Short Subjectives 

Capsule reviews of films by CL critics

Opening Friday
DR. SEUSS' THE CAT IN THE HAT (PG) Mike Myers follows in Jim Carrey's footsteps by donning heavy makeup and a fuzzy suit to play a beloved Dr. Seuss character in this big-screen expansion of the children's book.

GIRLS WILL BE GIRLS (NR) Part All About Eve parody, part "Golden Girls" gone to hell, this witty and bitter comedy pits three wicked roommates (all women played by men) against each other in a war of the wigs. Dried-up '70s star Evie Harris (Jack Plotnick) spews contempt for newcomer Varla Jean Merman (Jeffrey Roberson), an opportunistic actress who's the daughter of Evie's late arch-nemesis. The plot sometimes falters, but the Airplane-esque slapstick and sizzling dialogue make the film an instant drag classic. At Landmark Theatres Midtown Art Cinema. --Tray Butler.

GOTHIKA (R) See review

Opening Wednesday
BAD SANTA (R) "Santa Con" could be an alternate title for this dark comedy about a grifter (Billy Bob Thornton) with a Kris Kringle suit who specializes in scamming holiday malls. It features Bernie Mac and the late John Ritter and was directed by Terry Zwigoff of Crumb and Ghost World fame.

THE EVENT (NR) Parker Posey plays a district attorney investigating the assisted suicide of Matthew, a man suffering from AIDS, in this film by Thom Fitzgerald. One-by-one, the suspects are questioned, and one-by-one, they trigger flashbacks that reveal a little more about Matthew's life. Thanks to Olympia Dukakis, there are a couple of moving scenes between mother and son, but this maudlin drama fails to build much tension and most of it just rings false. At Landmark Theatres Midtown Art Cinema. --Suzanne Van Atten

THE HAUNTED MANSION (PG) If Pirates of the Caribbean left you pining for another motion picture based on a Disney theme-park attraction, your wait is over. Eddie Murphy plays a realtor who discovers that a piece of prime real estate already has some undead occupants.

THE MISSING (R) Director Ron Howard adds some Blair Witchy thrills to this Western with a story that's suspiciously similar to The Searchers. Cate Blanchett gives a fiercely effective performance as a frontier doctor who reluctantly accepts the aid of her estranged father (Tommy Lee Jones) when a demonic Native American witch kidnaps her daughter. Howard's all-too-conventional filmmaking can't clarify the muddled themes about white civilization vs. Native American mysticism, but The Missing doesn't lack for good acting and a few suspenseful scenes. --Curt Holman.

TIBET: CRY OF THE SNOW LION (NR) Director Tom Peosay spent 10 years making this documentary about the plight of Tibet under the oppressive shadow of Beijing. It features narration and voice-overs from Martin Sheen, Ed Harris, Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon, as well as a musical contribution from R.E.M. At Landmark Theatres Midtown Art Cinema.

TIMELINE (PG-13) Since every novel by Michael Crichton (of Jurassic Park fame) inevitably gets a big-screen version, along comes this adventure yarn about a college professor whose time travel machine traps him in 14th-century France, and the students who go back in time to rescue him.

21 GRAMS (R) Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's (Amores Perros) drama is an anguished meditation on the mess and guilt left behind when a tragedy unites three disparate strangers. A grieving drug addict (Naomi Watts), an ex-con turned Jesus freak (Benicio Del Toro) and a gravely ill man (Sean Penn) waiting for a heart transplant find their lives intersecting in a film that often recalls the tapestried existential angst of Magnolia. The film features a genuinely tortured, magnetic turn by Del Toro, whose fascinating character should have had his own movie. 21 Grams is overburdened by its melodramatic meltdowns and actorly moments that spell out the traumas in far too broad gestures. There is far too much material here, and too many tangents to give the material the urgency it deserves. --Felicia Feaster

Duly Noted
A BOY'S LIFE (NR) Documentarian Rory Kennedy chronicles the problems and triumphs of seven-year-old Robert Oliver, who flourishes as a Boy Scout and honor student despite a self-destructive family and his own behavioral disorders. Nov. 20, 7:30 p.m., Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, 450 Auburn Ave. Free. 404-352-4225. www.imagefv.org.

FILM/VIDEO: GEORGIA (NR) The Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia presents its first film and video exhibition beginning Nov. 21. Featuring works by emerging, mid-career and established Georgia artists, the exhibition will include installation and sculptural pieces, as well as individual film screenings through Jan. 17. Artists include Robin Bernat, William Browns, James Herbert, Sara Hornbacher, George King, Joseph Peragine, Danielle Roney and Ed Spriggs. Nov. 21-Jan. 17, Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, 1447 Peachtree St. Free for members, $3 donation for non-members. 404-881-1109. www.mocaga.org.

FOOLISH WIVES (1922) (NR) Erich von Stroheim directed and stars in this sophisticated tale of seduction, blackmail and murder. Featuring live musical accompaniment by Frisky Berlin. The Silent Film Society of Atlanta. Nov. 21, 8 p.m. Eyedrum. 290 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. $5. 404-522-0655. www.eyedrum.org.

