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Capsule reviews of films by CL critics

Page 2 of 5

A BEAUTIFUL MIND 1/2 (PG-13) In an either bold or ignorant move, director Ron Howard may have made the first action-adventure film about schizophrenia. Russell Crowe stars in this story of real life Princeton mathematician John Nash who won the Nobel Peach Prize, but also suffered from mental illness. Howard allows emotional button-pushing to triumph over character development and insight in this earnest but flat entry in Hollywood's disability canon. --FF

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (G) The only animated feature ever to be nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award -- and one of the best classic-style musicals of the past 20 years -- Disney's 1991 animated gem gets a polish to fit the scale of a really, really big IMAX screen. Mall of Georgia IMAX Theater, I-85 at Buford Drive, Buford. --CH

BEHIND ENEMY LINES 1/2 (PG-13) One-note ubiquity Owen Wilson, a head-scratching choice for Hollywood's latest flavor of the month, plays Chris Burnett, a pilot shot down over ravaged, corpse-strewn Bosnia, which the film treats with the sensitivity of a video game. Director John Moore makes his movie debut after helming zippy commercials, so expect lots of choppy splicing of scenes filmed in the grainy style popularized by Saving Private Ryan -- but made dull by the number of hacks who have shamelessly copied it. --MB

BLACK HAWK DOWN (R) Ridley Scott directs a harrowing soldier's-eye view for the disastrous mission in Somalia that cost the lives of 19 U.S. troops. With a huge cast and non-stop battle scenes, characterization is nearly absent, and we scarcely get to know the soldiers played by the likes of Josh Hartnett, Eric Bana, Ewan McGregor and Tom Sizemore. But in the global environment following Sept. 11, the film gets credit for showing in frightening detail what could be a worst-case scenario of the War on Terrorism. --CH

BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF (R) This French horror/action-adventure/martial-arts/romance/period piece puts more on its plate than it can digest, but provides a feast for movie fans. A naturalist and his Native-American sidekick investigate wolf attacks in the French countryside, encountering conniving noblemen and a tarot-reading courtesan (Malena's Monica Belucci). Convoluted, top-heavy and too long, the film still has thrilling fight scenes and piles on one voluptuous pleasure on top of another: Swordfights! Nudity! Monsters! Baroque decorations! --CH

THE COUNT OF MONTE CRISTO (PG-13) Like their 1994 Jungle Book, Disney's version of Alexandre Dumas' novel is an old-fashioned crowd-pleaser that's refreshingly free of rapid-cut edits, a blaring modern score and Matrix-style action scenes. Jim Caviezel plays a wrongfully imprisoned sailor seeking revenge, while Memento's Guy Pearce is all snaky insouciance as his former friend. --MB

THE DEVIL'S BACKBONE 1/2 (R) Evidence piles up for a new Renaissance in the cinematic ghost story with this unique and atmospheric tale, set an remote orphanage for the children of rebels in the Spanish Civil War. The newest student (Fernando Tielve) gets caught up in both the search for hidden gold and a haunting from something called "the one who sighs." Director Guillermo del Toro depicts more gore and spectral special effects than the story requires, but nevertheless crafts a moody film with political allegory and memorable images. --CH

GOSFORD PARK (R) As close to a masterpiece as this year in movies has seen, Gosford Park invests a familiar upstairs-downstairs theme of the upper and servant classes of English country life with a degree of compassion and sensitivity that proves director Robert Altman has something human lurking beneath his patented misanthropy. --FF

HARRY POTTER AND THE SORCERER'S STONE (PG). The big screen version of J.K. Rowling's first Harry Potter book mostly enchants. Following the title character (Daniel Radcliffe) in his first year at a Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, the film has so many clever details and visual delights that they dwarf the supposed plot about sinister goings-on surrounding the titular stone. John Williams overdoes the "magical" music and Radcliffe underplays Harry's emotions, but the film has enough charms to make the already-planned sequels feel welcome. --CH

HOW HIGH (R) If you're a fan of rappers Redman and Method Man, or are simply nostalgic for the cinema of Cheech & Chong, you might want to sample this comedy about two stoners who get into Harvard thanks to an IQ-boosting supply of marijuana -- which quickly runs out. With Fred Willard as the chancellor.

I AM SAM 1/2 (PG-13) Sean Penn drags out his trick bag of disability in this treacly tale of a saintly retarded man fighting for custody of his 7-year-old daughter with Michelle Pfeiffer (who performs like someone set her knickers on fire) as the high-powered, neurotic lawyer who helps him. Director Jessie Nelson wrote The Story of Us and Stepmom, and here her obnoxious corporate-endorsed brand of crass sentimentality makes even Hollywood lightweight Chris Columbus look like Bergman. --FF

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