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Capsule reviews of films by CL critics

Opening Friday
GREENFINGERS (PG). The latest English underdog comedy digs for the dramatic potential in a lovable group of convicts who find redemption through gardening. There's a seed of an idea here about killers learning to cultivate life instead of extinguishing it, but despite nice work from Clive Owen as an alienated convict and Helen Mirren as a fussy garden celebrity, the film views its potentially serious ideas though the most rosy-colored lenses possible.--CURT HOLMAN

ROCK STAR (R) Loosely based on the early '90s replacement of Judas Priest lead singer Rob Halford, Rock Star is the story of Chris Cole (Mark Wahlberg), a Pittsburgh office supply salesman who leads a tribute band for fictional British metal group Steel Dragon. When Steel Dragon needs to replace its vocalist, they try to make a diamond out of Cole. Even though Wahlberg does all right, what director Stephen Herek gets is not a gem but quite leaden. Jennifer Aniston also stars as Cole's girlfriend -- one of many characters in this cliched Cameron Crowe rip-off. -- TONY WARE

TWO CAN PLAY THAT GAME (R) Keith Chestnut and Vivica A. Fox costar in this romantic comedy about a man who's caught stepping out on his woman and the wily ways she tries to win him back.

Duly Noted
JIN-ROH: THE WORLD BRIGADE (2001) Japanese anime feature by Mamonu Oshii (Ghost in the Shell based on Little Red Riding Hood, about a soldier of the Capital Police and a member of an anti-government faction known as the Sect. Through Sept. 6 at GSU's cinefest.

NEW GREEK CINEMA FILM FESTIVAL This two week festival features screenings of four films Sept. 7-13, including The Canary Yellow Bicycle,(1999) about a community's efforts to thwart an elementary school teacher's attempt to help a child who is an illiterate social outcast in his class; The Mating Game (1999), about the complicated love lives of three sisters; In Good Company (2000), a zany comedy about a madman and a prisoner who get out on a five-day leave; and It's a Long Road (1998), a vignette of three stories about three people heading toward a turning point in their lives. Sept. 7-13 at GSU's cinefest.

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 Saturday at midnight at Blackwell Star Cinema, 3378 Canton Road, Marietta.

SMELL OF CAMPHOR, SCENT OF JASMINE 1/2 (Not Rated) A filmmaker making a documentary for Japanese television about Iranian funeral rites uses his research as an opportunity to rehearse for his own death in this rueful, at times darkly funny film about life's beginning and end. Iranian Film Today, Films at the High, Rich Auditorium, Woodruff Arts Center, Sept. 8 at 8 p.m. -- FELICIA FEASTER

A SUMMER IN LA GOULETTE (1996) This multinational comedy set in a beach town outside Tunis follows the antics of a group of 16-year-old girls who are driving their fathers (an Arab Muslim, a Tunisian Jew and a Sicilian Catholic) to distraction by their vow to each lose their virginity to a boy of a different religion. In Arabic, French and Italian with subtitles. Films at the High, Rich Auditorium, Woodruff Arts Center, Sept. 7 at 8 p.m.

Continuing
A.I.: ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE (PG-13) Steven Spielberg brings to light a long-developed Stanley Kubrick project about an android boy (Haley Joel Osment) who aspires to be human. Spielberg gives the first act a poetic precision evocative of the late filmmaker's cerebral style, but subsequent sections uncomfortably blend elements of Pinocchio and Blade Runner, losing some of its pristine storytelling control. -- CURT HOLMAN

AMERICAN OUTLAWS Jesse James (Colin Farrell), and brother Frank (Gabriel Macht), two brothers from Missouri, led a gang that robbed banks, trains, and stagecoaches throughout the West from 1866 to 1881, and became one of the era's most legendary bandits. (Scott Caan plays Cole Younger who competed with Jesse for leadership of the gang; Ali Larter plays Jesse's girlfriend). Directed by Les Mayfield.

