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Short Subjectives 

Capsule reviews of recently released movies

Opening Friday

· THE ANT BULLY 4 stars. (PG) A Watermelon Man for the primary-school set, this delightful animated film illustrates that the high moral standards we teach in our kiddie films are not the ones we honor in the adult world. A bullied kid takes out his aggression on a front yard ant pile until he is magically shrunken down to ant size and forced to learn how the other half lives. In a female-centric colony governed by a smart, insightful Queen Ant (the voice of Meryl Streep), Lucas Nickle (Zach Tyler) finds an ant community founded on cooperation in opposition to his human world of warring individualism run amok. With enough bathroom humor to please children and some real integrity in its right-vs.-might message, the film pleases on many fronts. -- Felicia Feaster

· JOHN TUCKER MUST DIE (PG-13) Three high school girls fall for the same guy, discover that he's been cheating on them and exact revenge. Sort of like My Super Ex-Girlfriend, only there's three of them and they don't have superpowers. Director Betty Thomas also helmed The Brady Bunch Movie, Private Parts and the Dr. Doolittle remake.

· MIAMI VICE (R) See review.

· THE MOSTLY UNFABULOUS SOCIAL LIFE OF ETHAN GREEN 2 stars. (NR) See review.

· SCOOP 2 stars. (PG-13) See review.

· SHADOWBOXER (R) Cuba Gooding Jr. and Helen Mirren promise to be an unusual screen pair as two trained assassins who chose to redeem themselves when hired to bump off the pregnant wife of a mob boss. The debut film from Lee Daniels, producer of Monster's Ball and The Woodsman.

· WHO KILLED THE ELECTRIC CAR? 3 stars. (PG) Chris Paine's documentary chronicles the introduction -- and subsequent suppression -- of battery-powered, exhaust-free cars, notably General Motors' EV-1, over the past decade in the Southwest. The first half's chronological recap proves a bit shaky, and frankly, it reeks of celebrity concern. When the film systematically goes through the "suspects" in the murder of the electric car, it makes a compelling case against short-sighted consumers, meddlesome oil interests and half-hearted auto industry planning. When GM recalls the popular EV-1s and destroys them, despite the presence of customers willing to buy them, the documentary confirms any environmentalist's worst conspiracy theories. -- Curt Holman

Duly Noted

· BRICK 3 stars. (R) Writer/director Rian Johnson catches fire with a seemingly lame premise: a convoluted mystery in the style of hard-boiled 1940s detective thrillers, set in a contemporary high school. But as brooding loner Brendan (a terrific Joseph Gordon-Levitt) tries to track down his troubled former girlfriend, Brick becomes both a compelling suspense story and an unusual portrait of teen angst from the inside out. The antiquated slang may not be authentic, but given that Brendan no doubt perceives himself as a noble, self-sacrificing hero worthy of Raymond Chandler, the lonely film-noir flourishes aptly fit his point of view. Thurs., July 27. Cinefest, GSU University Center, Suite 211, 66 Courtland St. $5 ($3 until 5 p.m.). 404-651-3565. www2.gsu.edu/~wwwcft/. -- Holman

· THE MALTESE FALCON (1941) 5 stars. (NR) Even more than the jeweled bird of the title, this classic, genre-defining detective story feels like "the stuff that dreams are made of." Director John Huston and actor Humphrey Bogart saw their careers take off in this adaptation of Dashiell Hammett's already filmed novel, which works as both a moody noir thriller and a well-acted chamber piece about the power struggle between a handful of sharp characters (played by the likes of Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre). On a double bill with Bogie's fun but lesser thriller Key Largo. Coca-Cola Summer Film Festival. Thurs., Aug. 3, 8 p.m. Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St. $7. 404-881-2100. www.foxtheatre.org. -- Holman

· THE PROPOSITION 3 stars. (R) The Australian Outback provides a stark backdrop for this dark Western from Down Under. Guy Pearce's young outlaw must track down his murderous older brother (Danny Huston) to save the life of his naive younger brother arrested by a brutal lawman (Ray Winstone). Following a stark, explosive introduction, this persistently violent film turns strangely passive, muting the power of its imagery. July 28-Aug. 11. Cinefest, GSU University Center, Suite 211, 66 Courtland St. $5 ($3 until 5 p.m.). 404-651-3565. www2.gsu.edu/~wwwcft/. -- Holman

· 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.

· V FOR VENDETTA 4 stars. (R) Like 1984's George Orwell taking a stab at a Batman tale, this futuristic thriller depicts a caped crusader called "V" (Hugo Weaving beneath a grinning mask) who targets a totalitarian police state in a near-future England. Although the creators of the Matrix movies adapt the cult comic-book series with fast-paced panache, the film's radical politics -- which, among other things, seem to glamorize terrorism -- feel naive in a post-9/11 landscape. Natalie Portman lends a human touch and moral center as a meek young woman gradually radicalized by V's example. Coca-Cola Summer Film Festival. Mon., July 31, 8 p.m. Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St. $7. 404-881-2100. www.foxtheatre.org. -- Holman

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