Short Subjectives 

Opening Friday

· MUNICH 4 stars. (R) See review.

· THE RINGER (PG-13) Renowned jackass Johnny Knoxville stars in this Farrelly Brothers' produced tale of a man who attempts to "fix" the Special Olympics.

Opening Sunday

· MRS. HENDERSON PRESENTS (R) Judi Dench plays a theater proprietor who wins fame and notoriety by staging nude revues in London throughout World War II. Director Stephen Frears has helmed such disparate fare as Dangerous Liaisons, The Grifters and High Fidelity.

· THE PRODUCERS (PG-13) See review.

· RUMOR HAS IT... 1 star. (PG-13) See review.

· WOLF CREEK (R) See review.

Duly Noted

· 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.

Continuing

· AEON FLUX (PG-13) Oscar-winner Charlize Theron fleshes out (and how) MTV's ass-kicking animated commando Aeon Flux in this incoherently structured, futuristic action flick. Though the film features some clever visual motifs and high-tech gadgets (Flux's explosive marbles, a four-handed sidekick), the bad acting and confused themes evoke such hippy-dippy sci-fi throwbacks as Zardoz and Barbarella. -- Holman

· BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN 5 stars. (R) Ang Lee's heart-wrenching Western one-ups the male tenderness and isolation of the traditional oater by basing his film on Annie Proulx's short story of two cowboys (Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal) who fall in love in 1963 Wyoming. Lee's film is lovely to look at and profoundly moving, touching on both the economic and spiritual isolation of the ranch hand's life and also the more universal alienation of being a man. Ledger is superb as an archetype of male interiority, an emotionally-contained man who finds his slim fragments of happiness in short, infrequent meetings with Jack, who dreams of an impossible future for their doomed love affair. -- Feaster

· BROOKLYN LOBSTER (NR) Writer/director Kevin Jordan presents this family-vs.-business parable about a longtime family lobster farm, starring Danny Aiello and Jane Curtin.

· CAPOTE 5 stars. (R) Shrugging off the limitations of the usual biopic story arc, Bennett Miller's absorbing, thought-provoking, extremely well-crafted first fiction film (he directed the documentary The Cruise) focuses on a small but significant portion of Capote's life during the researching of his groundbreaking work of true crime nonfiction In Cold Blood, and the unhealthy mutual dependency that develops between the writer and one of the killers (Clifton Collins) of a Kansas farm family. -- Felicia Feaster

· CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN 2 (PG) This sequel to the Steve Martin vehicle about a family teeming with 12 kids involves a rivalry between a similarly crowded brood, led by Eugene Levy.

· CHICKEN LITTLE 1 star. (G) In this computer-animated catastrophe, Chicken Little (Zach Braff) of nursery-rhyme fame warns the cuddly critters of Oaky Oaks of an imminent alien invasion. Disney Animation flailingly emulates the pop references of the Shrek movies and, after about five minutes, stomps all over its promising jokes. In the spirit of such monickers as Foxy Loxy and Turkey Lurkey, Chicken Little would be better named Sucky Clucky. -- Holman

· THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE 2 stars. (PG) Four plucky English youngsters step through an enchanted wardrobe and take sides in a magical kingdom's war between good and evil. Initially charming, the lavish adaptation of the C.S. Lewis book struggles to balance the source material's blend of English whimsy, epic violence and Christian allegory (complete with a cameo appearance from Father Christmas). Despite plenty of elaborately memorable images, Narnia feels more sterile than spiritual. -- Holman

· DERAILED 1 star. (R) The inaugural feature from the Weinstein Company recalls the formation of TriStar Pictures back in the '80s, when the quality of its initial slate was so dreadful that one critic suggested the company should change its name to OneStar. The film features Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston as unhappily married business drones whose attempt at an affair gets interrupted by a French thug (Vincent Cassel) with blackmail on his mind. I figured out the major plot twist even before stepping into the theater, yet this movie is so fundamentally brain-dead on so many levels that predictability turns out to be the least of its problems. -- Matt Brunson

· THE FAMILY STONE 3 stars. (PG-13) Entertaining though uneven, this home-for-the-holidays-trauma fest has up-tight New York City executive Sarah Jessica Parker accompanying fiancé Dermont Mulroney home to Connecticut to meet his family. The WASPy, bohemian Stones take an immediate, often incomprehensible dislike to Meredith and spend the duration of the film raking her over the coals until the tale suddenly switches direction and becomes a celebration rather than an indictment of familial togetherness. -- Feaster

· FIRST DESCENT (PG-13) From the press release: "First Descent chronicles the rebellious, inspiring and sometimes controversial rise of snowboarding." One can assume this documentary will be "extreme" -- but just how extreme will it get?

