Short subjectives 

Capsule reviews of films by CL critics

Opening Friday
FEARDOTCOM (R) Stephen Dorff plays a detective investigating a website linked to several deaths. The cast includes such quirky character actors as Udo Kier and Jeffrey Combs.

MOSTLY MARTHA (PG) German writer-director Sandra Nettelbeck presents a romantic comedy about a headstrong female chef who butts heads with both her 8-year-old niece and an Italian sous-chef. If Hollywood remakes it, I'll bet Meg Ryan will star.

ONE HOUR PHOTO (R) Former music video director wunderkind Mark Romanek upends the usual serial killer thriller plot with a disturbing investigation into the ennui of modern life as seen through the eyes of an anonymous megastore photo developer (Robin Williams) who nurtures an unhealthy obsession with the deliriously happy photos he develops for one all-American family. --Felicia Feaster

24 HOUR PARTY PEOPLE (R) TV personality/music entrepreneur Andy Wilson (Steve Coogan) is our amusingly self-important eyewitness and guide to the Manchester music scene, from an ill-attended Sex Pistols gig to the flowering of rave culture. The documentary-style elements are first-rate, but the film is more interested in the swirl of events than individual relationships, letting you tap your foot to the beat without providing any emotional toeholds. If you're already a fan of Joy Division and Happy Mondays, you'll appreciate it all the more. --Curt Holman

Duly Noted
DRIVE-INVASION (NR) The Starlight Six Drive-In's annual Labor Day weekend festival of rock music and cheesy movies, including classic cartoons and trailers. Bands perform during the day, followed each night by a film triple-feature with a different theme, starting Saturday with classic rock 'n' roll, The Girl Can't Help It, Wild in the Streets and Hey, Let's Twist!. Sunday salutes attending director Ted V. Mikels, auteur of Girl in Gold Boots, The Astro-Zombies and Blood Orgy of the She-Devils. Monday watches the skies for such sci-fi flicks as The Man With X-Ray Eyes, UFO and the classic giant ant movie Them!. Drive-Invasion, Aug. 31-Sep. 2, with movies beginning at dusk, Starlight Six Drive-In Theatre, 2000 Moreland Ave. $18 per day, $36 for a three-day pass.

JESUS CHRIST VAMPIRE HUNTER A kung-fu musical comedy from the magical land of Canada. See Jesus battle a legion of lesbian vampires with help from El Santos and Mary Magnum. Presented by GSU's cinefest outdoors on the wall of University Center, corner of Courtland and Gilmer. Aug. 31 at 9 p.m. $5. 404-651-3565.

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. Midnight Fri. at Lefont Plaza Theatre and Sat. at Marietta Star Cinema.

STAR WARS: ATTACK OF THE CLONES (PG-13) The Fox Theatre's summer films wind down with the second installment of George Lucas' 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. Coca-Cola Summer Film Festival. Aug. 25 at 2 p.m. Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St. $6.50.--CH

THE ADVENTURES OF PLUTO NASH (PG-13) The sad thing about this abysmal $100 million effort, which finds Eddie Murphy running a nightclub on the moon in the year 2087, isn't that it's terrible, it's that it's terrible without even being enjoyable in a bad-movie sorta way. As for the comedy quotient, I counted exactly two laughs, which breaks down to $50 million per chuckle -- definitely not a sound return on investment. -- Matt Brunson

AUSTIN POWERS IN GOLDMEMBER (PG-13) Having exhausted whatever satirical possibilities they had left in their first unnecessary sequel, Mike Myers and director Jay Roach simply making fun of themselves in this third rehash about the groovy secret agent. An inspired opening sequence is as hilarious as anything you've seen in a very long time, but from there it all goes right into the toilet -- literally. Beyonce Knowles' sexual potential as Foxxy Cleopatra is wasted in favor of estranged father-son hooey with Michael Caine. --Bert Osborne

BLOOD WORK (R) For a good while, Blood Work looks like Clint Eastwood's best picture in years, with the star-director-producer playing a former FBI agent who, after getting a heart transplant, seeks to solve the murder of the person whose ticker he received. Watching an undying screen icon like Eastwood acknowledge his own mortality adds a resonance to this picture, but heading into the final turn, the movie turns preposterous, culminating in a routine climax that goes on forever.--MB

