ANTWONE FISHER (PG-13) Denzel Washington, Entertainment Weekly's "Entertainer of the Year," directs and co-stars in this biographical film about a troubled sailor (Derek Luke in the title role) who deals with his demons thanks to a Navy psychiatrist (Washington). The trailers look very Good Will Hunting.
GANGS OF NEW YORK (R) Though Martin Scorsese's historical epic has a more conventional plot line than his more morally ambiguous, violence-soaked films, Gangs of New York is no small feat. A vortex of crime and corruption based on the real life mire of 1800s Manhattan street gangs, Gangs is a smarter than average epic, though far short of Scorsese's best work. Its greatest saving grace is a brilliantly charismatic, psychopath leader of the Native gang, Bill the Butcher (Daniel Day-Lewis) whose often justified guttersnipe rage far outshines the milquetoast heroism of his Irish gang rival played by Leonardo DiCaprio. --Felicia Feaster
TWO WEEKS NOTICE (PG-13) Hugh Grant plays a real estate mogul and Sandra Bullock his attorney, and romantic sparks fly -- they just better -- when their personal feelings interfere with their professional lives. It's the directorial debut of the co-writer of Bullock's Miss Congeniality and Forces of Nature.
THE WILD THORNBERRIES MOVIE (PG) Another Nickelodeon cartoon series gets a big-screen adaptation when the Thornberry family (voices by such performers as Lacey Chabert, Tim Curry, Flea and Lynn Redgrave) travel to Africa.
BREADLOAF TAPESTRIES (NR) Lynne Hoffman Keating's documentary explores how making breads -- from cornbread to challah -- can provide a meeting ground for different cultures and generations. Dec. 19, 7 p.m., DeKalb County Public Library, Covington Branch, 3500 Covington Hwy, Decatur. Free. 404-508-7180.
THE CONFESSIONS OF FELIX KRULL (1957) (NR) This comedy based on Thomas Mann's novel follows a young opportunist (Horst Buchholz), whose confidence games eventually make him a murder suspect. Dec. 18, 7 p.m., Goethe-Institut Atlanta, Colony Square, 1197 Peachtree St. $4 for non-members. 404-892-2388. www.goethe.de/uk/atl/enpfilm.htm.
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.
ABANDON (PG-13) Steve Gaghan, Oscar-winning writer 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).
ADAM SANDLER'S 8 CRAZY NIGHTS (PG-13) Basically a frat-house version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, this animated effort shows how an anti-social slacker becomes a swell guy thanks to the efforts of a diminutive elderly man. As is par for the course, the movie turns faux-sentimental in time for the fadeout, but before that, we're subjected to the usual Sandler gross-out humor. Yet even the scatological gags aren't as offensive as the product placement pimping. --Matt Brunson
ANALYZE THAT (R) Sure, "The Sopranos" does the whole mobster/shrink thing with deeper insights and better jokes, but the original comedy with Robert De Niro and Billy Crystal provided harmless laughs. The follow-up even nods to the HBO series by having the gangster consult for a similar TV show, but the idea gets wasted. Otherwise, the sequel is like beating a dead horse -- then putting its head in somebody's bed. --CH
BARBERSHOP (PG-13) Ice Cube goes for a day-in-the-life-of-the-'hood vibe comparable to his trilogy of Friday films, but this modest comedy centered around a Chicago hair-cuttery feels trimmed of laughs. The labored slapstick with two accident-prone ATM thieves and the squabbles between the barbers are about as thin as a comb-over. As the oldest and most outspoken barber, Cedric the Entertainer makes a lonely effort to give the film some old-school personality. --CH
BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE (R) An often cruelly jocular agitprop documentary about an out-of-control American gun culture, Michael Moore's (Roger & Me) nightmare tour of America's covert foreign policy, Michigan Militia and NRA rallies, conspiratorial kooks and sleazy TV producers makes a good case for the hair-trigger viciousness of our eye-for-an-eye culture even as it reduces painful, profound issues to irony-laced, laughable sport. At United Artists Tara Cinemas. --FF
DIE ANOTHER DAY (PG-13) Pierce Brosnan's fourth outing as 007 isn't the best Bond film by a long shot, but it may be the fastest. Director Lee Tamahori brings a breakneck pace and a spirited willingness to show the audience some wild, new spectacle, notably a melting ice palace and chases across a frozen lake. Homages to earlier films are plentiful, while Halle Berry, as comely assassin Jinx, and Judi Dench, as Bond's spy boss, each have Academy Awards, lending a little legitimacy to the silly puns and stuntwork. --CH
