Short Subjectives 

The Santa Clause III: The Escape Clause, The Affairs of Julie, others

Opening Friday


FLUSHED AWAY 3 stars (PG) See review.

THE SANTA CLAUSE III: THE ESCAPE CLAUSE (PG) Tim Allen once more dons the white beard and red felt as a regular guy who takes to his newfound career as Kris Kringle. In this outing, Santa invites his new in-laws (Ann-Margaret and Alan Arkin) to the North Pole at the same time as Jack Frost (Martin Short) attempts a hostile takeover. It sounds sort of like a cross between Meet the Fockers and "Mr. Cold Miser."

TIDELAND 1 star (R) See review.

Duly Noted

THE AFFAIRS OF JULIE (1955) A young writer recounts her unhappy romantic experiences and discovers personal and professional complications when a film company expresses interest in the work. $4. Wed., Nov. 8, 7 p.m. Goethe-Institut Atlanta, 1197 Peachtree Road. 404-892-2388.

ATTACK OF THE KILLER TOMATOES! (1978) (NR) Cinfest celebrates Halloween with this return engagement of the horror spoof about vegetables that eat human beings, rather than the other way around. $5 ($3 until 5 p.m.). Thurs., Nov. 2. Cinefest, GSU University Center, Suite 211, 66 Courtland St. 404-651-3565.

THE HOLY GIRL (2004) (NR) In Argentina, a Catholic schoolgirl and her mother are both drawn to the same visiting doctor in this film that cracked many top-10 lists in 2005. $7. Sat., Nov. 4, 8 p.m. Woodruff Arts Center, Rich Theatre, 1280 Peachtree St. 404-733-4570.

AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH 2 stars (PG) Former Vice President Al Gore lays out the scientific underpinnings of global warming to devastating effect. Essentially a filmed lecture interspersed with biographical material, Davis Guggenheim's documentary contains some narrative limitations but otherwise presents a profoundly disturbing portrait of an impending global catastrophe, delivered by Gore with unexpected humor and passion. $5 ($3 until 5 p.m.). Nov. 3-16. Cinefest, GSU University Center, Suite 211, 66 Courtland St. 404-651-3565. -- Curt Holman

OUR BRAND IS CRISIS (2005) (NR) This political documentary with comedic implications follows James Carville's political consulting firm as it works to win Bolivia's former president a second term. The documentary explores the challenges and ironies of exporting American-style democracy. $7. Fri., Nov. 3, 8 p.m. Woodruff Arts Center, Rich Theatre, 1280 Peachtree St. 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.

WHO IS BOZO TEXINO? (NR) Bill Daniel's experimental documentary focuses on the 100 year-old tradition of hobo and railworker graffiti. $5-$10. Thurs., Nov. 9, 8 p.m. Eyedrum, 290 Martin Luther King Jr. Drive, Suite 8. 404-522-0655.


AMERICAN HARDCORE 3 stars (R) Director Paul Rachman's documentary on the hardcore punk scene of the '80s, adapted from Steven Blush's book, probably misses as much as it captures of that chaotic place and time. Extensive interviews with members of Black Flag, the Minutemen, Minor Threat and a host of luminaries such as Henry Rollins, Ian MacKaye and Mike Watt captures the countercultural energy of this aggressive musical form, even if Rachman has a hard time delving beneath the fanzine surface or offering a deeper examination of the scene. -- Felicia Feaster

CATCH A FIRE 3 stars (PG-13) In South Africa circa 1980, a black factory foreman (Glory Road's Derek Luke) finds himself framed by circumstantial evidence for an act of sabotage, motivating him to become an actual freedom fighter. Despite some heavy-handed narrative touches by director Phillip Noyce (Patriot Games), Catch a Fire looks past the superficial, apartheid-sure-was-bad themes of films such as Cry Freedom to find intriguing post-9/11 resonances. South Africa's War on Terror turns a flawed but decent man into an enemy of the state, troubling the conscience of a privileged white interrogator (Tim Robbins). -- Curt Holman

CONVERSATIONS WITH GOD (PG) Henry Czerny plays author Neale Donald Walsch in Stephen Simon's adaptation of Walsch's popular New Age books on spirituality.

