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Short Subjectives May 16 2007

Capsule reviews of recently reviewed movies

Opening Friday

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AFTER THE WEDDING 3 stars (R) One of this year's Oscar nominees for Best Foreign Language film, this Danish drama depicts a schoolteacher in India (Casino Royale's bad guy Mads Mikkelsen) who returns to his native Denmark to woo a potential philanthropist and discovers family ties he didn't know he had at a wedding. Thanks to the cast's realistic responses to some melodramatic plot points and Susanne Bier's energetic storytelling, After the Wedding combines fish-out-of-water humor and heated family conflicts without feeling like a Danish soap opera. -- Curt Holman

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FAY GRIM 1 star (NR) See review.

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SHREK THE THIRD (PG) This third installment of the DreamWorks animated series finds everyone's favorite ogre, Shrek (voiced by Mike Myers), and his lady friend, Princess Fiona (Cameron Diaz), reluctantly ruling over the land of "Far, Far Away." New voice cast includes Justin Timberlake and Amy Sedaris. (For a review, visit atlanta.creativeloafing.com and click on Flicks.)

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Duly Noted

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DREAMING LHASA A young Tibetan woman's trip to New York to make a film about the Tibetan diaspora becomes one of self-discovery in this film directed by Tenzing Sonam. Film Festival of India. Fri., May 18, 8 p.m. Woodruff Arts Center, Rich Theatre, 1280 Peachtree St. $4-$5. 404-733-4570. www.high.org.

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JOYEUX NOËL (NR) (2005) Writer/director Christian Carion based his film on the true stories of the 1914 World War I ceasefire along the front lines that occurred on Christmas Eve. In German with subtitles. Wed., May 23, 7 p.m. Goethe Zentrum, 1197 Peachtree St. $3-$4. 404-892-2388. www.german-institute.org.

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OMKARA Contemporary adaptation of Shakespeare's Othello, set in an Indian village. Film Festival of India. Sat., May 19, 8 p.m. Woodruff Arts Center, Rich Theatre, 1280 Peachtree St. $4-$5. 404-733-4570. www.high.org.

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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. Midnight Fri. at Lefont Plaza Theatre and Sat. at Peachtree Cinema & Games, Norcross.

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Continuing

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28 WEEKS LATER 3 stars (R) Following the outbreak of the "rage" virus in Danny Boyle's 28 Days Later that turned most of the population of mainland Britain into crazed berserkers, this sequel takes up after the crisis has passed — or so it seems. Director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo may surpass Boyle's ability to craft jittery, unnerving thrill scenes, but the script's harsh anti-U.S. sensibility relies on plot points too nonsensical to be easily ignored in the film's last half-hour. -- Holman

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AIR GUITAR NATION 4 stars (R) Hilariously irreverent, this documentary from director Alexandra Lipsitz follows two extremely gregarious, animated New York competitors at the U.S. Air Guitar competition as they travel to the birthplace of all air guitar, Oulu, Finland — home of an international championship where invisible ax-playing is taken very seriously. A silly, very entertaining exploration of an obscure art form with some of the goofy charm of one of Christopher Guest's best mockumentaries. -- Felicia Feaster

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AQUA TEEN HUNGER FORCE COLON MOVIE FILM FOR THEATERS 2 stars (R) A bickering milkshake, meatball and box of french fries become embroiled in a power struggle over a piece of exercise equipment that might destroy the world. That said, the plot is pretty much beside the point, and it's a blind leap to assume there even IS a point. This big-screen adaptation of "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" shows heroic integrity by staying true to the surreal gags and aggressive nonsequiturs of Adult Swim, and makes practically no concessions to the uninitiated or nonstoned. The Mooninites (feisty aliens with deadpan voices and Atari-era animation) remain hilarious creations, but trying to stretch out the humor of a 12-minute "Aqua Teen" episode to the length of a feature film feels like trying to make a full meal out of vending-machine snack food. -- Holman

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ARE WE DONE YET? 2 stars (PG) In this modern interpretation of the 1948 postwar classic Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House family man Nick Persons (Ice Cube) moves from a city apartment to a drool-worthy country mansion but finds himself and his house wrapped around the finger of an outlandish local contractor (a genuinely uproarious John C. McGinley). The laughs are few and far between, though Ice Cube's scowl and introverted, impacted emotions come in handy in expressing homeowner building angst. -- Feaster

