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Short Subjectives 

Capsule reviews of films by CL critics

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BUFFALO SOLDIERS (R) Not for nothing has Miramax been reluctant to release Gregor Jordan's military satire, which flies in the face of today's pro-war jingoism. Joaquin Phoenix plays a sexy but unscrupulous black marketeer on a U.S. army base in Germany, and his self-serving schemes turn increasingly deadly. Ed Harris hilariously channels his inner McLean Stevenson as the befuddled commander, while stoned soldiers provide destructive slapstick. The resolution backs away from some of the film's harsher implications, but its dark humor unfolds in the spirit of MASH and Three Kings. --CH

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.

DIRTY PRETTY THINGS (R) This is not the finest moment for director Stephen Frears (High Fidelity, Dangerous Liaisons). Based on an interesting premise about a kidneys-for-passports black market operated from a seedy London hotel, this Hollywood-style thriller centers on a principled African immigrant determined to expose the ring. A bland romance between the principled former doctor (Chiwetel Ejiofar) and a Turkish immigrant (Audrey Tautou) weighs the film down. Frears emphasizes thriller cliches over a sustained examination of what the feelings of immigrants. At every turn, Things promises something meaningful, and never delivers it. --FF

DIVINE INTERVENTION (NR) Writer/director/ star Elia Suleiman doesn't always succeed at skewering the absurdity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, though his irreverent approach to sacred material is much appreciated. Loosely structured around a romance between an Arab man (Suleiman) and woman (Manal Khader), the film consists of a number of loosely strung together comic vignettes which illustrate the continual difficulty faced by the Jews and Arabs -- but also anyone who has ever tried to coexist with a neighbor -- to simply get along. At Madstone Theaters Parkside. --FF

FREAKY FRIDAY (PG) Teenage Anna (Lindsay Lohan) and her mother Tess (Jamie Lee Curtis) learn it's not easy to be each other when they trade bodies for a day in this unnecessary remake of 1976's grandmother of body-switch movies. Only Curtis' performance raises the production values -- barely -- above the level of a movie made for the Disney Channel. She has fun acting giggly and girlish. but Lohan, good in the 1998 remake of The Parent Trap, plays her forty-ish mother as a dull woman with one foot in the grave. Big remains the champion of the genre. -- SW

HOW TO DEAL (PG-13) Unlike critics, teenage girls can somehow perceive an honest reflection of their heightened emotions within TV sitcom-style, heavy-handed direction and over-the-top acting. Mandy Moore plays 17-year-old Hallie, whose bad attitude about love stems from observing her divorced parents (Allison Janney, Peter Gallagher), pregnant best friend and unhappily engaged older sister. When bad boy Macon (Trent Ford) takes a sudden interest in Hallie we're supposed to believe it's the real thing, complicated only by Hallie's reluctance to give her heart. The target audience won't mind sloppy editing as long as there's a happy ending. --SW

IMAX THEATER: Shackleton's Antarctic Adventure (NR) The greatest survival story of the 20th century lends itself to IMAX treatment. Kevin Spacey narrates Sir Ernest Shackleton's attempt to cross Antarctica by dogsled without his usual sarcasm but without overselling it either. The visuals combine Frank Hurley's original photographs and film footage, which retain amazing clarity, with recreations of the original expedition.

Coral Reef Adventure (NR) A Fijian, concerned that a local reef is dying, hooks up with underwater filmmakers Howard and Michele Hall, who diagnose a combination of ocean warming, overfishing and residue from upriver logging. Enjoy the kick-ass photography and CSN songs, but tune out Liam Neeson's narration that tries to hang ecological baggage on a narrative too flimsy to support it. Through Sept. 1. Fernbank Museum of Natural History IMAX Theater, 767 Clifton Road. 404-929-6300. --SW

L'AUBERGE ESPAGNOLE (R) This utterly charming, hip and modern story follows French graduate student Xavier (Romain Duris) on his chaotic journey from his Parisian home to the warm and sexy embrace of Barcelona. Cedric Klapisch continues to mine the hipster humanism he delivered so beautifully in 1997's When the Cat's Away. Despite its sweet, entertaining timbre, Klapisch's coming-of-age story perfectly conveys the bewitching effects of a change of locale and has profound insights about the need to hold onto one's identity in this frantic world. At Marietta Star Cinema. --FF

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