AMERICAN PIE 2 1/2 This follow-up to the 1999 hit reunites over a dozen characters. This sequel is more of a boys' night then a nostalgic sequel -- Tara Reid, Mena Suvari and Natasha Lyonne have little more than cameos here. Four friends -- hapless Jim (Jason Biggs), obnoxious Stifler (Seann William Scott), cute Kevin (Thomas Ian Nicholas), soft-spoken Oz (Chris Klein) and brainy Finch (Eddie Kaye Thomas) -- back together after a year in college, ready to enjoy a summer at the beach. -- MATT BRUNSON

AMERICA'S SWEETHEARTS 1/2 (PG-13) Instead of leading lady, Julia Roberts is merely one cog in an ensemble that does its best to provide direction to a rambling scenario. John Cusack and Catherine Zeta-Jones portray a movie star couple whose careers have faltered ever since their separation. With one more joint project yet to be released, the studio head (Stanley Tucci) figures that the best publicity would be to get them back together, so he hires a crafty press agent (Billy Crystal) to orchestrate their reconciliation at the press junket. Engaging but not especially involving, America's Sweethearts handily wins this summer's Middlebrow Champion trophy. -- MB

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. Their evening of celebration turns 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. -- FF

APOCALYPSE NOW REDUX 1/2 (R) Closer to Francis Ford Coppola's original intention for his film, this Apocalypse featuring 53 additional minutes and the inclusion of scenes that had previously been mere legend in film circles enhances the myth of this stunning Vietnam war film but does not necessarily make for a better film.--FF

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

BABY BOY (R) Boyz N the Hood director John Singleton returns to his old stomping ground with the story of a 20-year-old African-American (Tyrese Gibson) who refuses to grow up despite being a father of two. Boasting a pertinent theme and the imposing presence of Ving Rhames, Baby Boy suffers from Singleton's naggingly repetitive script, unpolished performances and contrived violence at the end. --CH

BROTHER (R) BLURB: Japan's premier bad-ass Beat Takeshi wrote, directed and stars in this international co-production about a displaced yakuza soldier who starts up operations in the United States, bludgeoning, bashing, blading, or blowing the brains out of anyone who gets in his way. A little muddled, but a top-notch performance by Beat and over the top violence carry the day. Up-and-comer Omar Epps co-stars as one of the American yakuza. -- EDDY VON MUELLER

BULLY (Not Rated) America hide your children, that "wake

up and smell the coffee" chicken hawk Larry Clark has done gone and made

himself another movie full of ripe, nekkid teens and a bracing social

message about how it's, like, wrong or something to kill your best

friend even if he was meaner than a sackful of rattlesnakes. Based on

fact!--FF

CATS & DOGS (PG) Cats rule -- or at least that's the intent of the purring pets on parade in this lackluster family film in which our canine companions seek to stop their feline foes from achieving world domination. "Cat people" probably will boycott this movie - their preferred pets are clearly the villains -- but it's safe to say that many die-hard "dog people" won't be enamored of this film, either. --MB

CAPTAIN CORELLI'S MANDOLIN 1/2 (R) This adaptation of Louis de Bernieres' novel finds Nicolas Cage affecting the worst Italian accent since Nick Nolte struggled his way through Lorenzo's Oil nine years ago. Still, his no more miscast than his co-stars, Penelope Cruz and Christian Bale, who play Greeks residing on the island of Cephallonia during World War II. Cage plays a music-loving officer whose company is stationed on Cephallonia as the war rages on around them. The initial antagonism between the Greeks and the Italians eventually subsides, all the more so when the Germans turn up and start killing everyone in sight. Director John Madden may have helmed Shakespeare In Love, but he's never able to jumpstart the romance between Cage and Cruz; his instincts work better in the second half, when the harsh realities of war are brought to the island residents' front doorstep. -- MB

CURSE OF THE JADE SCORPION 1/2 (PG-13) Maybe Woody Allen should consider taking a year off. This slight homage to '40s era detective stories is only mildly entertaining at best. Allen plays a detective for an insurance agency who butts heads with the company's new efficiency expert (Helen Hunt). When a hypnotist at a company party puts the sparring partners under his spell, the seeds for both love and larceny are planted in their subconscious minds. From that set-up follows a relatively predictable comedy of errors. In the end, you can't help wondering: Where are the sexual politics? Where is the clever storyline? Where are the lovable neuroses? Apparently they all took the year off. -- SUZANNE VAN ATTEN

THE DEEP END 1/2 (R) Though it was a hit at this year's Sundance Film Festival, this tale of consuming mother love in which Tilda Swinton does everything in her power -- including covering up a murder -- to protect her son, feels like a conservative throw-back to Mildred Pierce-era stories of masochistic, maternal sacrifice dressed up in flashy au courant garb.--FF

