Short Subjectives 

Capsule reviews of films by CL critics

Opening Wednesday
SHREK 2 (PG) Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy and Cameron Diaz return -- or at least their voices do -- for another fractured fairy tale. The honeymooning ogres face trouble from her parents (John Cleese and Julie Andrews) and the swashbuckling Puss-in-Boots (Antonio Banderas).

Opening Friday
AKA (NR) Love Actually scene-stealer Bill Nighy plays a supporting role in this pseudo-autobiographical film about a gay teenager who passes for a lord in 1970s England. Director Duncan Roy tells the story in triptych form, at times showing the same events from three different angles simultaneously. Landmark Midtown Art Cinema.

BREAKING ALL THE RULES (PG-13) After his girlfriend dumps him, a writer (Jamie Foxx) pens a best seller that encourages guys to pre-emptively break up with women.

SPRING, SUMMER, FALL, WINTER ... AND SPRING (NR) This critically acclaimed Korean film depicts life at a Buddhist temple in five seasonal vignettes than span decades and convey both the serenity of Zen contemplation and the power of earthly temptations.

TROY (R) See review .

TWENTYNINE PALMS (NR) The most exasperating work since Elephant, but without that film's satisfying payoff, Bruno Dumont's intentionally vague drama is for people who want to watch a couple (Katia Golubeva, David Wissak) have sex for an hour-and-a-half (before something finally happens), but are too embarrassed to rent porn videos. -- Steve Warren

Duly Noted
ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN (2003) (NR) Director Shashanka Ghosh spruces up the conventions of India's Bollywood cinema in this film that features post-Tarantino gangsters, Sikh rappers and MTV-ready musical numbers. Film Festival of India. May 15, 8 p.m. Woodruff Arts Center, Rich Auditorium, 1280 Peachtree St. $5. 404-733-4570. www.high.org.

BLIND SHAFT (R) See review .

FEBRUARY ONE (NR) Documentarians Steven Channing, Rebecca Cerese and Cynthia Hill recall how four college freshmen, now called "the Greensboro Four," challenged segregation by staging the first lunch counter sit-in at a North Carolina Woolworth's. May 20, 7:30 p.m. Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, 450 Auburn Ave. Free. 404-352-4225. www.imagefv.org.

I HAVE FOUND IT (NR) See review .

MOE'S KNOWS FILMS (NR) Moe's Southwestern Grill presents an evening of short, locally produced independent films. May 18, 8:30 p.m. (films begin at 9:30 p.m.). Moe's Southwestern Grill, 863 Ponce de Leon Ave. $5. 404-607-7892.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN CHINA (1991) (NR) Jet Li plays a 19th-century Chinese folk hero who clashes with Western interlopers and local mobsters in this handsome, breezy historical adventure. To understand why so many film buffs go bananas over Hong Kong movies, watch this flick's hilariously creative fight scene in a warehouse full of ladders. Playing on a double bill with Once Upon a Time in China 2. May 14-20. Cinefest, GSU University Center, Suite 211, 66 Courtland St. 404-651-3565. www.cinefest.org.

THE PARTY (1968) (NR) Peter Sellers plays an accident-prone Indian actor who wreaks havoc at a Hollywood shindig. Sellers' performance won't go down in the annals of political correctness, and the plot consists of little more than slapstick set-pieces, but Blake Edwards' comedy remains a funny, bubbly example of swinging '60s cinema. May 19, 7 p.m. Mick's Bennett Street, 2110 Peachtree Road. Free with dinner. 404-351-6425. -- Curt Holman

THE PUBLISHER (NR) The first chapter in this two-part biographical documentary depicts the rise of Axel Springer, who became post-war Europe's biggest newspaper publisher and was an early proponent of German reunification. Biographies: History, Politics and Scandals. May 19, 7 p.m. Goethe Institut Inter Nationes, 1197 Peachtree St., Colony Square. $4. 404-892-2388.

