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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
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