· FUN WITH DICK AND JANE (PG-13) Jim Carrey and Tea Leoni play cash-poor yuppies who resort to grand larceny to make ends meet. The 40 Year-Old Virgin's director Judd Apatow co-wrote the screenplay based on the 1977 Jane Fonda/George Segal comedy.

· GET RICH OR DIE TRYIN' 2 stars. (R) Rapper 50 Cent's starring vehicle, about a drug dealer trying to make it as a rap star, is yet one more uninspired crime pic. Yet the movie it most resembles -- coincidentally, given the proximity of the release dates -- is this past summer's Hustle & Flow (in which a pimp tried to make it as a rapper). It's fascinating to place both films side by side and see how one succeeds while the other doesn't. With its rich characterizations and pungent atmosphere, Hustle flows, while Get Rich or Die Tryin', with its frayed theatrics and stiff performance by 50 Cent, isn't worth a plugged nickel. -- Brunson

· GOOD NIGHT, AND GOOD LUCK 5 stars. (PG) Every creative decision pays off in George Clooney's second film, a black-and-white homage to the "greatest generation" of broadcast journalists, whose courage in the face of enormous pressures makes the Bush administration press corps look timid by comparison. The film succeeds enormously well at getting you under the skin of Murrow's reporters and anticipating the increasing influence of entertainment on broadcast news. See it now. -- Holman

· HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE 4 stars. (PG-13) Director Mike Newell presents the grandest, scariest spectacle in the franchise so far, featuring an exciting dragon chase and the worth-the-wait appearance of Lord Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes). In bringing a novel of more than 700 pages to the screen, Newell can resemble a frantic vaudeville plate-spinner: He revs up one subplot, and the others slow down. But Goblet proves an exciting and mature chapter in a (seemingly) never-ending story. -- Holman

· THE ICE HARVEST 2 stars. (R) John Cusack's sleazy lawyer and Billy Bob Thornton's smut peddler skim $2 million from a Wichita mob boss (Randy Quaid), but bad weather, double-crosses and Christmas Eve festivities thwart a clean getaway. The slick adaptation of Scott Phillips' noir novel feels more like a vehicle for 61-year-old director Harold Ramis and his screenwriters (director Robert Benton, 73, and novelist Richard Russo, 56) to work out their macho midlife crises. For all the film's soul-searching, its misogyny and lack of big laughs put a likable cast on thin Ice. -- Holman

· IN THE MIX (PG-13) Haven't seen an usher in a cinema in a while? That changes when singer Usher plays a DJ who saves a Mafia princess and becomes her de facto bodyguard.

· JARHEAD 3 stars. (R) In Sam Mendes' adaptation of Anthony Swofford's memoir, a Marine sniper (Jake Gyllenhaal) flirts with madness as he awaits combat in the Gulf War. Jarhead presents snappy bits of barracks humor and some haunting images (Kuwait's burning oil fields look like hell itself), but inevitably feels anticlimactic: The "jarheads" suffer a kind of existential dilemma as they long to kill but never see combat. Admirably sympathetic to the pressures brought upon the modern military, Jarhead still proves disappointingly evasive in its lack of opinion on the current Iraq War. -- Holman

· JUST FRIENDS (PG-13) Rejected by his high-school crush, Ryan Reynolds grows up to be an incorrigible Don Juan -- until he encounters the same woman (Anna Faris) as an adult.

· KING KONG 3 stars. (PG-13) The heart of Peter Jackson's lavish, slavish remake lies not in the giant ape's improbable love for a screaming starlet (Naomi Watts), but the Oscar-winning filmmaker's almost blind adoration of the original, also set in 1930s New York (and Skull Island). Jackson's version contains sights that truly astonish -- an attack by giant bugs, the Empire State Building sequence, Kong's vivid personality -- while feeling overly faithful to a story we know all too well. Still, despite labored comedy and some spotty special effects, the Beauty and the Beast story at the core can win over the most savage detractor. -- Holman

· MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA 2 stars. (PG-13) See review on page 54.

