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Short Subjectives 

Capsule reviews of films by CL critics

Opening Thursday

STAR WARS EPISODE III: REVENGE OF THE SITH

(PG-13) See review on p. 99.

Opening Friday

MONDO VINO PG-13) See review on p. 101.OLDBOY (R) See review on p. 100.THE OTHER SIDE OF THE STREET (NR) A retired woman (Central Station's Fernando Montenegro) snoops on her neighbors until she thinks she sees an ex-cop commit murder. This Brazilian film emphasizes themes of love and loneliness more than suspense.

Duly Noted

FAITH AND FILM FESTIVAL (NR) Atlanta's Art Within hosts a festival of more than 50 short films - including "Most," a Best Live Action Short Film Oscar nominee from 2003 - that focus on matters of faith and religion. May 13-22. Fri., 7:30 p.m.; Sat., 2 and 7:30 p.m.; Sun., 5 p.m. $10 for single tickets. www.faithandfilmfestival.com.

FROM THE OTHER SIDE (2002) (NR) This Film Love event presents European director Chantal Akerman's acclaimed drama about life on both sides of the U.S./Mexico border. May 26, 8 p.m. Eyedrum, Suite 8, 290 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. $5 (Free for IMAGE members). 404-522-0655. www.eyedrum.org.

THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY (1966) (NR) Sergio Leone's epic is bigger than ever, with the addition of new footage culled from European sources and dubbed into English (more than 30 years later) by Clint Eastwood and Eli Wallach. Restored scenes - including an interlude at a Civil War field hospital, another gunfight, and the fabled "grotto" scene - add depth, and the big-screen Technicolor cinematography reveals details (such as gold-leaf patterns in the hotel wallpaper) that not even the enhanced DVD version could reproduce. Mondo Movie Night. May 22. Starlight Six Drive-In. 2000 Moreland Ave. $6. 404-627-5786. www.starlightdrivein.com. - Gregory Nicoll

INDIAN SHORTS (NR) This program of short films from and about India includes "A Love Supreme," a dialogue-free depiction of a mother making somosas; "Hole," a young woman's treatise on love; and the comedy "American Made," starring Kal Penn of Harold and Kumar Go To White Castle. Film Festival of India: Bollywood and Beyond. May 20, 8 p.m. Woodruff Arts Center, Rich Auditorium. 1280 Peachtree St. $5. 404-733-4570. www.high.org.

THE LEFT-HANDED WOMAN (1978) (NR) In this domestic film noir, a woman inexplicably demands a separation from her husband (Bruno Ganz). Recent Films from Germany. May 25, 7 p.m. Goethe Institute Inter Nationes, 1197 Peachtree St., Colony Square. $4. 404-892-2388.

LULU AND THE GIRLS OF AMERICUS, GEORGIA 1963 (NR) This documentary profiles some of the surviving women who fought to desegregate a small Georgia town in 1963. May 19, 7:30 p.m. Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, 450 Auburn Ave. Free. 404-352-4225. www.imagefv.org.

THE PATH (2004) (Not rated) Winner of the Indira Gandhi Award for Best First Film at India's National Film Awards, this thoughtful drama depicts a failed revolutionary turned middle-class teacher who faces a crisis of faith on a journey to his ancestral village. Film Festival of India: Bollywood and Beyond. May 20, 8 p.m. Woodruff Arts Center, Rich Auditorium. 1280 Peachtree St. $5. 404-733-4570. www.high.org.

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.

SPROCKETS: 2004 ATHFEST MUSIC VIDEO SHOWCASE (NR) The newly formed Athens Film Foundation presents this showcase of music videos from such Athens musicians as Elf Power, Jucifer, Kyle Dawkins and Empire State. May 23, 7:30 p.m. The Earl, 488 Flat Shoals Ave. $5 (Free to IMAGE members). 404-352-4225. www.imagefv.org.

