Short Subjectives 

Capsule reviews of films by CL critics

Opening Friday
ALFIE (R) See review.

BEING JULIA (R) Based on Someset Maugham's novel Theatre, this stage drama stars Annette Bening as London's leading actress in the 1930s and features such supporting players as Jeremy Irons, Michael Gambon and Juliet Stevenson.

DIG! (NR) See review.

EULOGY (R) Plenty of familiar faces -- including Debra Winger, Ray Romano, Hank Azaria, Rip Torn, Famke Janssen and Piper Laurie -- turn up for this dark comedy about a funeral that brings out a family's worst dysfunctions.


SIDEWAYS (R) See review.

UNDERTOW (R) See review.

Opening Wednesday

Duly Noted
ANCHORMAN (PG-13) In the mythic 1970s, preening San Diego anchorman Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell) bristles when forced to share the news desk with female reporter Veronica Corningstone (Christina Applegate). Adam McKay's newsroom comedy pokes fun at easy targets like '70s fashion and sexism rather than sink its polished teeth into telejournalism. Farrell and his news team (particularly "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart's" Steve Carell) inject themselves into increasingly surreal and utterly hilarious situations as the film goes on. Nov. 5-11. Call for times. Cinefest, GSU University Center, Suite 211, 66 Courtland St. 404-651-3565. -- Curt Holman

BEDTIME STORIES FOR CROCODILES (2002) (NR) This darkly comic, surreal Mexican drama depicts an insomniac who finds himself drawn into the past lives of his father and grandfather. Latin American Film Festival. Sat., Nov. 6, 8 p.m. Woodruff Arts Center, Rich Auditorium, 1280 Peachtree St., and Nov. 10, 7:30 p.m., Landmark Midtown Art Cinema, 931 Monroe Drive. $5. 404-733-4570.

THE BLACK MAN FILM FESTIVAL (NR) This third annual festival of films "exploring the trials, triumphs and transformation of the black man" features videos from hip-hop artist Nas and Melvin Van Peebles' blaxploitation flick Sweet Sweetback's Baad Asssss Song. Sat., Nov. 6. Auburn Avenue Research Library, 101 Auburn Ave. Free. 404-432-2194.

BLACK FOREST GIRL (1950) (NR) Romantic intrigue and misunderstandings mark this comedy about a painter, a jeweler, a musical revue star and the forest girl of the title. The German Heimatfilm of the '50s. Nov. 10, 7 p.m. Goethe Institut Inter Nationes, 1197 Peachtree St., Colony Square. $4. 404-892-2388.

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 (including Sarah Polley and Ving Rhames) of a fast-spreading zombie plague 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. Thurs., Nov. 4. Call for times. Cinefest, GSU University Center, Suite 211, 66 Courtland St. 404-651-3565. -- Karen Kalb

I, ROBOT (PG-13) Flash-forward 30 years into the future, when keeping up with the Joneses means having an android as a personal assistant. A technophobic Chicago cop (Will Smith) thinks a city overrun with robots might pose a threat to humanity. Director Alex Proyas' CGI-saturated contribution to the robots-run-amok genre features a sleek, superficial production design that begs for a seamy underbelly. Though driven by spectacle, I, Robot balances deliciously overblown action sequences with intriguing plot twists and even a bit of futuristic philosophy. Nov. 5-11. Call for times. Cinefest, GSU University Center, Suite 211, 66 Courtland St. 404-651-3565. -- Cary Jones

THE PHOTOGRAPHER (2002) (NR) Often compared to France's Amelie, this stylish romantic comedy follows a photographer obsessed with the trends of earlier decades as he tries to create a lasting "fotonovela" (novel with pictures). Latin American Film Festival. Nov. 5, 8 p.m. Woodruff Arts Center, Rich Auditorium, 1280 Peachtree St. $5. 404-733-4570.

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 Peachtree Cinema & Games, Norcross.

