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Short Subjectives March 28 2007

Capsule reviews of recently reviewed movies

Opening Friday

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AVENUE MONTAIGNE See review.

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BLADES OF GLORY (PG-13) 3 stars. See review.

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THE LOOKOUT (R) Drama directed by Scott Frank (Academy Award-nominated screenwriter for Out of Sight) follows Chris Pratt (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a once-promising high school athlete who becomes mentally impaired after a tragic accident. After finding work as a janitor, Chris becomes part of a heist at a bank that employs him. Co-stars Jeff Daniels (The Squid and the Whale) and Isla Fisher (Wedding Crashers).

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MEET THE ROBINSONS (G) Schoolboy inventor travels to the future and meets a lovably eccentric family. This computer-animated family flick is based on A Day With Wilbur Robinson by William Joyce, whose playfully retro children's books inspired the kid's shows "Rolie Polie Olie" and "George Shrinks," not to mention the cool designs of Robots.

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THE NAMESAKE See review.

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THE PAGE TURNER (NR) A former piano prodigy (Deborah Francois) becomes a page turner for the concert pianist who ruined her chances as a child in this revenge drama directed by Denis Dercourt.

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OPENING WEDNESDAY, April 4

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FIREHOUSE DOG (PG) A pampered Hollywood pooch gets separated from his owner and ends up as the mascot of a hapless fire station where he helps a 12-year-old boy (Josh Hutcherson) and his fire-chief dad turn the station into the city's finest. Directed by Todd Holland.

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OPENING THURSDAY, April 5

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THE REAPING (R) A former Christian missionary (Hilary Swank) turned world-renowned expert in disproving religious phenomena becomes baffled by Biblical plagues in a small Louisiana town in a thriller directed by Stephen Hopkins (The Life and Death of Peter Sellers).

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Duly Noted

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BON COP, BAD COP (2006) Eric Canuel directed this comedy about two mismatched police officers — one an uptight, English-speaking, by-the-book cop from Ontario, the other a rule-breaking, French-speaking cowboy from Quebec. The duo is forced to work together on a hockey-related murder investigation after a body is found splayed over a billboard bordering the two provinces. In English and French with subtitles. Celebrating Francophonie. March 29, 8 p.m. Woodruff Arts Center, Rich Theatre. 1280 Peachtree St. $7. 404-733-4570. www.high.org.

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CRIES AND WHISPERS (1972) Ingmar Bergman's classic family drama set in the late 1800s explores the sibling rivalry among three sisters. In Swedish with subtitles. March 28, 8 p.m., Emory University, White Hall 205, Dowman Drive. 404-727-6761. www.filmstudies.emory.edu.

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IRIS (2001) Fact-based drama of the lifelong romance between novelist Iris Murdoch (Dame Judi Dench) and her husband, John Bayley (Jim Broadbent), from their college days through her battle with Alzheimer's disease. Followed by a lecture from Allan Levey, M.D., Ph.D., Director of Emory University's Center for Neurodegenerative Disease and Alzheimer's Disease Center and part of the Atlanta-based Center for Behavioral Neuroscience. April 3, 6:45 p.m. Fernbank Museum of Natural History, 767 Clifton Road. Free. 404-929-6400. www.fernbank.edu.

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THE RETURN OF THE VAMPIRE (1943) The Silver Scream Spookshow presents this knockoff of Dracula, starring Bela Lugosi as a vampire stalking war-torn London with a werewolf assistant. March 31, 1 and 9:30 p.m. Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce De Leon Ave., $6-$10. 404-873-1939. www.plazaatlanta.com.

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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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Continuing

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300 (R) 4 stars. In 480 B.C., 300 Spartan warriors stand against an army of hundreds of thousands in an ultraviolent action epic that makes the Hercules and Conan movies look like flailing slap-fights. Like Sin City, it's based on a macho graphic novel by Frank Miller and all the backgrounds are computer-generated; unlike Sin City, the painterly images don't overwhelm the emotional investment of such actors as Gerard Butler and Lena Headey as Sparta's king and queen. If it plays like the biggest Army recruiting commercial ever made (particularly given that the bad guys are Iranians — I mean, Persians), 300 nevertheless conquers its own overwrought tendencies to offer a thrilling, larger-than-life spectacle. — Curt Holman

