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Short Subjectives

Capsule reviews of films by CL critics

Opening Friday
AUTUMN SPRING (2001) (PG-13) This dramedy from Czechoslovakia stars Vlastimil Brodsky (in his last film role before his suicide) as an irrepressible practical joker unwilling to admit to his own mortality. At Landmark Midtown Art Cinema.

BUBBA HO-TEP (R) See review.

ELEPHANT (R) See review.

ELF (PG) See review.

THE GOSPEL OF JOHN (NR) It's rare to have one of the Gospels read cover-to-cover in church and this three-hour epic shows why. Pictorial elements can't make the slow and redundant parts interesting, despite Christopher Plummer's reverent reading of all but the dialogue. A relatively PC translation was used and the Jewish producers have added disclaimers to avoid charges of anti-Semitism, but Jesus (British stage actor Henry Ian Cusick) and his people are nevertheless pale-skinned with European features. Many believers will prefer the film to Bible studies that require them to do their own visualizing.--Steve Warren

LOVE ACTUALLY (R) Love is all around in this British Love Boat (on dry land) that makes a case for the ubiquity of pop music. In the five weeks leading up to Christmas, dozens of characters initiate, maintain or break off relationships of a romantic, sexual, familial or platonic nature. Excellent casting makes each person stand out, whether the actor is familiar (Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson) or not (Heike Makatsch, Andrew Lincoln). Richard Curtis, the witty writer of Four Weddings and a Funeral, makes his directing debut with a commercial movie that gives commercial movies a good name.--SW

THE PHILADELPHIA STORY (1940) (NR) George Cukor directs one of the most scintillating screwball comedies every made, as Katharine Hepburn's society girl tries to choose between her debonair ex-husband Cary Grant, her social-climbing fiancé John Howard and down-to-earth Spy magazine reporter Jimmy Stewart -- who won an Oscar for his role. At Madstone Theaters Parkside.--Curt Holman

THE SINGING DETECTIVE (R) The late Dennis Potter's 1986 miniseries is revered for breaking new ground, but countless imitations have raised the bar too high for Keith Gordon's spotty film version to get over. Memory, fantasy and reality mix in the addled mind of mystery writer Dan Dark (Robert Downey Jr.), hospitalized with severe psoriasis, as he becomes his fictional hero working a case involving people from his past and present, all of whom stop periodically to lip-synch records from the 1950s.--SW

Duly Noted
CINEMA MEXICO: IN SHORT (NR) This program of award-winning short films from Mexico includes the comedy "Flower Pot," the hypnotic love story "From Mesmer With Love" and the moving portrait "Gertrudis Blues." Latin American Film Festival. Nov. 7, 8 p.m., Woodruff Arts Center, Rich Auditorium. $5. 404-733-4570.

I AM BOLIVAR (2002) (NR) TV spoof gives way to serious political commentary in this film about a Latin American star of telenovelas (Robinson Diaz) who grows to believe he's the great revolutionary Simon Bolivar and is exploited by celebrity-hungry politicians. Latin American Film Festival. Nov. 8, 8 p.m., Woodruff Arts Center, Rich Auditorium. $5. 404-733-4570. and Nov. 12, 7:30 p.m., Madstone Theaters Parkside

LITTLE OTIK (2000) (NR) Ingenious Czechoslovakian animator Jan Svankmajer offers a twisted fairy tale about a childless couple who carve a wooden infant as a surrogate baby, only to see it come to life -- with an insatiable appetite. Nov. 6, Cinefest, GSU Student Center, Suite 211, 66 Courtland St. $5 ($3 until 5 p.m.). 404-651-3565.

A MAP OF THE HEART (2002) (NR) Karoline Eichhorn plays a woman who separates from her lover while on a Corsican holiday, only to fall for a young German. Recent Films from Germany. Nov. 5, 7 p.m. Goethe Institut Inter Nationes, 1197 Peachtree St., Colony Square. $4. 404-892-2388.

MAROONED IN IRAQ (2001) (NR) Not a critique of the current U.S. foreign policy, Bahman Ghobadi's film depicts a group of Iranian Kurd musicians traveling across Iraq to stay ahead of Saddam Hussein's anti-Kurd forces. Nov. 7-13, Cinefest, GSU Student Center, Suite 211, 66 Courtland St. $5 ($3 until 5 p.m.). 404-651-3565.

THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993) (PG) The skeletal lord of Halloween gets a serious case of Christmas spirit and decides to replace Santa Claus, with chaotic results, in this stop-motion animated musical produced by Tim Burton. With more big laughs and fewer downbeat Danny Elfman songs, it could be a genuine classic, but as is, it offers such visual delights that nearly every frame qualifies as a work of art. Nov. 6, Cinefest, GSU Student Center, Suite 211, 66 Courtland St. $5 ($3 until 5 p.m.). 404-651-3565.

SOMETHING IN THE AIR (2002) (NR) Director Helvecio Ratton presents the high-spirited story of Radio Favela, a musically and politically rebellious radio station established in the 1980s by four black teens from the Belo Horizonte shantytown. Latin American Film Festival. Nov. 5, 7:30 p.m., Madstone Theaters Parkside.

ALIEN: THE DIRECTOR'S CUT (1979) (R) Director Ridley Scott restores some scenes, shortens others, polishes the visual effects and spruces the negative of his classic "haunted spacecraft" horror film. Excelled in some ways by its sequel Aliens, it's still a showcase for the nightmarish designs of H.R. Giger and the acting of such players as Sigourney Weaver, Ian Holm, John Hurt and Harry Dean Stanton.

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