THE SHINING (1980) (R) As a frustrated writer who cracks up while caretaking for a haunted hotel, Jack Nicholson takes fiendish delight in domestic violence. Like every Stanley Kubrick film, this loose adaptation of Stephen King's novel features timeless, instantly familiar images that advance the vocabulary of film. Yet its glacial pace prevents it from being particularly scary. If all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, all build-up and no pay-off make The Shining a dull film. Fri.-Sat., Nov. 5-6, midnight. Landmark Midtown Art Cinema, 931 Monroe Drive. -- CH

BIRTH (R) Sexy Beast director Jonathan Glazer gets a little spooky in this nod to Rosemary's Baby's New York gothic. Nicole Kidman plays a widow approached on the eve of her second marriage by a creepy 10-year-old kid claiming to be her dead husband. The claustrophobic tone and supernatural flourishes seem cribbed from better movies, and many viewers will have to suspend major disbelief to buy scenes like the one where Kidman bends herself in half to soulfully kiss her miniature reincarnated husband. Some may find Birth intense and spooky, but others may have a hard time suppressing a laugh at Glazer's pretentious ghost story. -- Felicia Feaster

THE FINAL CUT (PG-13) The basic premise raises interesting questions but there are no interesting answers in this latest memory-erase movie, written and directed by Jordan-born Omar Naim. Future technology allows computer chips to be implanted in unborn children that will record everything that person sees. When they die, an editor fashions the survivors' favorite parts into a glossy memoir. An expert cutter, the appropriately named Hakman (Robin Williams) fights both his own demons and anti-implant activists, but there's no real payoff to reward your attention. -- Steve Warren

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, aspiring 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

THE GRUDGE (PG-13) Takashi Shimizu realizes every director's dream of remaking a film with more money and the lessons learned on the first attempt. Based on his Japanese ghost story Ju-on, The Grudge takes place in Tokyo but almost everyone speaks English, with numerous American characters on hand. Exchange student Sarah Michelle Gellar faces ghostly entities in a house with an attitude. The original structure seems slightly dumbed down for Americans but the most memorable visuals and hokey scare tactics have been retained. -- SW

HAIR SHOW (PG-13) This hair-stylin' comedy stars Mo'Nique as a Baltimore beautician who barges in on her sister in Beverly Hills.

HERO (PG-13) Kung fu star Jet Li portrays a nameless fighter who recounts his victory over three super-assassins, but China's emperor suggests there's more to his story. Zhang Yimou's Oscar-nominee for Best Foreign Language Film in 2003 features the flamboyant martial artistry of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon and the shifting narrative of Rashomon. With gorgeously color-coded flashbacks, Hero plays less like a conventional action film than a grand master's chess game of cold yet dreamlike beauty. -- CH

I Y HUCKABEES (R) A "Screwball sophistry" could describe this fast-talking, deep-thinking comedy from Three Kings director David O. Russell. A frustrated environmental activist (Jason Schwartzman) finds himself torn between the forces of order, represented by Lily Tomlin and Dustin Hoffman's "existential detectives," and a nihilistic -- but sexy -- French intellectual (Isabelle Huppert). Huckabees tests your tolerance for deadpan whimsy but pays off with persistent laughs and relevant commentary on suburban sprawl and celebrity-obsessed corporate culture. -- CH

IMAX THEATER: Amazing Journeys (NR) Here's the movie Imax was made for! Neither didactic nor evangelical, it appeals to all ages and images you'll never forget. The film examines migration -- of monarch butterflies, gray whales, red crabs, zebras and wildebeest, birds and humans. Director George Casey adds cinematic touches of comedy, drama and suspense to avoid a dry documentary feel in what may be the best Imax film yet. Forces of Nature (NR) Volcanoes and tornadoes and earthquakes, oh my! Not to mention the scientists who study them to improve their forecasting ability in hopes of saving lives. It's like watching the best of the Weather Channel on a giant screen -- without getting your local forecast. 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. Fernbank Museum of Natural History IMAX Theater, 767 Clifton Road. 404-929-6300. -- SW

LADDER 49 (PG-13) It's Backdraft for post-9/11 America. Firefighter Joaquin Phoenix recalls his years of hijinks and heroism in the Baltimore Fire Department while waiting for Chief John Travolta's men to rescue him from a burning building -- or not. It couldn't be more formulaic. You'll recognize several clichés from old war movies, but here the enemy is fire. Without a fraction of the edge of Denis Leary's Rescue Me series on FX, Ladder 49 unfolds like a Lifetime movie for men. Our brave firefighters deserve a better tribute. -- SW

MARIA FULL OF GRACE (R) A clear-eyed, almost documentarian account of a 17-year-old Colombian (Catalina Sandino Moreno) who decides to smuggle a bellyful of heroin into the United States as a mule. First-time NYU-schooled filmmaker Joshua Marston avoids sensationalism in his remarkably sober and engrossing story of Moreno's white-knuckle progress from Colombia to Jamaica Hills, Queens. -- FF