THE ROAD WARRIOR (1981) (R) Or, The Passion of the Max. In this sequel to Mad Max, Mel Gibson plays a post-apocalyptic drifter who defends a civilized outpost against a band of punk marauders. A pitch-perfect combination of science fiction, Western and hot-rod thrill ride. Mondo Movie Nights. May 16, dusk. Starlight Six Drive-In, 2000 Moreland Ave. $6. 404-627-5786. www.starlightdrivein.com. -- CH

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.

SOYLENT GREEN (1973) (PG) The last and least of Charlton Heston's end-of-the-world trilogy (following Planet of the Apes and The Omega Man) depicts murder mystery in a grossly overpopulated society. The title refers to a snack food that, as revealed in the film's famed final line, is made from the best stuff on earth. Mondo Movie Nights. May 16, dusk. Starlight Six Drive-In, 2000 Moreland Ave. $6. 404-627-5786. www.starlightdrivein.com.

SWIMMING TO CAMBODIA (1987) (NR) A kind of concert film, as Jonathan Demme records a brilliant autobiographical monologue by the late, great Spalding Gray. Gray's experiences playing a bit part in The Killing Fields leads to a meditation about art, sex, global politics and the never-ending search for "the perfect moment." See how Gray treated his personal life as raw material, and his words like fireworks. May 13. Cinefest, GSU University Center, Suite 211, 66 Courtland St. 404-651-3565. www.cinefest.org. -- CH

Continuing
THE ALAMO (PG-13) Director John Lee Hancock's sloppy account of the siege of the Alamo falls to self-imposed political correctness, taking pains to show the diversity of the Alamo's defenders without making compelling characters of the Noble Mexicans, Worried Wives, etc. Billy Bob Thornton plays a life-sized, de-mythologized Davey Crockett with witty understatement and the expansive battle scenes provide the next best thing to being there. But audiences will remember Pee Wee Herman's visit to the Alamo longer than this confused one. --CH

BOBBY JONES -- STROKE OF GENIUS (PG) Jim Caviezel brings what passion he can to the role of our local hero, arguably the greatest golfer ever (certainly the best who never turned pro), but writer-director Rowdy Herrington paints Jones as almost as saintly as Jesus. There's no drama, as the people around him don't change -- or age -- over some 25 years. Unless you're a golf nut it's just two-plus hours of men hitting little white balls with sticks. At Madstone Theaters Parkside. --SW

BON VOYAGE (PG-13) A group of frivolous French aristocrats (including Isabelle Adjani and Gérard Depardieu) don't let the Nazi occupation dampen their spirits in Jean-Paul Rappeneau's World War II lark.

BROKEN WINGS (R) An Israeli widow and her four children (a singer-songwriter, a basketball player, a videographer and a bed-wetter), devastated by the death of their husband/father, face a lifetime of crises in 48 hours. The characters command such interest you don't realize the melodramatic level of Nir Bergman's debut film for most of its length. At Landmark Midtown Art Cinema. --SW

CONNIE AND CARLA (PG-13) In this weak updating of Some Like It Hot's guys-in-drag premise, two dopey joined-at-the-hip Chicago girlfriends (Nia Vardalos and Toni Collette) who perform their pathetic show biz act in airport lounges witness a murder and find the perfect hideout as women-in-drag-as-women in a West Hollywood gay bar. Vardalos, who also penned My Big Fat Greek Wedding returns to her usual sitcom-ready, crowd-pleasing style that mixes homosexual tolerance with slapstick comedy and does justice to neither. --Felicia Feaster

CRIMSON GOLD (NR) Acclaimed Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami depicts a put-upon pizza delivery man (Hussein Emadeddin) whose rage at life's inequities builds to an explosion of violence. Landmark Midtown Art Cinema.

