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Short Subjectives

Capsule reviews of films by CL critics

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Opening Friday
CHARLIE'S ANGELS (PG-13) On the theory that velocity is a substitute for quality, music video director McG zips through a series of sketches that were apparently more fun to shoot than they are to watch. Angels Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore and Lucy Liu find time between costume changes and dance numbers to solve the case of kidnapped techno-mogul Sam Rockwell. As their giggling constitutes a laugh track, I was reminded more of "The Carol Burnett Show" than the original "Charlie's Angels." Bill Murray is good as Bosley, the eunuch in their harem. -- SW

THE LEGEND OF BAGGER VANCE (PG-13) 1/2 A mysterious, Zen-talking caddy (Will Smith) helps a haunted WWI vet (Matt Damon) in a mythic 1930s golf tournament. As prettily shot and self-consciously archetypal as Robert Redford's starring vehicle The Natural, the film strains to make the central golf match into an allegory for life itself but ultimately proves just a tribute to the sport as a pastime for privileged whites. -- CH

RAN (R) Akira Kurosawa's visceral adaptation of King Lear concerns a 16th-century Japanese warlord who has bequeathed his kingdom to his three sons, only to watch them enter into violent combat and deception to gain more power. The film, filled with gorgeously stylized, gory battle scenes and sexual/political intrigue galore confirms auteur Kurosawa's storytelling power and visual finesse, as well as his belief in human frailty and a society that perversely chooses pain and violence over contentment. -- FF

Duly Noted
BIG THIEVES, LITTLE THIEVES Based on the Italian comedy, Big Deal on Madonna Street, the satirical heist flick is about four financially deprived Venezuelans who plan to rob a bank. Once the robbery is put into action, the would-be thieves soon discover that the bank vault has already been cleaned out by robbers. The foursome must now get out of one sticky situation. Director Alejandro Saderman's 1998 film is in Spanish with subtitles. Films at the High, 2000 Latin-American Film Festival, Nov. 7 at 8 p.m., Rich Auditorium.

THE CAMPAIGN A top executive at a powerful advertising agency launches a massive, controversial publicity campaign to find her young son's killer. The campaign takes on a life of its own with dire consequences for innocent people. The real killer might be closer than she thinks. Director Thomas Bohn's thriller is in German with subtitles. Nov. 1 at 7 p.m., Goethe-Institut Atlanta.

CRANE WORLD In this gritty comedy, Rulo, an overweight and unemployed 1970s one-hit wonder, can't escape his lackluster life, which is burdened by his helpless mother, good-for-nothing son and a string of tough breaks. Things start to look up for him when he lands a job as a crane operator in Buenos Aires and meets a woman at a sandwich shop. The 1999 film is in Spanish with subtitles. Films at the High, 2000 Latin-American Film Festival, Nov. 3 at 8 p.m., Rich Auditorium.

DRACULA A.D. 1/2 and FRANKENSTEIN AND THE MONSTER FROM HELL 1/2 Celebrate the spooky season and salute the fallen House of Hammer with two of the innovative British girls 'n' gore horror studio's most memorable last gasps. Accidental hilarity results when Dracula comes out of retirement, or rather, out of a retirement home, from the decrepit looks of the creaky leads Lee and Cushing, to terrorize swinging '70s London. The studio burns all it's bridges (and most of its standing sets!) in the Apocalyptic last chapter in it's Frankenstein franchise, railing incandescently against the New Wave in scary movies that made lurid pot-boilers like these tragically obsolete. The Hammer Horror Festival, Oct. 27-Nov. 2 at GSU's cinéfest. -- EM

HAMLET (PG-13) An all-star cast is featured in director Kenneth Branagh's four-hour adaptation of the Shakespearean tragedy. The 1996 film uses the full text of the play but moves the action into 19th century Europe. Branagh plays the tragic hero who is cursed with indecision and hesitation in the face of betrayal. Nov. 1 and 4 at 7:30 p.m., 208 White Hall, 480 Kilgo Circle, Emory.

