Short subjectives 

Capsule reviews of films by CL critics

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THE ONE (PG-13). You might say this sci-fi kung fu flick is fueled by a twin Jet engine, as martial arts master Jet Li plays both a dimension-jumping, superpowered bad guy and the good guy from "our Earth" he's trying to kill. The stunts and special effects seem gleefully derivative of The Matrix and Terminator movies, suggesting this is a would-be summer blockbuster misplaced in November.

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 Amenábar 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

RIDING IN CARS WITH BOYS (PG-13) Director Penny Marshall applies her ham-fisted techniques to this adaptation of Beverly Donofrio's autobiography, with Drew Barrymore playing Beverly, who becomes pregnant at 15 and finds her future instantly derailed. This isn't a bad movie, but it never fulfills its promise as either an inspirational human tale or a three-hanky weepie. It doesn't help that the film can't stay serious for more than two minutes at a time, with dramatic scenes eventually turning cute.-- MB

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

SHALLOW HAL (PG-13) A nerd (Jack Black) only interested in physical beauty is "de-hypnotized" to perceive a 300-lb woman as a svelte beauty (Gwyneth Paltrow in a convincing fat suit). Most of the fat jokes in the Farrelly Brothers' winning romantic comedy have been crammed into the trailer, allowing the rest of the movie to make its case as a sympathetic tale about getting past surface appearances. Black's performance is a delight, retaining his character's goofball persona while also showing us the blossoming adult underneath, but Paltrow's empathic contribution is also key.-- MB

13 GHOSTS (R) It's spelled "Thir13een Ghosts" in the ads, which may be the most memorable part of this flick about a haunted house made mostly of glass. From the makers of 1999's already-forgotten remake of The House on Haunted Hill, it features Tony Shalhoub, F. Murray Abraham, Matthew Lillard and Shannon Elizabeth.

WAKING LIFE (PG-13) Richard Linklater's meditation on the meaning of life and the nature of dreams figuratively retraces the structure of his film debut Slacker, randomly following a gabby bunch of characters. Then it literally retraces it, putting painterly animation over the images already filmed. Waking Life alternates between hauntingly surreal moments and trippy but at times tedious lectures on everything from reincarnation to quantum mechanics. A one-of-a-kind exploration of dream logic that fascinates slightly more often than it frustrates. --CH

THE WASH 1/2 (R). If you're not already a fan of Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg, you'll probably find their comedic effort a wash out. Friday scripter DJ Pooh wrote and directed this nearly plotless look at the tension between two friends when they both take jobs at the same scruffy L.A. car wash. A few laughs lurk in the margins -- Pooh giving himself the funniest role as a dimwitted kidnapper -- but the cast has a much better time than the audience ever will. Tommy Chong, Pauly Shore, Shaquille O'Neill and Eminem provide cameos. --CH

ZOOLANDER (PG-13) 1/2 Ben Stiller serves as actor, director, co-writer and co-producer for a surprisingly timid spoof with a handful of splendid gags. Stiller and Owen Wilson are perfectly cast as vapid male supermodels who become involved in assassination conspiracy, with cameos from everyone from Fabio to David Bowie. --MB

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  • Re: Fresh air

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

    • on June 29, 2016
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