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Short Subjectives 

Capsule reviews of films by CL critics

Page 4 of 5

THE LEGEND OF BHAGAT SINGH (2002) (NR) This Bollywood historical musical recounts the life of the famed freedom fighter of the title. At Marietta Star Cinema.

THE LEAGUE OF EXTRAORDINARY GENTLEMEN (PG-13) The Alan Moore/Kevin O'Neill comic book rests on the fool-proof concept of a Victorian superhero team comprised of literary characters like Captain Nemo and Dr. Jekyll. But Blade director Stephen Norrington makes a botch of it with overblown special effects, incoherent action scenes and a dumbed-down script that steamrolls the comic's book-smarts. Some cast members, like Sean Connery as explorer Allan Quatermain and Peta Wilson as Dracula's Mina Harker, bear up with wit and fortitude even as the film's clever Englishness gets Americanized in the worst way. --CH

LEGALLY BLONDE 2: RED, WHITE AND BLONDE (PG-13) What kind of shoes go with the Beltway? Reese Witherspoon reprises her ingenious comic creation Elle Woods, a ditzy but detail-oriented fashion slave who goes to Washington as an unlikely animal rights activist. Neither Legally Blonde film really lives up to Witherspoon's acting, and the sequel trots out more canine costumes for laughs and inspirational cliches for cheap sentiment. At least Bob Newhart and Mary Lynn Rajskub provide amusing comic foils. --CH

MORVERN CALLAR (NR) Lynne Ramsay's creepy, strangely mesmerizing follow-up to Ratcatcher centers on a working-class Scottish woman (Samantha Morton) whose life slowly transforms when her boyfriend commits suicide, leaving her in possession of his unpublished manuscript. Ramsay's trippy, art house ambiance and meandering storyline can veer between a canny evocation of her characters' worldview and a shallow exercise in style, but her film and characters exert an undeniable pull. At Madstone Theaters Parkside. --FF

NORTHFORK (PG-13) If Ingmar Bergman made Northfork it would be hailed as a masterpiece, but when a film is in English, Americans expect to understand it (unless David Lynch made it). Written by twins Mark and Michael Polish (Michael directed), it takes place in 1955 during the 48 hours before a hydroelectric dam floods Northfork, Montana. Government agents encourage the remaining citizens to leave, while four reappearing angels may exist only in the dreams of a dying orphan. The visually amazing film too often seems like weirdness for its own sake. --SW

PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: THE LEGEND OF THE BLACK PEARL (PG-13) Disney attempts to resurrect the genre of swashbuckling adventure films (and extend the brand of its theme park ride) with this brainless but fun sea opera. Johnny Depp mostly annoys as an out-of-luck pirate who seeks revenge against the crew who betrayed him. But the sailors are now cursed and show up as skeletons in moonlight, a macabre twist on the old pirate folklore. Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley come into play as star-crossed lovers who tangle with the zombies. Aarrrh! --TB

RIVERS AND TIDES: ANDY GOLDSWORTHY WORKING WITH TIME (NR) Germany's portrait of a Scottish artist is the best documentary about an artist since the 1978 Christo doc Running Fence. Filmmaker Thomas Riedelsheimer photographs with an artist's eye, while Goldsworthy's craft -- arranging items from nature and leaving them to be eroded by sun, wind or tide -- lends itself to cinematic treatment. Skeptics may find him a fraud or a fool but he creates stunning images, and watching their alteration is definitely not like watching paint dry. At Lefont Plaza. --SW

SEABISCUIT (PG-13) Pleasantville director Gary Ross adapts Laura Hillenbrand's bestselling bio of the famed racehorse by emphasizing "The Biscuit's" owner (Jeff Bridges), trainer (Chris Cooper) and jockey (Tobey Maguire). Initially the film moves as slow as a plow horse -- David McCullough's nostalgic narration could be marketed as anesthesia -- and the big races look too much alike. But the three leads provide letter-perfect performances and the "match race" against War Admiral (the Apollo Creed to Seabiscuit's Rocky Balboa) captures the thrill of the sport for rider and spectator alike. --CH

S.W.A.T. (PG-13) Veteran TV director/actor Clark Johnson makes good with his big-screen directing debut with an adaptation of the 1970s cop show that lags in some parts and proves anticlimactic in others. Samuel L. Jackson leads a team of newly-recruited quasi-loose cannons, including Colin Farrell and Michelle Rodriguez, in guarding a vaguely international criminal (Olivier Martinez), who offers $100 million to anyone whom can spring him. Non-stop action ensues when every criminal in L.A. takes him up on the offer. Training Day it ain't, but in a summer full of overblown sequels, S.W.A.T.'s simple cop-flick formula is a nice relief. --AS

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