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Short subjectives

Capsule reviews of films by CL critics

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Opening Friday
BIRTHDAY GIRL (R) Nicole Kidman follows the glowing praise for her work in Moulin Rouge and The Others by playing a Russian mail-order bride who arrives at the doorstep of an English bank clerk (Ben Chaplin of The Truth About Cats and Dogs in this romantic dramedy.

A RUMOR OF ANGELS (PG-13) Shameless, unconvincing schmaltz that torpedoes an otherwise worthy theme of honoring the memory of the dead. A grieving, whining 12-year-old (Trevor Morgan) learns Important Life Lessons through the friendship of a crusty Maine widow (Vanessa Redgrave). At first energetically bitchy, Redgrave gets betrayed by a script that turns her into a fuzzy, nurturing caregiver. With grating dialogue and a striking absence of craftsmanship, the movie makes death seem like not such a bad alternative. --Curt Holman

SLACKERS (R) Three college con artists get blackmailed by a geek (Rushmore's Jason Schwartzman) trying to score with women. Schwartzman and Jason Segel of "Freaks & Geeks" may generate good will, but the lazy, derivative title is not a promising sign.

Duly Noted
BUTTERFLY (NR) Jose Luis Cuerda directs this beautiful, devastating film based on stories by Manuel Rivas. The events leading up to the Spanish Civil War are seen through the eyes of a young boy living in a (temporarily) idyllic down in the 1930s. Films at the High, "Spanish Films in the '90s." Feb. 1 at 8 p.m., Rich Auditorium, Woodruff Arts Center. $5.

FRENCH CAN CAN (NR) If you saw Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge you might want to check out this 1955 depiction of the creation of the famous dance from director Jean Renoir (son of the painter). Presented in coordination with the exhibit A Passion For Renoir: Five Great Paintings from the Clark Art Institute. Films at the High, "Close-Up: Jean Renoir." Feb. 2 at 8 p.m., Rich Auditorium, Woodruff Arts Center. $5. --CH

THE NASTY GIRL (PG-13) Lena Stoltze plays a young, small-town woman whose essay "My Hometown in the Third Reich" unexpectedly opens a can of worms in this stylish dark comedy by Michael Verhoeven. Goethe-Institut Atlanta, 1197 Peachtree St., Jan. 30 at 7 p.m., $4 for non-members.

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.

TRAINING DAY 1/2 (R ) As a rookie cop, normally wooden Ethan Hawke raises himself out of a career-long slumber to keep pace with the extraordinary Denzel Washington as a corrupt narcotics officer. The work by both actors keeps us watching even after the movie surrounding them falls apart, and what started out as tantalizingly clouded eventually comes into dreary black and white focus, turning the film into a fairly routine (not to mention contrived) police shoot-'em-up. GSU's cinefest, Feb. 1-7. --Matt Brunson

TUVALU (NR) Viet Helmer's black-and-white, dialogue-free debut film imitates the silent comedies of Chaplin and Keaton in its depiction of a French swimming pool manager keeping his head above water in a crumbling metropolis. Fans of Terry Gilliam and Amelie's Jean-Pierre Jeunet may want to take a look. GSU's cinefest, Jan. 25-31.

WAKING LIFE (PG-13) Richard Linklater's meditation on the meaning of life and the nature of dreams figuratively retraces the structure of his film debut Slacker, randomly following a gabby bunch of characters. Then it literally retraces it, putting painterly animation over the images already filmed. Waking Life alternates between hauntingly surreal moments and trippy but at times tedious lectures on everything from reincarnation to quantum mechanics. GSU's cinefest, Feb. 1-7. --CH

Continuing
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 "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 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. --CH

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. --Felicia Feaster

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