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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 invites her family 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
SCARY MOVIE 3 (PG-13) Unlike Keenan Ivory Wayans' previous, R-rated horror spoofs, the third film's less restrictive rating means no nipples and no cum shots but still allows most of Pamela Anderson's breasts and hints of pedophilia and bestiality. The real problem with Airplane! director David Zucker's cameo-laden combination of the plots of Signs and The Ring with bits of 8 Mile and The Matrix is that it isn't funny. The filmmakers have lost their Wayanses. --SW
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. --FF
TIBET: CRY OF THE SNOW LION (NR) Directory 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) A Michael Crichton time travel novel hits the screen with an amazing lack of attention to detail, from the large to the small, as well as the factual, visual and aural. Student archaeologists go back to France in 1357 via a "fax machine for three-dimensional objects" and get caught in the middle of the Hundred Years War. Beam me out of here, Scotty. --SW
TUPAC RESURRECTION (R) Filmmaker Lauren Lazin uses deceased rapper/actor Tupac Shakur's interviews, lyrics and public appearances to form an in-his-own-words biopic (comparable to Imagine: John Lennon) that's surprisingly complex. The first half's chronicle of Shakur's rise in the film and recording industries could be a video press kit, but the increasing presence of violence and legal troubles combined with the film's exhaustingly rapid pace turn the film into a kind of fever dream of American celebrity gone awry. --CH
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 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. --FF
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