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Short Subjectives June 21 2006

Capsule reviews of recently released movies

Opening Friday

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· CLICK (PG-13) Adam Sandler plays an overworked family man who gets a "universal remote" that can pause, fast-forward and otherwise manage his entire life. Kate Beckinsale, Christopher Walken, Sean Astin and David Hasselhoff co-star.

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· THE LOST CITY 1 star. (R) A counter to the recent burst of Che-chic, this interminable exercise in grandiose male angst features Cuban actor Andy Garcia starring and directing. His lifeless Godfather-style epic and occasional love story (in which the woman is a beautiful, vacant object bounced this way and that according to the story's needs) is set in the pre-Castro '50s. It features Garcia as a son of the Havana aristocracy and owner of the El Tropico nightclub who sees his family politically divided by the Cuban revolution, and his glittering, sexy world traded for bossy women in fatigues and pompous revolutionaries. Characters speak in ridiculous, canned clichés and the rhythms of the film seem lifted from a range of other period dramas, mostly Coppola's. — Felicia Feaster

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· SKETCHES OF FRANK GEHRY 4 stars. (NR) See review.

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· WORDPLAY 3 stars. (NR) See review.

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Duly Noted

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· BREAKFAST AT TIFFANY'S (1961) (NR) Be prepared to sing along to "Moon River" (and brace yourself for Mickey Rooney's racist Japanese stereotyping) in the adaptation of Truman Capote's classic novella, featuring a star turn from Audrey Hepburn. Screen on the Green. Thurs., June 22, sunset. Piedmont Park Meadow near 10th Street and Monroe Drive. Free. 404-885-4646. www.tcm.com/2006/screenonthegreen/index/.Curt Holman

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· 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. Coca-Cola Summer Film Festival. Mon., June 26, 8 p.m. Fox Theatre, 660 Peachtree St. $8. 404-881-2100. www.foxtheatre.org.Holman

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· DAVE CHAPPELLE'S BLOCK PARTY 4 stars. (R) Dave Chappelle returns from limbo to present this documentary/concert film, which chronicles his attempts to mount an outdoor music extravaganza in Brooklyn. The subdued demeanor he exudes in the movie may surprise fans of Chappelle's frenetic TV show. The music — provided by hip-hop cult figures like Talib Kweli, Dead Prez, the Roots and more — helps to make Block a real party. Through June 29. Cinefest, GSU University Center, Suite 211, 66 Courtland St. $5 ($3 until 5 p.m.). 404-651-3565. www2.gsu.edu/~wwwcft.Carlton Hargro

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· INSIDE MAN 4 stars. (R) Spike Lee's Brian Grazer-produced Hollywood heist film makes a definite break from Lee's provocative, content-rich form, but this cops-and-robbers thriller also isn't without its subtext and subtle critiques. Denzel Washington, in engagingly laid-back mode, is a NYPD detective trying to salvage his tarnished reputation by negotiating with the ice-cold bank robber (Clive Owen) who has 50 hostages and a lot of hard cash in a Wall Street bank. Lee's obvious interest in the bonhomie and friction that characterize NYC's melting pot and the ghosts of Sept. 11 that still linger give a semi-conventional plot line a little more heft. Flicks on Fifth. Wed., June 28, 9 p.m. 5th Street between Spring and Williams streets. 404-894-2805. www.flickson5th.com.Feaster

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· 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.

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· SAMURAI SAGA (1959) (NR) Toshiro Mifune stars in this light-hearted, samurai-style reinterpretation of the tale of Cyrano de Bergerac. Rebel Samurai. Fri., June 23, 8 p.m. Woodruff Arts Center, Rich Theatre, 1280 Peachtree St. Free. 404-733-4570. www.high.org.

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Continuing

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· AKEELAH AND THE BEE (PG) The spate of spelling bee films (Spellbound, Bee Season) continues with this tale of a girl (Keke Palmer) from Los Angeles attempting to compete in the National Spelling Bee. The cast includes What's Love Got To Do With It? co-stars Angela Bassett and Laurence Fishburne.

