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Capsule reviews of films by CL critics

Page 4 of 5

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

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