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Short subjectives

Capsule reviews of films by CL critics

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Opening Tuesday
ALI (PG-13) Director Michael Mann focuses on a single, tumultuous decade in the life of Muhammed Ali, from his championship bout against Sonny Liston to his refusal of the U.S. draft to "the Rumble in the Jungle." The film's first hour, placing the prizefighter's life in the context of America's racial and religious unrest, is as stinging and nimble as the boxer himself. A bulked-up Will Smith captures Ali's trash-talking and, more surprisingly, his moments of silent resolve, but neither Smith nor Mann can keep the film's last hour from losing dramatic interest, meticulously re-creating a fight whose outcome we already know. --Curt Holman

IN THE BEDROOM (R) A thoughtful, admirable, first-director effort from actor Todd Field (Eyes Wide Shut), this story of how two chilly, non-communicative Maine WASPS cope with their only son's death has a writerly attention to character, nuance and human behavior. Though Field's representation of his characters' suffering can at times feel a little meta-Bergman and precious, this timely story of grief and the search for revenge has enough application to the current social climate to make it resonate. -- Felicia Feaster

KATE & LEOPOLD 1/2 (PG-13) Meg Ryan, whose ceaseless attempts to remain the pixie queen of frothy romantic comedies are becoming embarrassing, plays Kate, an ambitious sales executive who falls for a 19th century Duke (Hugh Jackman, making another career misstep) transported to present-day New York. After an insufferable first half in which we watch Leopold predictably become perplexed by modern-day gadgets like toasters and telephones, the second half marginally picks up thanks to the pleasing presence of Breckin Meyer as Kate's good-natured brother.--Matt Brunson

THE SHIPPING NEWS 1/2 (R) Lasse Hallstrom's adaptation of E. Annie Proulx's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel is thankfully more in the tradition of the director's low-key What's Eating Gilbert Grape than his unctuous Chocolat. Kevin Spacey stars as a haunted man with a dead wife and a small daughter on his hands who returns to his family home in Newfoundland to start afresh. Hallstrom treats the subject of myriad family dysfunctions with sensitivity, but the historical sweep and plethora of characters eventually prove unmanageable.--FF

Duly Noted
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST (G) The only animated feature ever to be nominated for a Best Picture Academy Award -- and one of the best classic-style musicals of the past 20 years -- Disney's 1991 animated gem gets a polish to fit the scale of a really, really big IMAX screen. Opens Jan. 1, 2002. Mall of Georgia IMAX Theater, I-85 at Buford Drive, Buford.

THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (R) The cult classic of cult classics, the 1975 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 Meatloaf gets killed. Dress as your favorite character and participate in this musical on acid. Fridays at midnight, Lefont Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave., and Saturday at midnight at Blackwell Star Cinema, 3378 Canton Road, Marietta.

Continuing
AMELIE (R) A popular and critical hit in France, this not-to-be-missed sweet-as-pie, stylistic knockout is a dazzling live-action cartoon for grown-ups. The ultra-cute Audrey Tautou is a do-gooding sprite living in a magical Montmartre who dedicates herself to helping others. From Jean-Pierre Jeunet, the director of The City of Lost Children and Delicatessean. -- FF

A BEAUTIFUL MIND 1/2 (PG-13) In an either bold or ignorant move, director Ron Howard may have made the first action-adventure film about schizophrenia. Russell Crowe stars in this story of real life Princeton mathematician John Nash who w on the Nobel Peach Prize, but also suffered from mental illness. Howard allows emotional button- pushing to triumph over character development and insight in this earnest but flat entry in Hollywood's disability canon.--FF

BEHIND ENEMY LINES 1/2 (PG-13) One-note ubiquity Owen Wilson, a head-scratching choice for Hollywood's latest flavor of the month, plays Chris Burnett, a pilot shot down over ravaged, corpse-strewn Bosnia, which the film treats with the sensitivity of a video game. Director John Moore makes his movie debut after helming zippy commercials, so expect lots of choppy splicing of scenes filmed in the grainy style popularized by Saving Private Ryan -- but made dull by the number of hacks who have shamelessly copied it.--MB

BLACK KNIGHT (PG-13) Sort of "A South Central Homeboy in King Arthur's Court," Martin Lawrence goes medieval as a theme park employee zapped back to the 14th century. Lawrence gets mileage of okay jokes like his pseudonym "Sir Skywalker," but he'd do well to emulate Eddie Murphy and go for a quiet laugh every once in a while. Look for Atlanta actor Dikran Tulaine, who has few lines but plenty of screen time, as one of the rebels. --CH

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