· PRIDE & PREJUDICE 3 stars. (PG) Director Joe Wright and screenwriter Deborah Moggach have done an exemplary job of making us care all over again about the plight of the Bennet sisters, whose busybody mom (Brenda Blethyn) sets about finding them suitable husbands against the backdrop of 19th-century England. The oldest daughter, Jane (Rosamund Pike), immediately lands a suitor, but the independent Elizabeth (Keira Knightley) finds herself embroiled in a grudge match with the brooding Mr. Darcy (Matthew MacFadyen). Romanticists who fell hard for Colin Firth's Darcy in the 1995 BBC miniseries may or may not warm to MacFadyen (who's fine in the role), but there's no quibbling over Knightley's intuitive, note-perfect work as Elizabeth. -- Brunson

· PULSE 3 stars. (NR) The latest example of "J-horror" -- or Japanese horror imports like The Ring -- follows two young people (Haruhiko Kato and Kumiko Aso) who discover a web site that connects the living with ghosts -- and drives its users to suicide. Released four years ago in Japan, Pulse initially proves slow and familiar, and its cultural attitudes toward suicide probably don't fully translate to this side of the Pacific. The final section, however, strays from J-horror convention to generate a genuinely apocalyptic atmosphere that can set your pulse racing. -- Holman

· RENT 3 stars. (PG-13) In Chris Columbus' adaptation of the Broadway musical, a group of twentysomething artists (played mostly by the now-thirtysomething original cast) wrestle with AIDS, drug addiction and creative compromise in Manhattan. At best, numbers like "La Vie Boheme" capture the same intoxication of creative urban youth in the film Fame; at worst, the overwrought, operatic romance plays like a long-form Bon Jovi video. -- Holman

· SARAH SILVERMAN: JESUS IS MAGIC 3 stars. (NR) In a kind of unofficial follow-up to The Aristocrats, gorgeous -- and outrageously profane -- comedienne Sarah Silverman violates nearly every racial, sexual and religious taboo imaginable in her persona as a ditzy narcissist. There's about 40 minutes of terrific concert footage interspersed with hit-and-miss song satires and sketches, making Jesus Is Magic an imperfect showcase for a hilarious, invaluable talent. -- Holman

· THE SQUID AND THE WHALE 3 stars. (R) Filmmaker Noah Baumbach offers a semi-autobiographical remembrance of divorce's toll on the kids. The year is 1986, two bookish Brooklyn intellectuals (Laura Linney and Jeff Daniels) -- based on Baumbach's film critic mother and novelist father -- split, shuttling their two sons (Owen Kline and Jesse Eisenberg) between their homes and unleashing some major anguish and anxieties. Often darkly funny in charting the effects of D-I-V-O-R-C-E for the over-analytical set not supposed to experience such mundane traumas, the film is too emotionally distant and too inconclusive to offer more than that age-old assertion that divorce sucks. -- Feaster

· SYRIANA 4 stars. (R) This engrossing, closely observed thriller concerns the interconnected lives of people touched by the international oil trade, including a CIA operative in the Middle East (George Clooney), a Geneva-based American energy analyst (Matt Damon) and a rising D.C. lawyer (Jeffrey Wright) who all have something to gain or lose from events in the oil-rich Middle East. -- Feaster

· WALK THE LINE 3 stars. (PG-13) This biopic of legendary but troubled country music star Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) focuses on his decades-long relationship with singer and muse June Carter (Reese Witherspoon). Witherspoon offers a fresh, original portrayal of a weary celebrity in a vastly different era of pop culture from our own, but James Mangold's film reveals little of Cash's inner life beyond his drug problems and crush on June, so Phoenix often comes across as merely sullen. -- Holman

· YOURS, MINE AND OURS 1 star. (PG) A descent into the pits of hell disguised as a motion picture, Yours, Mine and Ours is the sort of broad, insincere schmaltz that movie-goers seem to eat up at this time of year. A widower (Dennis Quaid) with eight kids bumps into his former high school sweetheart, now a widow (Rene Russo) with 10 children. On a whim, they decide to get married, but managing a household comprised of 18 minors proves to be a formidable challenge. Somebody please kill this before it breeds again. -- Brunson

· ZATHURA 3 stars. (PG) Despite both involving a magical board game, this film differs in that it's set in outer space, showcases better visual effects, and replaces Jumanji's Robin Williams with a manic, defective robot (on second thought, that last point might not qualify as a difference). Imaginative without being particularly exciting, Zathura will appeal immensely to young viewers while causing adults to be the ones to occasionally fidget in their seats. -- Brunson

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  • Re: Fresh air

    • Local band Manchester Orchestra, who provided the soundtrack, probably would have appreciated a shout-out.

    • on June 29, 2016
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