Short Subjectives 

Capsule reviews of films by CL critics

Opening Friday
AND NOW LADIES & GENTLEMEN (PG-13) This improbable, often patently silly jetsetting romantic thriller from French director Claude Lelouch (A Man and a Woman) features a typically soigne Jeremy Irons as a jewel thief who dresses in absurd disguises. His discovery that he has a brain malady that leads to black outs puts a crimp in his style, but it allows him to connect with a lovely French nightclub chanteuse (Patricia Kaas), who's also suffering from amnesia. The plotline is pure froth, but there is something about Lelouch's reliance on close-ups and the continually shifting storyline that makes the film watchable. --Felicia Feaster

CAMP (PG-13) At times raucous and entertaining, but more often ridiculous, this cheesy comedy was inspired by the real life upstate New York camp where budding thespians like Jennifer Jason Leigh learned to emote. Camp puts a knowing gay-culture gloss on the cornball Meatballs-genre in its tale of gay boys, shy girls and four-eyed black kids who come together each summer to express their mutual adoration for show tunes and jazz hands. --FF

MANNA FROM HEAVEN No stars. (PG) One more piece of evidence in the case for "just because it's 'indie' doesn't make it good." This contrived, hopelessly dopey comedy was produced, written and directed by a family of women who are clearly hoping to ride the My Big Fat Greek Wedding gravy train. How a bunch of Harvard and Yale grads came up with a plotline that rivals the most bottom-of-the-barrel sitcom is a mystery. A conniving Buffalo family who came into some found money is pressured by their nun sister (Ursula Burton) to pay it back years later by putting on a dance contest and raffle. A film that makes you question the existence of God. At Marietta Star Cinema. --FF

MARCI X (R) A Jewish American Princess (Lisa Kudrow) inherits a hip-hop label and tries to rein in a controversial rapper called Dr. Snatchcatcher (Damon Wayans). It's written by Paul Rudnick, who penned Jeffrey and Addams Family Values.

MASKED AND ANONYMOUS (PG-13) Die-hard Bob Dylan fans will flock to this hard-to-describe feature film that casts the scruffy troubadour as singer "Jack Fate," who's released from prison in an unidentified dictatorship to perform at a state-sanctioned benefit concert. The cast includes John Goodman, Jessica Lange, Ed Harris, Jeff Bridges and many other A-list Dylan fans.

THE MEDALLION (PG-13) Formerly titled Highbinders, this Hong Kong action comedy stars Jackie Chan as a cop who emerges from a near-death experience with special powers. Funnyman Lee Evans co-stars.

MY BOSS'S DAUGHTER (PG-13) "Punk'd" host Ashton Kutcher agrees to housesit for his employer with hopes of getting close to the daughter of the title (Tara Reid). The cast includes Andy Richter, Molly Shannon, Jeffrey Tambor and Terence Stamp.

Duly Noted
FILM SLAM (NR) IMAGE Film & Video Center's freewheeling evening of short films takes inspiration from "The Gong Show," as a panel of judges, egged on by the audience, dictate whether films run to the end or get "gonged" in progress. Awards will be given for the best and worst efforts of the evening. IMAGE Film & Video Center, Aug. 21, 8 p.m., The Echo Lounge, 551 Flat Shoals Ave. $5 (free for IMAGE members). 404-352-4225.

THE HULK (PG-13) The big screen can scarcely contain Marvel Comics' emerald anti-hero with anger management issues, rendered as a muscle-bound force of nature thanks to computer effects. Alas, Ang Lee's film adaptation fails on nearly every other level, collapsing under flabby scripting and weakling performances from Jennifer Connelly and Eric Bana. At area theaters and Coca-Cola Summer Film Festival. Aug. 24, 8 p.m. Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St. $7. 404-881-2100. --Curt Holman

JANDEK ON CORWOOD A documentary about a mysterious Texas musician who's been releasing albums on his own label for 25 years, yet actively cultivates a cover of anonymity. Aug. 31, 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. Co-sponsored by the local band the Indicators and the Center for Creative Aspiration. 1448 Iverson St. $3.