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AMAZING GRACE (PG) 3 stars. Director Michael Apted (49 Up) examines the attempts of British reformers in Parliament led by William Wilberforce (Ioan Gruffudd) to end the Empire's slave trade toward the end of the 18th century. While Apted's own attempts to quicken the film's extended storyline spanning nearly two decades by using flashbacks falls a bit short, the compelling subject matter and Gruffudd's earnest performance are engaging enough. Veteran British actors Albert Finney and Michael Gambon lend a capable hand in supporting roles, with Finney playing a repentant slave-ship captain who eventually penned the famous gospel song of the movie's title. — David Lee Simmons

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BEHIND THE MASK: THE RISE OF LESLIE VERNON (R) This mockumentary satirizes slasher flicks by depicting a film crew who follows a young psycho with ambitions of becoming the next Jason Voorhees or Michael Myers. Robert Englund, who played Freddie Krueger, turns up as the wannabe serial killer's concerned psychiatrist.

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BLACK SNAKE MOAN (R) 1 star. Director Craig Brewer (Hustle & Flow) returns to his favorite romantic triangle: a soulful black man, a white slut and the music that unites them. Samuel L. Jackson is a blues-playing farmer with a broken heart who decides he can heal the town slut (Christina Ricci) of her wanton ways (brought on by childhood sexual abuse) by chaining her to a radiator in her underwear. Both too stupid and too intent on the final-hour redemption of its cartoonish characters to qualify as camp, this lame homage to '70s drive-in movies and Southern gothic feels more like the scenario for a Dixie-themed blue movie. — Felicia Feaster

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BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA (PG) 4 stars. Though the trailers for this children's story suggest two middle-schoolers (in touching performances from Josh Hutcherson and AnnaSophia Robb) lost in their own private Narnia or Middle Earth, the melancholy but lovely effect of this film is more Finding Neverland. Deeply progressive by most kid's-film measures, Bridge features two protagonists who challenge the usual boy/girl stereotypes and really conveys both the exquisite heights of imagination children achieve, as well as how crushing loss looks through their eyes. — Feaster

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COLOR ME KUBRICK (NR) 3 stars. Director Stanley Kubrick's former assistant director Brian Cook and personal assistant Anthony Frewin directed and wrote this diverting bit of comic nuttiness about the real-life con man Alan Conway who copped free meals and sex with gay men while masquerading as Kubrick during the late Nineties. The principal reason to see this farcical treatment of a Six Degrees of Separation scenario is John Malkovich, who is utterly daffy as Conway. — Feaster

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THE DEAD GIRL (R) 3 stars. A gothic murder story told from a woman's point of view, the five vignettes in Karen Moncrieff's (Blue Car) grim indie follow people whose lives are touched before and after the brutal murder of a prostitute. Alt-cinema heavyweights like Mary Beth Hurt, Marcia Gay Harden and Toni Collette along with Moncrieff's thoughtful examination of a strain of violence in women's lives give this dark drama some emotional weight that excuses some of her melodramatic heavy-handedness. — Feaster

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DEAD SILENCE (R) A newlywed (Ryan Kwanten) investigates the deat of his wife after they moved to a haunted small town in this thriller directed by James Wan.

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GHOST RIDER (PG-13) 2 stars. Is it possible that writer/director Mark Steven Johnson had never even read a Ghost Rider comic book before making the big-screen version? The original Johnny Blaze wasn't a joke-a-second character; he was more somber, as one would expect from a biker who sold his soul to the devil (to save a loved one's life) and then found himself living under a curse that transformed him into a flaming-skull creature whenever in the presence of evil. Of course, when you hire Nicolas Cage to star in your movie, it's safe to assume that camp was what was intended all along. On the plus side, the special effects are pretty cool, and it was inspired to cast Peter Fonda as Mephistopheles (Easy Rider, meet Ghost Rider). Otherwise, this is yet another comic-book adaptation that goes up in flames before our very eyes. — Brunson

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THE HILLS HAVE EYES 2 (R) What started with the Carter family clearly didn't end with the Carter family in the sequel to the remake directed by Martin Weisz. Co-stars Michael McMillan and Jessica Stroup.