DAWN OF THE DEAD (R) All the flesh-eating fun of the original, without the heavy-handed social commentary. In this remake of George Romero's 1978 cult horror classic, five survivors of a fast-spreading zombie plague (Sarah Polley, Ving Rhames, Jake Weber, Mekhi Phifer and Inna Korobkina) hole up in a shopping mall where they must battle the undead, and worse, mall security. Zack Snyder's "re-imagining" proves more fun and frightening than its predecessor, though fans of the original's gore factor might be disappointed. --Karen Kalb

DOGVILLE (R) Lars von Trier's disturbing masterpiece is a brilliantly conceived and executed film about how the residents of a small Depression-era town first shelter, and then viciously turn on a beautiful woman (Nicole Kidman) fleeing from some macabre gangsters. Forget the national navel-gazing of Bowling for Columbine. Dogville forces a profound and troubling examinattion of what, exactly, define American values as seen through the eyes of an outsider (Danish filmmaker von Trier has never even visited America) who can give us the most brutally truthful assessment of our national character. --FF

ELLA ENCHANTED (PG) This surprisingly charming 'tween tale plays like a Moulin Rouge-lite as it integrates old-fashioned fairy tales with contemporary pop culture cues. Ella (Anne Hathaway) is a politically aware teen peasant cursed with the gift of uncompromising obedience bestowed by her flighty fairy godmother (Vivica A. Fox). The curse complicates Ella's plans desegregate the kingdom, dethrone a wretched prince (The Princess Bride's Cary Elwes) and date the dashing heir to the throne (Hugh Dancy). The film features fun turns by Joanna Lumley as Ella's requisite wicked stepmother and Eric Idle as the story's narrator. --KK

ENVY (PG-13) An office drudge (Ben Stiller) burns with jealousy when his neighbor (Jack Black) gets rich off an invention that vaporizes dog doo. As an anarchy-spouting barfly, Christopher Walken acts with greater comic depth than Stiller or Black, who essential do sketch comedy here. An unattractive, shapeless waste of funny performers, the film leaves you green with something other than envy. --CH

ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (R) Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet play former lovers who use a high-tech procedure to erase their memories of their affair in the latest celluloid mind game from Being John Malkovich scripter Charlie Kaufman. The film drops the audience into so many hallucinatory sequences that for a while the story seems like merely a pretext for head trips. But Carrey and Winslet's fleshed-out performances eventually help bring out Kaufman's sensitive -- if not always comforting -- insights into the nature of love and memory. --CH

GAMES PEOPLE PLAY No stars (NR) Director James Ronald Whitney's bottom-feeding reality-movie pits six desperate New York actors against each other in an escalating, grotesque series of games founded on potty humor and sexual embarrassment for the pathetic jackpot of $10,000. With its emphasis on sexual degradation and disturbing emotional revelation (childhood rape and prostitution are offered up for entertainment value) Games may make viewers feel like by-proxy participants in a creepy, abusive game of Truth or Dare. --FF

GODSEND (R) The latest version of an old story features Robert De Niro as a Dr. Frankenstein-wannabe geneticist who thinks he can reproduce a dead child through cloning, and Greg Kinnear and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos as the grieving parents who just lost their eight-year-old son. Director Nick Hamm doesn't maximize what thrills the screenplay offers, leaving a potential horror film in the "psychological thriller" category. --SW

GOODBYE LENIN! (R) Some reviewers have focused single-mindedly on Good Bye Lenin! as a comedy, but director Wolfgang Becker's film has melancholy to spare. On the eve of the 1989 Berlin Wall's collapse, a idealistic East German politico and mother (Kathrin Sass) falls into a coma. When she awakens, her son fears that the truth would kill her and uses fake news and a Commie-beige bedroom to maintain the fiction that East Germany remains part of the Soviet bloc. Beneath that humorous Rip Van Winkle scenario lies a complicated story of familial and national loss, as an entire national identity is chucked out overnight for the supposed utopia of Burger King and Coca-Cola. At Landmark Midtown Art Cinema. --FF

