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Short subjectives 

Capsule reviews of films by CL critics


Opening Wednesday
CINEMA PARADISO (R) Director Giuseppe Tornatore has re-released his beloved nostalgia piece in its original format, an epic 170 minutes. Digressing from the film's central, and most charming element -- the relationship between a projectionist in a small Italian village and a movie-crazed 8-year-old boy -- this Paradiiso wanders off into the muck of a traditional love story and in the process ties a hunk of lead around Tornatore's helium balloon. At Lefont Plaza Theatre. --Felicia Feaster

LIKE MIKE (PG) That's Mr. Wow to you! Lil Bow Wow plays an adolescent boy who, when struck by lightning while holding a pair of Michael Jordan's sneakers, becomes a basketball star. (Hey, is it any more far-fetched than being bitten by a genetically modified spider?) This family sports fantasy includes such unexpected supporting players as Crispin Glover, Anne Meara and Eugene Levy.

MEN IN BLACK II (PG-13) Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones return as attitudinal alien-busting secret agents in this mind-bogglingly, jaw-droppingly egregious sequel to their somewhat diverting 1997 cash cow. A negligible "plot" gives them something to squawk about amid the usual barrage of computer-generated effects, but the movie exists most appreciably to serve the greedy financial considerations of its responsible parties. About the best to be said of the monumental mess is that it's all over in a (suspiciously) brief 88 minutes.--Bert Osborne

THE POWERPUFF GIRLS MOVIE (PG) The Cartoon Network's huge-eyed, playground superheroes -- Blossom, Bubbles and Buttercup -- swoop into action to save Townsville from monkey archvillain Mojo Jojo.


Opening Friday
DOGTOWN AND Z-BOYS (PG-13) This visceral, slickly assembled documentary celebrates the vertically inclined '70s founders of skateboarding's second wave, which jettisoned skate culture into the extreme stratosphere it occupies today. With its relentless classic-rock soundtrack, breakneck pacing and revealing interviews, the film hones in on the short-lived Zephyr Skating Team, a hardscrabble bunch assembled by three surf shop owners in a decaying California beach hamlet called Dogtown. At Tara Cinema.--Hobart Rowland

LATE MARRIAGE (Not Rated) Quiet observational comedy gives way to an increasingly dark critique of strangling family ties when an aging graduate student (Lior Ashkenazi) defies old-world marital customs in his affair with a divorced single mother (Ronit Elkabetz). Writer-director Dover Kosashvili offers surprisingly frank and liberating bedroom scenes, and a shockingly angry portrait of the elder generation. At Tara Cinema.--Curt Holman


Duly Noted
BALL OF FIRE (1942) (NR) One of the finest yet most underrated screwball comedies has Barbara Stanwyck's slang-slinging burlesque dancer hiding from the mob with a timid lexicographer and his household of tweedy colleagues. Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett's script perfectly serves masterful dialogue director Howard Hawks. American Comedy Classics. July 5 at 8 p.m. Rich Auditorium, Woodruff Arts Center. $5.--CH

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 Garden Hills Cinema, 2835 Peachtree Road, and Saturday at midnight at the Marietta Star Cinema, 1355 Roswell Road, Marietta.


Continuing
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 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

BAD COMPANY (PG-13) Taking an explosive comic actor like Chris Rock sticking him in an action film this dull is like buying a ridiculously expensive sports car and solely using it to drive to the grocery store down the block. This studio-generated claptrap features a street-smart small-timer (Rock) who poses as his own twin brother, a murdered CIA agent tracking (what else?) a nuclear weapon making the rounds on the international black market. Anthony Hopkins co-stars. -- Matt Brunson

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 scalle of a really, really big IMAX screen. Mall of Georgia IMAX Theater, I-85 at Buford Drive, Buford. -- CH

THE BOURNE IDENTITY (PG-13) Go director Doug Liman's spy thriller starts well, with amnesiac Matt Damon discovering learning that he's got spy skills and hitmen on his trail. But the film forgets the best plot twists of Robert Ludlum's original novel and falls into a repetitious cycle: Chris Cooper's nasty CIA man yells at underlings, Damon hesitantly romances love interest Franka Potente, and action scenes unfold in a workmanlike manner.--CH

CQ (R) Roman Coppola -- son of Francis Ford -- writes and directs this tale of a 1960s filmmaker (Jeremy Davies) in Paris trying to complete his sttylish sci-fi film. The cast includes Gerard Depardieu, Sofia Coppola and cousin Jason Schwatzman.