DR. DOLITTLE 2 (PG) Eddie Murphy's 1998 smash, Dr. Dolittle, was a tiresome, tepid affair in which the good doctor spent most of the running time dealing with animals with a fondness for toilet humor. This mediocrity of a sequel is less strident, with Dr. Dolittle helping various critters save their forest from unscrupulous land developers (played by Jeffrey Jones and Kevin Pollack). Locating laughs in this film is like finding anything of value while panning at a mountain tourist attraction: There are some modest rewards here and there, but they hardly seem worth the effort. -- MB

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 sitcom with a lot of bathroom humor added to lure teens. -- MB

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 cliched characters. -- CH

GHOST OF MARS: (R) There's something rotten on Mars. It's hundreds of years in the future, and Mars has been colonized to alleviate over-population on Earth. There Lt. Ballard (Natasha Henstridge) of the Mars Police Force is leading a prisoner transport squad to Shining Canyon, a once-thriving mining operation, to take "the most wanted man on the planet" (Ice Cube) to trial. But What they find there is deserted buildings and mutilated corpses. The mining operation has tapped into an ancient civilization below the planet's surface and unleashed an evil force. John Carpenter directed and co-wrote. Pam Grier and Joanna Cassidy costar.

GHOST WORLD 1/2 (R) Terry Zwigoff follows his superb documentary on underground cartoonist R. Crumb with a sharp feature based on Daniel Clowes' comic book serial about hip best friends (Thora Birch and Scarlet Johansson) who drift apart after high school graduation. The film hilariously shows young people faced with the insipid mediocrity of consumer culture vs. the loneliness of personal authenticity, embodied by Steve Buscemi as a hapless record collector. The kind of film David Lynch or Woody Allen should be trying to make, Ghost World provides ideal performances from its leads while refusing to offer easy solutions to their dilemma. -- CH

HEDWIG AND THE ANGRY INCH (R) A fantastic, not-to-be-missed debut film from John Cameron Mitchell (adapting his off-Broadway play) who stars in this audacious rock musical as an East German transsexual nursing a broken heart as he plays abysmal rock gigs in restaurants and ice cream parlors across the country. --FF

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." Through Sept. 3. Ocean Oasis (NR) Though indifferently structured, this portrait of the ecology of Baja California and the Sea of Cortes captures undersea life as never before and surfaces briefly to check out the desert and the mountains. With incredible cinematography, even by Imax standards, the images are so sharp you can look tiny fish in the eye and read personalities into their facial expressions. Through Jan. 1, 2002. Fernbank Museum of Natural History IMAX Theater. -- STEVE WARREN

JAY & SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK (R). Kevin Smith provides a light-hearted coda to his "New Jersey" trilogy of films with this low-brow, cameo-heavy road movie that boasts some hilarious spoofs on classic and current films. The foul-mouthed Laurel & Hardy team of Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith) offers a few gay jokes too many, but if the film isn't as good as Pee Wee's Big Adventure, it's at least better than Beavis & Butt-Head Do America. -- CURT HOLMAN

KISS OF THE DRAGON (R) 1/2 Romeo Must Die's ass-kicker Jet Li plays a Chinese intelligence officer chased all over Paris by corrupt French cops. The propulsive action scenes reflect the signature style of producer Luc Besson (director of La Femme Nikita), but the brutal treatment of Bridget Fonda's junkie-ho character can make the film too ugly to be fun. -- CH

O (R) An appropriately troubling Columbine-era spin on Othello, Tim Blake Nelson's adaptation places Shakespeare's tragic power struggle on the appropriately high-stakes battleground of the high school basketball court where a disgruntled brooder (Josh Hartnett) attempts to destroy the sterling rep of the team's star player (Mekhi Phifer).--FF

SUMMER CATCH (PG-13) Freddie Prinze Jr., that one-man movie-making machine for the teen set, is at it again with his latest vehicle to make young hearts flutter. Here he's a blue-collar boy trying to make it in the Big Leagues. The first townie to earn a slot in Cape Cod's elite Baseball League, he's finally got his chance to make it, but, as the press notes say, "the temptation to score off the field is almost as intense as the pressure to perform on the diamond." Beverly D'Angelo is the resident "Mrs. Robinson" and Jessica Biel ("7th Heaven") plays a sexy Vassar grad.

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