LES ETOILES SECRETS MULTIMEDIA FESTIVAL The multimedia extravaganza features the works of innovative filmmakers, animators, musicians and photographers. Screenings include a DV short and music video by POP Films' Jacob Gentry and David Bruckner and a rockumentary about the Rent Boys by Maria Locke and Peter Steckel. The showcase also features a live DJ performance and works by photographers. Nov. 7 at 8 p.m., Fountainhead Lounge.

MAD MAX The futuristic action movie stars a young Mel Gibson as a bad-ass police officer rumbling with a group of nasty bikers in the violent, lawless Outback. See the uncut Australian version of this 1979 cult classic. Nov. 3-9 at GSU's cinéfest.

ORPHEUS Director Jean Cocteau's 1949 French classic centers on a poet who meets the Princess of Death and becomes obsessed with her, which doesn't sit too well with his wife, Eurydice. The love triangle becomes even more complicated when Eurydice is killed and descends to the Underworld, the realm of the Princess. Celluloid Canvas Series, Nov. 8 at 8 p.m., GSU's cinéfest.

RED PLANET (PG-13) In the new space adventure, Earth is on the verge of death, and a group of American astronauts must travel to Mars to learn if the red planet is suitable for colonization. The mission runs into some unforeseen disasters, forcing the team to reevaluate their beliefs. Proceeds from the preview screening benefits the Captain Planet Foundation. Nov. 2 at 8:30 p.m., GSU's Rialto Center for Performing Arts, 80 Forsyth St.

THE ROAD WARRIOR Max is back in this 1981 sequel to Mad Max. In post-apocalyptic Australia, the disillusioned ex-police officer (Mel Gibson) wonders the land, searching for scarce, invaluable gasoline. On his journey, he comes across a group of people terrorized by bikers who want to take over their refinery. Nov. 3-9 at GSU's cinéfest.

SPEEDY BOYS (NR) An erotic fugue by Athens experimental filmmaker/painter James Herbert, this film of two young Americans, Andy and Carter, engaged in various carnal and intellectual entanglements during a summer in Italy typifies Herbert's intoxication with lush, young, naked bodies as evidence of the sublime. The story is characteristically loose and airy, according to Herbert's modus operandi, filled with vignettes of the boys lolling naked about Carter's painting studio, their apartment, or with various girls in the Italian countryside. Viewers will either fall in love with Herbert's film, reaffirm their faith in his artistic methods or wonder what all the fuss is about. Celluloid Canvas Series, Nov. 4 at 8 p.m., GSU's cinéfest. -- FF

TIME OUT One of the most successful Colombian films, the satirical comedy is about how the 1994 World Cup soccer match between Colombia and Peru impacted the brutal resistance struggle in Colombia. The power of soccer is apparent in director Sergio Cabrera's movie as the guerrillas and army cease fighting in order to watch the game on a single television in the jungle. The 1999 film is in Spanish with subtitles. Films at the High 2000 Latin-American Film Festival, Nov. 4 at 8 p.m., Rich Auditorium.

Continuing
ALMOST FAMOUS (R) 1/2 Jerry Maguire director Cameron Crowe romanticizes his experiences as a 15-year-old Rolling Stone reporter, on tour with a fictional band called Stillwater. The film oversells the puppyish cuteness of leads Kate Hudson and Patrick Fugit but offers a pleasingly nostalgic portrait of a rock writer and the rock industry's loss of innocence, with terrific turns by Billy Crudup, Jason Lee and Philip Seymour Hoffman. -- CH

THE ART OF WAR (R) 1/2 Framed for murder while working on a top-secret UN security force, Wesley Snipes has to clear himself in an overlong but visually dazzling action flick with a reasonably intelligent and pleasantly fanciful script. Director Christian Duguay (TV's Joan of Arc) has no trouble filling a wide screen with some of the most interesting work of any western director in this genre. It's no milestone in the art of cinema, but it offers fair competition to the Mission: Impossible films, with a lot less hype to live up to. -- SW