THE DANGEROUS LIVES OF ALTAR BOYS (R) In a small Southern town in the 1970s, a pair of Catholic schoolboys (Kieran Culkin and Emile Hirsch) get hard lessons in sex and responsibility. Jodie Foster plays their tyrannical teacher, a one-legged nun who provides the villain for their elaborate comic book fantasies, rendered in fittingly over-the-top animation. But even as the "real world" story goes to extremes, we invest little emotion in the teen heroes, despite their refreshing lack of movie glamour. --CH

DIVINE SECRETS OF THE YA-YA SISTERHOOD (PG-13) Thelma & Louise screenwriter Callie Khouri makes her directorial debut with an equally zeitgeisty melodrama about the dark secret of motherhood in her adaptation of Rebecca Wells' popular novel. The Ya-Yas (Fionnula Flanagan, Maggie Smith, Shirley Knight) are priceless as a trio of salty Southern broads who try to mend the damaged mother-daughter relationship acted out by a typically dull Sandra Bullock and a luminous Ellen Burstyn as her mother. --FF

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

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST (PG-13) Actor/director Oliver Parker's badly reheated Oscar Wilde substitutes slapstick physical comedy for the playwright's droll wit and manages to make a mess of a brilliant comedy about Victorian-era hypocrisy amongst the English upper-crust.--FF

INSOMNIA (R) Memento director Christopher Nolan switches from memory loss to sleep deprivation in this smart police thriller about a celebrated detective (Al Pacino) becoming increasingly complicit with a dispassionate murderer (Robin Williams). Pacino and Williams each effectively turn down the volume for their cat-and-mouse games. While most noir films act under cover of darkness, Insomnia takes place in an Alaskan town where the sun literally never sets, providing a supple metaphor for the pangs of conscience.--CH

JUWANNA MANN (PG-13) Miguel A. Nunez plays a disgraced pro basketball star (imagine such a thing!) who passes as a female player in the WNBA. This cross-dressing comedy also features Vivica A. Fox and, no doubt for the height jokes, Lil' Kim.

LILO & STITCH (PG) A fluffy but destructive alien mutation hides from his intergalactic pursuers by passing as the pet of a lonely Hawaiian girl. Imagine the Tasmanian Devil impersonating E.T. and you'll have a sense of the Looney Tunes level of slapstick. The schmaltz gets high enough to surf on, but the characters are appealing and Disney replaces its usual atrocious pop songs with Elvis hits. --CH

MINORITY REPORT (PG-13) A half-century from now, high-tech police can arrest perpetrators before they commit their crimes, and officer Tom Cruise believes in the system until it sets its sights on him. Director Steven Spielberg offers a brilliant extrapolation of future law-enforcement and marketing techniques, which inform many of suspense sequences while inspiring ideas about privacy and guilt. Some jarring shifts in tone (an Indiana Jones-esque fight here, a gross-out sight gag there) hinder the narrative and thematic momentum, and the director's emulation of 1940s film noir results in both highly mannered acting and superbly moody, filtered cinematography.--CH

MR. DEEDS (PG-13) Adam Sandler returns to form -- a form without shape, substance or style -- in this remake of Frank Capra's Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. Expect over-the-ttop beatings, tired slapstick and Sandler's tired naive-but-pure-hearted-idiot routine as he plays a pizza shop owner who gets a $10 billion inheritance and unwittingly becomes the laughing-stock of New York. Maybe the movie will make Winona Ryder realize that if she's going to revive her flagging career, she may have to tackle a serious, meaty, potentially naked role. (See Halle Berry.)--Steve Fennessy

MURDER BY NUMBERS (R) This fitfully entertaining thriller casts Michael Pitt and Ryan Gosling as two privileged high school seniors who elect to pull off the perfect murder. As long as the film places them front and center, it avoids the standard "cop flick" trappings. Much of the running time is frittered away on scenes involving the troubled detective on the case, shakily played by top-billed star (and executive producer) Sandra Bullock.--MB

MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING (PG) While not as accomplished as Mira Nair's Monsoon Wedding,- this is nevertheless a gratifying romantic comedy that gently tweaks stereotypes even as its characters wallow in them. Adapted by Nia Vardalos from her own one-woman show, the film centers on the plight of a 30-year-old lonelyheart (Vardalos) who risks the wrath of her family when she falls for a non-Greek (John Corbett) .--MB

THE NEW GUY (PG-13) A bullied high schooler (DJ Qualls) gets revenge on his peers after a wisecracking convict (Eddie Griffin) gives him pointers on being a badass. Also starring Eliza Dushku.

