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Short Subjectives

Capsule reviews of films by CL critics

Opening Friday
DIE MOMMIE DIE! (NR) Charles Busch, the drag legend and writer behind Psycho Beach Party, shines in this adaptation of his stage work, a black comedy set in 1967 Hollywood. With shades of What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?, Busch plays Angela Arden, a fading songstress whose prickly home life turns homicidal when her husband discovers her affair with a former TV star (Jason Priestley). A stellar supporting cast, including "Six Feet Under's" Frances Conroy as a back- biting maid, keep the laughs coming, even if its Serial Mom premise occasionally drags (pun intended). At Landmark Theatres Midtown Art Cinema.--Tray Butler.

EYES WITHOUT A FACE (1959) (NR) This French horror classic laid the groundwork for the slasher film. The moody, elegant shocker has an esteemed plastic surgeon (Pierre Brasseur) and his lover (Alida Valli) abducting and disfiguring a succession of comely young lasses in order to transplant their faces onto that of Brasseur's disfigured daughter (Edith Scob). Though the film has a sliver of gore, most notably in a gruesome surgery scene, its nightmares are generally psychological, which has only heightened Eyes legendary status as a work of understated horror. At Landmark Theatres Midtown Art Cinema.--Felicia Feaster

Duly Noted
BLACK BOX GERMANY (2000) (NR) This award-winning documentary examines two lives linked by violent deaths: Deutsche Bank C.E.O. Alfred Herrhausen, who died in a bomb attack in 1989, and Wolfgang Grams, the suspected terrorist who was slain by mysterious gunshots four years later. Recent Films from Germany. Dec. 3, 7 p.m. Goethe Institut Inter Nationes, 1197 Peachtree St., Colony Square. $4. 404-892-2388.

BUFFALO SOLDIERS (R) Gregor Jordan's military satire stars Joaquin Phoenix as a sexy but unscrupulous black marketeer on a U.S. army base in Germany. Ed Harris hilariously channels his inner McLean Stevenson as the befuddled commander, while stoned soldiers provide destructive slapstick. The resolution backs away from some of the film's harsher implications, but its dark humor unfolds in the spirit of MASH and Three Kings. Nov. 28-Dec. 4. Cinefest, GSU Student Center, Suite 211, 66 Courtland St. $5 ($3 until 5 p.m.). 404-651-3565.--Curt Holman

FESTIVAL LE FILM NOIR (NR) Lefont Garden Hills cinema hosts a festival of classic French crime dramas from Dec. 4-14, opening with Elevator to the Gallows, Louis Malle's gritty 1958 thriller about a cheating wife who plots with her lover to kill her husband. Upcoming films include the heist pictures Rififi and Bob Le Flambeur (remade this year as The Good Thief), Purple Noon (René Clement's adaptation of The Talented Mr. Ripley) and Francois Truffaut's Shoot the Piano Player. Dec. 4-14. Lefont Garden Hills Cinema, 2835 Peachtree Rd. $15 for Dec. 4 opening night. 404-495-1684.

GIGANTIC: A TALE OF TWO JOHNS (NR) A.J. Schnack directs a documentary valentine to They Might Be Giants, tracing the quirky alterna-pop band from its origins in Manhattan's post-punk performance art scene to its current presence on the Internet and hip soundtracks. The film nicely captures the almost frictionless creative dynamic between accordionist/poet John Linnell and guitarist/showman John Flansburgh. But it relies too heavily on interviewees like Sarah Vowell and its own ironic stunts, rather than letting the band's videos and songs like "Don't Let's Start" speak for themselves. Nov. 28-Dec. 4. Cinefest, GSU Student Center, Suite 211, 66 Courtland St. $5 ($3 until 5 p.m.). 404-651-3565.--CH

MUPPET TREASURE ISLAND (1996) (G) Tim Curry plays Long John Silver in this likable, mostly-muppet version of the Robert Louis Stevenson classic that goes down easy yet leaves scarcely a ripple in your memory. Nov. 27. Cinefest, GSU Student Center, Suite 211, 66 Courtland St. $5 ($3 until 5 p.m.). 404-651-3565.--CH

BAD SANTA (R) Advocate for the anti-consumerist, retro-obsessed values of the splenetic counterculture, director Terry Zwigoff (Crumb, Ghost World) tries to apply his misanthropic perspective to mainstream Hollywood comedy. His alcoholic Santa (Billy Bob Thornton), who robs the same shopping malls where he plies his trade, is another antisocial cult figure infused with the values of Zwigoff's alternative comix imagination. But the director can certainly do better than this thin parody of the saccharine, smarmy Christmas comedy. --FF

BROTHER BEAR (G) Phil Collins is a great argument for mandatory retirement. His songs are the worst thing in this decent Disney animated effort by aging hippies to pass their values on to a new generation. The message that animals are more loving than humans (in case you missed it in Flower Child 101) is conveyed through the story of "a boy who became a man by becoming a bear."--SW

BUBBA HO-TEP (R) Bruce Campbell of the Evil Dead trilogy plays an elderly Elvis -- or perhaps just a mentally-scrambled impersonator -- who defends his seedy nursing home from a soul-sucking Egyptian mummy. Phantasm director aspires to cheesy B-movie status and succeeds by that rather modest benchmark. Despite its dirty jokes and bargain-basement production values, the film works in some weighty points about mortality and Campbell's a hoot whenever he defends himself against supernatural enemies with Elvis' patented karate moves.--CH

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