MR. 3000 (PG-13) The king of The Original Kings of Comedy, Bernie Mac proves himself a capable, charismatic leading man in this feel-good movie that, despite an original premise, seems overly familiar. Returning to baseball at 47 to make up three discounted hits, Stan Ross (Mac) finally becomes a team player. If Big Mac can make a movie like this work in spite of its flaws, when a good script comes his way, he should hit it out of the park. -- SW

THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES (R) The man who would grow up to be a violent revolutionary and the star of every counterculture's T-shirt, Ernesto "Che" Guevara, receives some emotional backstory in Brazilian director Walter Salles's earnest but lightweight film. Before he took up firearms, Che traveled with best friend through South America, and discovered the kind of poverty and injustice his bourgeois Argentinean upbringing denied. Bernal and the scenery are beautiful but this bio-picture lacks the fire in the belly its radical subject deserves. -- FF

PRIMER (PG-13) A pair of moonlighting computer entrepreneurs discover their latest invention may effect the flow of time itself in this Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner. Writer-director-star Shane Carruth thinks through the technical and sci-fi ramifications of his story and stays just ahead of the audience to keep us intrigued. But in the final Primer's near-tangible feeling of mounting dread dissipates into utter confusion as Carruth drops all attempts to keep his mind-bending tale coherent. -- CH

RAISE YOUR VOICE (PG) I tried getting in touch with my inner teenage girl but even she has too much taste to like this Hilary Duff vehicle about an Arizona girl bringing her homespun values to wicked Los Angeles for a summer music program. Her father (David Keith), who out-ogres Shrek, won't let her go, but the movie's message is that teenagers should follow their hearts, even if they have to disobey their parents. Apart from Duff's mediocre pop bleating the music mix proves interesting and diverse. -- SW

RAY (PG-13) Director Taylor Hackford presents a refreshingly candid and earthy biopic of blind pianist Ray Charles (Jamie Foxx), whose womanizing and drug addiction emerge, the film suggests, from a kind of competitiveness with sighted musicians. Roof-rocking tunes like "Hit the Road, Jack" and "What'd I Say" capture the excitement of live performances, while the script and Foxx's justly praised performance persistently look beneath Charles' cheerful, avuncular persona to find the fiercely determined artist underneath. -- CH

RECONSTRUCTION (NR) This first feature from Danish Christoffer Boe shows a director as invested in film form as his cinematic influences. The imprint of surrealist Luis Buuel and fellow Film School of Denmark alum Lars von Trier are all over Boe's metaphysical romance laced with self-referential smarts. Boe won the Camera d'Or at the 2003 Cannes Film Festival for this engaging, dreamy discourse on two lovers whose lives are batted about like a mouse in fate's paws in this shrewd commentary on the capricious whims of cinema, and how we long to believe in them. -- FF

RESIDENT EVIL: APOCALYPSE (R) In the spirit of the videogame that started it all, the franchise's second film features probably the most -- though far from the best -- action of any movie this year. The mindless plot fills the zombie gap between Dawn of the Dead and Shaun of the Dead and relies on clichés that weren't good enough for the first movie. -- SW

ROSENSTRASSE (PG-13) This moving -- but slow-moving -- "chick flick" about the Holocaust, directed by Margarethe von Trotta, depicts a mother and daughter who keep secrets for no reason, other than the screenwriters' whim. The daughter (Maria Schrader) needlessly conceals her identity to learn about her mother's past from the woman who adopted her in 1943 while Aryan women attempted to free their Jewish husbands awaiting deportation at a Berlin detention center. Lefont Garden Hills Cinema. -- SW

SHARK TALE (PG) A too-obvious message movie about keepin' it real and accepting "different" children, this computer-animated undersea comedy has its share of laughs but is no Shrek or Finding Nemo. It lands all the fish puns Nemo threw back, some in the name of product placement. (Kelpy Kreme Doughnuts, anyone?). Amid such fine voice actors as Will Smith, Renee Zellweger and Jack Black, Martin Scorsese, of all people, turns out to be the breakout talent. -- SW

SHAUN OF THE DEAD (R) A put-upon English bloke (co-writer Simon Pegg) gets so caught up in his girlfriend and roommate problems that he scarcely notices the apocalyptic zombie crises happening around him. Writer-director Edgar Wright rises above the undead genre's schlocky traditions with a first act of comic genius. The intensity of the zombie-siege sequences runs contrary to the film's deadpan comedy, but its rapid pace, hilarious ensemble and inventive action scenes make it a splatter classic. -- CH

SAW (R) Cary Elwes and Leigh Whannel (who wrote the screenplay) play two men who awaken chained in a basement with a dead body in this psychological drama from first-time director James Wan.