SCOOBY-DOO (PG) After a messy break-up, the reunited Mystery Inc. gang is summoned to Spooky Island resort and amusement park to figure out why its clientele keeps turning into zombies. Matthew Lillard (Shaggy) upstages his cast-mates and interacts nicely with the CGI-animated title canine. Unfortunately, in bringing the psychedelic Saturday morning cartoon to life, director Raja Gosnell (Home Alone 3) can't decide between full-fledged camp or slapstick kiddie fare. --Tray Butler

SPIDER-MAN (PG-13) The long-awaited adaptation of the Marvel comic book works because director Sam Raimi and scripter David Koepp turn their movie into a successful tightrope act between soap opera and spectacle, retaining the personal elements that made the comic book so popular while also providing special effects that thankfully never overwhelm the story. As Peter Parker, the boy who becomes a superhero, Tobey Maguire is wonderfully appealing.--MB

SPIRIT: STALLION OF THE CIMARRON (G) The title character in this old-school animated feature may be a horse, but the movie automatically wins points for not anthropomorphizing it (the most we hear are its inner thoughts, provided by Matt Damon). The cuteness quotient is remarkably low in this engaging if not particularly distinguished tale about a magnificent stallion that befriends a Lakota lad in the Old West. The songs by Bryan Adams are the musical equivalent of live leeches being driven into the ear drums, but this is still worth a look.--MB

THE SUM OF ALL FEARS (PG-13) A well-crafted throwback to the thrillers of Cold War era, this Tom Clancy adaptation brings back our fears of potential nuclear conflict. At first Ben Affleck seems over his head as CIA analyst Jack Ryan (a role played by Alec Baldwin and Harrison Ford), but he ingratiates himself while trying to unravel a terrorist conspiracy against America. The transcontinental plotting can be murky, but the third act features spectacular disasters and the chilling sensation of events spinning out of control.--CH

THIRTEEN CONVERSATIONS ABOUT ONE THING (R) Director Jill Sprecher follows in the seemingly random footsteps of Short Cuts and Magnolia exploring the meaning of life and luck through four intersecting New York stories. Alan Arkin's subplot, about a claims adjuster aggravated by a subordinate's optimism, reveals obsessive behavior and bureaucratic oppression with the acuity of a Russian novelist. But the lack of subtlety and natural-sounding dialogue undermine the narrative ambitions.--CH

ULTIMATE X (PG) See extreme sports on the Mall of Georgia's extremely large IMAX screen in this documentary of ESPN's Summer X games, which includes skateboarders, BMX riders, motocrossers, and street lugers. Rated PG "for daredevil sports action and mild language." Mall of Georgia IMAX Theater, I-85 at Buford Drive, Buford.

UNDERCOVER BROTHER (PG-13) Can you dig it? Beating the Austin Powers films at their own game, this highly amusing blaxploitation spoof casts Eddie Griffin as the title character, "a Soul Train reject with a Robin Hood complex" who joins up with the B.R.O.T.H.E.R.H.O.O.D. to take down The Man. Even at a mere 88 minutes, this slight film tempts fate, but the big laughs are tumultuous enough to barrel right over the slow patches.--MB

WINDTALKERS (R) Marked by surprisingly unspectacular battle scenes and little of that patented John Woo energy, this drama fictionalizes the case of the real life codetalkers -- Native Americans who transmitted an unbreakable code based on the Navaho language during WWII. Nicolas Cage and Christian Slater -- each trying to out-butch the other -- are two of the Marines who must keep two Native American codetalkers from falling into enemy hands.--FF

Y TU MAMA TAMBIEN (NR) A heartbroken woman takes off on a road trip with two randy teenage boys and the trio talk, laugh, bicker and have sex. How director Alfonso Cuaron turns this seemingly trite scenario into a metaphysical meditation on life, fate, death, the sublime and torturous aspects of sex, and the class divisions of modern Mexico is a thing of beauty.--FF

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