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Film Shorts

Capsule reviews of films playing in the area are written by the Associated Press, the Washington Post-Los Angeles Times News Service, and Film Journal

8 Mile – Say what you will about Eminem – that he’s a misogynist and a homophobe, that his profane, violent rhymes taint the young minds of his fervent followers. The man has undeniable charisma, so it comes as no surprise that he proves he can act in his film debut. True, “8 Mile” pretty much follows Eminem’s life story: He plays a white kid who hopes his rap skills will help him escape his poor black neighborhood in Detroit. (1:51. R for strong language, sexuality, some violence and drug use.)

Half Past Dead – Inane plot, repetitive, unimaginative stunts, dialogue so dreadful it’s funny. Steven Seagal is back in theaters, folks. Seagal plays an undercover FBI guy out to foil bad guys who storm newly reopened Alcatraz prison to force a Death Row inmate to ‘fess up about where he hid $200 million in stolen gold. Written and directed by Don Michael Paul, “Half Past Dead” may be the year’s funniest unintentional comedy for its absurd action and verbal idiocy. (1:29. PG-13 for pervasive action violence, language and some sexual content.)

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets – Better than the lame, literal, page-to-screen translation of the first movie about the boy wizard. But director Chris Columbus and company’s desire to be as inclusive as possible makes for an even longer movie that might wear down all but the most indomitable “Harry Potter” fans. What happens in these stories just is not interesting enough to merit running times edging toward three hours. Still, year two at Hogwarts offers greatly improved effects, decent humor and more self-assured performances from child stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint. (2:41. PG for scary moments, some creature violence and mild language.)



I Spy – The new wanna-be espionage comedy starring Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson raises so many questions maybe it should have been called “Why Spy.” Why, for instance, lift the concept from one of the most sophisticated TV shows of the 1960s if all you’re going to bring to it is a sitcom sensibility courtesy of director Betty Thomas? The sad thing about this entire equation is that Murphy and Wilson are undeniably funny actors, and when things click between them, actual laughter results. (1:36. PG-13 for action violence, some sexual content and language.)

Jackass: The Movie – A string of pranks and gags, the movie follows the same premise as the MTV show: ringleader Johnny Knoxville and his shock jocks run around executing very stupid, at times hazardous, human tricks. Can a collection of goofy antics shot in crummy-looking digital video and haphazardly strung together be called a movie? It’s a hoot, but it’s unclear why anyone would shell out money to watch a bunch of guys run around in their underwear puking up their guts and, in one explicitly visible instance, soiling their underwear. (1:20. R, for dangerous, sometimes extremely crude stunts, language and nudity.)



Mostly Martha – Perfectionist chef extraordinaire Martha Klein has her workaholic life rearranged with the arrival of Lina, the daughter of her sister, tragically killed in a car wreck. Martha is clueless about children and even her ability to cook is no help as the distraught Lina refuses to eat. Additionally, two men intrude on Martha’s loveless existence: a new neighbor and a new sous-chef at her restaurant. Writer-director Sandra Nettlebeck fashions a fluffy career-woman romance with a very elegant veneer. Gleaming cinematography makes the most of the hyper-chic Hamburg restaurant in which Martha toils, as well as the mouth-watering dishes she whips up. (1:47. PG.)

Punch-Drunk Love – Love has never been stranger, more unsettling and more exuberantly unexpected than in the daring high-wire act writer-director Paul Thomas Anderson has shrewdly titled. What Anderson and his unlikely stars, Adam Sandler and Emily Watson, have managed is to stretch the boundaries of the romantic comedy genre to their extreme outer limits. Charming and outlandish by turns, this misfit love story of disconnected people trying to find each other in an antagonistic world is a comedy of discom fort and rage that turns unexpectedly sweet and pure. Only a filmmaker of exemplary skills could make something memorable out of such contradictory material. (1:37. R, for strong language, including a scene of sexual dialogue.)

The Ring – This supernatural thriller does the best it can with a splendid premise–people die seven days after watching a particular videotape–one of the creepiest, spookiest notions in years. It’s fueled not only by the omnipresence of video copies that turn up in our lives, but also by a sense that forces that are out of our control have a profound and unhappy effect on our lives. Naomi Watts stars as a crack reporter and it’s up to her to lend credibility to this strange scenario, and her presence succeeds in making us believe Ehren Kruger’s efficient script (based on a Koji Suzuki’s book, and the hugely popular Japanese film that resulted).,(1:55. PG-13, for thematic elements, disturbing images, language and some drug references.)

The Santa Clause 2 – Ponderous, disappointing sequel to the beguiling 1994 original. Tim Allen’s Santa discovers a clause in his contract that gives him but 28 days before Christmas to find a wife while coping with the havoc wreaked by a replica temporary Santa back at the North Pole. There’s enough plot here for two pictures. With Elizabeth Mitchell, David Krumholtz, Eric Lloyd. (1:45. G.)


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