THE MATRIX RELOADED (R) Writer-directors Andy and Larry Wachowski discover that "cool" has its limits in the first of their two sequels to The Matrix. Hacker-turned-Messiah Neo (Keanu Reeves) engages in a post-apocalyptic war between besieged humans and sentient machines, but the sequel only rarely captures the terror and wonder of the first film. At area theaters and Coca-Cola Summer Film Festival. Aug. 25, 8 p.m. Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St. $7. 404-881-2100. --CH

A MIGHTY WIND (PG-13) Three soulful '60s folk acts gather for a reunion concert in New York City, with the attendant tensions and personal traumas in Christopher Guest's (Best in Show) latest mockumentary. Coca-Cola Summer Film Festival. Aug. 21, 8 p.m. Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St. $7. 404-881-2100. --FF

RAISING VICTOR VARGAS (R) This tender, charming first feature from director Peter Sollett, set in a poor Lower East Side neighborhood, features a cast of engaging young actors led by Victor Rasuk as a self-styled barrio Don Juan who, surprisingly, catches the eye of the local beauty played by Judy Marte. Beneath a touching teenage love story is a sensitive portrait of the fear of abandonment that haunts these children's lives, and the vulnerability that still defines them, despite their teenage cool. Aug 22-28, Cinefest, Georgia State University Student Center, Suite 211, 66 Courtland St. $5 ($3 until 5 p.m.). 404-651-3565. --FF

THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975) (R) The cult classic of cult classics, the musical horror spoof follows an all-American couple (Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick) to the castle of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry), a drag-queen/mad scientist from another galaxy. Midnight Fri. at Lefont Plaza Theatre and Sat. at Marietta Star Cinema.

RUSSIAN ARK (2002) (NR) Nothing short of a masterpiece, Alexander Sokurov's sublime, dreamy, brilliant survey of the opulence and despair of Russia's history was shot entirely within the confines of the Hermitage Museum and in a single continuous steadicam shot using a High Def video camera in almost constant movement. Aug 22-28, Cinefest, Georgia State University Student Center, Suite 211, 66 Courtland St. $5 ($3 until 5 p.m.). 404-651-3565. --FF

SPY KIDS 3D: GAME OVER (PG) Director Robert Rodriguez's playful use of 3-D effects -- complete with red-and-blue glasses -- make the third Spy Kids film a gimmicky delight. Half-pint secret agent Juni Cortez (Daryl Sabara) enters a virtual video game to save the world's children from the maniacal Toymaker (Sylvester Stallone). At area theaters and Coca-Cola Summer Film Festival. Aug. 24, 3 p.m. Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St. $7. 404-881-2100. --CH

TREMBLING BEFORE G-D (NR) Shot in six countries, this documentary explores the dilemma faced by Hasidic and Orthodox Jews who are gay or lesbian, and must reconcile their religious convictions with their sexual orientations. Interviewees include the world's first openly gay Orthodox rabbi and a gay, Hasidic married couple still in the closet. Aug 21, Cinefest, Georgia State University Student Center, Suite 211, 66 Courtland St. $5 ($3 until 5 p.m.). 404-651-3565.

VIDEO ARTISTS FROM BRAZIL (NR) The gallery devotes an evening to the experimental, at times highly symbolic work of Brazilian video artists Carlo Sansolo and Erika Fraenkel. June 25, 8:30 p.m. Eyedrum. 290 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. $3. 404-522-0655.

BAD BOYS II (R) Will Smith and Martin Lawrence team up again with decidedly unfunny results as a couple of Miami cops fixated on busting an Ecstasy-smuggling kingpin in this uber-violent sequel to the 1995 original. Director Michael Bay (Armaggedon, Pearl Harbor) ropes in viewers with all the thrills and kills, but the excruciating dialogue and ridiculous body count could make it a more fitting sequel to Commando than to Bad Boys. --Andrew Stewart