BAIT (R) Another comic dud for the very funny Jamie Foxx, this is one slow-ass action movie that, even for a comedy, takes too many liberties with time and space. Foxx plays a petty (but sincere) thief who's used by the feds to draw out a killer (played by Doug Hutchison like Frank Gorshin imitating John Malkovich), but the killer's not the only thing that's drawn out. Given a choice of "fish or cut bait," I recommend you cut Bait out of your movie diet. -- SW

BAMBOOZLED (R) 1/2 Spike Lee's vicious, witty satire of a black television executive who concocts a "New Millennial Minstrel Show" to save his troubled network's ratings, is a color-blind comedy of the stereotypes perpetuated by both blacks and whites. Sharp and often laugh-out-loud funny in its first half, Bamboozled loses a little steam in its preachy denouement but remains a must-see fantasy of how the media eventually renders even the most offensive subject matter palatable. -- FF

BEDAZZLED (PG-13) 1/2 A good multiple-personality showcase for Brendan Fraser and, to a lesser extent, Frances O'Connor ("Mansfield Park") also proves that a little of Elizabeth Hurley's Joan Collins-wannabe routine goes a long way. The film fausts--er, foists--a very tired plot on us in a nominal remake of the 1967 Peter Cook/Dudley Moore comedy. Good-hearted but socially inept Fraser sells his soul to the Devil (Hurley) in exchange for seven wishes, which never turn out as he wishes they would. Things turn preachy with a spiritual and a humanist message in addition to the obvious "Be careful what you wish for." -- SW

BEST IN SHOW (PG-13) Mockumentarian Christopher Guest reunites his Waiting for Guffman collaborators (including Eugene Levy, Parker Posey and Catherine O'Hara) for a similar venture about the eccentric participants at a national dog show. A bit disappointingly, Guest and company rely on easy targets (tacky middle Americans and fatuous city dwellers) but also show a surprising affection for canine pageants and their four-legged contestants. -- CH

BILLY ELLIOTT (R) A hybrid of the miserable-English-childhood film and performing-British-nonconformist movies such as The Full Monty, Billy Elliott depicts an 11-year-old coal miner's son (Jamie Bell) who develops an improbable passion for ballet. Some of the self-conscious flourishes (like the soundtrack prominent with T-Rex) can be strange, but it's an endearingly idiosyncratic film that puts some new moves on its "feel-good" premise. -- CH

BLESS THE CHILD (R) 1/2 Though neither intellectually stimulating nor spiritually challenging, this woman-and-child-in-jeopardy flick with a supernatural twist provides a tense couple of hours. Kim Basinger raises her niece Cody for six years, until she's kidnapped by Rufus Sewell's cult that's out to win God's special child for Satan. Cody has special powers but the script is unclear about what they are and under what circumstances she can use them. She may turn up someday in an X-Men sequel, enrolling in Prof. Xavier's school. As usual in these movies, the devil wins the special effects battle but God wins the war. -- SW

BOOK OF SHADOWS: BLAIR WITCH 2 (R) It's brighter, louder, funnier and scarier, but that doesn't mean it doesn't suck. Director Joe Berlinger had a good idea "to make a sequel to the phenomenon, not to the movie," but when, after some Scream-era self-referential cleverness, things start going bump in the night, I doubt it will have much appeal for Blair Witch fans or non-fans. There are so many false alarms, we stop believing anything we see and therefore can't be scared. At first the five new thrill-seekers seem more interesting and less obnoxious than their predecessors, but the curse of the Blair Witch eventually drags them down. -- SW

BRING IT ON (PG-13) 1/2 For a long while it's hard to tell whether this is a seriously comic look at high school cheerleaders or a tongue-in-cheek satire of teen flicks, and by the time it turns relatively serious you'll be caught up in the story and you won't care. Kirsten Dunst leads the all-white San Diego squad and Gabrielle Union is her inner-city counterpart in the face-off at the national finals. Eliza Dushku and Jesse Bradford bring LA attitude and romance to the (California) Southland. -- SW