Continuing

THE AMITYVILLE HORROR (R) As a creep show, this slicked-up hokum (based on Jay Anson's novel) about a haunted house is painfully inadequate, preferring to traffic in quick shots of blood-dripping ghouls than establishing any real sense of dread. I've seen episodes of "Sesame Street" that were more frightening than this generic junk. - Matt Brunson

BEAUTY SHOP (PG-13) Barbershop it ain't, though it recycles almost every plot point from that Ice Cube comedy. But Beauty Shop has its own frothy appeal held together by the warm, charismatic presence of Queen Latifah as a hair entrepreneur who quits a chic salon to open her own beauty shop in the ­hood. The scenes where her diverse staff gleefully riff, vamp and insult over the hot rollers offer something to hold onto amidst an uninspiring plot involving Latifah's efforts to hold onto the salon when the Man comes calling. It's all lighter-than-air, but it's hard not to be momentarily charmed by all the assembled intergenerational girl power and fizzy energy. - Felicia Feaster

CRASH (R) Writer/director Paul Haggis (whose Million Dollar Baby script just won an Oscar) presents one of those sprawling multi-character films set in Southern California, only it emphasizes racism as the unifying element. Both thought-provokingly relevant and shamelessly manipulative, Crash presents a simmering melting pot of frustrated Los Angelenos waiting to take out their rage on the first person of a different color who crosses their path. The engrossing scenes and dedicated actors (including Don Cheadle in the central role as an honest LAPD detective) make up for Crash's heavy-handed storytelling. - Curt Holman

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

ENRON: THE SMARTEST GUYS IN THE ROOM (NR) Alex Gibney's documentary about the rise of the business world's $65 billion uber-successful Enron empire and its subsequent undoing is as much fun as can be had watching the gory spectacle of American greed in action. Though American legend has since recast the tale of Enron into aberrant corporate legend, to Gibney's credit, he spreads blame around and shows how the particular immorality of placing money before people practiced to an excessive degree at Enron is just standard operating procedure in an American business world and government deeply tied to the Enron fall. - FF

THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY (PG) After alien bureaucrats blow up the Earth, the last surviving Englishman ("The Office's" Martin Freeman) reluctantly treks through the stars to find the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything. Supporting players like Bill Nighy and the clever visual design best capture the deadpan comedy of Douglas Adams' beloved novel, but otherwise the film resorts to a strained, frenzied pace. "Don't Panic" may be the motto of the galactic travel guide that gives this sci-fi spoof its name, but director Garth Jennings' film often feels on the verge of freaking out. - CH

HOUSE OF WAX (R) My contempt for this remake of the 1953 classic is so great that I'm reluctant to even call it a "film," as that designation automatically places it in the pantheon of works by Welles, Hitchcock, Bergman and even Ed Wood. Suitable only for unemployable teens and speech-slurring rednecks, this film finds a group of dim-witted kids serving as slasher fodder for murderous twin brothers. Sadistic beyond compare, this House has been built by mercenaries, not moviemakers. - MB

IMAX THEATER: Bugs! (NR) A praying mantis and a butterfly "star" in this documentary about the insects of the Borneo rainforest - some of whom will be magnified 250,000 times their normal size on the IMAX screen. The Living Sea (NR) Humpback whales, golden jellyfish and giant clams star in this documentary about the diversity of undersea life, with music by Sting and narrated by Meryl Streep. (CH) Fernbank Museum of Natural History IMAX Theater, 767 Clifton Road. 404-929-6300. www.fernbank.edu.

THE INTERPRETER (PG-13) Despite the way it uses African genocide as rocket fuel for its thrill ride, Sydney Pollack's film is a moderately stylish, serviceable drama about a United Nations interpreter (Nicole Kidman) raised in Africa who overhears a murder plot against the leader of her violence-torn African homeland. The Secret Service agent (Sean Penn) who initially thinks she may be involved in the assassination conspiracy transforms into her protector. The fact that Pollack had permission to shoot in the U.N. adds immeasurably to its slick good looks, though the film never follows through on its initial advocacy for peaceniking over warmongering. - FF

IT'S ALL GONE PETE TONG (R) You don't have to be versed in the dance-club scene to dig the grooves and laugh at the jokes in this faux documentary about fictional superstar DJ Frankie Wilde (the comical yet poignant Paul Kaye). The splashy first half provides a kind of Spinal Tap spoof of music industry excess, but when Frankie goes deaf, the film provides a quirky yet intriguing perspective on disabilities. Ultimately it has less in common with 24 Hour Party People than Children of a Lesser God. - CH

KICKING AND SCREAMING (PG) See review on p. 103.

