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Short Subjectives

Capsule reviews of films by CL critics


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WEST SIDE STORY (NR) (1961) Rocky Horror, it ain't, but the 1961 musical is getting new life on an audience-interactive tour hyping the release of its big-ass special edition DVD. On-screen subtitles let you sing along with classics like "America" and "Somewhere," and costumes are encouraged. Who knew that brutal inner-city gang warfare could be so fun? Screens April 2 at 7 p.m. Lefont Garden Hills Cinema, 2835 Peachtree Road. Free, but advance tickets required. 404-266-2202.--Tray Butler

ABOUT SCHMIDT (R) Jack Nicholson does an about-face in his performance as a smaller-than-life midwestern insurance executive facing multiple crises -- mostly funny ones -- upon retirement. Election director Alexander Payne's critique of American mediocrity can feel snide and elitist, but also has considerable comic invention, from Schmidt's inappropriate letters to an impoverished African boy to Kathy Bates and Dermot Mulroney as the prospective in-laws from hell.--CH

ADAPTATION (R) One of the best and brightest films of the year, this brilliant follow-up to director Spike Jonze and writer Charlie Kaufman's Being John Malkovich follows the self-loathing tribulations of Kaufman (Nicolas Cage) as he struggles to adapt cerebral New Yorker staff writer Susan Orlean's (Meryl Streep) book The Orchid Thief for the screen. An astoundingly inventive exploration of writing's emotional and psychological complexity, the film also goes far deeper than its clever meta-construction to become a tender, lovely glimpse into the search for elusive dreams and desires in all of our lives.--FF

AGENT CODY BANKS (PG) Like Spy Kids hitting puberty, this action comedy stars "Malcolm in the Middle's" Frankie Muniz as a teen superagent trained for every conceivable mission -- except talking to girls. With Hilary Duff and Angie Harmon.

ANTWONE FISHER (PG-13) The screenplay's the story here, and Denzel Washington (in his directorial debut) gets out of its way, letting his actors relate it honestly without gumming it up with show-off stylistics. Antwone Fisher wrote the script, based on his own life story, and he and Washington luck out by having engaging newcomer Derek Luke handle the heavy lifting, playing a troubled sailor whose anti-social behavior brings him into contact with a Navy psychiatrist (Washington) who eventually helps him get to the root of his emotional problems.--MB

BASIC (R) Not even Nostradamus could have predicted every twist in this convoluted thriller, yet in the end, we don't feel fulfilled as much as happy to get out of the auditorium alive. Initially, the intrigue is entertaining, as an ex-Army Ranger (John Travolta) in Panama is tapped to find out what went wrong on a military exercise that led to the death of a reviled sergeant (Samuel L. Jackson). Two witnesses (Brian Van Holt and insufferable Giovanni Ribisi) offer differing accounts, but any hope of a modern-day Rashomon is soon dashed as the movie gets bogged down in a haphazard series of twists, turns, backslides and pirouettes. -- MB

BIKER BOYZ (PG-13) Adapted from a New Times article about African-American motorcycle gangs, though doubtless greenlit because of the success of The Fast and the Furious, this stars Derek Luke (Antwone Fisher) as a young cycle ace who squares off against a veteran racer (Laurence Fishburne). Good performances help us swallow the rampant melodrama -- even Kid Rock, cast as a rival biker, isn't bad -- but ultimately, the picture isn't especially fast or furious, just fleeting.--MB

BLUE COLLAR COMEDY TOUR (PG-13) Jeff Foxworthy offers kind of a white, working class equivalent to The Original Kings of Comedy concert film, headlining in a stand-up show that also features like-minded comics Bill Engvall, Ron White and Larry the Cable Guy.

BOAT TRIP (R) Cuba Gooding Jr. is using his Oscar for Jerry Maguire as a springboard to making the dumbest movies of our time: Snow Dogs, Chill Factor, Pearl Harbor and now this comedy that pairs him and Horatio Sanz as would-be skirt-chasers who unwittingly board a cruise ship for gay singles.

BRINGING DOWN THE HOUSE (PG-13) An ex-convict (Queen Latifah), insisting she was framed, forces a whiter-than-white attorney (Steve Martin) to try to clear her name. The story is utter nonsense, but what makes the film work are the terrific comic performances driving it: Martin hasn't been this engaging in years; Queen Latifah is sexy, spirited and smart; and Eugene Levy, as a nerd who finds his inner funk, continues to prove that he's one of the best second bananas in modern movie comedy.--MB

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