THE BROKEN HEARTS CLUB (R) A contrived effort to market gay life to a mainstream audience, this fluffy romantic comedy seems to believe shallow, one-dimensional characters and sitcom situations will lure a "Friends" viewership -- in that sense it may achieve the expected results of making its gay characters bland and superficial enough for any taste. Set in the Los Angeles gay enclave of West Hollywood, the film concerns six bosom buddies who are trying to overcome bad habits like promiscuity and self-hatred while they search for love on a competitive, looks-oriented dating scene. -- FF

THE CELL (R) The director of the "Losing My Religion" video offers a psychotropic serial killer thriller in which the mind of a murderer looks like an evening of MTV's "120 Minutes." When Jennifer Lopez makes a mental interface with deranged Vincent D'Onofrio, the film yields plenty of voluptuous, nightmarish images, which ultimately amount to no more than window-dressing to a high-tech knock-off of The Silence of the Lambs. -- CH

THE CONTENDER (R) Rod Lurie's follow-up to the underrated Deterrence lacks the complexity of the best political potboilers and could have been tightened considerably, but the stars deliver for Lurie and he's written them some sharp dialogue. Jeff Bridges earns my vote as the lame-duck president, trying to get his appointee for vice president, Sen. Joan Allen, approved by Congress. Gary Oldman promotes a sex scandal rumor to block her, and she refuses to dignify with a response questions that should never have been asked. The Contender deserves a "D" rating -- Republicans not admitted without a Democratic guardian. -- SW

DANCER IN THE DARK (R) Danish upstart Lars von Trier's latest film continues the director's love of feverish melodrama. Icelandic avant-garde pixie Bjork stars as a Czech immigrant factory worker who is gradually losing her sight but finds escape in the music of her mind as the world crumbles around her. This winner of the Palme d'Or and a Best Female Performance for Bjork at the Cannes Film Festival is a risk-taking marvel sure to divide audiences who will either love or hate it. -- FF

DIGIMON: THE MOVIE (PG) Based on the animated television series, the movie is an attempt by 20th Century Fox to compete with Warner Bros. and its Pokémon films in the anime market. The big-screen version centers on the show's main children characters who, along with the help of the good Digital Monsters, must save the world from a new, diabolical Digimon and its cohorts.

DR. T AND THE WOMEN (R) 1/2 Robert Altman follows up last year's sleeper Cookie's Fortune with another laid-back venture down south, depicting a beloved Dallas OB-GYN (Richard Gere) whose personal and professional life is inundated with women (including Helen Hunt, Farrah Fawcett and Kate Hudson). The film's tone, music and performances couldn't be more agreeable, but it never makes much of a point and tries to convey an appreciation for women while, paradoxically, painting most of them as foolish or flighty. -- CH

DUETS (R) Character actor Bruce Paltrow directs his Oscar-winning daughter Gwyneth in an odd dramedy about three couples on a cross-country collision course at a karaoke contest. The film is never as revealing about "karaoke kulture" as you might expect, but it's probably wise to emphasize the mismatched buddies of burnt-out businessman Paul Giamatti and ex-con Andre Braugher (the only one of the leads who doesn't do own singing). -- CH

THE EXORCIST A longer cut of the head-spinning, soup-spewing 1973 classic includes the restoration of creepy (if unnecessary) scenes and sound effects of supernatural goings-on, as well as more dialogue for Max Von Sydow in the title role. The re-release has undiminished power to horrify, and, more strikingly, offers a telling reminder of how textured and mature the films of the 1970s could be. -- CH

GET CARTER (R) The Italian Stallion is back and seeking vengeance in this remake of the 1971 film. In the new version, Sylvester Stallone's character, Jack Carter, walks a fine line between revenge and redemption after he returns home to attend his brother's funeral. Carter, a loan shark collector, soon discovers that his brother's death wasn't an accident, and he reluctantly teams up with his teenage niece, played by Rachael Leigh Cook (She's All That), to solve the mystery and bring his brother's killers to justice.