DEATH OF A PRESIDENT 2 stars (Not Rated) British filmmaker Gabriel Range presents a simulated documentary retrospective that "looks back" at the 2007 assassination of George W. Bush. The deliberately inflammatory premise and creative, low-budget storytelling combine to make an undeniably compelling story. But Death of a President spends more time on minor points, such as establishing that anti-Bush activists have the right to protest, than carry its future history into thought-provoking areas. The Bush-bashing themes prove too modest to justify the tastelessness of the enterprise. -- Holman

THE DEPARTED 4 stars (R) In this exciting, almost insanely intricate crime thriller set in Boston, Leonardo Dicaprio plays an undercover cop trying to ingratiate himself with an Irish mobster (Jack Nicholson), who has a mole in the police force passing as a high-level cop (Matt Damon). Nicholson oversells his naughty-Jack shtick and Vera Farmiga fails to engage our interest in the psychiatrist attracted to both undercover ops in this remake of the superb Hong Kong flick Infernal Affairs. But in his best film since Goodfellas, director Martin Scorsese makes an invigorating return to form that doesn't let the grand thematic gestures spoil the guilty pleasures of suspense scenes, rock soundtracks and profane repartee. -- Holman

FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS 3 stars (R) Director Clint Eastwood reveals the history behind one of the 20th century's most famous images: the Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima. The film suffers from a convoluted flashback structure and spells out its themes about heroism with an unnecessarily heavy hand at the end. However, the battle scenes, reminiscent of Saving Private Ryan, convey the staggering scale of a world war, and the centerpiece story about the "Iwo Jima Marines" and their role in a 1945 bond drive explores some unexpectedly skeptical and complex ideas about selling war to a weary U.S. public. -- Holman

FLICKA 2 stars (PG) Alison Lohman plays Katy, a strong-willed 16-year-old who locates a soulmate in a wild mustang wandering the acres on her family's Wyoming spread. It's refreshing to see an American family on screen that doesn't wallow in dysfunction, but Flicka's emphasis on the humans short-changes the mustang, and there simply aren't enough scenes illustrating the burgeoning bond between Katy and Flicka. The heavy-handed approach to the dramatic plot devices also doesn't help. In moments of despair, you can always count on director Michael Mayer adding some heavy rainstorms to externalize the characters' inner anguish. -- Matt Brunson

THE GRUDGE 2 (PG-13) Sarah Michelle Gellar returns in this sequel to the remake of the Japanese ghost story about a vengeful spirit haunting young people in Tokyo.

THE GUARDIAN 2 stars (PG-13) In this pale imitation of An Officer and a Gentleman, Kevin Costner plays a Coast Guard Rescue Swimmer instructor whose tough-love approach to training works wonders for the young recruits; Ashton Kutcher is a narcissistic pretty-boy student more interested in making a name for himself and romancing the local cutie than in actually saving lives. For a long while, The Guardian wears its clichés pretty well, but because this is a Kevin Costner film -- and because Costner spends more time playing mythic, larger-than-life Christ figures instead of ordinary mortals -- we sense this can only end one way, and the filmmakers deliver a shameless ending. -- Brunson

THE ILLUSIONIST 4 stars (PG-13) In this twisty, arresting drama set in early 20th-century Vienna, Edward Norton plays a Houdini-style magician obsessed with the fiancé (Jessica Biel) of the sadistic crown prince (Rufus Sewell). Some of the period-piece details prove a little unsteady, but overall writer-director Neil Burger spins a clever, compelling yarn that appreciates the power of stage magic to both seize attention and confound expectations. -- Holman

IMAX THEATER Deep Sea (NR) Get an up-close-and-personal look at sea turtles, giant octopi and other strange and colorful marine life in this visit to the ocean floor. Greece: Secrets of the Past (NR) This documentary explores the archaeological secrets of ancient Greece and features the Parthenon in its original glory as well as the volcanic eruption that buried the island of Santorini. Fernbank Museum of Natural History IMAX Theater, 767 Clifton Road. 404-929-6300.

JACKASS NUMBER TWO (R) Johnny Knoxville and his self-destructive buddies re-up for more mortifying pranks and kamikaze stunts.

