Short Subjectives 

Capsule reviews of films by CL critics

Page 2 of 4

THE HAUNTED MANSION (PG) This feature-length commercial for the like-named theme park attraction presents more scares for the easily frightened than laughs for the easily amused. Eddie "I used to be funny" Murphy plays Jim, the workaholic realtor who's too busy providing for his wife and kids to give them quality time. The family spends a night in Gracey Manor, where the shtick hasn't changed since Bob Hope or Abbott and Costello did their time in haunted houses 60-plus years ago.--SW

HONEY (PG-13) "Dark Angel's" Jessica Alba plays a club dancer torn between her aspiration to shake her booty in hip-hop music videos and her loyalty to the kids in her neighborhood. While no camp landmark like Showgirls or Glitter, the film's embrace of ancient let's-put-on-a-show clichés are good for a laugh, and Alba's easy on the eyes. Honey should provide a show of unity between fans of hip-hop music and bad movies alike.--CH

IMAX THEATER: 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. Roar: Lions of the Kalahari (NR) The "circle of life" plays out in the Botswana desert in an unusually focused IMAX documentary, as two male lions fight for domination over a water hole. Kudos to Tim Liversedge, a rare filmmaker with the balls to set his camera in the middle of a pride of lions. Don't always believe what the narrator tells you and juxtaposed shots appear to show. Just be amazed by what you actually see. Through Apr. 30 Fernbank Museum of Natural History IMAX Theater, 767 Clifton Road. 404-929-6300. www.fernbank.edu.--SW

IN AMERICA (PG-13) My Left Foot director Jim Sheridan builds his partially autobiographical tale of an Irish immigrant family on sweetness and sentiment, but without sugar-coating or safety nets. Samantha Morton and Paddy Considine give emotionally complex performances as the parents dealing with the death of their youngest child, while their two daughters find their first year in New York to be thrillingly exotic. Musical choices like "Do You Believe in Magic" overemphasize the themes of miracles, but In America feels like an honest attempt to transform painful personal experience into an accessible artistic catharsis.--CH

IN MY SKIN (NR) Marina de Van (a frequent collaborator with Francois Ozon) writes, directs and stars in this film about a woman who becomes increasingly obsessed with disfigurement after she suffers a minor injury. At Landmark Theatres Midtown Art Cinema.

THE LAST SAMURAI (R) Edward Zwick's samurai epic falls short of its potential with the miscasting of Tom Cruise as boozing, battle-weary soldier hired to help put down an insurgency (led by the charismatic Ken Watanabe) in 19th century Japan. The film's last act, with its lavish battle scene, lives up to its ambitions, but Cruise never conveys the haunted gravitas of his role, and only emphasizes the overly simplistic, romanticized screenplay.--CH

LOONEY TUNES: BACK IN ACTION (PG) Part animated cartoon and part live-action cartoon, this is the Funny Movie the Scary Movies tried to be, with a similar scattershot approach scoring far more laughs. It's got the wackiness, the violence and the pop culture (especially 1950s sci fi) references of the Looney Tunes of old, and not even one of Steve Martin's less inspired performances and a silly plot about a diamond that turns people into monkeys can slow it down.--SW

THE LORD OF THE RINGS: THE RETURN OF THE KING (PG-13) The final chapter of director Peter Jackson's sprawling adaptation of Tolkein's trilogy feels less like a self-contained film than the crescendo of a single, nine-hour fantasy epic. By alternating between the spectacular battle scenes of a war film and the terrifying suspense of a horror movie, King's intensity builds to a nearly unbearable pitch, while its close attention to character earns its profound feelings of release and closure. Admittedly exhausting, the three films join the company of The Wizard of Oz, Star Wars and other classics of imaginative cinema.--CH

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