GIRLFIGHT (R) This smart, beautifully assured debut film from Karyn Kusama follows Brooklyn mean-streets teen Diana from aimless troublemaker to self-assured boxing diva. Michelle Rodriguez is remarkable in the lead, refusing to cave into the world of girly-girls and he-males but instead defining her identity on her own terms in this clever but never less than wholly entertaining riff on sexual politics. -- FF

IMAX AT FERNBANK ADVENTURES IN WILD CALIFORNIA (NR) It's "California Dreamin'" for the new millennium as IMAX and Everest director Greg MacGillivray pack a lot of extreme sports and environmentalism into 40 unhurried minutes, including sky- and sea-surfing sequences that put Hollywood movie stunts and special effects to shame. You'll see baby otters and bald eagles being prepared by humans for life in the wild and trees that have lived for 3000 years. You'll ride a roller coaster at Disneyland, walk down the red carpet at the Academy Awards and descend 125 feet into a hollow space in an ancient sequoia. -- SW Shows daily at 11 a.m. and 1, 3, 5 and 9 p.m. on Fridays MYSTERIES OF EGYPT Omar Sharif hosts this sensory exploration of the Nile, the Valley of the Kings and modern Egyptian culture. Shows daily at 10 a.m., noon, 2 and 7 p.m. on Fridays DOLPHINS Narrated by Pierce Brosnan, this documentary takes a playful look at the life and times of Atlantic spotted, dusky and bottlenose dolphins. 4 p.m. daily and 10 p.m. on Fridays. Films run from Sept. 5 through Jan. 1 at Fernbank Museum, 767 Clifton Road.

THE LADIES MAN (R) 1/2 If you find Leon Phelps, Tim Meadows' clueless, lisping, stuck-in-the-'70s womanizer, amusing in seven-minute doses on "SNL," you'll enjoy scattered moments of his big-screen adventure, especially an eating competition that puts the "barf" in "bar food." Fired from his late-night talk show, Leon is unaware of a group of angry husbands out to castrate him while a mystery woman from his past wants to support him. I've seen worse movies but few that felt like such a total waste of my time. -- SW

THE LEGEND OF DRUNKEN MASTER (R) Jackie Chan does some of his best fighting, though fewer crazy stunts, in this magnificent mess from 1994 that vaults from broad comedy (Anita Mui doing "I Love Lucy Liu") to intense melodrama, shows off the comic "drunken boxing" style, and bashes the Brits of a century ago for plundering Chinese land and antiquities. It's dubbed in English so you can focus on the action. Sexagenarian director Lau Ka Leung has some fight scenes too, suggesting Chan's career doesn't have to end anytime soon. -- SW

THE LITTLE VAMPIRE (PG) 1/2 In an E.T.-like tale of friendship overcoming fear and prejudice, a lonely, 9-year-old American in Scotland (Jonathan Lipnicki) finds a playmate (Rollo Weeks) from a family of vampires and protects them from a vampire hunter while helping them recover a magic amulet that can restore their mortality. The movie tries to give kids a good scare without it turning into a bad scare, but the chief compromise--the vampires suck cows' blood rather than humans'--won't endear it to vegetarians. -- SW

LOST SOULS (R) It's Win vs. Sin as Winona Ryder takes charge when an exorcist can't stop the devil from possessing the body of Ben Chaplin, a grown-up version of Rosemary's Baby. Played straight, even somberly, without arousing much concern in the viewer, the plot is familiar -- especially when Stigmata, End of Days, Bless the Child and the original Exorcist have opened since its scheduled release date -- but until it turns sillier than necessary near the end it isn't as bad as its year on the shelf would indicate. Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski directs with more emphasis on fancy camerawork than special effects. -- SW

LOVING JEZEBEL (R) 1/2 It's hard to tell if Theodorous Melville (Hill Harper, who's like Spike Lee, only boring) is bragging or complaining when he tells us, "I've spent a lifetime loving other men's women." It's harder to care as he reviews his sexual history from his first-grade crush to his current affair with a woman whose husband is trying to kill him. Debuting writer/director Kwyn Bader has turned out a good-looking film on a budget. It's refreshingly color-blind with race a non-issue, but the script is neither as funny nor as moving as it's obviously intended to be. -- SW