BLUE CRUSH PG-13. Director John Stockwell (crazy/beautiful) weaves what could have been lightweight teen fodder into gold yet again in this tremendously entertaining film about three surfer girlfriends whose ostensible goal is to have Anne Marie (Kate Bosworth) win the Pipe Masters surf competition. But the film manages to squeeze in enough of a message about the class divide on Oahu, female friendship and heroism to make this a tale of girl adventurism and independence for the ages.--FF

THE BOURNE IDENTITY (PG-13) Go director Doug Liman's spy thriller starts well, with amnesiac Matt Damon discovering 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

THE CROCODILE HUNTER: COLLISION COURSE (PG) Giving Animal Planet's nature host Steve Irwin his own movie seems as misguided as giving the Food Network's Emeril his own sitcom. Here Irwin plays his excitable self as he tries to protect a croc that has swallowed a chunk of a spy satellite coveted by secret agents.

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

FULL FRONTAL (R) Steven Soderbergh opts for self-referential style over storytelling substance in his look of a handful of navel-gazing Los Angelenos. Or is the director lampooning narcissistic films like Time Code -- and himself? With the sincere scenes invariably undercut by inside jokes, it's hard to tell what the Oscar-winning director is playing at. It helps that laughs are plentiful and supporting players like David Hyde Pierce and Catherine Keener do nice work, but Full Frontal seems at least half empty.--CH

THE GOOD GIRL (R) For their follow-up to Chuck and Buck, director Miguel Arteta and writer/actor Mike White offer an underwritten, white-trash version of Madame Bovary. Jennifer Aniston plays a small-town department store employee torn between fidelity to her pothead husband (John C. Reilly) and passion with a brooding younger man (Jake Gyllenhaal). Instead of finding pathos in its roles' ignorance, the film merely condescends to them, and Aniston never conveys the anguish and desperation as the character of the sarcastic title.--CH

IMAX Australia: Land Beyond Time (NR) Check out the kangaroos, koalas and other denizens of Down Under in this travelogue of the world's biggest island. Through Sept. 15. Cirque du Soleil (NR) See dizzying acrobatics in the IMAX film of the renowned French circus. Fridays Through Sept. 15. Kilimanjaro: To the Roof of Africa (NR) Everest director David Breashears' latest IMAX documentary follows an expedition through five distinct climate zones to the top of Africa's highest point. Through Sept. 20. Fernbank Museum of Natural History IMAX Theater, 767 Clifton Road.

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

K-19: THE WIDOWMAKER (PG-13) If there's anything to add the venerable sub-genre of sub flicks, hack director Kathryn Bigelow and writers Christopher Kyle and Louis Nowra don't come close to finding it, preferring to trot out a creaky vessel stitched together from past underwater adventures. Harrison Ford and Liam Neeson employ now-you-hear-them-now-you-don't accents as the two top dogs on a Soviet submarine sent out to sea under perilous conditions during the height of the Cold War. A half-hearted Mutiny On the Bounty knock-off ensues.--MB

THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE (R) A pulpy, highly entertaining piece of personal mythmaking colliding with a self-referential film about Hollywood-style delusion, this sorta-documentary charts the glorious rise and ouch-that-hurt fall of notorious and revered mega-'70s producer Robert Evans.--FF

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 include such unexpected supporting players as Crispin Glover, Anne Meara and Eugene Levy.

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

LITTLE SECRETS (PG) Evan Rachel Wood is a gifted young violinist who spends her summer practicing for symphony auditions while her friends attend summer camp. As the neighborhood secret keeper, she lends an objective ear to neighborhood kids needing to assuage their guilty consciences. But Emily has some secrets of her own.

LOVELY & AMAZING (R) An acutely observed alterna-melodrama about three Los Angeles sisters and their equally neurotic mother, indie director Nicole Holofcener's follow-up to Walking and Talking observes her troubled, surly, sad characters with a degree of wit and insight that makes them likable and real. --FF

THE MASTER OF DISGUISE (PG) Test your Dana Carvey tolerance in this comedy from the former cast member of "Saturday Night Live." Here plays a nebbishy quick change artist whose retinue includes old ladies, George W. Bush and a guy who looks like a turtle. Surely one of his alter egos must be funny. Right?