JET LI'S FEARLESS (PG-13) Billed as the final martial arts film from the high-flying Jet Li, this chop-sockey historical epic promises spectacular period details and gravity-defying fight scenes.

KEEPING MUM 3 stars (R) The darkish British comedyKeeping Mum is cinema as cozy as an afghan or a nice cuppa tea -- something comforting but not exactly life-sustaining. Cut-glass highbrow beauty Kristin Scott Thomas slums through the yuks as the sexually frustrated wife of a village minister (Rowan Atkinson), but her attempt at an affair with an oily American golf pro (Patrick Swayze) is violently frowned upon by her new housekeeper (Maggie Smith), a dear old Mary Poppins-type with a homicidal secret. -- Feaster

THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND 3 stars (R) Based on Giles Foden's novel, this thriller imagines 1970s Ugandan dictator Idi Amin (Forrest Whitaker) appointing a naive Scottish doctor as his personal doctor. As their relationship develops, Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy) also becomes Amin's political confidante, witnessing his growing paranoia and murderous reign firsthand. The film begins as a rousing study of Amin's charismatic, outsize personality amid a black power and folk music-infected Africa. But it soon descends into a kind of Halloween-goes-African, an absurd white man's nightmare as Garrigan finds himself trapped in the baroque horrors of Amin's Uganda. Though there is implausibility galore and a disturbing use of Africa as the source of both the white world's fantasies and fear, Whitaker rises above the often exploitive material to deliver a performance of astounding humanity that brings the viewer into the dark, divided heart of the dictator. -- Feaster

LITTLE CHILDREN 4 stars (R) One of the rare films that improves on a novel, Todd Field's film adaptation of Tom Perrotta's (Election) snarky social comedy has real tenderness for and insight into its characters despite their myriad problems ranging from selfishness and porn-addiction to antisocial sexual urges. Kate Winslet and Patrick Wilson are the married parents of young children who meet on the playground and soon tumble into bed in a leafy Massachusetts suburb where adultery is just a way of momentarily escaping deeper anxieties. -- Feaster

LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE 3 stars (R) When a bubbly 7-year-old (Abigail Breslin) aspires to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant, her quirky relatives (including Greg Kinnear as a failed motivational speaker and Steve Carell as a suicidal Proust scholar) take a road trip across country. Not since National Lampoon's Vacation has such a Whitman's Sampler of freaks crammed into a car. This feather-light film proves the increasing mainstreaming of independent film. -- Feaster

MAN OF THE YEAR (PG-13) Writer-director Barry Levinson imagines what would happen if an outspoken and compassionate comedian (Robin Williams) became president of the United States. It's a decent premise for a piercing satire, but Levinson's approach is so timid that it makes last spring's soggy American Dreamz look as incendiary as a Michael Moore documentary by comparison. Williams delivers the same lazy performance we almost always get, with the actor groveling for laughs via his patented physical shtick and repertoire of stale jokes that were already passé around the time Roman emperors began chucking Christian standup comics to the lions. -- Brunson

MARIE ANTOINETTE 3 stars (PG-13) Eighteenth-century Versailles meets high school in Sofia Coppola's girly-girl take on France's most famous teenage queen. Kirsten Dunst is pearly perfection as the Austrian babe traded to the French as the wife to future King of France XVI (Jason Schwartzman), who prefers his hunting pals to making babies with Marie A. Coppola has never failed to let her cool-girl flag fly, and her injection of '80s pop tunes and California attitude into the 18th century royal court is often a gas. However, it's not enough to cover for Marie A's distinct lack of an inner life or some compelling take on this famous female rebel. -- Feaster

THE MARINE (PG-13) WWE wrestler John Cena makes his film debut as John Triton (which, frankly, makes a better wrestler name), a Marine who returns from the Iraq War only to see more combat stateside when his wife his kidnapped by an evil gang.

THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993) 4 stars (PG) The skeletal lord of Halloween gets a case of Christmas spirit and decides to replace Santa Claus, with chaotic results, in this stop-motion animated musical produced by Tim Burton. With more big laughs and fewer downbeat Danny Elfman songs, it could be a genuine classic. As is, it offers such visual delights that nearly every frame qualifies as a work of art. Re-released in 3-D IMAX. -- Holman

ONE NIGHT WITH THE KING (PG) This retelling of the biblical story of Esther, who rises from slavery to become advisor to a king, includes supporting performances from Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif and John Rhys-Davies.

OPEN SEASON (PG) A sheltered grizzly bear (voiced by Martin Lawrence) and a gabby mule deer (Ashton Kutcher) become unlikely allies in the wilderness. The presence of former Replacements singer-songwriter Paul Westerberg providing the film's music helps set it apart from this year's herd of mammal-based computer-animated films (The Wild, Over the Hedge, Barnyard, etc.).

THE PRESTIGE 4 stars (PG-13) Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman play rival Victorian-era stage magicians in an enchanting, intricate period piece. Director Christopher Nolan (Memento, Batman Begins) raises the suspense and emotional stakes of Christopher Priest's seemingly unfilmable novel, which features fascinating behind-the-scenes details of an illusionist's craft as well as the eternal tension between showmanship and technical perfectionism. The Prestige provides plenty of razzle-dazzle and clever construction that will reward a second viewing, even if the ambiguous ending prompts arguments about how they did it. -- Holman

THE QUEENM 4 stars (PG-13) Helen Mirren is enthralling as the emotionally flummoxed Queen Elizabeth II who finds herself stuck in the middle of royal protocol and modernization when former princess Diana dies. The grieving British masses demand a public funeral, but the monarch resists and chipper new Prime Minister Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) steps in to run interference. An often hilarious portrait of the bizarre WASP rituals of the royals and the media blitzkrieg surrounding Diana's death, Stephen Frears exceptionally enjoyable tragicomedy is a tour de force all around. -- Felicia Feaster

RUNNING WITH SCISSORS 2 stars (R) In this A-list adaptation of Augusten Burroughs' bestselling memoir, an unbalanced mother (Annette Bening) dumps her loving teenage son (Joseph Cross) at the squalid home of her psychiatrist (Brian Cox) and his loopy family. "Nip/Tuck" creator and first-time director Ryan Murphy gets the film's suburban "Me Decade" look exactly right while completely missing the book's deadpan sense of humor and relying on the soundtrack music for the film's emotional heavy lifting. Bening certainly acts her heart out, but her efforts are virtually for naught, since we pretty much know everything about her character from the moment we set eyes on her. -- Holman

SAW III (R) Like watching the leaves turn color and fall, the release of a new Saw film in late October has become an annual autumn tradition. In the third installment, directed by Darren Lynn Bousman, serial killer Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) introduces an apprentice to his dismembering mind games.

THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP 2 stars An aspiring artist (Gael García Bernal) finds his attraction to his next-door-neighbor (Charlotte Gainsbourg) complicated by his increasing difficulty in distinguishing his dreams from reality. French director Michel Gondry revisits similar themes from his Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind but the wild, surreal visuals never hold together as elegantly as in the previous film. Sleep nevertheless offers many lovely, memorable sequences, many involving stop-motion animation, that convey the messy, bric-a-brac of dreams and the circular nature of our obsessions. -- Holman

SHORTBUS 2 stars (NR) Beware directors who say they're going to make the definitive sex movie. With only the exceptional Hedwig and the Angry Inch under his belt, John Cameron Mitchell feels it's time to tackle porno-quality sex married to an actual art-house story. The explicit sex is frank all right -- much of it placed front and center in the film's introduction -- but is tied to a corny, shallow story about sexy New Yorkers who are having a hard time in bed. Sex therapist Sofia (Sook-Yin Lee) is unable to achieve orgasm and former hustler James (Paul Dawson) is unable to deeply connect to the man he loves. Mitchell suggests post-Sept. 11 angst is to blame, but cardboard characters and dialogue out of a '60s encounter session may be the real problem. -- Feaster

THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE BEGINNING So how did Leatherface get such, uh, a leathery face? Find out in this prequel to the Chainsaw franchise of sequels and remakes, featuring Full Metal Jacket's R. Lee Ermey as evil sheriff father.


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  • Re: Fresh air

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

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