JACKPOT (PG-13) The filmmaking team of Mark and Michael Polish present a surreal, melancholy tale of an aspiring singer (Jon Gries) who abandons his wife and child for a nine-month tour of bleak western towns. Featuring Daryl Hannah and Garret Morris. Nov. 20. Cinefest, GSU Student Center, Suite 211, 66 Courtland St. $5 ($3 until 5 p.m.). 404-651-3565.

MUPPET TREASURE ISLAND (1996) (G) Tim Curry plays Long John Silver in this likable, mostly-muppet version of the Robert Louis Stevenson classic that goes down easy yet leaves scarcely a ripple in your memory. Nov. 21-27. Cinefest, GSU Student Center, Suite 211, 66 Courtland St. $5 ($3 until 5 p.m.). 404-651-3565. --CH

NO CUTS FILM FESTIVAL (NR) YETI.tv presents this evening of local short films made with no actual editing. Nov. 22, 8:30 p.m. Eyedrum. 290 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. $7 donation. 404-522-0655. www.eyedrum.org.

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. 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. Nov. 20. Cinefest, GSU Student Center, Suite 211, 66 Courtland St. $5 ($3 until 5 p.m.). 404-651-3565. --Steve Warren

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. It's all fun and games until Meat Loaf gets killed. Dress as your favorite character and participate in this musical on acid. Midnight Fri. at Lefont Plaza Theatre and Sat. at Marietta Star Cinema.

Continuing
ALIEN: THE DIRECTOR'S CUT (1979) (R) Director Ridley Scott restores some scenes, shortens others, polishes the visual effects and spruces the negative of his classic "haunted spacecraft" horror film. Excelled in some ways by its sequel Aliens, it's still a showcase for the nightmarish designs of H.R. Giger and the acting of such players as Sigourney Weaver, Ian Holm, John Hurt and Harry Dean Stanton.

BEYOND BORDERS (R) With a title that sounds like a Barnes & Noble commercial, this failed attempt to revive the old-style romantic epic is equally unsuccessful as an infomercial for refugee aid organizations, since it shows ways in which these charities are compromised. Angelina Jolie and Clive Owen are torn between their love for each other and their love of helping refugees (she has a husband too, but he hardly figures into the equation) over 11 years of danger-filled meetings in Ethiopia, Cambodia and Chechnya. If not for the grim reality of the backdrops, Beyond Borders would be laughable. --SW

BUBBA HO-TEP (R) Bruce Campbell of the Evil Dead trilogy plays an elderly Elvis -- or perhaps just a mentally-scrambled impersonator -- who defends his seedy nursing home from a soul-sucking Egyptian mummy. Phantasm director aspires to cheesy B-movie status and succeeds by that rather modest benchmark. Despite its dirty jokes and bargain-basement production values, the film works in some weighty points about mortality and Campbell's a hoot whenever he defends himself against supernatural enemies with Elvis' patented karate moves. --CH

ELEPHANT (R) Gus Van Sant's meditation on a fictional, Columbine-inspired high school massacre refuses to offer tidy explanations for teen shootings. Instead the film draws our attention to events that seem both relevant (the future shooters' access to guns and violent games) and random (episodes of bullying, neglectful parenting and other typical teen problems). The film proves at once vague and provocative, self-important yet accomplished, but succeeds as a direct challenge for Americans to examine this issue. --CH

ELF (PG) Will Ferrell plays an ill-adjusted man-child raised by Santa's helpers then sent to New York City to find his long-lost father and -- surprise! -- save Christmas in the process. Director Jon Favreau (Swingers) should end up on the naughty list for producing such pointless holiday pabulum. --TB

THE HUMAN STAIN (R) The adaptation of Philip Roth's novel casts Anthony Hopkins as a Jewish professor whose use of a racial epithet sends him on a personal tailspin. But rather than explore the book's themes about political correctness and racial self-loathing, Robert Benton's icily formal film emphasizes the professor's May-December affair with an uncouth janitor (Nicole Kidman masquerading as white trash). Wentworth Miller's flashbacks as the young Hopkins touch on the complex ethnic implications of a film that otherwise ducks controversy at every turn. --CH

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. Through Dec. 6. Pulse: A Stomp Odyssey (NR) This world music sampler with the emphasis on percussion was filmed on five continents by the creators of the stage musical Stomp. The Stomp cast is augmented by a dozen acts representing the sounds that have influenced them, performing for about two minutes each. For all the time, money and effort involved the result should have been better. Through Feb. 6. Fernbank Museum of Natural History IMAX Theater, 767 Clifton Road. 404-929-6300. www.fernbank.edu. --SW

IN THE CUT (R) An English professor (Meg Ryan) put off by the emotional messiness of sex grows attracted to a cocky, sleazy homicide detective (Mark Ruffalo) investigating the grisly murders of women. Jane Campion's adaptation of Susannah Moore's book gets points for its bedroom frankness, and loses them for its thudding themes that sex, men and marriage are all bad. The film proves rather effective as a unsettling, paranoia-inducing mood piece, but Ryan works so hard against her lightweight image that she never makes pleasure seem very pleasurable. --CH