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· ART SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL 1 star. (R) Hard to believe the man who brought us the heartfelt alienation of the R. Crumb documentary Crumb and the profound teen misanthropy of Ghost World has veered so badly off course in his blandly cynical adaptation of graphic novelist (and Ghost World collaborator) Daniel Clowes's comic. Ostensibly following the growing disillusionment of an art school freshman (Max Minghella) with his conceptual-art centric NYC art school, in truth the film is just a sex-obsessed, wisecracking and out-of-date revisitation of the tone and quality of the crass teen sex comedies of the eighties. — Feaster

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· THE BEAUTY ACADEMY OF KABUL 4 stars. (NR) Liz Mermin's very revealing documentary follows the efforts of a group of volunteer Westerners to open a beauty academy in Kabul to train Afghani women in hair and makeup. The film turns out to be a telling portrait of both the devastated but still amazingly resilient Afghan people, and the essential differences between women living under a shroud of religious fundamentalism and patriarchy and the American women in deep denial about the day-to-day reality of these women's lives. The American stylists are both sincere and giving in their willingness to help the Afghani women better themselves, but also completely delusional about what these women face. That culture clash can lead to situations that are humorous, revealing and aggravating, and only serve to enrich Mermin's project. — Feaster

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· THE BREAK-UP 2 stars. (PG-13) A Chicago slob (Vince Vaughn) and his high-strung girlfriend (Jennifer Aniston) pull the plug on their mismatched relationship but each refuses to vacate their shared condo. Surprisingly, War of the Roses-style hijinks fail to ensue, despite a few amusing scenes from Jon Favreau and Jason Bateman. Vaughn and Aniston gamely attempt to emote beyond their usual big-screen personae, but the film isn't serious enough to be a good drama or funny enough to be a satisfying comedy. — Holman

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· CARS 4 stars. (G) In an alternate America populated by talking, thinking automobiles, a racing rookie (voiced by Owen Wilson) gets waylaid in a dying Route 66 tourist trap and gradually learns to appreciate small-town values. The predictable plot keeps Cars from competing in the class of such computer-animated masterpieces as Finding Nemo, but Pixar's seventh cartoon feature benefits from gorgeous visuals, breezy comedic timing and genuine affection for the roadside attractions and car culture of yesteryear. — Holman

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· THE DA VINCI CODE 2 stars. (PG-13) In Ron Howard's sluggish adaptation of the oft-imitated best seller, Tom Hanks plays a symbolism professor who becomes embroiled in a mystery that reaches back to the Last Supper. The original novel used a secondhand Robert Ludlum plot to link some gossipy bits of religious and art history, but the long, draggy film takes the thin characters too seriously and finds no conspiratorial fun in its overheated content. — Holman

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· THE FALLEN IDOL (1948) Director Carol Reed and novelist Graham Greene (who collaborated one year later for the classic The Third Man) first teamed up for this tale of a diplomat's young son who suspects that the family butler has been wrongfully accused of murder.

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· THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS: TOKYO DRIFT (PG-13) None of the original actors or directors of this racing flick franchise turn up for the third outing, in which Lucas Black and Bow Wow take on Tokyo's underground culture of "drift racing."

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· GARFIELD: A TAIL OF TWO KITTIES (G) Bill Murray again provides the voice of the lasagna-snarfing feline in this sequel, set in the United Kingdom.

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· IMAX THEATER Amazon (NR) This documentary traces the Amazon River from its source in the Andes mountains to the Amazon river basin and captures the beauty of its diverse wildlife. Through Aug. 18. Dolphins (NR): Pierce Brosnan narrates this slick look at dolphins and the bathing-suited scientists who study them. Fernbank Museum of Natural History IMAX Theater, 767 Clifton Road. 404-929-6300. www.fernbank.edu.

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· AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH 4 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. — Holman

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· KEEPING UP WITH THE STEINS (PG) Spy Kids' Daryl Sabara stars in this comedy about a Jewish boy whose Californian Bar Mitzvah becomes an oversized event sponsored by his social-climbing parents (Jami Gertz and "Entourage's" Jeremy Piven).

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· THE LAKE HOUSE 2 stars. (PG-13) Two strangers (Sandra Bullock and Keanu Reeves) who become pen pals come to the startling realization that they're actually corresponding over the years — she's writing and receiving his letters in 2006, he's doing likewise in 2004 — and that the mailbox at the title property serves as the magic portal through which they're able to communicate. The Lake House certainly has its heart in the right place, but the end result doesn't even begin to inspire the requisite level of swoony romance on our parts. Director Alejandro Agresti is more interested in the film's look than its substance, while David Auburn's script is arid and uninvolving. As for the leads, Reeves acquits himself nicely — he's long learned how to take advantage of his scruffy appeal — but Bullock once again plays against her natural charisma by offering a dour, dull characterization. After about 20 minutes, you just wish somebody would tickle her. — Matt Brunson

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· MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III 4 stars. (PG-13) Audiences may not be buying what Tom Cruise is selling anymore, but any desperation in the megastar's performance only ramps up the tension of this terrific action flick. "Alias" creator J.J. Abrams employs seemingly every trick he's learned on five seasons of the spy-chick TV show for this fun, fast-paced thriller, anchored by a superbly villainous turn by Oscar-winner Phillip Seymour Hoffman as a vicious arms dealer. — Holman

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· NACHO LIBRE (PG) 3 stars. See review.

