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Short Subjectives 

Capsule reviews of films by CL critics

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THE BLIND SWORDSMAN: ZATOICHI (PG-13) Takeshi Kitano revives the Zatoichi franchise, legendary in the Far East, hoping it'll catch on in the West. The writer-director-editor plays Zatoichi under his acting name, Beat Takeshi, in a film that's a mess, though not entirely in a bad way. The comedy, drama, violent action and musical numbers prove fun, but don't always work together well in this outrageous import. At Landmark Midtown Art Cinema.--SWTHE BOURNE SUPREMACY HHH (PG-13) Two years after he thought he was out, Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) gets pulled back in following a double assassination. Director Paul Greengrass abandons the documentary style of his prior film Bloody Sunday to offer the usual convoluted hokum and hop from India to Naples to Washington to Berlin to Moscow. There may be more action this time, but like the plot, it's less easy to follow. --SWBROADWAY: THE GOLDEN AGE (NR) This documentary about the Great White Way feels like the video equivalent of an autograph hound's scrapbook. The fast-paced oral history of Broadway's heyday (roughly bookended by the ending of World War II and the opening of Cats) features 100 interviewees, from Jerry Orbach and Angela Lansbury to theater artists to you've never heard of, and tends to value quantity over quality. The film nevertheless digs up some great backstage stories and pays due homage to forgotten stage pioneers.--CH

CATWOMAN (PG-13) A beautiful African-American woman stars as a strong, morally ambiguous comic book character? Great idea for a movie! But French director Pitof seems to have wanted to make a campy, incoherent, trend-conscious action flick to amuse drunk fans of "Sex and the City." Berry strikes an awkward pose as a mousy graphics artist brought back to life as a whip-wielding, wall-crawling split personality with feline powers. Scooping a litter box for two hours would be a more pleasant and productive use of your time.--CH

COLLATERAL (R) Tom Cruise takes a change-of-pace role as a perfectionist hitman who forces Jamie Foxx's hapless cabbie to chauffeur him around for a night of mayhem. A taut, essentially two-character piece that criss-crosses LA., Collateral resembles Training Day as another slick, tightly-written B-movie with big name actors. The film lives up to director Michael Mann's reputation for precise shots and polished editing, even if it the final showdowns feel like a burnished version of a made-for-cable crime thriller.--CH

THE CORPORATION (NR) Like a graduate seminar taught by Fight Club's David Fincher, this brainy but entertaining documentary charts the rise of the modern corporation from a one-trick pony to a national religion that has lately put dibs on Bolivian rainwater, the genetic components of life and, oh yeah, our souls. A film that should become required viewing in every American high school.--FF

EXORCIST: THE BEGINNING (R) The prequel is nicely photographed and while it's slow and has only one sympathetic character, it doesn't become laughably bad until the final 15 minutes. Stellan Skarsgard plays Fr. Merrin, the Max von Sydow character, 25 years before the events in Georgetown, when he meets and beats the devil in Kenya. Renny Harlin had tubular balls to take on the project after John Frankenheimer died (probably a better career move) and Paul Schrader's version was deemed unreleasable. --SW

FAHRENHEIT 9/11 (R) Michael Moore's fiery polemic about post-9/11 politics sheds more heat than light, but deserves attention for the questions it raises about some of the major issues of modern American history. Moore levels his trademark sarcasm at George W. Bush, but spends most of the film despairing over the economic forces that send young people into military service at the time of an unjustified war with Iraq. Despite its fuzzy reasoning and incomplete arguments (Moore never acknowledges Saddam Hussein's blood-drenched human rights record, for instance), Fahrenheit 9/11 remains one of the most urgent and explosive documentaries ever made.--CH

GARDEN STATE (R) Zach Braff of the NBC sitcom "Scrubs" writes, directs and stars in this droll, amiable dramedy that loses some of its considerable charm as it goes along. Braff plays a emotionally detached, aspring actor in Los Angeles who gets a new lease on life over an eccentric homecoming in New Jersey. Braff injects some droll sight gags (reminiscent of "Scrubs'" own sense of humor) into his often sharp script, but the last act relies on symbols and epiphanies that feel derivative from the films of more seasoned directors.--CH

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