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Short Subjectives

Capsule reviews of films by CL critics


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BARBERSHOP 2: BACK IN BUSINESS (PG-13) Business as Usual is more like it. It may be slicker than the original by a hair but the series hasn't lost its funky charm. Ice Cube fights gentrification-minded developers and Cedric the Entertainer rants hilariously about celebrities instead of beloved historical figures. Our familiarity with the characters makes as enjoyable as an old sitcom, and the presence of Queen Latifah, setting up her Beautyshop spinoff, makes this a "very special episode."--SW

THE BIG BOUNCE (PG-13) Although adapted from an Elmore Leonard novel, this amateurish, numbingly uneventful caper comedy might as well have been based on a Hawaii Board of Tourism video and the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue. Gorgeous but grating newcomer Sara Foster tries to convince Owen Wilson's thieving surfer to rip off evil businessman Gary Sinise. The sex, skin and profanity seem to have been edited down like a hotel room porno flick, so you might want to wait for a dirtier cut on DVD.--CH

BIG FISH (PG-13) On his deathbed, a colorful Southerner (Albert Finney) tells his fanciful life story to his skeptical son (Billy Crudup) in Tim Burton's latest tribute to the imagination. With Ewan McGregor radiantly playing Finney's younger self, the tall tales that dominate the film are comic, magical and appropriately "Southern." Only the present-day scenes with the humorless son drag on the film's otherwise delightful pageant of witches, giants and misguided poets.--Curt Holman

THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT (R) "Punk'd" star Ashton Kutcher plays a scruffy college student who tries to save the life of his long-time sweetheart (Amy Smart) by traveling in time to change their childhood and alter the future -- for the worse. The film's thoroughly unpleasant first hour puts children, babies and dogs in violent jeopardy to serve its vague theme about repressed memories, but some cleverness emerges in its time-travel twists and special effects.--CH

CALENDAR GIRLS (PG-13) A real event inspired this inevitable distaff version of The Full Monty, when middle-aged members of a Yorkshire women's club posed nude (tastefully) for a calendar to raise money for charity. A contrived story has been built around the incident with formulaic obstacles and no overriding concept beyond making a commercial movie. Helen Mirren and Julie Walters ensure it won't be a total loss. With a little tit, a little titillation and nothing to offend anyone, it's the feel-good movie of -- well, at least the 108 minutes it takes to unfold.--SW

CATCH THAT KID (PG) Panic Room's Kristen Stewart plays a 12-year-old girl who plans a bank heist to pay for the surgery her father needs after falling off Mt. Everest.

CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN (PG) The idea of two people bringing 12 more into the world seems more irresponsible now than it did in 1950, when the original Cheaper By the Dozen was made. (The two films have only the title in common.) Steve Martin, Bonnie Hunt and their brood nevertheless offer 99 fun minutes, as long as you stop thinking about our finite resources and focus on slapstick, puke, dog-in-crotch jokes and the love underneath it all.--SW

CITY OF GOD (R) This gritty crime drama from Brazil uses the flashy, pulp-fiction techniques of Tarantino and Scorsese to draw attention to the violence and crushing poverty in Rio's sprawling slums. Tracking a bloodthirsty drug dealer and a meek photographer from the '60s to the '80s, the filmmakers make the most of every cinematic trick at their disposal, although their greatest resource is a sense of social outrage that mourns how penniless orphans become larcenous killers.--CH

COLD MOUNTAIN (R) The English Patient's writer-director Anthony Minghella loses his way trying to bring Charles Frazier's civil war odyssey to life. Jude Law and Nicole Kidman never strike sparks as would-be-lovers separated by the war between the states, and Minghella stoops to crude means to manipulate his audience, rather than find a consistent tone. On the plus side, the film features a truly Homeric opening battle, a wrenching, well-crafted episode with Natalie Portman and a broad but amusing Renee Zellweger angling for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar.--CH

THE COMPANY (PG-13) Robert Altman's frustratingly diffuse portrait of the labor and egos behind the seemingly effortless work of Chicago's Joffrey Ballet feels like the director working at half-power. Neve Campbell (who has a dance background) is the young corps ballerina, whose stage mother pushes her daughter to break out of the rank-and-file. Altman does manage to capture the nitty-gritty details of a career in dance, which includes waiting, frustration, injury and sacrifice. But his portrait feels incomplete and random, like a commercial for what could have been an interesting film.--FF

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