8 MILE (R) Bratty rapper Eminem plays a struggling hip-hop artist loosely based on himself in this struggling-artist story from Academy Award-caliber director Curtis Hanson. Structured around a series of public rap "duels," the film plays like a Rocky or Karate Kid movie, only with profane rhymes substituting for fisticuffs. If not a versatile thespian, Eminem proves comfortable in front of the camera, and the film reveals a genuine interest in hip-hop culture and the impoverished Detroit setting. --CH
EL CRIMEN DE PADRE AMARO (R) A hunky young priest (Y Tu Mama Tambien's Gael Garcia Bernal) moves to a corrupt town and finds his morals put to the test, not the least by a teenage parishioner (Ana Claudia Talancon). With everything from highway robberies to cats that eat communion wafers, the film provides some watchable melodrama. But neither director Carlos Carrera nor his main character show much interest in spirituality, making the film a heavy-handed critique of Catholicism, but with little soul-searching of its own. At Lefont Plaza Theatre. --CH
DRUMLINE (PG-13) A brilliant but insolent drum prodigy (Nick Cannon) joins the marching band of fictitious "Atlanta A&T University" and learns that there's no I in team. Even skeptical audiences will gladly march to music and moves of the marching band's "drumline," while the script ably explores the tensions between showmanship and musical accomplishment. Only Cannon's shallow performance hits discordant notes. --CH
THE EMPEROR'S CLUB (PG-13) This prep school dramedy about a bookish teacher (Kevin Kline) and a spoiled student (Emile Hirsch) plagiarizes a little from Dead Poet's Society before developing some fresh ideas about second chances and how youthful experiences shape adult character. Subtract points for its sleepy tone and for putting contemporary slang in the mouths of students in the '70s. That's not how they did it Old School. --CH
EMPIRE (R) John Leguizamo plays an up-and-coming, South Bronx crimelord whose bid for to make a Wall Street killing leads to bloodshed. Featuring Denise Richards, Isabella Rossellini and Fat Joe.
EQUILIBRIUM (R) In the post-WW III future, feelings which cause violent conflict have been outlawed, and butt-kicking cleric John Preston (Christian Bale) is the man who enforces this law of the land. A sci-fi effort to put a topical Prozac Nation spin on a Fahrenheit 451 story line, this Matrix-style film disappoints in every case -- neither brainy science fiction nor a galvanizing action thriller. --FF
EXTREME OPS (PG-13) This feels like the longest, most expensive soft drink commercial ever made -- every five minutes, I kept expecting one of its nerdy heroes to take a break from skiing or snowboarding, whip out a Mountain Dew and down it in one gulp. Grasping that audiences may realize they could watch this sort of action (minus the ludicrous dialogue and characters, of course) for free on ESPN, the writing wizards toss a Serbian war criminal into the mix for good measure. It's all incredibly inane. --MB
FAR FROM HEAVEN (PG-13) A rhapsodic, and often surreally accurate homage to the classic 1950s melodramas made by one of the genre's greatest subversives, Douglas Sirk, this tale of homosexuality and prejudice in 1957 Connecticut stars Julianne Moore and has all the stifled passion and bone-deep malaise of a Sirk production. As he did in the neo-rock opera Velvet Goldmine, director Todd Haynes has revitalized a disparaged genre, the women's picture, and in the process made one of the most heartfelt expressions of female confinement around. --FF
FRIDA (R) Tony Award winning director Julie Taymor brings a slightly off-kilter sensibility to this strong bio-picture of the tempestuous life and times of Mexican painter and feminist icon Frida Kahlo. Salma Hayek and Alfred Molina as the love of her life, Diego Rivera, are convincing and human as the terminally at-odds husband and wife whose fascinating involvement with the art and radical politics of the '30s and '40s makes them long overdue for such a film treatment. . At United Artists Tara Cinemas. --FF
FRIDAY AFTER NEXT (R) The Ice Cube series of comedies becomes a trilogy, with Mike Epps and John Witherspoon returning for this Christmas-themed installment.