HELLBOY (PG-13) Ron Perlman brings gravelly charisma to the title role, a brawny, bright-red demon raised by government ghostbusters who take on Rasputin, Nazis and a menagerie of slavering beasts. For the film's splashy visuals, director Guillermo del Toro crafts a gallery of pulpy fever dreams, even though his underwritten script keeps the comic-book adaptation from hitting the slam-bang heights it should. Hellboy's secret weapon turns out to be its sense of humor: there's something incredibly endearing about a deadpan superhero whose catch-phrase is "Oh, crap." --CH

HOME ON THE RANGE (PG) Compared to the classic Chicken Run this animated barnyard saga is more like Chicken Walk. It's far from an udder disaster, but remains a minor-league imitation with first-rate voice talent and music but not-so-special script, drawing and animation. The score and plot draw from classic Western themes -- but with farm animals, as three bovine heroines try to save the old homestead by capturing a cattle thief. I'd say Roseanne Barr is perfectly cast as the voice of a big cow, but it might not sound like a compliment. --SW

I'M NOT SCARED (R) In the sun-drenched Italian countryside a boy discovers a child his age held prisoner in a hole in the ground. Gabriele Salvatores (director of the Oscar-winning Mediterranneo) presents a good scare or two, but mostly emphasizes the real, unromanticized anxieties of childhood. As the film accelerates to its conclusion it trades its more chilling impllications for Hardy Boys plotting, but still tells a suspenseful tale about how kids aren't always as innocent as we think. --CH

IMAX THEATER: Jane Goodall's Wild Chimpanzees (NR) As much about the lady as the animals she's studied for more than 40 years, this pleasant but unexciting film features more observation than information about an extended family of Tanzanian chimps and their baboon buddies. Johnny Clegg's music is a plus. Through July. (SW) Ghosts of the Abyss (G) James Cameron heads back to the subject that made him "king of the world," only this time he tackles the Titanic in a documentary format. The director employs all the state-of-the-art technology at his disposal to travel underwater and take us inside the legendary shipwreck. (Matt Brunson) Fernbank Museum of Natural History IMAX Theater, 767 Clifton Road. 404-929-6300. www.fernbank.edu.

JAMES' JOURNEY TO JERUSALEM (NR) A wide-eyed African Christian (South African actor Siyabonga Melongisi Shibe) embarks on a picaresque pilgrimage to the Holy Land in this mix of social commentary and modern fable. Landmark Midtown Art Cinema.

JOHNSON FAMILY VACATION (PG-13) This is National Lampoon's Vacation in blackface, which raises the question: Why would Cedric the Entertainer want to be Chevy Chase when he has the potential to be much funnier, without the premature burnout? The incidents on the road prove too stupid for words, and while Cedric has some good one-liners, you can hear most of them in the trailer. --SW

KILL BILL VOLUME 2 (R) When the Bride (Uma Thurman) announced her plan to kill Bill in last fall's first volume of Quentin Tarantino's revenge epic, who expected her to talk him to death? Tarantino trades swords for words in the second part, which plays like a deliberately-paced, character-driven commentary on the kind of shlocky films he celebrated in Volume 1. Darryl Hannah's glam, one-eyed assassin and a flashback to '70s-style kung fu training provide kitschy kicks, but the emphasis rests on Thurman and David Carradine's soft-spoken, drawn-out conversations of a love gone wrong. --CH

THE LADYKILLERS (R) The Coen Brothers bounce back - a bit -- from the laughless Intolerable Cruelty by transplanting Alec Guinness's 1955 caper comedy to small town Mississippi. A would-be criminal mastermind (Tom Hanks, enjoying the heck out of his villainous role) discovers that his dotty, church-going landlady (Irma P. Hall) makes a formidable opponent when his heist plans go awry. The film suffers from Marlon Wayans' shrill performance and too many jokes about bodily functions, but it's redeemed by a soundtrack that should do for Gospel what O Brother Where Art Thou? did for bluegrass. --CH

LAWS OF ATTRACTION (PG-13) Pierce Brosnan and Frances Fisher are the best things about this attempt at an Adam's Rib for the post-feminist era, but they're not the lovers. Fisher plays Julianne Moore's highly Botoxicated mother. Moore and Brosnan are the rival divorce lawyers who are destined to be together despite minimal chemistry. There's even a side trip to a quaint Irish village because not enough happens in New York. Director Peter Howitt has yet to top his debut film, Sliding Doors. --SW

