Short subjectives 

Capsule reviews of films by CL critics

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BLADE 2 (R) With arteries being punctured left and right and vampires disintegrating after getting blasted by silver bullets, this is as disreputable a genre film as Queen of the Damned, but a helluva lot more fun. It tops its 1998 predecessor thanks in no small part to director Guillermo Del Toro of The Devil's Backbone, although Wesley Snipes' half-human, half-vampire renegade still proves a dull superhero. --Matt Brunson

THE CAT'S MEOW (PG-13) Director Peter Bogdanovich makes a modest comeback with a dark comedy about the lethal consequences of a 1924 romantic triangle between Charlie Chaplin (Eddie Izzard), William Randolph Hearst (Edward Hermann) and starlet Marion Davies (Kirstin Dunst). You'd hope for a more insightful consideration of power and hypocrisy, but as a showbiz satire it features amusingly arch dialogue and a superbly cast and costumed line-up of actresses.--CH

CHANGING LANES (R) A traffic accident between an opportunistic lawyer (Ben Affleck) and a recovering alcoholic (Samuel L. Jackson) sets off a dangerous game in which both men try to one-up each other. Neither character is depicted as a hero or a villain in this rare bird of a film, a studio product that largely steers clear of black and white by adorning itself in an appealing shade of gray. --MB

DEUCES WILD (R) This hilariously misguided look at rival 1950s street gangs stars a cast of leather-clad young actors strutting and preening like they're auditioning for Sha Na Na. From the vengeful villian named "Marco Vendetti" to the "rumbles" shot like primitive music videos to Debbie Harry playing a mother with Christmas on the brain, the film plays like a John Waters script that director Scott Kalvert (The Basketball Diaries) somehow took seriously. --CH

ENIGMA (R) If the History Channel made feature films, they'd probably resemble this thriller about intrigue in England's code-breaking center during WWII. Dougray Scott plays an ace cryptographer trying to unlock a mystery and Kate Winslet delights in a change-of-pace role as a wallflower turned sleuth. The film shows little interest in the mechanics of the plot but gets enthusiastic over showing how war-time cryptography works, and gets credit for not dumbing things down.--CH

ENOUGH (R) J-Lo plays a single mother on the run from her abusive husband (apple-cheeked Billy Campbell until she decides that she's had enough. Could be titled Sleeping With the Enemy -- Then Kicking His Ass.

E.T. THE EXTRATERRESTRIAL: THE 20TH ANNIVERSARY (PG) Steven Spielberg's tale of a boy and his alien is no children's movie, but a lovely evocation of the experience of childlike wonder. The anniversary re-release includes spruced-up sound and special effects, a deleted scene or two and some disquieting alterations in the name of political correctness, like the digital replacement of guns with walkie-talkies.--CH

FRAILTY (R) Bill Paxton (Apollo 13, A Simple Plan) stars and directs in this unusual thriller about a small-town Texas father who believes he's been called by God to kill demons. Featuring elements of Southern gothic, Bible allegory and even black comedy, the script builds to some clever twists but still feels drawn-out, as if it could be cut to fit a one-hour "X-Files" slot without suffering.--CH

HIGH CRIMES (PG-13) It's a high crime indeed that the once-exciting Ashley Judd now delivers the same spunky-woman-in-peril job in studio-sanctioned programmers like this. It's a shame that Morgan Freeman isn't finding more roles better suited to his awesome abilities. And it's a shame that, in the age of mind-benders like Memento, we're still force-fed reheated pulp more adept at creating massive plotholes than any semblance of suspense. --MB

HOLLYWOOD ENDING (PG-13) Woody Allen plays a director on the skids who gets a second chance to helm a picture from his L.A.-based movie executive ex-wife (Tea Leoni). But chaos ensues when Allen is struck blind and must hide his condition. When Hollywood allows the full slapstick energy of this goofy scenario to flow, things tend to go well. But the long-winded exposition devoted to Allen's relationship with ex-Leoni and his reconciliation with a long-lost son can make the film feel as suffocating as two hours in the smoker's lounge at Hartsfield. --FF

ICE AGE (PG) Ray Romano's sensible woolly mammoth, Denis Leary's duplicitous saber-toothed tiger and John Leguizamo's imbecilic sloth are unique enough for us to pardon the pedestrian plot of this computer-animated film that's like Disney's Dinosaur without the mountainous sentimentality. The prehistoric squirrel Scrat is such a character that you're sorry every time he leaves the screen.-- MB


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