LUCKY NUMBERS (R) 1/2 In a bittersweet comedy about undeserving people fighting over a fortune, John Travolta both uses and spoofs his smarmy charm as a Harrisburg celebrity who turns to strip club owner (Tim Roth) for financial counseling when his house and Jaguar are repossessed. He's advised to rig the state lottery for the $6.4-million prize, and does so with the help of "Lottoball Girl" (Lisa Kudrow), a foulmouthed slut. The film ambles instead of galloping, but Adam Resnick's screenplay has an appealing sense of place and low-key, throwaway gags that upset the rhythm but are the best thing about the movie. -- SW

MEET THE PARENTS (PG-13) 1/2 This movie is banal, moronic, plodding and predictable. Starring Ben Stiller and Robert De Niro, the film is intended to appeal to those enamored of director Jay Roach's previous Austin Powers flicks and no doubt it will. For those fortunate enough to have missed the latter, ask yourself whether a family being splashed with the muck from an overflowing septic tank is your kind of humor? -- RJ

THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (PG) Even if it failed to ring my Christmas bells or break through to my inner child in 1993, for generations of children, this could be their first cult film while it also rewards adults who approach fantasy films with a childlike sense of wonder. Technically, Tim Burton's film delights with its visual detail (with nods to Addams and Gorey) and the fluidity of its stop-motion animation. The story of Jack Skellington's multicultural experiment, combining the worlds of Christmas and Halloween, is brightened by Danny Elfman's score, but as for his unmelodic and unmemorable songs -- bah, humbug! -- SW

NURSE BETTY (R) 1/2 In the Company of Men's Neil LaBute swaps his trademark nihilism for an improbably sentimental comedy, with mixed results. A trauma convinces a Kansas waitress (Renee Zellweger) that her favorite soap opera is real, leading to amusing misunderstandings worthy of Being There, but also too much of David Lynch's small-town condescension and Tarantino style ironic violence. Morgan Freeman's scary but quixotic hitman stands out among an appealing ensemble. -- CH

NUTTY PROFESSOR II: THE KLUMPS (PG-13) Eddie Murphy adds to the shortage of African-American movie roles by playing half the cast in the frantic, sporadically funny follow-up. Rotund Sherman Klump remains Murphy's most endearing comic creation, but the story's sci-fi conceits are more contrived, while the coarse jokes prove more cruel and scattershot. -- CH

THE ORIGINAL KINGS OF COMEDY (R) Seeing four comedians best known for their work on WB and ABC's "TGIF" sitcoms might sound unpromising, but Spike Lee effectively captures the excitement and hilarity of history's highest grossing comedy concert. Dapper Steve Harvey, D.L. Hughley, Cedric "The Entertainer" and Bernie Mac offer a profane, uninhibited evening, with Hughley offering the most cathartic and pointed riffs on America's racial differences. -- CH

PAY IT FORWARD (PG-13) A crass, manipulative tearjerker aimed at the knee-caps of the Oprah crowd, Mimi Leder's tiny tot social-issue melodrama features The Sixth Sense's waif Haley Joel Osment as an 11-year-old inspired by his new teacher (Kevin Spacey) to go out and change the world by performing good deeds. Osment starts at home, where he tries to fix up his boozer mom with his straight-laced teacher. -- FF

PLACE VENDOME A lonely woman (Catherine Deneuve) finds passion for life after she discovers the hidden truth about her dead husband's respectable jewelry shop in this 1998 French thriller. Set in France's trendy Place Vendeme, the movie follows Marrianna as she becomes reinvigorated by the secrets she uncovers.

REMEMBER THE TITANS (PG) Producer Jerry Bruckheimer's films tend to be as slick as TV ads, but this depiction of a newly integrated high school football team's victories on the field and off plays more like a public service announcement on steroids. Glossy and shamelessly manipulative, it's nevertheless involving in spite of itself, with Denzel Washington leading an agreeable cast of young actors. Filmed in Atlanta. -- CH