KINGDOM OF HEAVEN (R) Director Ridley Scott and screenwriter William Monahan take great pains to make sure the Arabs are not unduly villainized in his ho-hum Crusades epic of one bloody period in the century-spanning Christian battle for control of the Holy Land. Orlando Bloom, whose charismatic kilowattage is a mere flicker compared to that other Ridley hunk, Russell Crowe, plays a humble French blacksmith who transforms into one of those oxymorons so beloved by Hollywood: a pacifist who knows when to lay down the cross and start kicking some ass. - FF

KING'S RANSOM (PG-13) Plus-sized comedian Anthony Anderson stars in this comedy about an arrogant businessman who engineers his own kidnapping to keep his soon-to-be ex-wife from cashing in on their divorce. In the tradition of Ruthless People, things don't go according to plan.

KUNG FU HUSTLE (R) Stephen Chow, director of the little-seen but superbly silly Shaolin Soccer, drop-kicks the kung fu genre in this goofy, gravity-defying combo of two-fisted action flick and anything for a laugh parody. Matrix-style computer effects serve inventive, Mad Magazine-style sight gags, in which gangsters break into dance routines and middle-aged dorks turn out to be martial arts masters. If a bit more cartoonish than necessary, Kung Fu Hustle still puts a supersonic spin on the chop-sockey flick. - CH

LIPSTICK & DYNAMITE (Not Rated) Former Atlanta filmmaker Ruth Leitman unearths a treasure trove of B&W vintage fight footage and probably the saltiest, most foul-mouthed grandmothers you've ever seen in her intimate documentary of lady wrestling's pioneers. Characters like The Fabulous Moolah and Gladys "Killem" Gillem, now in their 70s and 80s, reminisce about the good old bad old days, when the ladies got out their frustrations in the surprisingly violent wrestling ring, but still had to cope with rotten childhoods, abusive husbands, rape and horrific wrestling-induced injuries. - FF

LOOK AT ME (PG-13) This Cannes Film Festival Best Screenplay winner depicts the relationship between a celebrity novelist and his overweight, insecure daughter, who tries to use singing to assert her own identity.

A LOT LIKE LOVE (PG-13) A Lot Like Love is a lot like When Harry Met Sally crossed with Serendipity, as two people wonder whether they're better off remaining friends or whether the stars have something more intimate in mind for them. Ashton Kutcher and Amanda Peet are likable, but Colin Patrick Lynch's script never wholly convinces us that these two need to be together. - MB

MILLIONS (PG) Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, 28 Days Later) applies his special effects-heavy hand to the story of 7-year-old Damian (a routinely adorable and freckled Alex Etel) whose imaginary friends are Catholic saints. When a bag stuffed with money falls from a passing train, Damian wants to give the windfall to charity and his older brother wants to invest it in real estate. But the saints and the spiritual dilemma of how to spend that money are just two of Boyle's many passing fancies. He is far more interested in doing visual loop-de-loops and imagining that childhood wonder is best evoked with gee-whiz effects. - FF

MINDHUNTERS (R) A serial killer stalks a group of FBI trainees on an isolated island in this long-shelved thriller directed by Renny Harlin. This rip-off of Agatha Christie's Ten Little Indians features unintentional hilarious action scenes, "CSI"-style montages and slumming actors (Christian Slater, Val Kilmer) practically counting the minutes until they can cash their paychecks. - CH