KILL BILL VOLUME 1 (R) Quentin Tarantino's geek side returns with a vengeance in the first half of his loving yet overblown salute to kung fu movies and other cult revenge flicks. A blonde assassin (Uma Thurman) tracks down the former colleagues who betrayed her, and while Tarantino strives for the grandiosity of Sergio Leone spaghetti westerns, he undercuts himself with ironic jokes closer to McG's Charlie's Angels. It's up to Uma to carry the film -- and she does, conveying a toughness oddly comparable to Lee Marvin. Volume 2 is due in February. --CH

LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION (PG) Joe Dante's comedy drags Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and their cartoon cohorts into the 21st century. The film places the animated characters in real-world settings alongside the likes of Brendan Fraser, Jenna Elfman and Steve Martin as the evil head of the Acme company.

LOVE ACTUALLY (R) Love is all around in this British Love Boat (on dry land) that makes a case for the ubiquity of pop music. In the five weeks leading up to Christmas, dozens of characters initiate, maintain or break off relationships of a romantic, sexual, familial or platonic nature. Excellent casting makes each person stand out, whether the actor is familiar (Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson) or not (Heike Makatsch, Andrew Lincoln). Richard Curtis, the witty writer of Four Weddings and a Funeral, makes his directing debut with a commercial movie that gives commercial movies a good name. --SW

MASTER AND COMMANDER: THE FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD (PG-13) Russell Crowe lightens up a bit to play Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe), captain of the HMS Surprise as he matches wits with a bigger, faster French ship in this Napoleonic-era nautical adventure. Director Peter Weir stays faithful to the spirit of Patrick O'Brien's novel, one of a beloved series that elevates maritime procedure over swashbuckling plot. The film's impeccable approach to detail will appeal more to History Channel fans than the general movie-going audience, but it boasts exciting set-pieces and a colorful cast of character actors. --CH

MY LIFE WITHOUT ME (R) A struggling mother (Sarah Polley) with two small daughters and a devoted husband (Scott Speedman) learns she is dying of cancer and has two months to live. Spanish director Isabel Coixet has clearly studied at the foot of arty, poetic, woman-centered films like Jane Campion's, but has a harder time pulling off their combination of quirkiness and pathos. Coixet irritates with his mixture of pathos with eccentric touches, from Amanda Plummer as Ann's food-obsessed coworker to characters who suddenly break into dance at odd points in the film. --FF

PARTY MONSTER (NR) A frenetic, often uneven biopic of New York promoter Michael Alig (Macaulay Culkin), who with muse James St. James (Seth Green) helped define the Club Kid subculture of the early '90s but squanders his gains in the drug-induced murder of his dealer. Heavy on style, and seemingly tripping on its self-conscious rendition of a particular aesthetic, the film works as a fashion show but fails as a time capsule. --TB

PIECES OF APRIL (PG-13) Novelist and screenwriter Peter Hedges has a great track record for maintaining tenderness despite his characters' comic foibles. But that ability fails him in this slight, flip story of a black sheep, April (Katie Holmes) living in a depressing walk-up on the Lower East Side, who tries to reconcile with her family by inviting them to Thanksgiving dinner. Hedges attempts to inject some gravitas by having April's mother (Patricia Clarkson) dying of cancer, but his constant jokiness creates a distance from these characters. The usual dysfunctional family jocularity fits badly with a last-minute, disingenuous effort to extract emotional investment from his audience. --FF

SHATTERED GLASS (PG-13) A gripping journalistic thriller with a goofy title, Shattered tells the story of the 24-year-old wunderkind New Republic reporter Stephen Glass who invented half of the stories he passed off as fact. Hayden Christensen delivers a believable performance as a world-class sniveler who used his boyish charms to cover his tracks. But the real thrills come from the film's willingness to heap the blame not on just one wayward cheater, but on an entire journalistic practice which rewards flashy, salacious, gonzo reportage and worries more about image than content. --Felicia Feaster

THE SINGING DETECTIVE (R) The late Dennis Potter's 1986 miniseries is revered for breaking new ground, but countless imitations have raised the bar too high for Keith Gordon's spotty film version to get over. Memory, fantasy and reality mix in the addled mind of mystery writer Dan Dark (Robert Downey Jr.), hospitalized with severe psoriasis, as he becomes his fictional hero working a case involving people from his past and present, all of whom stop periodically to lip-synch records from the 1950s. --SW

WHERE'S THE PARTY, YAAR? (NR) Another would-be madcap comedy centered on a specific immigrant group, this time South Asians. Young Hari (Sunil Malhorta) leaves his homeland of India for college in Houston, but soon encounters the prejudice his Americanized "cousins" dish out to FOB (Fresh Off the Boat) newcomers. A Revenge of the Nerds-like competition ensues. Cue the curry and Kwik-E-Mart jokes. At Landmark Theatres Midtown Art Cinema. --TB

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  • Re: Fresh air

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

    • on June 29, 2016
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