handful of nail-biting set pieces, particularly the opening race and a climactic truck chase a la The Road Warrior. But though Vin Diesel makes a magnetic lead, Furious is bumper-to-bumper with bad dialogue, poor logic and clichéd characters. -- CURT HOLMAN

STARTUP.COM (PG). Documentary filmmakers Jehane Noujaim and Chris Hegedus trace the rise and fall of short-lived Internet company with a remarkable, fly-on-the-wall proximity to the partnership and strained friendship of the company's founders. But it leaves significant details about the business unexplained and offers no context about the Internet itself. -- CH

Duly Noted
BRIDGET JONES'S DIARY 1/2 (R) Renee Zellweger manages a convincing British accent and remains defiantly appealing as the loveable loser "singleton" Miss Jones despite this bland, conventional, American-targeted re-working of Helen Fielding's witty, rude best-selling diaries to the screen. Showing at the Coca-Cola Summer Film Festival at the Fox Theater, Sunday, June 24 at 7 p.m.-- FF

CHOCOLAT (R) Mysterious stranger Juliette Binoche, with her fatherless daughter in tow, blow into a painfully repressed French village in 1959. She opens a chocolate shop and proceeds to give the uptight townspeople, including Alfred Molina, Lena Olin, Peter Stormare, Judi Dench and Carrie-Anne Moss, a few lessons in living life to its fullest. Johnny Depp, dropping by as a dashing Irish bargeman, helps her out. Coca-Cola Summer Film Festival at the Fox Theater, June 20 at 8 p.m.

CINEMA PARADISO (1988) A coming-of-age tale about a young boy who befriends the projectionist at the local movie theater in post-war Italy. Films at the High. June 22 at 9:30 p.m. Free on the lawn at Woodruff Arts Center,1280 Peachtree St. Call 404-733-4570 for weather status report. -- SUZANNE VAN ATTEN

GODZILLA FESTIVAL Georgia State University's cinéfest celebrates vintage Godzilla with four films screening in June. The Japanese version of Godzilla (1954) and Rudan (1956) play through June 21. Godzilla on Monster Island (1972), Terror of Godzilla (1975) and Godzilla vs. the Cosmic Monster (1974) run June 22-28. At GSU's cinéfest.

RATCATCHER (R). A 12-year-old Glasgow boy learns difficult lessons in love and death in the acclaimed but chilly debut film of Lynne Ramsay. The film's grim tone mirrors the boy's emotional isolation, but Ratcatcher has a couple of weirdly beautiful moments, and remembers how alien the affairs of adults can seem to children. Peachtree Film Society, June 24 at 6 p.m. at General Cinema Parkway Pointe.

THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (R)The cult classic of cult classics, the 1975 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. It's all fun and games until Meatloaf gets killed. Dress as your favorite character and participate in this musical on acid. Fridays at midnight, Lefont Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce De Leon Ave, and at Blackwell Star Cinema, 3378 Canton Road in Marietta.

SPY KIDS (PG) Robert Rodriguez directs this film about the children of retired spies Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino who go into the family business to rescue their kidnapped parents. The story, action and visuals rate higher than the inconsistent acting. The heroes are fine, but the villains (Alan Cumming, Tony Shalhoub, Robert Patrick and Teri Hatcher) are all over the map. Coca-Cola Summer Film Festival at the Fox Theater, June 24 at 3 p.m. -- STEVE WARREN

A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE (1951) Tennessee Williams wrote it. Eli Kazan directed it. Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter and Karl Malden starred in it. New Orleans is the setting. Carnal lust, Southern proprieties and a slow descent into madness are at stake. 'Nuff said. Screen on the Green, June 20 at sunset at Piedmont Park. -- SVA

ALONG CAME A SPIDER (R) When a senator's 12-year-old daughter is kidnapped, forensic psychologist Alex Cross (Morgan Freeman) teams with Secret Service agent Jezzie Flannigan (Monica Potter), who was assigned to protect the girl, to find kidnapper Michael Wincott -- and the girl -- before it's too late. After an action-packed opening, the film slows down until the final hour, which is packed with twists, some more surprising than others. What matters is the plot holds together while you're watching it, even if it falls apart in retrospect. -- SW

AMORES PERROS 1/2 (R) A trio of stories set in a dystopian Mexico City revolve around a life-altering car crash in Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's gripping first feature more indebted to the indie free-styling of Tarantino than the art film legacy of Bunuel. --FF

THE ANIMAL (PG-13) When a police cadet (Rob Schneider) nearly dies in a car accident while driving through remote mountains, a strange beast rescues him, performing surgery on him in a barn using animal parts as transplants. When he returns to civilization, he discovers that the influences of the animals within himself are causing him to behave oddly.