MONSTER-IN-LAW (PG-13) In the tradition of Meet the Parents's in-law anxiety, Jane Fonda plays a designer-clad, high-powered mother-in-law who violently disapproves of her surgeon son's choice of a new girlfriend (Jennifer Lopez), a slackeresque temp. Fonda has campy fun in her return to the screen after 15 years, but when the comedy turns from her slapstick attempts to drive her daughter-in-law mad to Lopez's revenge, the film loses any energy Fonda's performance generated. Fonda has fun with the lightweight material, but nothing can distract from some fairly unimaginative plotting and Lopez's failure to hold up her end of the comedy. - FF

OFF THE MAP (PG-13) Roger Dodger director Campbell Scott helms this hopeful tale of a free-spirited New Mexican couple (Sam Elliott and The Upside of Anger's Joan Allen) and their bow-hunting 11-year-old daughter.

PALINDROMES (NR) Master of Ick, King of Creep Todd Solondz returns to his stomping ground of a sleaze-infested America in this story of a pregnant 13-year-old girl forced to have an abortion by her pro-life mother (Ellen Barkin). Then, she finds shelter in the arms of a Christian pro-life family. Solondz remains a button-pusher, but as he did in Welcome to the Dollhouse, Solondz finds something tragic and compelling in yet another story of a young girl swimming against life's brutal current. - FF

SAHARA (PG-13) There is something about the cocky, thrill-seeking, globe-trotting adventurer Dirk Pitt with his ability to stamp out the world's problems in a single-blow that just seems, well, ill-timed considering the mounting crises of African genocide and the war in Iraq raging abroad. In this cartoonish adaptation of adventure novelist Clive Cussler's novel, Pitt is a former Navy SEAL turned international treasure hunter with the cool of James Bond and the chops of an army-of-one. He's in Africa hunting a long-lost Civil War battleship and helping a World Health Organization doctor (Penelope Cruz) find the source of a plague killing local villagers in this theme park ride of a movie, not surprisingly directed by outgoing Disney C.E.O. Michael Eisner's son Breck Eisner. - FF

SIN CITY (R) Based on Frank Miller's hard-boiled cult comic books of the same name, Sin City wallows unapologetically in violence, T&A and other preoccupations of adolescent boys of all ages. Co-directors Miller and Robert Rodriguez leer over interlocking tales of chivalrous antiheroes (led by a hulkingly charismatic Mickey Rourke) who take on a corrupt city's sadistic power brokers. Though the film's black-and-white images can sear your retinas, its repetitive plots, grisly slapstick and predictable misogyny can leave you embarrassed to be a geek. - CH

A TALE OF TWO PIZZAS (NR) A feud erupts between two tough New York families over who makes the best pizzas in this comedy directed by Vincent Sassone that stars "Sopranos" veterans Frank Vincent and Vincent "Big Pussy" Pastore. (Just imagine how many heads turned when someone shouted "Hey, Vinnie!" on the set.)

UNLEASHED (R) Who let Jet Li out? The martial arts star plays a nameless enforcer, conditioned by a Scottish mobster (Bob Hoskins) to be a ruthless fighter, only to discover his humanity when befriended by a blind piano tuner (Morgan Freeman). Written and produced by La Femme Nikita's Luc Besson.

WALK ON WATER (NR) While on assignment in Berlin, a ruthless, homophobic Israeli intelligence agent befriends the gay grandson of his target, a Nazi war criminal. With subtitles.

THE WILD PARROTS OF TELEGRAPH HILL (NR) Homeless musician Mark Bittner becomes caretaker to San Francisco's populace of brightly plumed wild parrots in this likable documentary. Practically on a first-name basis with the birds, Bittner identifies with the birds' "outsider" status and other surprisingly human personality traits. With the relaxed, ambling structure of a walk in the park, the documentary offers a kind of bird's-eye view of the misplaced priorities of modern life. - CH

XXX: STATE OF THE UNION (PG-13) With Vin Diesel branching out as the Pacifier, Ice Cube plays another "extreme" secret agent in this sequel to XXX, concerning militaristic crazies trying to take over the U.S. government. Sure, like that could ever happen.

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