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 greed of its responsible parties. The best to said of the monumental mess is that it's all over in a (suspiciously) brief 88 minutes. --BO

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

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 NOTORIOUS C.H.O. (NR) Clever comedian Margaret Cho goes bawdier in a performance she claims was inspired by the nasty, larger-than-life sistas of rap music. Recorded in a performance at Seattle's Paramount Theater, Cho's naughty probes of her over-used orifices and the nooks and crannies of her mind is sometimes funny, sometimes not, but will certainly appeal to devout fans of the good girl-gone-outlaw. --FF

PANDORA'S BOX (R) Atlanta's own director/producer team of Rob Hardy and Will Packer present this locally made thriller about a psychiatrist drawn into a deadly game of cat and mouse. With Michael Jai White, Monica Calhoun and Joey Lawrence.

POSSESSION (PG-13) A pair of young English professors (Gwyneth Paltrow and Aaron Eckhart) unearth a secret affair between two famed Victorian poets (Jeremy Northam and Jennifer Ehle) in caustic director Neil LaBute's attempted change of pace. Whenever he strays from the film's literary mystery, he gets bogged down in gratuitous American-British put-downs and facile insights into the human heart, with one plot point hinging on whether Paltrow will literally let her hair down.--CH

READ MY LIPS (NR) An angry, hearing-impaired office worker (the seething, sensual Emmanuelle Devos) forms a mutually beneficial relationship with a well-meaning ex-con (Vincent Cassel) in this gripping, surprising French drama. The first half is a barbed, moody examination of corporate culture that gradually gives way to a more conventional crime story, but the film has consistent suspense, humor and insight into the isolation of its lead characters. At Tara Cinema.--CH

ROAD TO PERDITION (R) Tom Hanks takes up the tommy-gun as a murderous mob enforcer who must battle his own organization (led by Paul Newman) to protect his innocent son (Tyler Hoechlin). Hanks' internal conflicts come into increasingly sharp focus as the film goes on, while Jude Law's gleeful hit-man gives the film the right measure of berserk spontaneity. A precisely composed yet deeply felt tale of fathers and sons, Sam Mendes' follow-up to American Beauty comes on like gangbusters.--CH

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.--TB

SERVING SARA (PG-13) When Sara (Elizabeth Hurley) is served divorce papers by process server (Matthew Perry), the two join forces and take off across the country to exact revenge from her self-serving husband and stake a claim to her share of the fortune they amassed together.

SIGNS (PG-13) Ominous crop circles presage otherworldly events that befall a widowed man of the cloth (Mel Gibson) and his grieving family. Sixth Sense director M. Night Shyamalan lays on the faith-based symbolism with a heavy hand, and his characters never seem as stilted or strange as when they're meant to be "normal." But his powers with Hitchcock-esque suspense are undiminished as he uses misdirection and half-glimpsed threats to build tension to nearly unbearable levels.--CH

SIMONE (PG-13) A dud, and derivative to boot. Gattaca screenwriter Andrew Niccol's directorial debut clearly hopes to repeat the success of Peter Weir's haunting commentary on modern fraudulence in The Truman Show. But this muddled film about a computer-generated super-starlet named Simone never works as either Hollywood satire or commentary on America's taste for simulacrum.--FF

SPY KIDS 2: THE ISLAND OF LOST DREAMS (PG) This hurry-up sequel bursts at the seams with even more gadgetry and more eccentric characters than the original, but rather than building on the sense of wonder and fun, this overstuffing only slows the picture down. The title team (again played by Alexa Vega and Daryl Sabara) is still appealing, though, and some of the special effects pay satisfying homage to the fantasy flicks of the great FX innovator Ray Harryhausen. -- 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

SUNSHINE STATE (PG-13) Seminal indie John Sayles' latest is a darkly humorous portrait of a Florida beach town whose "inconvenient" citizens are being told to step aside to make way for developers snatching up prime beachfront property to erect an upscale retirement community for heat-seeking snowbirds. Sayles manages to convey the absurdity of this situation while holding onto the human element, enlarging the scope of his story to offer scathing commentary on an entire nation that gladly offers up its own past and landscape for a quick buck.--FF

TADPOLE (PG-13) An erudite 15 year-old prep schooler (Aaron Stanford) with a crush on his stepmother (Sigourney Weaver) has a tryst with her best friend (a scene-stealing Bebe Neuwirth). Although it makes a thudding reference to The Graduate, Tadpole lacks that film's depth and originality, and at a mere 78 minutes can't do justice to its provocative premise.--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.


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