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Short subjectives 

Capsule reviews of films by CL critics

Opening Friday
ABANDON (PG-13) Steve Gaghan, Oscar-winning director of Traffic, tries his hand at directing with this college thriller about a student (Katie Holmes) torn between her feelings for her mystery-man boyfriend (Charlie Hunnam) and an older detective (Benjamin Bratt).

BELOW (R) Bruce Greenwood commands an American submarine in World War II that may be haunted in this thriller written by Requiem for a Dream's Darren Aronofsky and directed by David Twohy of The Arrival and Pitch Black.

BLOODY SUNDAY (R) Writer-director Paul Greengrass provides a documentary-style recreation of the Irish town of Derry on Jan. 30, 1972, in which "a peaceful march for civil rights" led to 14 deaths. Though a fiction film, the material feels so authentic it's like watching footage shot by actual bystanders, offering a terrifying lesson in how mobs behave when crowd control goes wrong. The film does such a fine job showing both Irish and English points of view that the actual violence inspires real outrage, and is far more effective than preachy dialogue would be.--Curt Holman

FORMULA 51 (R) This nutty action flick -- known as The 51st State in its U.K. release -- stars Samuel L. Jackson as a golf-loving, kilt-wearing drug designer who comes up with a super-narcotic that makes Ecstasy seem like Altoids. Meat Loaf, Rhys Ifans and The Full Monty's Robert Carlisle are party to the ensuing hijinks.

HEAVEN Run Lola Run director Tom Tykwer gives a kick to late Polish filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski's script about an English bomber (Cate Blanchett) who goes on the run in Italy with a police translator (Giovanni Ribisi).

THE RING (PG-13) Mulholland Drive's Naomi Watts plays a Seattle reporter investigating an urban legend about a videotape that kills its viewers -- which may be no myth. This American remake of the superb Japanese thriller Ring can be both more self-consciously arty and more expensively gory than the restrained original. Director Gore Verbinski nevertheless finds some honest, atypical scares, generating paranoia of communications technology with the spookiest staticky TV set since Poltergeist.--CH

Duly Noted
BEHIND THE SUN (2001) (NR) Central Station director Walter Salles considers the hard living in Brazil's sugar-cane fields in 1910, viewing feuding families and itinerant circus performers through the eyes of a 10-year-old boy. Latin American Film Festival. Oct. 19, 8 p.m. High Museum, Rich Auditorium, and Oct. 23, 8 p.m., Regal Hollywood 24. $5. 404-733-4570.

BLOSSOMS OF FIRE (2000) (NR) Maureen Gosling's documentary captures the exuberant spirit of the Zapotec women of southern Oaxaca, Mexico, a community celebrated by such artists as Frida Kahlo and Miguel Covarrubias. Showing on a double bill with El Rey de Rock 'n' Roll. Latin American Film Festival. Oct. 18, 8 p.m. High Museum, Rich Auditorium. $5. 404-733-4570.

THE CONGRESS DANCES (1931) (NR) Erik Charell directs a bittersweet love story involving Russian Tsar Alexander, who falls in love with a young woman in 1814 at the time of the post-Napoleonic "Wiener Kongress." (No, that name is not made up.) Oct. 16, 7 p.m., Goethe-Institut Atlanta, Colony Square, 1197 Peachtree St. $4 for non-members. 404-892-2388.

THE COURTSHIP OF EDDIE'S FATHER (1963) (NR) Bill Bixby fans might be surprised to discover that the TV series began as a family comedy starring Glenn Ford as a widower with a matchmaking son ("Ronny" Howard). Communal Classics. Oct. 21, 8:30 p.m., Commune, 1198 Howell Mill Road. Free. 404-609-5000..--CH

EMIL AND THE DETECTIVES (1964) (NR) Peter Tewksbury directs this Disney film about a young boy who's robbed in Germany and vows to turn the tables on the thieves. No connection to Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. Oct. 17, 8 p.m. 110 White Hall, 480 Kilgo Circle, Emory University. Free. 404-727-6439.

EL REY DE ROCK 'N' ROLL (2001) (NR) Perhaps no Elvis impersonator in the world has the following of El Vez, the sequined, hair-sprayed "Mexican Elvis" who combines swiveling hips with radical politics as this documentary proves. Showing on a double bill with Blossoms of Fire. Latin American Film Festival. Oct. 18, 8 p.m. High Museum, Rich Auditorium. $5. 404-733-4570.

MAIDS (2001) (NR) This subversive but light-hearted look at five Brazilian housekeepers grew from interviews with hundreds of "domesticas," and neither condescends nor glorifies the lives of servants. Latin American Film Festival. Oct. 16, 8 p.m., Regal Hollywood 24. $5. 404-733-4570.

