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Short subjectives

Capsule reviews of films by CL critics


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THE BOURNE IDENTITY (PG-13) Go director Doug Liman's spy thriller starts well, with amnesiac Matt Damon discovering learning that he's got spy skills and hitmen on his trail. But the film forgets the best plot twists of Robert Ludlum's original novel and falls into a repetitious cycle: Chris Cooper's nasty CIA man yells at underlings, Damon hesitantly romances love interest Franka Potente, and action scenes unfold in a workmanlike manner.--CH

CQ (R) Roman Coppola -- son of Francis Ford -- writes and directs this tale of a 1960s filmmaker (Jeremy Davies) in Paris trying to complete his sttylish sci-fi film. The cast includes Gerard Depardieu, Sofia Coppola and cousin Jason Schwatzman.

THE DANGEROUS LIVES OF ALTAR BOYS (R) In a small Southern town in the 1970s, a pair of Catholic schoolboys (Kieran Culkin and Emile Hirsch) get hard lessons in sex and responsibility. Jodie Foster plays their tyrannical teacher, a one-legged nun who provides the villain for their elaborate comic book fantasies, rendered in fittingly over-the-top animation. But even as the "real world" story goes to extremes, we invest little emotion in the teen heroes, despite their refreshing lack of movie glamour. --CH

DIVINE SECRETS OF THE YA-YA SISTERHOOD (PG-13) Thelma & Louise screenwriter Callie Khouri makes her directorial debut with an equally zeitgeisty melodrama about the dark secret of motherhood in her adaptation of Rebecca Wells' popular novel. The Ya-Yas (Fionnula Flanagan, Maggie Smith, Shirley Knight) are priceless as a trio of salty Southern broads who try to mend the damaged mother-daughter relationship acted out by a typically dull Sandra Bullock and a luminous Ellen Burstyn as her mother. --FF

ENIGMA (R) If the History Channel made feature films, they'd probably resemble this thriller about intrigue in England's code-breaking center during WWII. Dougray Scott plays an ace cryptographer trying to unlock a mystery and Kate Winslet delights in a change-of-pace role as a wallflower turned sleuth. The film shows little interest in the mechanics of the plot but gets enthusiastic over showing how war-time cryptography works, and gets credit for not dumbing things down.--CH

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING EARNEST (PG-13) Actor/director Oliver Parker's badly reheated Oscar Wilde substitutes slapstick physical comedy for the playwright's droll wit and manages to make a mess of a brilliant comedy about Victorian-era hypocrisy amongst the English upper-crust.--FF

INSOMNIA (R) Memento director Christopher Nolan switches from memory loss to sleep deprivation in this smart police thriller about a celebrated detective (Al Pacino) becoming increasingly complicit with a dispassionate murderer (Robin Williams). Pacino and Williams each effectively turn down the volume for their cat-and-mouse games. While most noir films act under cover of darkness, Insomnia takes place in an Alaskan town where the sun literally never sets, providing a supple metaphor for the pangs of conscience.--CH

JUWANNA MANN (PG-13) Miguel A. Nunez plays a disgraced pro basketball star (imagine such a thing!) who passes as a female player in the WNBA. This cross-dressing comedy also features Vivica A. Fox and, no doubt for the height jokes, Lil' Kim.

LILO & STITCH (PG) A fluffy but destructive alien mutation hides from his intergalactic pursuers by passing as the pet of a lonely Hawaiian girl. Imagine the Tasmanian Devil impersonating E.T. and you'll have a sense of the Looney Tunes level of slapstick. The schmaltz gets high enough to surf on, but the characters are appealing and Disney replaces its usual atrocious pop songs with Elvis hits. --CH

MINORITY REPORT (PG-13) A half-century from now, high-tech police can arrest perpetrators before they commit their crimes, and officer Tom Cruise believes in the system until it sets its sights on him. Director Steven Spielberg offers a brilliant extrapolation of future law-enforcement and marketing techniques, which inform many of suspense sequences while inspiring ideas about privacy and guilt. Some jarring shifts in tone (an Indiana Jones-esque fight here, a gross-out sight gag there) hinder the narrative and thematic momentum, and the director's emulation of 1940s film noir results in both highly mannered acting and superbly moody, filtered cinematography.--CH

MR. DEEDS (PG-13) Adam Sandler returns to form -- a form without shape, substance or style -- in this remake of Frank Capra's Mr. Deeds Goes to Town. Expect over-the-ttop beatings, tired slapstick and Sandler's tired naive-but-pure-hearted-idiot routine as he plays a pizza shop owner who gets a $10 billion inheritance and unwittingly becomes the laughing-stock of New York. Maybe the movie will make Winona Ryder realize that if she's going to revive her flagging career, she may have to tackle a serious, meaty, potentially naked role. (See Halle Berry.)--Steve Fennessy

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