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Short Subjectives 

Capsule reviews of films by CL critics

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CATCH ME IF YOU CAN (PG-13) Steven Spielberg's most purely entertaining film since the early 1980s finds Leonardo DiCaprio as a chameleon-like high schooler who flees his broken home by brazenly passing as an airline pilot, an Atlanta pediatrician and more. Tom Hanks finds plenty of rueful humor as the Joe Friday-esque FBI agent who's always one step behind. When other filmmakers remake classics like Charade, they're striving for the kind of ease, star power and fluency that this film generates without breaking a sweat. --CH

CHICAGO (PG-13) First-time feature director Rob Marshall reclaims the musical genre from Moulin Rouge with this sexy, robust, big-screen version of Bob Fosse's cynical stage hit. As Renee Zellweger and Catherine Zeta-Jones play Jazz Age murderesses vying for the attentions of superlawyer Richard Gere, showbiz and the legal system prove to be opposite sides of the same tarnished coin. The entire cast, including John C. Reilly and Queen Latifah, reveal remarkable musical showmanship, selling the hell out of the vaudeville-style numbers.--CH

CITY OF GOD (R) This gritty crime drama from Brazil uses the flashy, pulp-fiction techniques of Tarantino and Scorsese to draw attention to the violence and crushing poverty in Rio's sprawling slums. Tracking a bloodthirsty drug dealer and a meek photographer from the '60s to the '80s, the filmmakers make the most of every cinematic trick at their disposal, although their greatest resource is a sense of social outrage that mourns how penniless orphans become larcenous killers. At Lefont Plaza Theatre.--CH

THE CORE (PG-13) Burrowing beneath the earth rather than taking off into space, this is basically an inverted Armageddon. The pedestrian script isn't nearly as compelling as the special effects, though an able cast lends conviction to this drama in which a group of "terranauts" head to the planet's center in an effort to prevent worldwide destruction. The movie's science wouldn't hold up under the scrutiny of an 8-year-old, but viewers fond of far-fetched fantasies like Journey to the Center of the Earth should have an okay time.--MB

CRADLE 2 THE GRAVE (R) Martial artist extraordinaire Jet Li joins DMX and the Exit Wounds creative team for an action film about kidnapping and weapons of mass destruction. The trailers suggest it'll be ridiculous and audacious.

DAREDEVIL (PG-13) The same accident that blinded Matt Murdock (Ben Affleck) also enhanced his other senses, giving him a bat-like sonar vision that he uses to fight crime. Though Jennifer Garner ("Alias") sparkles as ninja vixen Elektra, and Colin Farrel makes bad-guy Bullseye an almost likable psychopath, the film fails to live up to the standards set by X-Men or Spider-Man, other recent adaptations of Marvel comic books.--Tray Butler

DARK BLUE (R) Director Ron Shelton (Bull Durham) has a tendency to bluntly overstate his points, but his cop thriller has a gripping, nihilistic story reminiscent of the B- and C-noirs of classic Hollywood. Kurt Russell delivers a powerful performance as a corrupt L.A.P.D. cop whose own personal meltdown parallels the 1992 trial of four white officers for the beating of Rodney King and the verdict that set the city on fire.--FF

DREAMCATCHER (R) Four hunting buddies run afoul of both a downed U.F.O. and Morgan Freeman as a demented military man sent to contain it. Director Lawrence Kasdan brings slick professionalism to this well-cast, increasingly berserk Stephen King adaptation with enough plot for three movies. It eventually collapses under the weird of its weird combinations of grisly violence and bathroom humor, alien invasion and boyhood nostalgia, military psychos and mentally disabled saints. Shown with "The Final Flight of Osiris" a flashy but empty CGI short set in the Matrix universe.--CH

EVELYN (PG) Pierce Brosnan takes a break from James Bond for some double-o hokum as a single dad challenging the Irish church and legal system to get his kids back. The climatic courtroom scenes hold our interest, but director Bruce Beresford tries so hard to offer a wholesome crowd-pleaser he waters down the darker implications of the material in favor of sugary platitudes. With Stephen Rea, Aidan Quinn and Alan Bates taking turns intoning "David and Goliath" cliches as the legal team.--CH

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.--FF

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