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AWAY FROM HER 5 stars (PG-13) An exceptionally accomplished and thoughtful directorial debut feature from the actress Sarah Polley. An absolutely luminous Julie Christie delivers one of the best performances of her career as a Canadian woman suffering from Alzheimer's Disease, who along with her husband (Gordon Pinsent) makes the difficult decision to enter a nursing home. What happens after she does is unpredictable, emotionally harrowing and an incredibly moving statement about marriage, old age, death and dying. -- Feaster

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BAMAKO (NR) The contemporary story of an African couple in Mali's capital city, Bamako, told against the backdrop of intense public political proceedings. Written and directed by Abderrahmane Sissako.

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BLACK BOOK 4 stars (R) In The Netherlands in 1944, a Jewish fugitive (Carice van Houten) turns femme fatale as an anti-Nazi resistance fighter, only to discover that things aren't as black-and-white as it seems. Dutch director Paul Verhoeven returns to his homeland after making such lurid, visceral Hollywood product as Basic Instinct, with results that can be both thrilling and ridiculously melodramatic. Instead of coming across as a caricature of femininity, Van Houten's star-making performance always feel credible and anchors the film despite its borderline-ludicrous plot twists. -- Holman

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BLADES OF GLORY 3 stars (PG-13) Two figure skaters (fey Jon Heder, swaggering Will Ferrell) attempt to put aside their bitter rivalry and become the first man-on-man ice-skating team. Ferrell's typical comedies let the funny outfits do half the work, but Blades of Glory improves on the formula with stranger, snappier dialogue, a wonderfully bizarre vision of professional skating and an ability to tweak gay panic without resorting to actual homophobia. -- Holman

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BOY CULTURE (NR) A successful Seattle-based male escort describes his tangled relationships with his two roommates and an older male client.

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THE CONDEMNED (R) Stone Cold Steve Austin stars in this action thriller about a man on death row in a Central American prison who is purchased by a wealthy businessman and sent to a remote island where he and nine of the world's most infamous murderers must fight to be the last man left alive. Directed by Scott Wiper.

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DELTA FARCE (PG-13) Starring Blue Collar Comics Larry the Cable Guy and Bill Engvall, the film follows three inept Iraq-bound soldiers who are accidently dropped in Mexico. Hilarity ensues. Directed by C.B. Harding.

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DISTURBIA 3 stars (PG-13) A likable but troubled teen (Shia LaBeouf) under house arrest turns self-appointed neighborhood watch and suspects the guy next door (David Morse) of being a murderer. Director D.J. Caruso proves interested in the voyeuristic POV shots of the premise, at least as a technical exercise, and LaBeouf and Morse lend snap to their roles. -- Holman

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THE EX (PG-13) Jesse Peretz directed this comedy starring Zach Braff and Amanda Peet as newlyweds. When Sophia (Peet) decides that the family should return to Ohio so she can be a stay-at-home mom and Tom can work for her father, life as a new family unit gets a bit more complicated when an old flame of Sophia's (Jason Bateman) threatens to break up their love nest.

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FRACTURE (R) Crime thriller starring Anthony Hopkins as a meticulous engineer accused of murdering his adulterous wife. Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson) plays the district attorney in charge of bringing him to justice. Directed by Gregory Hoblit (Hart's War) and co-stars David Strathairn.

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GEORGIA RULE 2 stars (R) See review.

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GRINDHOUSE 3 stars (R) Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez team up for a self-contained double feature that pays homage to sleazy exploitation films of the 1970s and the seedy cinemas that screened them. Rodriguez's zombie spoof Planet Terror goes almost exclusively for juvenile gross-outs, although Rose McGowan creates an iconic character as a go-go dancer turned zombie killer who's like a cross between Wonder Woman and the Bride of Frankenstein. Tarantino takes Death Proof more seriously by affectionately introducing the strong, likeable female characters (including Rosario Dawson and stuntwoman Zoe Bell as herself) stalked by a psycho stunt driver (Kurt Russell). Apart from Death Proof's breathtaking final car chase, Grindhouse's most appealing qualities are its hilarious fake movie trailers and its evocation of the scratchy prints and missing reels of old film prints. -- Holman

