Short subjectives 

Capsule reviews of films by CL critics

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K-PAX (R) Offensively sanctimonious, flagrantly derivative and just plain dull (don't see K-PAX without NO-DOZ), this insufferable picture casts Kevin Spacey as a mental patient who thinks he's a space alien, with Jeff Bridges as his psychiatrist (in a cardboard role that's beneath him). The first half of the film plays like Patch Adams, while the second is more like a nightmare version of an actor's theater workshop. Spacey's performance is built on nothing but putrid platitudes and affected mannerisms -- frankly, I didn't think it was possible for him to ever be this bad.--MB

THE LAST CASTLE (R ) Though set in a military stockade, this disappointing drama from director Rod Lurie (The Contender) trots out the usual prison-movie suspects: the noble prisoner (a dull Robert Redford) who doesn't deserve to be behind bars; the humorless warden (an atypically stilted James Gandolfini) whose stern tactics barely conceal a sadistic streak; and the rest of the compound's rapists, murderers and thieves, presented as the kind of jovial guys you'd be happy to invite to your house.--MB

LIFE AS A HOUSE (R) A yuppie tearjerker about the healing power of good real estate. Kevin Kline stars as a father dying of cancer who wants to build his dream house before he goes, thus erasing his father's negative influence (and dilapidated wooden shack) and creating something beautiful and new to heal his damaged relationship with his rebellious, drug-addicted teenage son. Life often feels personal for Winkler, and it may strike a chord for viewers, too, but there is something too saccharine and easy in this Hollywood treatment of domestic crisis. -- FF

THE MAN WHO WASN'T THERE (R). Film noir has been good to Coen Brothers, although one hopes that their latest, an homage to the work of James M. Cain, gets it out of their system so they can explore other cinematic modes. Billy Bob Thornton effectively plays a taciturn barber whose wife (Fargo's Frances McDormand) may be having an affair with her boss (James Gandolfini), but the barber's blackmail scheme spins out of control. It may have less humor than any Coen Brothers film, but it takes a hypnotic, clinical look at moral decay, captured in sleek black-and-white.--CH

MONSTERS INC. (G). Remember the Warner Bros. cartoons in which the coyote and sheepdog would carry lunchpails and punch time clocks? Pixar's latest feat of computer animation employs a similar blue-collar incongruity, depicting the endearing monsters who scare children, and the chaos that erupts when a human kid gets loose in their world. The script isn't as solid as the Toy Story movies', but the creepy-crawlies come in wildly imaginative shapes and hues, and the climactic chase is excitingly surreal. With the voices of John Goodman, Billy Crystal and Steve Buscemi.

MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL They're Knights of the Round Table. They dance whene'er they're able. They do routines and chorus scenes with footwork impecc-able. It's a busy life in Camelot. They sing from the diaphragm a lot. (This re-release boasts a whopping "24 seconds" of unseen footage.) Marietta Star Cinema.--CH

MULHOLLAND DRIVE (R) A typical feast of Lynchian dreamwork, Mulholland Drive is also a disappointment for its mix of a deeply troubling storyline involving a naive Nancy Drew blonde new to Hollywood trying to help a haunted, amnesiac brunette, with silly subplots that recall the increasingly absurdist dissolution of Lynch's television show "Twin Peaks."--FF

ON THE LINE (PG) Who's your favorite member of N'Sync, Lance Bass or Joey Fantone? Figure it out during this date comedy about a single guy (Bass) trying to track down his dream gal (Emmanuelle Chiquri). If you prefer one of the other Syncers, that's just too damn bad.

THE OTHERS (PG-13). Spooky events begin occurring at an isolated mansion in 1945. Are the three mysterious new servants trying to drive single mother Nicole Kidman mad or is the house haunted? Chilean writer-director Alejandro Amen\#135>bar heeds the lessons of The Sixth Sense, offering a moody, well-constructed supernatural thriller that can be contrived and ponderous at times, but builds to some imaginative scares and a clever twist that invites you to reassess the film at the end. --CH

SERENDIPITY 1/2 (PG-13) Two New Yorkers (John Cusack and Pearl Harbor's Kate Beckinsale meet cute and leave their future up to fate. Several years later they're on the verge of marrying others, but they each decide to take one last crack at finding the love that got away. It's a shame the picture's very premise seems forced, because the performances are engaging (Eugene Levy steals it as a terse salesman) and the dialogue extremely sharp. --MB


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  • Re: Fresh air

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

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