MARYAM (NR) This slight but well-intentioned family drama shows how an Iranian family contends with a violently changed America in the wake of the 1979 capture of American hostages in Tehran. The impact of politics on this likable family is recounted through the eyes of the relentlessly charming 16-year-old Maryam (Miriam Parris) and her contentious relationship with her older, pro-Ayatollah cousin recently emigrated from Iran. Peachtree Film Society. Oct. 22, 7:30 p.m. at Lefont Garden Hills. $7.50; $6.50 for members. 770-729-8487. Feaster

YOUNG URBAN MEDIAMAKERS SHORT FILM SCREENINGS The Atlanta Urban Mediamakers Association has partnered with the West End Performing Arts Center to screen short films made by high school students through the IMAGE Film & Video Center this year. Oct. 16, 7 p.m. West End Performing Arts Center, 945 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd. 404-287-7758.

BROWN SUGAR (PG-13) This will-they-or-won't-they romance between two old friends, magazine editor (Sanaa Lathan) and record exec (Taye Diggs), promises to play like an African-American When Harry Met Sally. With Mos Def and Queen Latifah as sidekicks.

KNOCKAROUND GUYS (R) A group of young wannabe gangsters (including Vin Diesel and Seth Green) follow a bag of money through a Montana town in this joyless, predictable crime thriller. Tom Noonan provides the sole saving grace as an opportunistic sheriff, stealing the cash and the film from Barry Pepper's whiny, unsympathetic hero and John Malkovich's sadistic mobster, whose Brooklyn accent sounds like a failed "Sopranos" screen test.--CH

MOONLIGHT MILE (PG-13) It's hard to imagine anyone stealing a movie not only from rising star Jake Gyllenhaal but also from Oscar- winners Susan Sarandon, Dustin Hoffman and Holly Hunter, yet newcomer Ellen Pompeo pulls off the feat with aplomb. She's the main reasons to see this highly likable if somewhat calculated melodrama about a young man (Gyllenhaal) who, after the senseless slaying of his fiancee, moves into the home of her parents (Sarandon and Hoffman, each making returns to form) yet soon finds himself falling for a local bar owner (Pompeo).--MB

RED DRAGON (R) The second film adaptation of Thomas Harris' Red Dragon feels less like a remake of Michael Mann's menacingly sterile Manhunter than a stylistic imitation of Jonathan Demme's impeccable Silence of the Lambs. Director Brett Ratner offers an overlong but adequately suspenseful B-movie with an A-list cast that boasts remarkable work from Ralph Fiennes as a tormented killer and Emily Watson as his sightless paramour. Anthony Hopkins still zestfully chews scenery and hapless co-stars alike as Hannibal Lecter, but hopefully his third outing marks his retirement from the role.--CH

RULES OF ATTRACTION (R) A half-hearted romantic triangle among three college students (James Van Der Beek, Shannyn Sossamon and Ian Somerhalder) occupies the center of this cynical satire of dead souls in the Ivy League. Directer Roger Avary makes the mistake of taking Bret Easton Ellis' thin source material at face value, and the film exhausts its ideas in about five minutes. At least Sossamon and Van Der Beek give truthful (if not necessarily likable) performances, and you can enjoy the self-conscious split-screen and reversed-film effects for their own show-offy sake.--CH

SECRETARY (R) An entirely unexpected, bitterly comic film about the kinky courtship between a shady lawyer and his acquiescent stenographer, this oddly affecting love story features wonderful, subtle performances by Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader as the pervy duo. Drawn from a Mary Gaitskill short story, the film retains that writer's interest in investigating power relationships -- like the dominant/submissive conventions of the secretary/boss -- while adding in some fresh subtext of its own. --FF

SPIRITED AWAY (PG) When her parents are turned into pigs, a Japanese girl enters the realm of spirits and deities to save them and herself. An Alice in Wonderland for the 21st century, this animated treasure finds director Hayao Miyazaki (Princess Mononoke) at the height of his powers, offering mature characterizations, sharp conflicts without violence and one of the strangest, least predictable coming-of-age stories you've ever set eyes on.--CH

THE TRANSPORTER (PG-13) Snatch's Jason Statham plays a buff, hard-boiled courier who rebels against his evil bosses upon learning that his latest "package" is a kidnapped young woman (Shu Qi). Directed by Hong Kong fight choreographer Cory Yuen.

WHITE OLEANDER (PG-13) In her second motherhood-based film from Oprah's Book Club, Michelle Pfeiffer plays a murderous mom whose daughter (Alison Lohmann) is passed along to foster parents, including Rene Zellweger and Robin Wright Penn.

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