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THE HIP-HOP PROJECT 2 stars (PG-13) The goal of the New York City organization Art Start's Hip Hop Project, to help kids express their anxieties and difficult lives through writing and performing hip-hop is undeniably powerful. But this documentary about that unique group, led by former street kid and hip hop artist Chris "Kazi" Rolle is an inadequate, disappointing treatment of that mission. Directors Matt Ruskin and Scott K. Rosenberg's film is unfocused, poorly structured and in the end, far less inspiring than it should be. -- Feaster

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THE HOAX 4 stars (R) Lasse Hallstrom's (Chocolat, The Cider House Rules) rollicking adaptation of the true tale of literary charlatan Clifford Irving who sold a faked biography of reclusive nut and billionaire Howard Hughes to his publisher McGraw-Hill is a tale of deception for our times with a marvelously cagey and charismatic lead performance by Richard Gere. -- Feaster

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HOME OF THE BRAVE (R) Directed by Irwin Winkler, this war drama stars Samuel L. Jackson and Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson as returning Iraq War veterans adjusting to life back at home.

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HOT FUZZ 3 stars (R) A London supercop (co-writer Simon Pegg) finds himself transferred to a seemingly crime-free English village, which turns out to be far more dangerous than it seems. Pegg and director/co-writer Edgar Wright satirize action-movie clichés with the same blend of affection and adrenaline that they brought to their zombie romantic comedy Shaun of the Dead. Pegg and Wright pen an air-tight screenplay, charged with the vocabulary of Hollywood shoot-em-ups (tight close-ups and booming sound effects can accompany the most mundane actions). Partnered again with Nick Frost as a bumbling police officer, Pegg and Wright display a sense of humor that should be registered as a lethal weapon. To hear an exclusive podcast interview with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, visit atlanta.creativeloafing.com and click on Flicks. -- Holman

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I THINK I LOVE MY WIFE 2 stars (R) 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 Hurricane on the Bayou (NR) Shot before and after the unprecedented devastation of Hurricane Katrina by director Greg MacGillivray, this documentary brings into focus the startling loss of Louisiana's rapidly disappearing coastal wetlands that are New Orleans' first line of defense against deadly storms. Starring Meryl Streep, Allen Toussaint II and Tab Benoit. Wired to Win: Surviving the Tour de France(NR) explores the minds of cyclists training for the Tour de France and studies the effects of the race on their brain. Fernbank Museum of Natural History IMAX Theater, 767 Clifton Road. 404-929-6300. www.fernbank.edu.

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INTO GREAT SILENCE (NR) This documentary from German filmmaker Philip Gröning chronicles the day to day lives of the monks who inhabit the Grande Chartreuse monastery in the French Alps. Gröning filmed the documentary without a crew or lighting, while he attended daily prayers, rituals and tasks. The result is a film that embodies the very monastery in which it is set.

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THE INVISIBLE (PG-13) High school teenager Nick (Justin Chatwin) becomes trapped in a kind of limbo between the living and dead after being mistaken for someone else and attacked by a disturbed girl (Margarita Levieva). Supernatural thriller from David S. Goyer features Marcia Gay Harden.

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KICKIN' IT OLD SCHOOL (PG-13) After a freak break-dancing accident, Justin Schumacher (Jamie Kennedy) is left in a coma for 20 years. He wakes up to discover that break dancing is still alive — and kickin' — and tries to pop, lock and drop his way back to the top.

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KILLER OF SHEEP 5 stars (NR) Since its release in 1977, director Charles Burnett's heartbreakingly somber portrait of the emotional divide between a depressed slaughterhouse worker Stan (Henry G. Sanders) and his beautiful wife in the inner-city neighborhood of Watts in Los Angeles still has the ability to seduce with its poetic beauty. An intimate snapshot of little boys playing in the city's vacant lots and the joking, warm intimacy between neighbors, Burnett's films is reminiscent of the observational storytelling of the Italian neorealists. Few films have treated everyday African-American life with such lyricism and tenderness and this film, made when Burnett was a film student at UCLA, has deservedly become an independent film legend. -- Feaster

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LUCKY YOU (PG-13) Set in Las Vegas' high stakes poker world, Huck Cheever (Eric Bana) struggles with personal challenges (including a complicated relationship with his father, poker legend L.C. Cheever, played by Robert Duvall) while trying to win the World Poker Championship and the heart of Billie Offer (Drew Barrymore). From director Curtis Hanson (8 Mile, Wonder Boys).