ATLANTIS: THE LOST EMPIRE (PG). Disney's change-of-pace animated adventure includes such cool stuff as flying machines designed like sea creatures and gizmos and plot points inspired by the work of Jules Verne. But the character -- make that caricature -- animation turns on ethnic stereotypes and uncomfortable exaggerations that heighten the script's lack of inspiration. --CH

BLOW (R) Ted Demme's film version of the real-life rise of pot-to-cocaine drug importer George Jung (Johnny Depp) is all surface flash and Scorsese-cribbed effects. A diverting entertainment featuring some so-bad-it's-good fashion moments, the film is wafer-thin in the originality department, with Demme favoring visual effects over middling details like character development and motivation.--FF

BREAD AND ROSES 1/2 (R) A major disappointment from the respected, talented British political filmmaker Ken Loach, this reality-based story of an invisible workforce of Latino immigrants who struggle to form a janitors' union is pedantic, simplistic and insulting to Loach's usual audience's intelligence.--FF

BRIDE OF THE WIND (R). Bruce Beresford's biopic of Alma Mahler (Sarah Wynter), wife of composer Gustav Mahler (Jonathan Pryce), views its subject as the inspiration and obsession of a generation of Viennese artists. Yet Wynter gives only a life-sized performance for this larger-than-life personality, who increasingly seems less like a feminist martyr and icon and more like an early 20th-century groupie. At least the period photography and sound are quite nice. --CH

EVOLUTION 1/2 (PG-13) Alien life forms crash-land in Arizona and begin to take over, and while several of the otherworldly critters are fun to watch, the human players (including David Duchovny and Julianne Moore) are burdened with nondescript roles. This comedy's greatest problem is the that the screenplay simply isn't funny. Everyone tries hard but the end result is like a bad TV sit-com with a lot of bathroom humor added to lure teens. --MATT BRUNSON

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.

LARA CROFT: TOMB RAIDER (PG-13) This picture has its strong points, including a perfectly cast protagonist and a couple of set pieces that deliver the goods. But the story! Did it really take six people to come up with this malarkey? The script concerns itself with Lara's involvement with a shady cabal that seeks to control the world by gaining possession of a mystical medallion with the power to turn a mere mortal into a god. Viewers expecting wall-to-wall action will be surprised that a great chunk of the running time is filled with dull chitchat. --MB

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

MOULIN ROUGE 1/2 (PG-13) Romeo + Juliet director Baz Luhrman whips into a fabulous frenzy this stylishly spastic post-modern musical about an impoverished writer (Ewan McGregor) in love with a consumptive courtesan (Nicole Kidman) in a bizarre rock'n'roll version of late 19th century Paris. Dazzling design and dizzying technique more or less compensate for an unsatisfying story and far too many smugly hip in-jokes. And feel free to sing along; 95 percent of the lyrics are lifted from songs you already know.--EDDY VON MUELLER

PANIC (R). William H. Macy plays a hit man seeking therapy and escape from the family business in Henry Bromell's quiet character study that's not really a thriller nor a black comedy. Macy's indelible portrait of mid-life crisis gets fine support from Donald Sutherland, Neve Campbell and especially Tracey Ullman and child actor David Dorfman. --CH

PEARL HARBOR 1/2 (PG-13). It's not that this is an awful movie; it's just an awfully impersonal one, with plenty of spectacular effects hardly justifying the cardboard characters, insipid dialogue and stone-cold direction. The film obviously hopes to be another Titanic, but the love triangle comprised of pilots Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett and nurse Kate Beckinsale couldn't possibly be duller. -- MB

SWORDFISH 1/2 (R) This thriller at least contains a handful of the most exciting, edge-of-your-seat sequences ever to grace a motion picture. In these nail-biting moments, legendary hacker Stanley Jobson (Hugh Jackman) sits in front of a computer, typing away at a reckless speed usually seen only on the NASCAR circuit. Yet for all its techno-toys, this picture about a hacker (Jackman) who's forced to help a criminal mastermind (John Travolta) steal billions of dollars via the computer fails for a number of other reasons, most notably the shameless way it panders to yahoos with its attention to loud explosions, senseless deaths and Halle Berry's bare breasts. --MB

WHAT'S THE WORST THAT COULD HAPPEN? 1/2 (PG-13) Martin Lawrence stars as Kevin Caffey, a thief whose new girlfriend (Carmen Ejogo) presents him with a good-luck ring; Danny DeVito plays Max Fairbanks, a slimy billionaire who strips Kevin of the ring after Kevin breaks into his house and gets nabbed by the cops. The rest of the picture deals almost exclusively with Kevin's efforts to retrieve the ring (in the process ruining Max's life), and screenwriter Matthew Chapman frequently finds clever ways to build on this one-note notion. -- MB


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

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