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Short Subjectives 

Capsule reviews of films by CL critics

Page 2 of 5

CHRYSTAL (R) Georgia-born actor Ray McKinnon wrote and directed this often grim tale of guilt and redemption in the Ozarks. Billy Bob Thornton´s ex-con seeks forgiveness from his agonized wife Chrystal (McKinnon´s off-screen wife Lisa Blount), 16 years after a disastrous car accident. Heavy-handed symbolism and psychosexual baggage bog down the film´s central relationship, but McKinnon reveals an eye for truthful, original and unexpectedly funny details about the modern-day South, from roots music to the backwoods drug trade (embodied by the director´s scene-stealing performance as a hillbilly kingpin). – CH

DIARY OF A MAD BLACK WOMAN (PG-13) This adaptation of Tyler Perry´s successful play is set (and shot) in an Atlanta defined by economic and moral extremes. On one hand is the moneyed high life represented by Steve Harris´ attorney. On the other is the ¨ghetto¨ warmth and family togetherness of matriarch Madea´s (Tyler Perry) world, where the attorney´s wife (Kimberly Elise) escapes when her husband turns her out of their McMansion. Perry and first-time director Darren Grant manage some genuinely funny moments and even some tender ones, but for the most part, Diary´s combination of raunchy comedy, syrupy romance and God-talk just feels ADD, as the film tries desperately – and futilely – to be all things to all people. – FF

DON´T MOVE (NR) Penelope Cruz stars in this Italian drama about the charged sexual relationship between an aging surgeon and an impoverished villager.

DOWNFALL (R) The surreal horrors of war alternate with intimate, documentary-style close-ups of the final days of the Third Reich´s high command in Oliver Hirschbiegel´s powerful film. Bruno Ganz provides a terrifying yet humanizing portrayal of an aging Hitler, capable of both monstrous cruelty and unexpected tenderness. The scrupulously researched film offers eyewitness accounts of the chaotic collapse of Berlin´s defenses and, within Hitler´s bunker, the destruction of Nazi illusions of greatness. – CH

DUST TO GLORY (PG) Son of surfing documentary legend Bruce Brown, Dana Brown tries to invest off-road racing with the same reverence his father brought to surfing. But a gaggle of well-heeled, corporate-sponsored white guys driving little-boy fantasy cars through a dirt-poor country in the annual Mexican road race never quite delivers on Brown´s promise: ¨This isn´t about a race. It´s about ... the human race.¨ Despite all efforts to invest this extreme sport for big boys with emotion and induce some tears over all of that brotherhood-of-the-dirt-track, the slowly paced, badly organized film just spins its wheels. – FF

EATING OUT (NR) Lovelorn straight hunk Caleb (Scott Lunsford) discovers that free-spirited Gwen (the vivacious Emily Stiles) gravitates to gay guys, so he masquerades as a homosexual to get close to her. When Caleb finds himself reluctantly dating Gwen´s gay roommate, Eating Out offers genuine insights into the quirks of gender relations and physical attraction. But too often writer-director Q. Allan Brocka strains to be arch and witty, working overtime to be an ambisexual farce, complete with a climatic dinner party that could be called Guess Who´s Coming Out at Dinner? – CH

EROS (R) In this anthology film, three international filmmakers Wong Kar Wai, Steven Soderbergh and Michelangelo Antonioni tackle the big topic of desire, a far more complicated prospect than the in-and-out fundamentals of porn. Though together the filmmakers show how moviemaking itself is an erotic enterprise, all about individual desire translated into visuals, the thrills end with that insight. The results range from Soderbergh´s mildly intriguing film noir with Robert Downey Jr. as an erotically fixated ad man, and a Josef von Sternberg mood-piece by Wong Kar Wai that is more style than substance. But the real disappointment is ´60s art house sensation Antonioni´s musing on a couple´s desire-impaired relationship that begins with promise but soon veers into depressing pretense. – FF

FEVER PITCH (PG-13) Workaholic careerist Lindsey (Drew Barrymore) and boyish math teacher Ben (Jimmy Fallon) fall in love, but his superfan obsession with the Boston Red Sox throws their relationship a curve ball. The pointedly unfunny first half-hour makes Fallon and Barrymore look like big-screen comedy rookies. But once the film starts digging into sports rituals, fan psychology and incompatible passions, Fever Pitch turns into the rare Hollywood romantic comedy that´s actually about something. – CH

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