MAN ON FIRE (R) John Creasy (Denzel Washington) doesn't say much about himself, but you've seen enough movies to recognize a burned-out drunk seeking redemption right off the bat. He's hired as bodyguard for Dakota Fanning in Mexico City, and she re-humanizes him before she's kidnapped and he sets out for revenge. Brian Helgeland's screenplay leaves serious questions if you stop to think about it, but director Tony Scott ensures you won't, keeping the film well paced and visually exciting with some amazing montages. You can't expect a movie to entertain and make sense in 2004. --SW

MEAN GIRLS (PG-13) "Saturday Night Live"'s Tina Fey puts a salty, fun spin on the pop psychology book about cutthroat girl cliques Queen Bees and Wannabes in her Heathers-esque screenplay about a home schooled nerd-turned-hottie (Lindsay Lohan) who attempts to infiltrate the A-list girl clique the Plastics. The usual teen girl comedy stereotypes are here -- like the nearly slasher film sense of rage directed at the Plastics queen bee -- but Fey has enough been-there perspective and shrewd attentiveness to the absurdities of the form to make it all work. --FF

MICKEY (PG) John Grisham swapped legal thrillers for the Little League to write and finance this wholesome, family-oriented film about a fugitive father (Harry Connick Jr.) whose fast-pitching son (Shawn Salinas) begins drawing the wrong kind of attention.

NASCAR: THE IMAX EXPERIENCE (PG) Stock car racing seems a perfect subject for 3-D Imax but this survey course -- "NASCAR 101" -- doesn't begin to realize the potential. Fans have seen it all before and if non-fans had any interest, they'd be fans. The film includes surprisingly little racing footage, and cuts away too quickly from the shots that put you in the action. In addition to the wall-to-wall advertising that is NASCAR, the film's sponsor gets a blatant plug in the narration. At Regal Mall of Georgia's Imax Cinema. --SW

NEW YORK MINUTE (PG) See review on p. 65.

THE PASSION OF THE CHRIST (R) This unrelentingly violent, often depressingly ugly Passion is for neither children nor the faint of heart, though it plays into a strain of evangelical belief that sees graphic depictions of Christ's suffering as the most powerful propaganda. Mel Gibson's third directorial effort has certainly progressed from his hackish Braveheart and often proves a grim but moving account of faith confronting unimaginable human cruelty. It may be possible to both admire Gibson's desire to tell a very un-Hollywood story and lament the often crass and sensational manner of its telling.--FF

THE PRINCE & ME (PG) A pampered Danish prince (Luke Mably) falls for a no-nonsense pre-med student (Julia Stiles) in this rom-com that derives equally from The Prince and the Pauper and Cinderella. Stiles shows more charm than usual, and her discomfort in the Danish court makes up a bit for the sluggish, prince-out-of-water scenes in America. The film almost challenges the storybook princess fantasy fetishized in recent teen films, but chickens out at the last minute. --CH

THE PUNISHER (R) Based on the Marvel Comics character, The Punisher hides the heart of a cheap action movie underneath its designer knockoffs. An undercover FBI agent (Thomas Jane) participates in a bust that kills the son of a crime lord (John Travolta), who takes vengeance on the agent's entire family. Jane doesn't officially become The Punisher until the end of the movie, but he gives and receives plenty of punishment on the way to his Othello-inspired revenge. --SW

THE RETURN (NR) After an absence of 12 year, an enigmatic father revisits the teenaged sons he's never known and drags them on an increasingly-fraught fishing trip. First-time director Andrei Zvyagintsev emulates the eerie, icy formalism of Stanley Kubrick as power struggles play out until the shocking climax. With a grim but gripping story rich with allegory, The Return does for father-son bonding what Animal Farm did for agriculture. Landmark Midtown Art Cinema. --CH