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THE HOST (R) 4 stars. A dysfunctional family bands together when an amphibious mutant in Seoul's sewers kidnaps a young girl as a midnight snack. Reinvigorating the long-neglected giant-monster genre, The Host negotiates some dizzying mood swings, from horror flick to broad political satire (aimed primarily at America) to family drama occasionally reminiscent of Little Miss Sunshine. The film mirrors South Korean anxieties without stinting on superbly-staged sequences with its freaky, rampaging creature. — Holman

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I THINK I LOVE MY WIFE (R) 2 stars. A bland comic remake of French director Eric Rohmer's Chloe in the Afternoon starring, written and directed by Chris Rock about a Manhattan banker with a perfect home life in the suburbs, children and a pretty wife who nevertheless lusts for a sexpot (Kerry Washington) who tempts him away from home and hearth. Nothing new in the marital angst genre in this unsatisfying, mostly unfunny, oddly bitter translation of Rock's standup comedy to film. — Feaster

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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 archeological 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. www.fernbank.edu.

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THE LAST MIMZY (PG) Directed by Robert Shaye and based on the sci-fi short story by Lewis Padgett, Mimzy tells the story of two children who discover a mysterious box containing strange devices they think are toys. The "toys" begin to teach the children extraordinary things, and soon the family learns the "toys" are part high-tech electronics, part organic and contain important secret messages about the future.

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THE LIVES OF OTHERS (R) 4 stars. Director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's film is a cautionary tale, offering a possible window into our own future for its message about the life-sapping potential of a government that puts power above its human citizens. An Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language Film, The Lives of Others follows an East Berlin secret policeman or "Stasi" as he has his first twinge of guilt over a life spent spying on and subsequently destroying the lives of his fellow Germans. When ordered to spy on a playwright and his girlfriend, Capt. Gerd Wiesler (Ulrich Mühe) begins to feel affection and sympathy for them. — Feaster

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MUSIC AND LYRICS (PG-13) 3 stars. A has-been 1980s pop star (Hugh Grant) gets a chance to jump-start his career if he can write a new song, so he enlists a quirky amateur (Drew Barrymore) to come up with the words. After a shaky start, Music and Lyrics turns into a surprisingly smart and pleasant romantic comedy that persistently avoids the genre's cliched complications. Grant proves reliably amusing and Barrymore has never been more charming, and their relationship credibly unfolds against a backdrop of the forced intimacy of a creative partnership, as well as the strains of the music industry's pressure to artistic compromise. — Holman

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NORBIT 2 stars. There's a reason makeup artist Rick Baker owns six Academy Awards, and it can be seen in his latest collaboration with Eddie Murphy. Baker (The Nutty Professor) had a hand in the designs Murphy dons in his latest comedy, and as usual, his efforts elicit gasps of admiration. Also worthy of (guarded) praise is Murphy himself, who once again is able to create a deft comic persona. That would be the title character, a mild-mannered nerd who ends up marrying a frightening, 300-pound behemoth named Rasputia (also Murphy). Like the geek Murphy played in Bowfinger, Norbit is a likable man whose rotten luck and sweet demeanor earn our sympathies. What doesn't engender goodwill is the rest of the film, which is mean-spirited to its core. — Brunson

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NOTES ON A SCANDAL (R) 4 stars. From Patrick Marber's script and Zoe Heller's novel, Richard Eye's film begins as an engrossing thriller about the parasitic relationship between a beautiful, bourgeois inner-city London schoolteacher (Cate Blanchett) and the older dominatrix schoolmarm (Judi Dench) who develops an unhealthy fascination with her colleague's indiscretions and supple flesh. But its initially thrilling knee-deep cynicism soon mutates into a blatantly misogynist, homophobic portrait of Dench's hellbent crone, a turnaround which makes it into a very guilty pleasure indeed. — Feaster

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OLD JOY (NR) 5 stars. In Kelly Reichardt's exquisite, heartfelt, cerebral buddy film, two aging slackers, one (Daniel London) expecting his first child, and the other (musician Will Oldham) still drifting, meet up for a weekend camping trip that becomes a melancholy examination of their flagging friendship and a changed world, where connection and communication have been replaced by isolation and dashed dreams. — Feaster

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PAN'S LABYRINTH (R) 4 stars. Mexican director Guillermo del Toro's gothic fairy tale concerns a little girl (Ivana Baquero) who escapes the violence of the adult world in prolonged fantasies of descent into a magical underworld overseen by an enormous talking faun, Pan. Del Toro (Hellboy), supported by an excellent cast of female actresses, delivers an achingly beautiful parable about the willful desire of children to imagine an alternative reality. — Feaster

