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Short Subjectives

Capsule reviews of films by CL critics


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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 at crisis points in their marriages, the two start a unique friendship that takes through 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

LOVE DON'T COST A THING (PG-13) This African-American remake of Can't Buy Me Love finds Nick Cannon as geeky as Patrick Dempsey was. The high school senior blows his savings and chances for a scholarship in exchange for having Paris (Christina Milian) pose as his girlfriend to propel him into the in crowd at school. Cannon was good in Drumline, where he went through college. Now he's back in high school. Draw your own analogy. The Ebonic title is far from the worst thing about this movie, which proves money can't buy you talent. --SW

MASTER AND COMMANDER: THE FAR SIDE OF THE WORLD (PG-13) Russell Crowe lightens up to play Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe), captain of the HMS Surprise as he matches wits with a bigger, faster French ship in this Napoleonic-era nautical adventure. Director Peter Weir stays faithful to the spirit of Patrick O'Brien's novel, one of a beloved series that promotes maritime procedure over swashbuckling plot. The film's impeccable approach to detail will appeal more to History Channel fans than the general movie-going audience, but it boasts exciting set-pieces and a colorful cast of character actors. --CH

MONA LISA SMILE (PG-13) A forward-thinking art history professor (Julia Roberts) takes a prestigious teaching job at Wellesley College in 1953 but learns too late that the country's best and brightest women have no higher aspiration in life than a MRS. degree. Mike Newell's film begins with some real insights into how culture can be used as social control, and how even the country's elite are trained to think within a very narrow box. But, as if fearful of being seen as too political, it soon dissolves into gooey convention as Roberts and the pretty young cast become embroiled in their individual romantic subplots. --FF

MONSTER (R) Like Boys Don't Cry, this biopic of female serial killer Aileen Wuornos will be remembered less for its script that its unforgettable central performance. Charlize Theron not only submerges her considerable beauty beneath sun-ravaged make-up, she gets beneath Wuornos' skin to find the self-loathing that erupts in violence towards men. As former hooker Wuornos murders her johns to support her manipulative girlfriend (Christina Ricci, back in form), she sees herself as akin to the heroine of a exploitation revenge movie. Theron and Ricci's acting keep Monster from sinking to that level. --CH

MY BABY'S DADDY (PG-13) If Three Men and a Baby was funny, three men and three babies should be three times as funny, right? Maybe it should be, but it isn't. On one magic night, Eddie Griffin, Anthony Anderson and Michael Imperioli, friends since infancy, all get women pregnant, which means they'll eventually have to grow up. After The Watermelon Woman director Cheryl Dunye plunges into the mainstream, but shows she's not ready for prime time. The film trivializes serious issues and plays as broadly as a Friday movie but with surprisingly few laughs. --SW

PAYCHECK (PG-13) Ben Affleck plays an ethically-challenged engineer who lets a shady computer company erase three years of his memories -- and then finds himself pursued by both the FBI and corporate goons for things he can't remember doing. Down-on-his-luck director John Woo includes some of his signature action shots, but only looks like he's parodying himself. The only upside is that the film should help boost demand for memory-wiping technology. --CH

PETER PAN (PG) The sexiest children's movie ever, P.J. Hogan's take on J.M. Barrie's classic may push young viewers into puberty ahead of schedule. Wendy (Rachel Hurd-Wood) uses feminine wiles to manipulate Peter (Jeremy Sumpter) in a scene that sizzles as much as two 12-year-olds can make it. Director Hogan gives the otherwise familiar story a distinctive look -- slightly surreal, wholly artificial yet believable within its fantasy context. The film's eroticism will please some adults, upset others and probably go over children's heads, at least on a conscious level. --SW

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