THE BREAD, MY SWEET (NR) Scott Baio of "Charles in Charge" fame provides a surprisingly effective grown-up performance as rising executive bound by ties to his old Pittsburgh neighborhood. It's nice to see a film about Italian-American culture where they're not trying to whack each other, but Bread takes a half-baked turn to melodrama when Baio proposes to a virtual stranger (Kristin Minter) to please her dying mother (Rosemary Prinz). The film's shamelessness with both ethnic stereotypes and soap-operatics eventually cancels out its street-level charms. At Madstone Theaters Parkside. --CH

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. 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

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 clichés over a sustained examination of the feelings of immigrants. At every turn, Things promises something meaningful, and never delivers it. --FF

FREDDY VS. JASON (R) Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund) calls on hockey-masked Jason Voorhees to help him terrorize teens. But when Jason's killing spree oversteps Freddy's turf, it's scissors vs. rock in a B-movie boogeymen fantasy match. --Tray Butler

GRIND (PG-13) It's some kind of road comedy about four brash, skateboarding buddies traveling cross-country. Look for appearances by Randy Quaid, Jackass' Bam Margera and "The Kids in the Hall's" Dave Foley.

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. 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. At Marietta Star Cinema. --FF

LE DIVORCE (PG-13) A shrewd, tasty little comedy about the shocking cultural divide between America and France, this Merchant/Ivory production concerns Roxy (Naomi Watts), an American poet in Paris, who discovers Old World sexism in the French legal system when her husband deserts her for his mistress. Kate Hudson is her sister, dispatched from Santa Barbara to look after the newly pregnant Roxy. While Roxy stews, Isabel (Hudson) begins an adulterous affair with a right-wing politician and falls in love with French social customs involving lingerie, sex, Hermeès handbags and haute cuisine. --FF

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 MAGDALENE SISTERS (R) Actor/director Peter Mullan's film is hyperbolic and at every turn rigged to inspire outrage. But it is also a highly effective, darkly engrossing condemnation of the checkered history of religious abuses of power. The drama takes place at one of Ireland's "Magdalene Asylums," which operated from the 19th century until 1996 as a virtual prison for girls accused of "moral crimes" ranging from being raped, to out-of-wedlock childbirth to flirtatiousness. Mullan's women-in-prison formula follows three young girls who are nearly destroyed by the sadism of the nuns who oversee their work in the asylum's grueling laundries. --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. --SW

OPEN RANGE (R) Kevin Costner (who also directed and co-produced) plays a conflicted cattle driver pitted against a greedy land baron. A sleepy opening and sometimes tedious pacing make the first hour drag, but Robert Duvall's fine performance as a fatherly cow poke keeps things moving along until the explosive final gun battle, which is worth the wait. --TB

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

THE SECRET LIVES OF DENTISTS (R) A cuckold dentist (Campbell Scott) taps his aggressive side at the urging of a patient (Denis Leary). Based upon a Jane Smiley novella. At United Artists Tara Cinemas.

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

SWIMMING POOL (R) A standoffish English mystery writer (Charlotte Rampling) and her publisher's trampy French daughter (Ludivine Sagnier) become mismatched roomies in Francois Ozon's psychological thriller. The thought-provoking final twist can't compensate for some routine ideas about releasing inhibitions or the film's lack of confidence with its melodramatic turns. Swimming Pool spends too much time splashing around in the shallows. At United Artists Tara Cinemas. --CH

28 DAYS LATER (R) Trainspotting director Danny Boyle helms a stylish piece of schlock as a handful of normal humans contend with an epidemic that has turned England's populace into raging berserkers. The last act's detour into Lord of the Flies territory dilutes some of the film's finely-drawn tension, but it still proves a smart throwback to the end-of-the-world flicks of the 1970s. On July 25, a four-minute, darker "alternate" new ending was added to all prints, following the closing credits. --CH

WHALE RIDER (PG-13) A community of New Zealand's Maori Indians await the arrival of their next spiritual leader but are disappointed when a girl Pai (Keisha Castle-Hughes) is born instead. Niki Caro's film is a heartwarming family drama with profound things to say about the diminished importance of little girls in male-dominated societies. --FF


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    • Local band Manchester Orchestra, who provided the soundtrack, probably would have appreciated a shout-out.

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