Short subjectives 

Capsule reviews of films by CL critics

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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


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


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

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