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Capsule reviews of films by CL critics


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40 DAYS AND 40 NIGHTS (R) For Josh Hartnett delivers a surprisingly adept comic turn as a web page designer who abstains from all sexual pleasures to forget about his icy girlfriend. A few modest laughs and an imaginative sex scene can be found amid the usual condom/Viagra/erection gags, but the film goes limp during the disappointing climax (no puns intended) .--MB

GOSFORD PARK (R) As close to a masterpiece as this year in movies has seen, Gosford Park invests a familiar upstairs-downstairs theme of the upper and servant classes of English country life with a degree of compassion and sensitivity that proves director Robert Altman has something human lurking beneath his patented misanthropy. --FF

HARRISON'S FLOWERS (R) Following on the heels of No Man's Land comes this hard-hitting drama that doesn't shy away from showing the atrocities committed under the tag of "ethnic cleansing." When a photojournalist (David Strathairn) is presumed dead in Yugoslavia's civilwar, his wife (Andie MacDowell) enters the fray herself. The film may not match the wallop of The Killing Fields, but writer-director Elie Chouraqui keeps things as real as possible.--MB

HART'S WAR (R) Despite top billing, Bruce Willis is a supporting character to Colin Farrell's Lt. Hart, defending an African-American officer accused of murdering a racist G.I. in a Nazi P.O.W. camp. This well-made drama has its share of high-minded themes, which are initially subtle but ultimately written across a billboard that's toppled onto the audience's heads.--MB

ICE AGE (PG) Ray Romano's sensible woolly mammoth, Denis Leary's duplicitous saber-toothed tiger and John Leguizamo's imbecilic sloth are unique enough for us to pardon the pedestrian plot of this computer-animated film that's like Disney's Dinosaur without the mountainous sentimentality. The prehistoric squirrel Scrat is such a character that you're sorry every time he leaves the screen.-- MB

IMAX Majestic White Horses (Not Rated) The pomp, history and legend of the famous Lipizzan horses of Austria and the Spanish Riding School of Vienna gets the really big screen treatment. Through May 23. Kilimanjaro: To the Roof of Africa (Not Rated) Everest director David Breashears' latest IMAX documentary follows an expedition through five distinct climate zones to the top of Africa's highest point. Through September 20. Fernbank Museum of Natural History IMAX Theater, 767 Clifton Road.

IN THE BEDROOM (R) A thoughtful, admirable, first-director effort from actor Todd Field (Eyes Wide Shut), this story of how two chilly, noncommunicative 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. -- FF

IRIS (R) The marriage of late British novelist Iris Murdoch and her husband John Bayley is shown from two points of their life together, with Kate Winslet playing the aspiring author when young and ambitious, and Judi Dench the elderly writer has she succumbs to Alzheimer's. Hugh Bonneville and Golden Globe-winner Jim Broadbent play the meek, owlish spouse, and through their eyes the film provides a rich and fittingly incomplete perspective on Murdoch herself, while rarely stooping to disease movie clichés.--CH

ITALIAN FOR BEGINNERS (R) Despite their pretentious gestures, Denmark's Dogma 95 films continue to be engaging and lively. Lone Scherfig directs a shaggy romantic comedy set in a small Danish town, where the lonely denizens find unexpected companionship at a night class in Italian. If the story weren't so nimble and fast-paced it could trip over its coincidences, or get ensnared by the pain and cruelty in the shadows, but instead it stays hopeful and charming. --Curt Holman

KISSING JESSICA STEIN (R) The misadventures of a singleton in the city gets a gimmicky reworking in this film about a New York journalist and a Chelsea art chick who, tired of the lameoid men around, decide to date each other. Some clever writing by stars and screenwriters Jennifer Westfeldt and Heather Juergensen can't dispel the sense that this is just a calculated reworking of a hackneyed suffering-single formula.--FF

LAST ORDERS (R) Graham Swift's Booker Prize-winning novel provides a drab, borderline-banal story but also proves a showcase for British actors, including Bob Hoskins, Helen Mirren and Michael Caine as a charming butcher whose death both unites and divides the friends and family who survive him. Writer-director Fred Schipisi crafts a too-familiar flashback conceit, but he's blessed by his ensemble, which turns a potentially dreary subject into a touching meditation on death, duty and friendship. --CH

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