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Short Subjectives 

Capsule reviews of films by CL critics

Page 3 of 5

DADDY DAY CARE (PG) Fresh from his breakthrough stinkers I Spy and The Adventures of Pluto Nash, Eddie Murphy takes yet another career-killing turn, this time playing an out-of-work marketing exec who decides to open a day-care center. Soon enough he's knee-deep in cuteness and shin-kicking rug-rats. Someone stop this man before he grins again. --TB

THE DANCER UPSTAIRS (R) Actor John Malkovich's directorial debut is most enticing for what it suggests of things to come. An imperfect film that uses South America's violent past of political coups and Marxist guerrillas for thriller effect, this adaptation of Nicholas Shakespeare's novel follows a weary detective (Javier Bardem) in an unnamed South American country trying to track down a guerrilla group staging violent murders. Malkovich too often uses the location as atmospheric palette for traditional thrills and chills, but his command of a dark, dreadful ambiance shows real promise. --FF

DAYS OF HEAVEN (1978) (PG) Director Terrence Malick's tale of forbidden love among Midwestern wheat farmers is one of the most sumptuously photographed films ever made. Starring Richard Gere, Brooke Adams and Sam Shepard. At Madstone Theaters Parkside.

DOWN WITH LOVE (PG-13) Renee Zellweger and Ewan McGregor cha-cha through this light-as-air but thoroughly addictive send-up of '60s sex comedies. In 1962 New York, jet-set magazine writer Catcher Block (McGregor) sets out to debunk author Barbara Novak (Zellweger), whose new book has women everywhere eschewing love and acting just as sexually liberated as men. The tried-and-true romantic sparks quickly fly, and the film's ever-flowing -- and often hilarious -- riffs on Doris Day flicks like Pillow Talk make it a zany delight. --TB

GHOSTS OF THE ABYSS (G) In his first film since Titanic, director James Cameron takes a documentary tour -- in full 3-D IMAX splendor -- of the famed sunken ocean liner. Regal Cinemas Mall Of Georgia IMAX, 3379 Buford Drive, Buford.

THE GOOD THIEF (R) Neil Jordan's jazzy new film may be a remake of Jean-Pierre Melville's 1955 Bob Le Flambeur, but its central player, a boozy American expatriate, stirs memories of Bogart's Casablanca character -- had Rick Blaine had been a heroin addict. Nick Nolte's staggeringly good performance as a down-on-his-luck gambler who plots one last great heist is the primary reason to see this texturally rich movie, and it's easy to believe that this remarkable talent is purging his real-life demons through his film work. At United Artists Tara Cinemas. --MB

HE LOVES ME, HE LOVES ME NOT (NR) Audrey Tautou takes a dark turn after her light-hearted star-making role in Amelie, playing an obsessive young art student stalking her married lover (Samuel Le Bihan). At Lefont Garden Hills Cinema.

HEAD OF STATE (PG-13) If there was ever a time when we could use a raucous political satire to shake things up, this is clearly that time. Unfortunately, Head of State clearly isn't that movie. Rather than grab the political bull by the horns (think Bulworth or Bowling for Columbine), Chris Rock is content to make a comedy that could easily play on network TV as a pilot for a proposed sit-com. (My Big Fat Freak Election, anyone?) Still, for a movie that traffics in timidity rather than temerity, this offers a handful of inspired gags, as well as charismatic roles for Rock and Bernie Mac as siblings who run for the Oval Office. --MB

HOLES (PG) This adaptation of Louis Sachar's children's book is good enough to be enjoyed equally by kids and their parents. Sachar himself wrote the script, which focuses on the plight of a hapless teen (Shia LaBeouf) wrongly convicted of robbery and sent to a boys' correctional facility in the middle of a desert. There, the warden (Sigourney Weaver) and her aides (Tim Blake Nelson and a hilariously over-the-top Jon Voight) order the boys to spend every day digging holes. While the ending may tie everything up a bit too tidily, there's no denying that there's real imagination at work here. --MB

HOUSE OF FOOLS 'em (R) In this cliche-ridden Russian film from Andrei Konchalovsky an insane asylum loaded with adorably infantalized patients on the Russian-Chechen border is caught up in the battle between the Chechen civil war's opposing forces. With its magic realist tone and some interesting assertions of a unique Russian mind-set, House of Fools is an occasionally captivating, but more often silly little film. --FF

IDENTITY (R) Ten strangers -- including John Cusack, Ray Liotta and Amanda Peet -- are stalked by a crazed killer in a remote motel on a dark and stormy night. Director James Mangold's bipolar thriller means to be a serious exploration how personality dictates destiny as well as a silly slasher flick on a par with the Halloween sequels. The schlock side wins out, but not before scripter Michael Cooney makes revelations that try to out-twist "The Twilight Zone" and leave heads spinning -- both figuratively and literally. --CH

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