RHINOCEROS EYES (R) What might have made for an interesting short film becomes a stretched-beyond-its-capablities feature about a shy, shut-in gopher in a movie prop house Chep (Michael Pitt) who will go to any lengths to secure the odd prop requests made by the beautiful Fran (Paige Turco). Director Aaron Woodley (David Cronenberg's nephew) is clearly inspired by the fantastic worlds of Jan Svankmajer and Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet. But his imagination seems to begins and end with the set design and the story fizzles early on. At Madstone Theaters Parkside. --FF

SACRED PLANET (G) Exceptionally beautiful, even by Imax standards, Sacred Planet takes a visit to "some of the last pristine places on Earth" -- or as they're known in some circles, undeveloped real estate. Narrated by Robert Redford, segments filmed on three continents provide similar ecological messages from people who "live in harmony with their natural surroundings" through methods independently thousands of miles apart at a time before long-distance travel or communication. If this doesn't make you hug a tree, nothing will. At Regal's Mall of Georgia Imax Cinema. --SW

SCOOBY DOO 2: MONSTERS UNLEASHED (PG) Those meddling kids and their mangy mutt return for another bout of ghostbusting. This time the sleuthing teens face an uber-evil nemesis -- "The Evil Masked Figure" -- hell-bent on re-animating the ghosts and villains of cartoons past to wreak havoc on the citizens of Coolsville, as well as the gang's spotless reputation. A series of cameos (Alicia Silverstone, Seth Green and Peter Boyle) does little to distract from the film's lame plot, poor casting and even worse digital animation: Hollywood, step away from your computers. --KK

13 GOING ON 30 (PG-13) Jenna Rink is a sweet but awkward teen circa 1980s who only wants the simple things in life -- a date with Rick Springfield, boundless popularity and to skip adolescence and be 30 already. With the aid of a birthday wish, the 13-year-old wakes up to find herself in 2004 as 30-year-old Jennifer Garner, a sexy, successful magazine editor in New York. The territory is familiar (thinkBig or Freaky Friday), but Garner keeps things interesting. --KK

THE TRIPLETS OF BELLEVILLE (PG-13) An elderly Frenchwoman and her obese dog face harrowing yet ridiculous obstacles to rescue her bicyclist grandson from French mobsters. Like a Gallic "Wallace & Gromit," this French cartoon feature superbly embraces silent movie-style slapstick and deadpan character animation. The film's bouncy, haunting music have justly earned it a Best Song Oscar nomination. --CH

VAN HELSING (PG-13) Bram Stoker's elderly vampire hunter becomes a buff, gadget-toting action figure (played by Hugh Jackman). Writer-director Stephen Sommers blows a fortune in computer effects to desecrate our memories of Dracula, The Wolf Man and the Frankenstein monster. Overblown and dimwitted in every respect, Van Helsing unintentionally reaches heights of comedy and camp undreamed of by The Rocky Horror Picture Show. --CH

WALKING TALL (R) Only Buford Pusser's name, ethnicity and location (Washington for Tennessee) have changed in The Rock's remake of the 1973 biopic. He still fights with a 4x4 and becomes sheriff to clean up his hometown legally, where good and evil appear as clear-cut as in a Baptist sermon. Despite the abhorrent message that "violence solves everything," Director Kevin Bray tells the story efficiently -- and needs a long credit crawl to stretch the film to feature-length. --SW

THE WHOLE TEN YARDS (PG-13) Though a seemingly blessed event for America's cultural landscape, the forthcoming end of "Friends" will give the disbanded cast more time to make unnecessary flicks like this one. In this sequel to The Whole Nine Yards, retired mob man Jimmy The Tulip (Bruce Willis) comes to the aid of insufferable neighbor Nicholas "Oz" Oseransky (Matthew Perry), when Oz's wife (Natasha Henstridge) is kidnapped by the Hungarian mob, led by comically menacing Kevin Pollak. The far-fetched caper proves that wacky hijinks and organized crime shouldn't mix. --KK

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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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