SHALL WE DANCE (PG-13) Only subtlety is lost in the translation of the 1997 Japanese film about a contented married man (Richard Gere) who becomes happy when he takes ballroom dancing lessons from Jennifer Lopez. This remake, directed by Englishman Peter Chelsom, seems so thoroughly American it's surprising how little was actually changed. The lack of communication between Gere and wife Susan Sarandon doesn't ring true, while Audrey Wells' screenplay manages to be both deeper and more frivolous than the original. We'll show the Japanese they can't beat us at either end of the emotional spectrum! -- SW

SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW (PG) When giant flying robots attack cities around the world, Gwyneth Paltrow's sassy reporter teams with Jude Law's heroic mercenary to find the suspected evil-doer. Filmmakers shot actors in front of blue screens and digitally filled in all of the stunningly detailed backgrounds. But Sky Captain falls into the trap of the Star Wars prequels by paying more attention to the digital effects than the slow-moving story and underdeveloped characters. -- Heather Kuldell

STAGE BEAUTY (R) With romance, intrigue, humor and gender-bending for days, Stage Beauty is the movie the overrated Shakespeare in Love should have been. Billy Crudup stars as Ned Kynaston, London's leading male diva in the 1660s until King Charles II (Rupert Everett) declares women can play women's roles onstage and men can't. Claire Danes shines as the woman who loves Ned (although he prefers men), takes over the roles he can no longer play and tries to butch him up for personal and professional reasons. As gender barriers continue to topple, Stage Beauty has a contemporary relevance without straining for parallels. -- SW

SURVIVING CHRISTMAS (PG-13) Mike Mitchell, director of Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, gives us a comedy that's good enough to amuse you when you're already in the holiday mood -- but not good enough to put you in that mood. Depressed Chicago advertising genius Ben Affleck pays a household (James Gandolfini, Catherine O'Hara, Christina Applegate, Josh Zuckerman) $250,000 to be his family through Christmas. Incidents and complications pile up, some funnier than others. Does it all end happily? Hell, even Bad Santa ends happily. --SW

TAXI (PG-13) Jimmy Fallon's fender-bending cop flags down Queen Latifah's speed-demon cabbie to pursue four ü ber-hot bank robbers, led by supermodel Gisele Bundchen. As both a big-screen funnyman and a police officer, "Saturday Night Live's" Fallon comes across like a Gen X Jerry Lewis, so his antics to redeem himself prove neither amusing nor desirable. Queen Latifah emerges with her sexy confidence intact, but Taxi runs down so many buddy-flick clichés that it deserves a traffic ticket as a movie violation. -- CH

TEAM AMERICA: WORLD POLICE (R) "South Park" creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone jerk the chain of every possible viewer in this overblown action flick and political satire entirely populated by wooden-headed marionettes. A globe-trotting, flag-waving U.S. antiterrorist team provides an outrageous parody of American intervensionism, while outspoken left-wingers like Alec Baldwin receive equally savage treatment. Parker and Stone achieve their funniest jokes with dead-on lampoons of Hollywood shoot-em-ups, but Team America also serves as the ideal joke to defuse the bitterness of the current political climate. -- CH

VERA DRAKE (R) English director Mike Leigh's soft-spoken but morally eloquent "issues" drama stars Imelda Staunton as a saintly housekeeper and back-alley abortionist. The film's first half lays out social inequities by taking an "Upstairs, Downstairs" view of upper and lower class options for pregnancy termination. When authorities catch up to Vera, Staunton provides a devastating performance of a decent soul demolished by the sympathetic yet implacable forces of the state. -- CH

VIRGIN (NR) We've all been there: A church-going teenager (Elisabeth Moss) wakes up after having drinks with her high school crush, finds herself pregnant and jumps to the conclusion that she's carrying the child of God. Robin Wright Penn and Peter Gerety co-star in this drama. Lefont Garden Hills Cinema.

VOICES OF IRAQ (NR) In this unusual documentary, 150 digital video cameras were distributed in Iraq for the natives to record their own lives and thoughts about life after Saddam. Landmark Midtown Art Cinema


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