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Short Subjectives

Capsule reviews of recently released movies


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· ADAM & STEVE 3 stars. (NR) Like their biblical counterparts, Adam (Craig Chester) and Steve (Malcolm Gets) tempt fate for knowledge: What do love and commitment mean for couples, gay or straight? A few antics (sudden, choreographed dances and a slew of fat jokes) obscure the real moments of comedy that are both witty and strange, and though the self-awareness of the dialogue grows wearying, the truth spoken is undeniable. Parker Posey and Chris Kattan steal the best lines, playing their one-note supporting roles with perfect pitch. Silly but well-intentioned, this tryst, at the core, recounts a love story as old as time. -- Keene

· AMERICAN DREAMZ 2 stars. (PG-13) A befuddled U.S. president (Dennis Quaid doing a droll but superficial Dubya) and a reluctant suicide bomber (Sam Golzari) find themselves on a collision-course meeting via a televised singing contest clearly inspired by "American Idol." Dreamz features likable performers (including Hugh Grant as the caustic, self-loathing host), quotable jokes and a clever wrap-up, but disappointingly goes after easy targets in predictable ways. Writer/director Paul Weitz (American Pie, About a Boy) consistently avoids opportunities to put some real teeth in his satire. -- Holman

· ATL 3 stars. (PG-13) The veneer of nostalgia and innocence elevates this film set in the hard-scrabble Mechanicsville ghetto where five high school seniors find their relief and escape from imminent adulthood at a south side roller rink. Like the Jets and the Sharks of days gone by, Rashad (Tip "T.I." Harris) and his buddies wage snazzy dance-step "war" on the rink floor and grapple with the usual coming of age problems of girls, college, career and family. -- Feaster

· THE BENCHWARMERS (PG-13) David Spade, Rob Schneider and Jon "Napoleon Dynamite" Heder star as three losers who try to make up for their childhood incompetence at sports by forming a three-man team to take on actual Little Leaguers.

· BRICK 3 stars. (R) Writer/director Rian Johnson catches fire with a seemingly lame premise: a convoluted mystery in the style of hard-boiled 1940s detective thrillers, set in a contemporary high school. But as brooding loner Brendan (a terrific Joseph Gordon-Levitt) tries to track down his troubled former girlfriend, Brick becomes both a compelling suspense story and an unusual portrait of teen angst from the inside out. The antiquated slang may not be authentic, but given that Brendan no doubt perceives himself as a noble, self-sacrificing hero worthy of Raymond Chandler, the lonely film-noir flourishes aptly fit his point of view. -- Holman

· DON'T COME KNOCKING 3 stars. (R) Director Wim Wenders, an American culture junkie, turns his attention to the Hollywood Western in this disjointed, often rambling but unique take on the West, the cowboy, the movies and fatherhood. Sam Shepard (who also wrote the script) plays a movie cowboy with a reputation for drink and womanizing who goes AWOL from a film shoot in search of his past. On his walkabout, he reunites with the mama (Eva Marie Saint) he hasn't seen in 30 years, an old lover (Jessica Lange), and discovers, very late in life, that he's a daddy. -- Feaster

· FAILURE TO LAUNCH 2 stars. (PG-13) A professional interventionist (Sarah Jessica Parker) tries to "launch" a love-challenged slacker (Matthew McConaughey), still living at home with his parents, into real adulthood. This trite rom-com blunder features 50 people applauding a televised kiss in a coffee shop, five CGI animal attacks, three "quirky sidekick" friends, two clear shots of Terry Bradshaw's bare bottom, one resuscitated mockingbird and zero reasons as to why Failure wasn't launched straight to DVD. -- Keene

· FRIENDS WITH MONEY 4 stars. (R) Nicole Holofcener (Walking and Talking, Lovely & Amazing) brings her usual shrewdly observed, culturally astute read on modern anxiety to a group of Los Angeles friends worrying about aging, career, relationships and, yes, money. Frances McDormand, Jennifer Aniston, Joan Cusak and Catherine Keener lead this strong, woman-centric ensemble cast as sophisticated, privileged urbanites whose hip, busy lives as screenwriters and clothing designers don't necessarily keep unhappiness at bay. -- Feaster

· ICE AGE 2: THE MELTDOWN (G) This sequel to the computer animated hit swaps the three-mammals-and-a-baby premise of the sequel for a Pleistocene romance between two mammoths (voiced by Ray Romano and Queen Latifah).

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