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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
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