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Short subjectives

Capsule reviews of films by CL critics

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Opening Friday
BROTHERHOOD OF THE WOLF (R) This French horror/action-adventure/martial-arts/romance/period piece puts more on its plate than it can digest, but it provides a feast for movie fans. A naturalist and his Native-American sidekick investigate wolf attacks in the French countryside, encountering conniving noblemen and a tarot-reading courtesan (Malena's Monica Belucci). Convoluted, top-heavy and too long, the film still has thrilling fight scenes and piles on one voluptuous pleasure after another: Swordfights! Nudity! Monsters! Baroque decorations! --Curt Holman

CHARLOTTE GRAY (PG-13) A well-intentioned but largely ineffective romance, this vehicle for Cate Blanchett stars the ubiquitous Aussie as a principled, patriotic Scotswoman who becomes a spy in Occupied France during WWII. While Australian director Gillian Armstrong may aspire to present a feminist heroine, the film's obsession with Charlotte's romantic entanglements makes this endeavor feel conventional. --Felicia Feaster

ORANGE COUNTY (PG-13) Lawrence Kasdan's son Jake directs Tom Hanks' son Colin in a comedy about an ambitious high-schooler who panics when Stanford University rejects his application. The cast includes Jon Lithgow, Lily Tomlin and Shallow Hal's Jack Black, who fuels the comic relief for the inevitable road trip.

VA SAVOIR (PG-13) Legendary 73-year-old French director Jacques Rivette presents a romantic roundelay among a group of theater people and other Parisian sophisticates. At two-and-a-half hours, this soft-spoken comedy isn't exactly riveting, but it makes wise observations about the conflicts of the heart and features thoughtful actors, especially Jeanne Balibar as a neurotic thespian. As it progresses, the script takes increasingly melodramatic turns, until it begins to resemble a stage play. Why? As the title translates, "who knows?" --CH

Duly Noted
ANNA WUNDER In this bittersweet coming-of-age story, the 12-year-old title character struggles to care for her neglected little brother and her alcoholic mother. Introduced by director Ulla Wagner. New Films From Germany, co-sponsored by the Goethe-Institut Atlanta. Jan. 11 at 8 p.m., Rich Auditorium, Woodruff Arts Center. $5.

GHOST WORLD 1/2 (R) Terry Zwigoff follows his documentary on cartoonist R. Crumb with a sharp feature based on Daniel Clowes' comic book serial about hip best friends (Thora Birch and Scarlet Johansson) who drift apart after high school. The film hilariously shows young people faced with the insipid mediocrity of consumer culture vs. the loneliness of personal authenticity, embodied by Steve Buscemi as a hapless record collector. The kind of film David Lynch or Woody Allen should be trying to make, Ghost World draws ideal performances from its leads while refusing to offer easy solutions to their dilemma. GSU's cinefest, Jan. 4-10. --CH

JAY & SILENT BOB STRIKE BACK (R) Kevin Smith provides a light-hearted coda to his "New Jersey" trilogy of films with this low brow, cameo-heavy road movie that boasts some hilarious spoofs on classic and current films. The foul-mouthed Laurel & Hardy team of Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Smith himself) offers a few gay jokes too many, but if the film isn't as good as Pee Wee's Big Adventure, it's at least better than Beavis & Butt-Head Do America.GSU's cinefest, Jan 4-10. --CH

MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL They're Knights of the Round Table. They dance whene'er they're able. They do routines and chorus scenes with footwork impecc-able. It's a busy life in Camelot. They sing from the diaphragm a lot. (This re-release boasts a whopping "24 seconds" of hitherto unseen footage.) GSU's cinefest, Jan. 11-18. --CH

A NIGHT OF SHORTS The Atlanta Screenwriters Group presents the premiere screening of four short films from its members -- "The Last Day in November", "e-date", "I Love You..." and "The Walkers" -- as well as two trailers for upcoming features. Jan. 9 at 8 p.m., The Fountainhead Lounge, 485 Flat Shoals Ave.

THE RECKLESS MOMENT Remade as The Deep End with Tilda Swinton, Max Ophul's suspense film finds Joan Bennett as a mother being blackmailed by a suave cad (James Mason), who begins to fall in love with his victim. Films at the High, The Incomparable James Mason film series, Jan. 12 at 8 p.m., Rich Auditorium, Woodruff Arts Center. $5.

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
ALI (PG-13) Director Michael Mann focuses on a single, tumultuous decade in the life of Muhammad 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

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