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Capsule reviews of films by CL critics

Opening Thursday
STAR WARS: ATTACK OF THE CLONES (PG-13) The Force returns to George Lucas for the second installment of his Star Wars prequel trilogy. Though the star-crossed love story of Senator Amidala (Natalie Portman) and Jedi apprentice Anakin Skywalker (Hayden Christensen) falls flat, a mystery subplot connecting bounty hunters and clone armies plays like a delicious wedding of Star Wars and James Bond, building to a final half-hour so spectacular you'll be reluctant to blink for fear of missing something.--Curt Holman

Opening Friday
ABOUT A BOY (PG-13) The adaptation of Nick Hornby's novel lacks the character insight and pop savvy of the film of Hornby's High Fidelity, but it still charms. The title refers to both thirtysomething Will (Hugh Grant) and 12-year-old Marcus (Nicholas Hoult), whose unlikely friendship gives both lessons in how to grow up. At times manipulative and overly jokey, it makes a few unconventional twists, including its pragmatic theme of the virtue of conformity. --CH

THE MYSTIC MASSEUR (PG) Ismail Merchant, the producing half of the literary filmmaking duo Merchant/Ivory, takes the director's chair for an adaptation of Nobel laureate V.S. Naipul's novel. In Trinidad a would-be writer (Aasif Mandvi) becomes a holy man and politician, but the meandering film never conveys whether he's a charlatan or a sincere spiritualist. Despite lively politicking in the third act and fun supporting work from Om Puri and James Fox, Masseur leaves you feeling sore.--CH

THE PIANO TEACHER (NR) An audacious, bizarre film that has captivated critics and freaked-out audiences, this story of a masochistic Vienna piano teacher (mavelously played by Isabelle Huppert) examines the frustrations of sexual desire, and the punishing blows society deals women who act on their impulses. Intellectually lofty, but also shocking, bold filmmaking, this entirely original film has the power to revolt and inspire.--Felicia Feaster

Duly Noted
IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA (1955) (NR) A gargantuan octopus -- with, in fact, only five visible tentacles -- crushes the Golden Gate Bridge and otherwise menaces San Francisco in a nifty 1950s giant monster flick from special effects whiz Ray Harryhausen. Mondo Movie Night, May 19, 9 p.m., Starlight Six Drive-In Theatres, 2000 Moreland Ave. $6.--CH

JIMMY NEUTRON: BOY GENIUS (G) An accident-prone boy inventor comes to the rescue when aliens kidnap his parents in a computer-animated film from Nickelodeon. Free Kid's Movie Series, May 17-23, Magic Johnson Theatres, 2841 Greenbriar Parkway. Free for children 12 and under, $1 for adults.

PICASSO (1999) (NR) Pierre Daix's documentary follows the great cubist's career from the Paris World Exhibition in 1900 through the painting of Guernica in 1937. Introducing ARTE: The European Cultural TV-Channel. Goethe-Institut Atlanta, Colony Square, 1197 Peachtree St., May 8 at 7 p.m., $4 for non-members.

THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975) (R) The cult classic of cult classics, the musical horror spoof follows an all-American couple (Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick) to the castle of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry), a drag-queen/mad scientist from another galaxy. It's all fun and games until Meatloaf gets killed. Dress as your favorite character and participate in this musical on acid. Fridays at midnight, Lefont Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave., and Saturday at midnight at the Marietta Star Cinema, 1355 Roswell Road, Marietta.

SINGIN' IN THE RAIN (1952) (NR) Celebrating its golden anniversary, the Gene Kelly/Stanley Donen masterpiece is not the just the greatest of movie musicals, it's a superbly written Hollywood satire that sparks with glorious one-liners and celebrates all the aesthetics of motion pictures, including color, costumes, sound and, of course, dance. May 20, 7:30 p.m., Commune Restaurant, 1198 Howell Mill Road. Free with dinner.--CH

20 MILLION MILES TO EARTH (1957) (NR) A mission to Venus brings back a reptilian humanoid that grows to colossal proportions and wreaks havoc in Italy in another of Ray Harryhausen's cheesey-cool monster flicks. Mondo Movie Night, May 19, 9 p.m., Starlight Six Drive-In Theatres, 2000 Moreland Ave. $6.--CH

TWO TOWNS OF JASPER (NR) An all-black film crew interviewed black citizens while a white crew recorded the white ones in this documentary about Jasper, Texas, where James Byrd was fatally dragged in 1998. The interviewing device pays off, getting candid commentary on racial attitudes and inequities during the three separate murder trials of Byrd's accused killers. Eyewitness: Lynching and Racial Violence in America. May 16, 7 p.m., Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, 450 Auburn Ave. Free.

ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS (R) A tough bounty hunter (Ice Cube, who also co-wrote the film) and a wisecracking bail jumper (Mike Epps) join forces to fleece some diamond thieves in this action comedy named for the P. Diddy song. Featuring Anthony Michael Hall and Lil' Bow Wow.

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