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Short Subjectives

Capsule reviews of films by CL critics

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Opening Friday
ANYTHING ELSE (R) Woody Allen makes a bid to appeal to the American Pie generation of filmgoers with this romantic comedy starring Jason Biggs and Christina Ricci. Allen joins Danny DeVito, Stockard Channing, Jimmy Fallon and singer Diana Krall in the supporting cast.

COLD CREEK MANOR (R) Dennis Quaid and Sharon Stone play harried yuppies who flee the big city for a fixer-upper in rural New York State. But when the home's original roughneck owner (a sadly miscast Stephen Dorff) gets out of prison, appropriate heck breaks loose. Woe be to Mike Figgis (Leaving Las Vegas) for directing this sad Cape Fear wannabe. --Tray Butler

THE CUCKOO (PG-13) Mixing the absurdity of war with the absurdity of sex, Aleksandr Rogozhkin's darkly comic fable is summarized by Anni, a Lapp war widow: "Four years without a man and then two at once!" She's not complaining. It's 1944. The men are escaped prisoners. Ivan is a Russian officer, Vieko a Finnish pacifist wearing a German uniform. Anni nurses whichever man needs it and beds whoever is healthier. Thanks to subtitles we understand everybody, but none of them understands the others. While Americans have lost their sense of humor about war, Eastern Europeans appear to have found theirs. At Tara Cinema. --Steve Warren

THE FIGHTING TEMPTATIONS (PG-13) Some soaring Gospel numbers and mildly amusing small-town gags can't absolve Cuba Gooding Jr.'s acting sins in this "underdog" comedy about a small-town choir's bid for excellence. The divinely beautiful Beyoncé Knowles sings "Fever" and Gospel greats like the Rev. Shirley Caesar make joyful noise, but Gooding merely adds bland desperation to the hackneyed plot about a dishonest hustler learning to be honest with himself and others. It's like getting the chance to see terrific musicians, only to find that the cover charge is too high. --Curt Holman

LOST IN TRANSLATION (R) Director Sofia Coppola's (The Virgin Suicides) much-anticipated second film brings together Bill Murray and indie flick ingénue Scarlett Johansson as accidental tourists in Tokyo. Both insomniacs, and both at crisis points in their marriages, the two start a unique friendship that takes them from karaoke clubs to titty bars in a soft-focus search for connection and meaning. Coppola strings together enough tiny brilliant moments to overcome the film's nearly absent plot and produces a sophomore effort almost as sparkling as her first. --TB

THE PETERSBURG-CANNES EXPRESS (PG-13) A beautiful Russian revolutionary plans to escape the title train in this romantic adventure directed by Oscar-winning producer John Daly. At Madstone Theaters Parkside

SECONDHAND LIONS (PG) Secondhand plots, anyone? Robert Duvall, Michael Caine and Haley Joel Osment play two uncles and the boy dumped on them for a summer. Writer-director Tim McCanlies combines tall tales, a child coming of age among eccentric relatives and greedy relatives hovering over a huge inheritance. Caine's never at his best trying to drawl (remember Hurry Sundown?), but he's OK and the other two are great. Be prepared for heavy, family-friendly sentimentality mixed with considerable humor. --SW

SIDE STREETS (1998) (NR) Merchant/Ivory produced this film about five interlocking stories of immigrants in five different boroughs of New York City, featuring Rosario Dawson and Shashi Kapoor. Director Tony Gerber will be in attendance for the 7 p.m. show on Sept. 19 for a Q&A. At Madstone Theaters Parkside

UNDERWORLD (R) If you're staying up nights wondering "What would Romeo and Juliet be like set in modern times with vampires and werewolves?" this Kate Beckinsale / Scott Speedman thriller should let you sleep easy.

Duly Noted
THE BAD SLEEP WELL (1959) (NR) Film noir atmosphere and corporate criticism informs Kurosawa's tale of a Hamlet-like man (Toshiro Mifune) who seeks to avenge his father's death. Though well regarded, it's not as acclaimed as Kurosawa's samurai treatments of Macbeth and King Lear. Japanese Film Festival: A Tribute to Akira Kurosawa. Sept. 24, 7:30 p.m. Emory University, 205 White Hall. Free. 404-727-6761.

THE DOCTOR FROM STALINGRAD (1958) (NR) In a Russian P.O.W. camp, a German doctor earns the respect of both his captors and fellow prisoners, but can't avert tragedy. Post-War German Classics. Sept. 24, 7 p.m. Goethe Institut Inter Nationes, 1197 Peachtree St., Colony Square. $4. 404-892-2388.

DOWNSTREAM FILM FESTIVAL (NR) The 2003 Downstream Film Festival features more than 140 documentary, experimental and narrative shorts and feature films include such off-kilter highlights as the crusading killer whale documentary Lolita: Slave to Entertainment, the atmospheric rockumentary You Think You Really Know Me: The Gary Wilson Story and the kooky, locally-produced short musical "Petunia." Through Sept. 21. The Decatur Ballroom Plaza (and other venues), 1121 Commerce Drive. $5 per screening. 770-998-2288. www.downstreamfest.com.

EYEDRUM FILM AND VIDEO NIGHT (NR) This neo-structuralist film event features such Atlanta artists as Roxanne Lowery, Richard Gess and curator Oliver Smith working directly on celluloid to transform found 16 mm footage into something new. Sept. 24, 8:30 p.m. Eyedrum. 290 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. $3. 404-522-0655. www.eyedrum.org.

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