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PREMONITION (PG-13) 3 stars. Sandra Bullock plays a housewife who begins doubting her sanity after his husband's death when she experiences her days out of sequence. Reminiscent of the premises of both Memento and Groundhog Day, director Mennan Yapo's supernatural thriller intrigues the audience with Bill Kelly's reasonably clever script instead of horror-house jolts. — Holman

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PRIDE (PG) Sunu Gonera's fact-based film follows inner-city Philadelphia swim coach Jim Ellis' (Terrence Howard) fight to build a swim team in one of Philly's toughest neighborhoods in the 1970s. Driven by his love of competitive swimming, Ellis refurbishes an abandoned recreational pool with the help of its custodian Elston (Bernie Mac). Recruiting teens from the streets, Jim struggles to transform a motley team of novices into capable swimmers — all in time for the upcoming state championships.

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REIGN OVER ME (R) 2 stars. Don Cheadle plays a bored, disrespected dentist who learns to enjoy life again when he renews his friendship with his college roommate (Adam Sandler), who's become an immature, unstable recluse following his family's death on Sept. 11. As in Punch-Drunk Love, Sandler proves he can convey a stillness on screen that serves him well as a dramatic actor, and he's well-paired with Cheadle's sympathetic, understated performance. While writer-director Mike Binder (The Upside of Anger) brings some unexpected complexity to the situation, a subplot about an obsessed patient (Saffron Burroughs) trivializes mental illness, while the use of pop songs to provide emotional texture proves particularly heavy-handed. — Holman

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RENO 911!: MIAMI (R) 4 stars. In this made-for-film version of Comedy Central's hit show "Reno 911," the extremely dysfunctional police force heads down to Miami for a national police convention (that they were mistakenly invited to) and ends up "policing" the entire city as a bio-terrorism threat keeps all of the other officers detained. — Noah Gardenswartz

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SHOOTER (R) 2 stars. Playing a sniper with a testosterone-dripping name of Bob Lee Swagger, Mark Wahlberg follows up his Best Supporting Actor nomination for The Departed with a dumber "political" action film. His covert military sniper gets coaxed from retirement to avert an assassination, only to be framed and become the target of a national manhunt. The script convincingly portrays the nuts-and-bolts details of marksmanship, and Training Day director Antoine Fuqua can stage a competent action scene, but the film relies on so many clichés that you can cherry-pick your pet peeves (like a Southern school teacher apparently unable to speak proper English), and the film's "patriotic" philosophy seems to boil down to vengeful anarchy. ­-- Holman

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TMNT (PG) After the defeat of their old archenemy Shredder, the Turtles have grown apart as a family. Struggling to keep them together, their rat sensei Splinter becomes worried when strange things begin to brew in New York City. Directed by Kevin Munroe; voice cast includes Kevin Smith and Sarah Michelle Gellar.

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VOLVER (R) 5 stars. Pedro Almodóvar balances intense feeling and giddy silliness without sacrificing humanity or heart in his tale of a devoted mother, played by an intoxicating Penélope Cruz, who finds herself disposing of a dead husband, running an illegal restaurant and fending off her mother's ghost. Blending elements of Italian neorealist cinema, classic Hollywood melodramas such as Mildred Pierce and outrageous wit, Volver is an earthy, heartfelt pleasure from top to bottom. — Feaster

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WILD HOGS (PG-13) 1 star. Simple-minded comedy has the audacity to reference Deliverance in one scene, yet the only folks who'll be squealing like a pig are the ones who fork over 10 bucks, only to find themselves royally screwed after enduring its inanities. Four Cincinnati bunglers (John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macy), decide to embark on a midlife-crisis road trip to the West Coast. The "gay panic" humor is so rampant that it's reasonable to wonder if cast and crew wrapped each shooting day by beating up a homosexual off-screen. — Brunson

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ZODIAC (R) 4 stars. As if refuting his own overly stylish, dramatically thin serial killer film Se7en, director David Fincher focuses on the institutional weaknesses and moral ambiguities in his procedural thriller about the pursuit of California's notorious "Zodiac" murderer. Mark Ruffalo's police inspector wrestles with the challenges of building a case, while Jake Gyllenhaal's newspaper cartoonist becomes increasingly obsessed when the killer remains at large for years. Fincher doesn't stint on disturbing, visceral crime scenes, but also makes Zodiac one of the rare serial killer films that, instead of almost glorifying mass murderers as supervillains, weighs in with insights as to how such criminals seize the public and private imagination. — Holman



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