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MEET THE ROBINSONS (G) A 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 2 stars (PG-13) Mira Nair's (Monsoon Wedding) latest foray into cross-cultural ennui is a bit of a disappointment. When her adaptation of Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Jhumpa Lahiri's novel is focused on recent newlyweds Ashima (Tabu) and Ashoke (Irfan Khan) as they make the difficult immigrant's journey from bright, warm Calcutta to grim Queens in the '70s the film succeeds beautifully. But when Nair's attention turns to their dour teenage hatchling Gogol (Kal Penn) in this epic family drama of cultural collision between the old world and the new, the film loses some energy. Gogol's bratty angst just doesn't carry the emotional gravitas of his parents' loneliness and yearning and every time the attention is on the younger generation's problems the film suffers. -- Feaster

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NEXT (PG-13) Cris Johnson (Nicholas Cage) is able to see a few minutes into the future — a gift that sometimes causes him more trouble than it's worth. Sick of being treated like a science project by the government, he flees to Las Vegas to see if he can make something out of always knowing what comes next. Julianne Moore and Jessica Biel also star. Directed by Lee Tamahori.

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PATHFINDER (R) A young Norse boy who becomes stranded when his Viking ship is wrecked off the East Coast of North America grows up among the Native Americans only to defend the tribe against the Vikings who came to destroy them. Action-adventure is directed by Marcus Nispel and stars Karl Urban.

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PERFECT STRANGER 1 star (R) Without big names Bruce Willis and Halle Berry, this stupidly serpentine sex thriller with an unbearably hackneyed twist ending would have been direct-to-cable fare. Like soft-core Nancy Drew, Berry is a maverick reporter who decides to use her sleuthing expertise, sex appeal and the help of a computer genius colleague (a wasted Giovanni Ribisi) to go after an advertising bigwig (Bruce Willis) she believes is behind a friend's gruesome murder. Very little seems plausible or even especially entertaining in this crass, throwaway thriller from the wildly uneven James Foley (At Close Range, Two Bits). -- Feaster

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THE REAPING (R) Hilary Swank plays a former Christian missionary who lost her faith after her family was tragically killed, and has since become a world-renowned expert in disproving religious phenomena. But when she investigates a small Louisiana town that is suffering from what appear to be the biblical plagues, she realizes that science cannot explain what is happening and she must regain her faith to combat the dark forces threatening the community. Directed by Stephen Hopkins (The Life and Death of Peter Sellers).

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THE SALON (PG-13) Mark Brown, screenwriter for Barbershop, wrote and directed this film about a beauty salon that also functions as a neighborhood's unofficial town hall. Stars Vivica A. Fox and Kym Whitley.

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SHOOTER 2 stars (R) 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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SPIDER-MAN 3 4 stars (PG-13) In the third and most entertaining of director Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy, the darker impulses of normally sunny superhero Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) take over thanks in part to an alien parasite that provides him with a black costume and a bad attitude. Awkwardly paced and top-heavy with new characters, Spider-Man 3 nevertheless keeps the conflicts rooted in character while improving on the spectacular special effects of the earlier films. If it's a little tiresome to see girlfriend Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) constantly in peril, the creativity and excitement of freaky, poignant villains like the Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) take up the slack in Raimi's web. -- 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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VACANCY (R) Director Nimród Antal's horror film stars Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale as a couple forced to spend the night in a roadside motel after their car breaks down. After finding hidden cameras in the room and a terrifying snuff film playing on the VCR, they realize they must escape before they become the stars ­-- and victims — of a real-life horror flick.

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WAITRESS (PG-13) From writer/director Adrienne Shelly comes this romantic comedy about a smalltown waitress (Keri Russell) who is pregnant with her abusive husband's (Jeremy Sisto) baby and finds love with the new doctor (Nathan Fillion) in town. Co-stars Cheryl Hines.

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YEAR OF THE DOG 4 stars (PG-13) Screenwriter Mike White's (School of Rock) directorial debut is a gingerly misanthropic anti-chick flick about a woman, Peggy (Molly Shannon) crazy for dogs who goes through a radical life change when her beloved beagle, Pencil, dies. Defying every expectation about where such stories are "supposed" to go, this deadpan comedy and wonderfully openhearted film is a small triumph of go-it's-own-way indie cinema. Shannon is a revelation playing an utterly idiosyncratic and lovable woman who sees life very differently from the people around her. -- Feaster



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