HALF PAST DEAD (PG-13) It's a steel cage rasslin' match when a high-tech band of thieves break into a maximum security prison and butt heads with death row inmates lead by Steven Seagall.
HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS (PG) Schoolboy sorcerer Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and his pals try to solve a series of mysterious attacks at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The first film found narrative momentum in Harry discovering his place in the newfound magical realm, but the sequel plays like an overlong Hardy Boys story set in Disneyworld's Haunted Mansion. Exciting scenes involve monstrous spiders and snakes, and Kenneth Branagh conjures huge laughs as a fatuous professor, but they can't make up for the slack storyline and surplus characters. Call it Harry Potter and the Chamber of Exposition. --CH
THE HOT CHICK (PG-13) A high school hottie (Anna Faris) wakes up to find herself trapped in the body of a 30 year-old man (Rob Schneider). If you've always wanted to see Schneider prancing like a schoolgirl, this is the film for you.
I SPY (PG-13) Mindless entertainment, with the emphasis on mindless -- unless you happen to find particularly entertaining the idea of yet another buddy/action comedy in which mismatched partners must overcome cultural differences (and death- defying stunt sequences) to save the world. This in-name-only "remake" of the '60s secret-agent series features a disarmingly agreeable turn by Owen Wilson as the flustered straight man, but Eddie Murphy really ought give his obnoxious smart-ass routine a rest. --Bert Osborne
IMAX Lewis & Clark: Great Journey West (NR) Jeff Bridges narrates this sweeping documentary that traces the famed explorers' 8,000-mile trek across America. Through March 14. 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 Dec. 13. Fernbank Museum of Natural History IMAX Theater, 767 Clifton Road. www.fernbank.edu.
JONAH: A VEGGIETALES MOVIE (G) Who says Hollywood has no new ideas? Here we have an animated, musical interpretation of the Bible story, with Jonah portrayed by a talking asparagus -- no doubt to be swallowed by a vegetarian whale. It's the first feature film from a popular Christian video series for kids.
MAID IN MANHATTAN (PG-13) A maid (Jennifer Lopez) at a swank hotel pretends to be a wealthy guest to win the heart of a bachelor politician (Ralph Fiennes). Indie filmmaker Wayne Wang directs this romantic comedy, which looks like Pretty Woman without the whoring.
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
MY FIRST MISTER (R). One of those heartfelt efforts that means well but plays lamely, Christine Lahti's directorial debut feature stars Leelee Sobieski as a sullen teen who takes a job at a mall clothing store under a friendless 49-year-old man (Albert Brooks). The film comes alive when it explores their tense, tender and platonic relationship, but cops out with a revelation worthy of a soap opera. --MB
PERSONAL VELOCITY (R) Though writer/ director (and daughter of Arthur) Rebecca Miller's film about three different women's lives -- in a nutshell, an abused wife, a preppy and a punk rocker -- can bear traces of the overly precious, purposeful ambiguity of the modern short story, it also benefits from the craftsmanship and subtleties more often seen in contemporary prose than in most movies. It is hard to think of a recent film with such challenging female characters engaged in such psychologically murky situations. At Lefont Garden Hills Cinema. --FF
PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE (R) This disappointing Paul Thomas Anderson follow-up to the ambitious Magnolia features Adam Sandler in typical idiot-boy mode as a sad-sack Los Angeles small businessman who gets himself into trouble with some Provo, Utah, thugs and finds that only his love for an angelic woman (Emily Watson) can save him. The French went ga-ga for Sandler and Anderson's riff on Jerry Lewis' bumbling half-wits, honoring the latter with a Best Director prize at Cannes, but beyond that meta-cinematic conceit, there's not a whole lot to hold onto in this thin, tired film. --FF
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
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
THE SANTA CLAUSE 2 (G) In the modestly entertaining original, Tim Allen played a hapless Joe who became a better dad by taking the role of St. Nick. The sequel, at one point known as The Mrs. Clause, finds Allen's portly Kris Kringle tasked to find a wife in modern-day America.