THE REPLACEMENTS (PG-13) 1/2 As predictable as any movie this year and just about as entertaining, this comic recycling of the formula about a bunch of misfits and losers learning to work together to win stars Keanu Reeves as the quarterback of a team of scab football players hired during a strike. Their winning ways develop along with Reeves' romance with cheerleader Brooke Langton. Any Given Sunday raised the bar for big-screen football action and The Replacements returns it to an acceptable but hardly thrilling level. Reeves' stunt double sees plenty of action as the masochistic Falco takes the hits and never cries "Whoa!" -- SW

SAVING GRACE (R) In the small, English seaside region of Cornwall, everyone knows everyone else's business, except, of course, their own. A garden-variety homemaker, Grace (Brenda Bleythn) is the last to learn of her late husband's infidelity which, as it turns out, is the least of her problems. It seems the old bastard went and died broke, as well. Post-menopausal and without any marketable skills, she has only the gift of her green thumb. Grace has only a short period of time to come up with more than 300,000 pounds, but when Michael (Craig Ferguson of "The Drew Carey Show"), Grace's loyal gardener, asks her to nurse his wilted marijuana plants back to health, she begins to think outside of the box. -- KL

SPACE COWBOYS (PG-13) I don't know how much charm weighs but in Space Cowboys it's measured by the ton. Directed by Clint Eastwood, the film's about a pride of old lions, Eastwood, James Garner, Donald Sutherland and Tommie Lee Jones, called upon to repair an obsolete Russian satellite about to fall out of orbit. Its heroes may be too old for teenagers to identify with but for boomers, it's a hoot. It's predictable in many ways but it contains genuine tension, belly laughs and human warmth. Go see it. -- RJ

TWO FAMILY HOUSE (R) A cross between a lost episode of "The Honeymooners" and "The Sopranos" without the Mafia, Raymond De Felitta's comedy-drama provides a little nostalgia (1956) and a lot of heart. Michael Rispoli stars as a dreamer whose wife (Katherine Narducci) puts him down until he finds a woman (Kelly Macdonald) who's more encouraging, but she's the tenant he's trying to evict so he can turn a house into a bar. Once it becomes obvious where the film's heading, it takes a bit too long to get there, but it's smooth sailing for the viewer all the way. -- SW

URBAN LEGENDS: FINAL CUT (R) Alfred Hitchcock is invoked countless times to no avail in John Ottman's sequel to the campus cut-up saga. This time it's film students who are being murdered, in between shooting murder scenes for their thesis films. It's confusing, occasionally amusing, but never frightening, suspenseful or surprising (you know the dude who says "Fuck George Lucas!" is gonna die). That it's no worse than the original is hardly praise. -- SW

URBANIA (R) Not to be confused with the Urban Legends slasher flicks, Urbania is a dark journey into the psyche of Charlie (Dan Futterman), a haunted man struggling to come to terms with his sexuality and past. Through flashbacks, the movie shows how urban legends have affected his life.

THE WATCHER (R) Keanu Reeves and James Spader wage psychological warfare in this thriller about a serial killer and the FBI agent who loves to chase him. Reeves stars as the clever psychopath who tempts Spader out of retirement and back into his career-long and macabre obsession of discovering who the next victim will be.

WHAT LIES BENEATH (PG-13) 1/2 After 1 3/4 hours of routine filmmaking, a lengthy, largely terrifying climax tells you whether you've been watching a ghost story or a domestic drama. Directed by Robert Zemeckis with standard shocks and excellent photographic effects, it showcases Michelle Pfeiffer as Claire, who forms an outwardly perfect couple with Norman (Harrison Ford). But Claire has been seeing -- or thinks she's been seeing -- a ghost. Which is in greater danger, their marriage or one or both of their lives? This is a fair-to-middlin' tale of a fair-to-middle-aged couple and whatever comes between them -- or brings them together. -- SW

THE YARDS (R) 1/2 Mark Wahlberg is the trusting, decent ex-con who returns from a prison stint to find himself knee-deep in the dirty dealings of his uncle's business, a corrupt subway manufacturing dynasty located in a particularly dismal section of Queens. Director James Gray has a knack for moody atmosphere and establishing a sense of place, but his story has many hard-to-ignore gaps in logic and never gives its fine cast of actors enough of a story to sink their teeth into. -- FF

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