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Short Subjectives

Capsule reviews of films by CL critics

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Opening Friday
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 United Artists Tara Cinema. --Steve Warren

DUPLEX (PG-13) Throw Momma From the Train director Danny Devito presents a dark comedy about a couple (Ben Stiller and Drew Barrymore) trying to throw a maddening old lady from their rent-controlled Manhattan apartment.

THE PRINCESS BLADE (NR) Shinsuke Sato's cost-conscious, comic-book-based revenge story depicts a young woman (Yumiko Shaku) from a secret society of assassins who literally crosses swords with her order. With moody, bluish cinematography and a setting that combines past and future by putting swords alongside computers, The Princess Blade takes a fresh stab at the conventions of martial arts movies. Shaku makes a fiercely effective heroine but the film's strengths get ultimately undercut -- no pun intended -- by budget limitations and the gratuitously grim, bloody resolution of the romantic subplot. At Madstone Theaters Parkside. --Curt Holman

THE RUNDOWN (PG-13) This sadistic but fun flick with surprisingly coherent action sequences introduces a new action-comedy team in The Rock and Seann William Scott. The Rock seeks to bring Scott back from South America, where he's searching for a golden artifact that could also buy the locals' freedom from ugly (but funny) American Christopher Walken. It's brutal, it's loopy and you have to be sick to enjoy it ... as much as I did. --SW

SO CLOSE (R) A pair of sisters (Qi Shu and Vickie Zhao) work as stylish assassins in Hong Kong director Corey Yuen's action film filled with gadgets, high-tech heists and swordfights. At Landmark Midtown Cinema.

STOKED: THE RISE AND FALL OF GATOR (NR) Helen Stickler's documentary features fame, booze, groupies and murder -- while confining itself to the world of professional skateboarding. Stickler captures both the star power that made Mark "Gator" Rogowski one of pro skateboarding's first celebrities, as well as the violent, self-destructive tendencies that led to his 31-year prison sentence. While appropriately horrified by Gator's crimes, Stoked finds plenty of humor in campy '80s video artifacts and its colorful, burnt-out interviewees. At Landmark Midtown Cinema. --CH

TATTOO: A LOVE STORY (NR) This low-budget love story concerns the unlikely romance between a frigid school teacher (Megan Edwards) and a gruff tattoo artist (Virgil Mignanelli) with -- what else? -- a heart of gold. Not much revolutionary in terms of plot or cultural commentary, but a couple of well-placed Deadhead jokes might make the hippies giggle. Producer Stephen Davies will be in attendance at the 7:15 p.m. shows on Sept. 26 and 27. At Madstone Theaters Parkside. --Tray Butler

UNDER THE TUSCAN SUN (PG-13) Devastated divorcee Diane Lane travels to Italy at the behest of lesbian best friend Sandra Oh. There she buys an old villa and starts a new life while the audiences get a mini-tour of the country. Audrey Wells adapted the book by Frances Mayes and directed Lane in a tour de force that's aimed at women but should be painless for most men. --SW

Duly Noted
THE ESCAPE (2001) (NR) Argentine director Eduardo Mignogna adapts his own novel, a tale of seven prisoners' daring getaway from Buenos Aires' National Penitentiary in 1928. Latin American Film Festival. Oct. 3, 7 p.m., Woodruff Arts Center, Rich Auditorium. $5. 404-733-4570. www.high.org, and Oct. 8, 7:30 p.m., Madstone Theaters Parkside, 920 Roswell Road, 404-252-2000

IN THOSE DAYS (1947) (NR) Germany's tempestuous history from 1933 to 1947 is revealed through the story of a single automobile and its seven owners. Post-War German Classics. Oct. 1, 7 p.m. Goethe Institut Inter Nationes, 1197 Peachtree St., Colony Square. $4. 404-892-2388.

THE MEDIA PROJECT (NR) The IMAGE Film and Video center's youth-oriented cinematic program offers a slate of short world premieres from aspiring filmmakers age 15-19. IMAGE Film & Video Center. Sept. 25, 6:30 p.m. Atlanta Fulton Public Library, Central Library, One Margaret Mitchell Square. Free. 404-352-4225. www.imagefv.org.

NAQOYQATSI (PG) Following the acclaimed Koyaanisquatsi (Hopi for "life out of balance") and Powaqqatsi ("life in transition"), Godfrey Reggio completes his trippy trilogy of montage documentaries with "war as a way of life," which includes images of high-tech combat as well as the damage modern society inflicts on human nature. Yo Yo Ma joins the trilogy's composer, Philip Glass. Sept. 25, Cinefest, GSU Student Center, Suite 211, 66 Courtland St. $5 ($3 until 5 p.m.). 404-651-3565.

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