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· THE OMEN 2 stars. (R) The 1976 version of The Omen still holds up after 30 years. That's reason enough to Netflix that baby and skip the flat remake that's currently haunting multiplexes. The devil taking over the world is a terrifying concept, yet here there's so little urgency to the proceedings that you'd think his master plan extended only to prank phone calls to the Vatican and T-P-ing ministers' houses. The new film is mostly faithful to its predecessor — an American ambassador (Liev Schreiber) and his wife (Julia Stiles) learn too late that their adopted son is the Antichrist — but the fact that this produces snickers rather than scares suggests that it might find its niche as a camp outing. — Brunson

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· OVER THE HEDGE 3 stars. (PG) A fast-talking raccoon (voiced by Bruce Willis) cons a surrogate family of woodland creatures into raiding a regimented suburb for junk food. Compared to DreamWorks' other computer-animated cartoon features like Madagascar, Hedge keeps pop references to a minimum and comes up with some highly amusing satire of humanity's culture of consumption. The bathroom humor might be too high for some parents' approval, so consider the film as a Toy Story for grown-ups. It's anti-development themes would be right at home in Gwinnett County. — Holman

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· A PRAIRIE HOME COMPANION 2 stars. (PG-13) "Hee Haw" for the public radio set, renowned director Robert Altman offers a film version of Garrison Keillor's long-running radio show. An array of stars parade across the screen, from Meryl Streep and Lily Tomlin as crooning sisters, to Woody Harrelson and John C. Reilly as dirty-minded cowboys (and Lindsay Lohan thrown in for some teen bait). But Altman, undoubtedly encumbered by a creaky Keillor script that interweaves a film noir element with the imagined demise under the wrecking bar of the "Prairie" show has a hard time translating its homespun, quirky Americana so dependent on the imaginative space of radio to the literalism of film. — Feaster

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· POSEIDON 3 stars. (PG-13) In this remake of 1972's The Poseidon Adventure, a giant wave overturns an ocean liner and a ragtag group of passengers (including Kurt Russell and Josh Lucas) band together to survive. Twice the explosions, twice the bodies and twice the peril does not equal twice the fun, but A Perfect Storm director Wolfgang Peterson still provides thrills by going enthusiastically overboard. — Allison C. Keene

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· 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 a naïve young'un 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. — Holman

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· RUSSIAN DOLLS (NR) The twentysomething leads of L'Auberge Espagnole reunite as jaded adults at the brink of their 30s for this sequel about what it takes to live a successful life.

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· SEE NO EVIL (R) Pro wrestler Kane stars in this violent thriller about a psychotic shut-in who stalks eight petty criminals in an abandoned hotel. Directed by the appropriately named Gregory Dark.

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· THANK YOU FOR SMOKING 4 stars. (R) Aaron Eckhart of In the Company of Men plays Nick Naylor, a proudly unprincipled tobacco lobbyist who tries simultaneously to be a professional liar and a good father. Smoking takes palpable delight at the double-speak of the spin industry - Nick claims that lobbyists like him stick up for "little guys" like loggers, sweatshop owners and land mine developers - and features many hilarious set pieces. As Nick weighs being a good role model to his son (Cameron Bright), the film never cops out by giving him a bogus change of heart, and he takes pride in his lack of integrity. — Holman

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· WAH-WAH (R) English character actor Richard E. Grant writes and directs this semi-autobiographical tale about a boy (Nicholas Hoult) growing up in the twilight of the British Empire in South Africa in 1969. Featuring Gabriel Byrne and Emily Watson.

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· X-MEN: THE LAST STAND 2 stars. (PG-13) The last film in the comic-book trilogy trades former director Bryan Singer's witty approach to despised superheroes for newcomer Brett Ratner's sloppy, overstuffed story. The invention of a "cure" for superpowered mutants leads to a stand-off between the good guys of Professor X (Patrick Stewart) and the tattooed baddies of Magneto (Ian McKellan), and theoretically serves as a potent metaphor for real-world discrimination. Despite some admittedly rousing battle scenes, The Last Stand looks cheap, suffers from too many plot threads and fails to give comic books a good name. — Holman



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