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Capsule reviews of films playing locally 

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DR. SEUSS' HORTON HEARS A WHO! In Horton's world, "a person's a person, no matter how small," but in our world, a mediocre movie's a mediocre movie, no matter how overhyped, overblown and overbearing. There are some who will give this animated film a free ride by virtue of the fact that it's roughly 10,000 times better than the ghastly live-action version of Dr. Seuss' The Cat In the Hat. That's true, but it's also true that a month-old loaf of bread isn't nearly as disgusting as a year-old loaf, and I wouldn't care to indulge in either. There's a reason that the 1966 TV version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas! remains the best Seuss on film, and that's because its 26-minute length comes closest to approximating the brief reading time of one of his delightful books. But when stretched out to 90 minutes, a great deal of padding is needed, thereby maximizing the chances of screwing up the source material. That's definitely the case here, since the basic story – Horton the elephant finds himself ridiculed by the other jungle denizens when he insists that a speck on a clover contains an entire civilization – retains its appeal. But the additions are misguided, beginning with a decidedly non-Seussian reference to "poop" (ah, more scatological humor for the kiddies) and ending with an atrocious Pokemon-inspired sequence that must be seen to be disbelieved. And while the animation often captures the intricate details found on the pages, the sense of whimsy is largely missing, replaced by a heavy-handed touch made all the more noticeable by the marquee-value-only casting of Jim Carrey (as Horton), Steve Carell, Seth Rogen and others. **

FLAWLESS At a time when banks are being bailed out by Bush's "for rich people only" government while ordinary citizens are left to flounder, perhaps it's possible to employ the current string of heist flicks as a mildly cathartic tonic. On the heels of Mad Money, The Bank Job and 21 comes Flawless, in which a pair of hard workers team up to rip off the evil diamond company that takes their services for granted. Set in 1960 London, this stars Demi Moore as Laura Quinn, an executive who's repeatedly overlooked when it comes time to promote from within. Despite years of dedicated service (and more than her share of innovative ideas), Laura learns from Mr. Hobbs (Michael Caine), the company janitor whose lowly status allows him access to valuable info, that she's about to be fired. Appealing to her anger, Hobbs asks Laura to assist him in what he deems a foolproof robbery; she accepts, only to discover the scheme is more elaborate than she imagined. For the first hour, the film plays as we'd expect – the planning of the heist, the handling of unexpected complications, and the job itself. This part is entertaining enough, further fueled by the subtext of watching this ambitious woman try to compete in an all-male world determined to shut her out. But the movie really takes off during its second half, and even some lapses in logic can't overtake the satisfying twists. The modern-day framing device is worthless – it opens with Moore in terrible old-age makeup and ends with a heavy-handed "Carpe Diem" cheer – but the period pic between these bookends is, if not worth its weight in gold (or diamonds), at least worth the price of a movie ticket. ***

FORGETTING SARAH MARSHALL Those afraid that the dismal Drillbit Taylor marked the beginning of the end for Hollywood wunderkind Judd Apatow (The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up) can relax: Forgetting Sarah Marshall (on which he serves as producer) finds him again on the rise. Jason Segel (who also scripted) plays Peter Bretter, a nondescript guy who writes the filler music for the TV crime series starring his celebrity girlfriend, Sarah Marshall (Kristen Bell). After five years together, Sarah dumps Peter for self-centered and none-too-bright musician Aldous Snow (Russell Brand), a rejection that sends Peter spiraling into self-pity. He flees to Hawaii to escape from it all, only to end up at the same hotel as Sarah and Aldous; it's only through the efforts of Rachel (Mila Kunis), the resort's desk clerk, that Peter's able to occasionally follow through on the title action. Apatow's films are hailed for successfully mixing raunchy moments with heartfelt ones, but their greatest strength might actually be the depth of their benches. Even the most minor characters are a joy to be around, and that's the case here as well, whether it's the brain-fried surf instructor (a very funny Paul Rudd) or the fawning waiter (Jonah Hill) or the newlywed (Jack McBrayer) who's freaked out by his wife's bedroom prowess. As for the leads, Segel is an affable underdog, Bell displays some choice reaction shots, Kunis is talented enough to turn her role into more than just a Male Fantasy, and Brand – the MVP among strong competition – is spot-on as the British rocker who manages to turn vanity into an endearing character trait. ***

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  • On Saturday, Oct. 21, hundreds gathered at Camp North End on Statesville Avenue for Charlotte's first black alternative music festival. We captured some of the bands in action on stage, but mostly we surveyed the grounds as fans, families, vendors and more lounged around the sprawling, colorful Camp North End site. It was a great day of music, food, fun, and sweet, autumn sunshine. (Photos by Mark Kemp)
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