SOLARIS (PG-13) Steven Soderbergh's remake of the 30-year-old Russian science-fiction film is more of a psych 101 exercise than a sci-fi vehicle. The film's quiet, minimal tone is a little too subtle for George Clooney, playing a psychiatrist who investigates why surveyors of an alien planet have all gone insane. Though the film has an intriguing first act and raises questions worthy of a good "Star Trek" episode, it shies away from the premise's deeper implications about grief and memory. --CH
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
STANDING IN THE SHADOWS OF MOTOWN (PG) The Funk Brothers -- the unsung session musicians on the Motown label -- finally get their due for providing pop music with more hits than any other combo in history. The respectful but spirited documentary delivers earthy interviews with the surviving musicians as well as exuberant performances from a 2000 reunion concert, with the likes of Joan Osborne and Chaka Khan singing classics like "Heat Wave" and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." At Lefont Plaza. --CH
STAR TREK NEMESIS (PG-13) The tradition that even-number "Star Trek" films are better than the odd ones holds up -- barely -- with the Enterprise's tenth outing. Captain Picard's (Patrick Stewart) conflict with a more youthful doppleganger (Tom Hardy) leads to choppy plotting, weak comedy and sets as cheesy as the original series'. But with a worthy villain, stellar combat scenes and Stewart at the helm, Nemesis sees the audience to a safe harbor. --CH
STAR WARS: ATTACK OF THE CLONES (PG-13) The second installment of George Lucas' Star Wars prequel trilogy get the IMAX treatment. 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. Regal Cinemas Mall Of Georgia IMAX, 3379 Buford Drive, Buford. --CH
SWEET HOME ALABAMA (PG-13) You get a more accurate depiction of the South in that movie about the Country Bears than this lazy, laugh-deficient romantic comedy. Reese Witherspoon plays a hotshot designer engaged to the son of New York's mayor, who she must get a divorce from the laid-back husband (Josh Lucas) she abandoned in her sleepy Alabama home town. Witherspoon's controlled performance gives a few grace notes to a predictable parade of both Southern and wedding movie cliches. --CH
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
TREASURE PLANET (PG) Disney's heart is in the right place for this animated, space-faring version of the Robert Louis Stevenson adventure, which boasts spectacular set pieces and a nice relationship between cabin boy Jim Hawkins and a cybernetic pirate named Silver. But unnecessary ballast comes from such shameless, pandering touches as a wisecracking robot (voiced by Martin Short), a pop power ballad, a cutesy alien sidekick and interludes for extreme sports.--CH
TREMBLING BEFORE G-D (NR) Shot in six countries, this documentary explores the dilemma faced by Hasidic and Orthodox Jews who are gay or lesbian, and must reconcile their religious convictions with their sexual orientations. Interviewees include the world's first openly gay Orthodox rabbi and a gay, Hasidic married couple still in the closet. At Lefont Plaza Cinemas.
THE TRIALS OF HENRY KISSINGER (NR) Inspired by Christopher Hitchens' book of the same title, Eugene Jarecki's scorching documentary argues that the former Secretary of State should be considered a war criminal for his involvement with the Vietnam and Cambodian conflicts. At Marietta Star Cinemas.
THE TUXEDO (PG-13) The best special effect in a Jackie Chan movie is always Chan himself, which makes the affable performer's latest American vehicle an especially ill-fitting and ill-conceived affair. Chan plays a bumbling, insecure chauffeur who dons a top-of-the-line government issue suit that turns him into a superspy of sorts. --MB
Modus Operandi of fbi: drive a person to neuroses, or insanity; set him up for…
In the latest 'Emory Looks at Hollywood' episode, Judith Evans Grubbs, Emory Professor of Roman…
"In the movies' worst scene..." should be "movie's"
--freelance copy editor, available for hire