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Short Subjectives 

Capsule reviews of films by CL critics

Page 4 of 5

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.

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

NOT ANOTHER TEEN MOVIE (R) The ferocity with which director Joel Gallen and his five writers deconstruct and devour the teen flick deserves some respect, as the film includes letter-perfect take-offs on everything from the John Hughes oeuvre of the 80s right up to the student-skewering hits of today. But for all its eager-beaver zeal to deliver raunchy laughs, the film provides the gross-outs but not the gags -- at least, not enough good ones to make it anything more than a quickie toss-off. --MB

OCEAN'S ELEVEN 1/2 (PG-13) There are a number of ways Steven Soderbergh could have botched his replay of Lewis Milestone's tongue-in-cheek 1960 Rat Pack Heist film. But Soderbergh shows, yet again, his flexibility when it comes to tackling a new genre, and an ability to adapt the winking cool of the original to the swingers generation. Hip, funny and laid-back, the only thing missing is an explanation for why former-indie-with-a-vision Soderbergh is so hung up on recrafting old genre material and rehashing others' work. --FF

ORANGE COUNTY (PG-13) Lawrence Kasdan's son Jake directs Tom Hanks' son Colin in a comedy about an ambitious high schooler who panics when Stanford University rejects his application. The cast includes Jon Lithgow, Lily Tomlin and Shallow Hal's Jack Black, who fuels the comic relief for the inevitable road trip.

OUT COLD (PG-13) No one I recognize is in the commercials, but supposedly Lee "The Six Million Dollar Man" Majors is on hand for this slovenly teen comedy about snowboarding and other "extreme" pastimes.

THE ROYAL TENENBAUMS 1/2 (R) Director Wes Anderson maintains the idiosyncratic brilliance of Rushmore with a pixilated portrait of an ingenious but dysfunctional family. The likable cast centers around Gene Hackman's rascally paterfamilias, but it's more a film about its textures -- nearly subliminal sight gags, wall- to-wall pop tunes from the '60s and '70s, fictional locales in an idealized Manhattan -- that subtly and overtly suggest the experience of reading a novel, especially the kind John Irving likes to write. --CH

THE SHIPPING NEWS 1/2 (R) Lasse Hallstrom's adaptation of E. Annie Proulx's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is thankfully more in the tradition of the director's low-key What's Eating Gilbert Grape than his unctuous Chocolat. Kevin Spacey stars as a haunted man with a dead wife and a small daughter on his hands who returns to his family home in Newfoundland to start afresh. Hallstrom treats the subject of myriad family dysfunctions with sensitivity, but the historical sweep and plethora of characters eventually prove unmanageable. --FF

SPY GAME (R) If you enjoyed Tony Scott's sleek but smart efforts Crimson Tide and Enemy of the State, then this one's a good bet as well, mixing hard-hitting thrills with a decidedly less-than-benevolent look at U.S. government agencies. Robert Redford makes the most of his best role in years as a veteran CIA operative who learns that his former protege (Brad Pitt) is due for execution in China, and uses every trick in the book to save his neck. --MB

VA SAVOIR (PG-13) Legendary 73-year- old French director Jacques Rivette presents a romantic roundelay among a group of theater people and other Parisian sophisticates. At two-and-a-half hours, this soft-spoken comedy isn't exactly riveting, but makes wise observations about the conflicts of the heart and features thoughtful actors, especially Jeanne Balibar as a neurotic thespian. As it progresses, the script takes increasingly melodramatic turns, until it begins to resemble a stage play. Why? As the title translates, "who knows?" --CH

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