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CL's capsule reviews are rated on a four-star rating system.

NEW RELEASES

ANALYZE THAT With Robin Williams ceasing his whoring ways with the one-two punch of Insomnia and One Hour Photo, it's now squarely Robert De Niro who's doing his best to keep the world's oldest profession flourishing in Hollywood. In yet another take-the-paycheck-and-run example, the once respectable actor shamelessly mugs his way through a needless (not to mention unfunny) sequel to 1999's Analyze This. In this outing, his mob boss is released from prison into the care of his hapless psychiatrist (Billy Crystal) on the condition that he go straight, but it's not long before he's up to his arched eyebrows in gangland shenanigans. This sloppy sequel requires De Niro to gleefully mangle tunes from West Side Story and wave his "sausage" at middle-aged ladies, and it's impossible to feel anything but embarrassment for the actor. 1/2

CHARLOTTE FILM SOCIETY Movies begin this Friday at the Manor and continue the following Friday at Movies at Birkdale. Call 704-414-2355 for details.

*THE KID STAYS IN THE PICTURE A documentary almost as colorful as its subject, this restructuring of Robert Evans' autobiography employs a witty style as it relates the long and winding road that led this Hollywood player to start his career as a shallow actor before morphing into an industry force as a producer and playmaker on the Paramount lot in the late 60s/early 70s. Evans had his hand in such smashes as The Godfather, Rosemary's Baby, Love Story and Chinatown, but personal problems (cocaine addiction, trumped-up ties to a Tinseltown murder) derailed his locomotive success. An opening quote from Evans wisely alerts us that all "facts" should be taken with a grain of salt, but there's still enough irrefutable history here to give us the sensation of being allowed a backstage pass into one filmmaker's often troubled, often triumphant mind.

*Also: A tad heavy-handed yet nevertheless gripping, Germany's DAS EXPERIMENT () is based on a real-life study in which male volunteers were asked to role-play the parts of prisoners and security guards, with chilling results; TREMBLING BEFORE G-D () is a thoughtful documentary that centers on the plight of Jewish gays and lesbians as they try to reconcile their sexuality with a religion that (depending on who's interpreting it) frowns upon their lifestyles; one odious character after another parades through ALIAS BETTY (1/2), an unpleasant but admittedly original French drama about a disturbed mother who kidnaps a young boy after her daughter loses her own child in a tragic accident.

EQUILIBRIUM Fahrenheit 451 plus 1984 divided by THX-1138 multiplied by The Matrix squared by Blade Runner and rounded off to Logan's Run -- but subtracting much in the way of compelling developments -- equals Equilibrium, a futuristic yarn in which anyone who expresses any feelings -- especially toward art, literature and puppy dogs -- is immediately terminated, leaving only a bunch of pill-popping drones to populate the planet. Naturally, a few folks decide to rebel -- if only to reintroduce The Three Stooges, MAD artist Sergio Aragones and Spud MacKenzie back into society (well, OK, the movie laments the loss of William Butler Yeats' poetry and the Mona Lisa to make its point, but still. ..). Some nifty (if absurd) fight sequences and an appropriately iron-jawed turn by Christian Bale provide this otherwise forgettable yarn with its own sense of equilibrium.

CURRENT RELEASES

ADAM SANDLER'S EIGHT CRAZY NIGHTS Any critical goodwill Adam Sandler earned for Punch-Drunk Love will be negated by his participation in this animated feature for which he co-wrote the script, served as a producer, and voiced three of the central characters. Basically a frat-house version of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, this shows how an anti-social slacker becomes a swell guy thanks to the efforts of a diminutive elderly man. As is par for the course, the movie turns faux-sentimental in time for the fadeout, but before that, we're subjected to the usual gross-out humor. The musical numbers (featuring lyrics like "I don't decorate no trees... But I'll give this old lady's melons a squeeze") are well-executed, but the movie's product placements travel far beyond the already shameful norm, as logos for (among others) Foot Locker and Victoria's Secret come alive to offer lectures on the meaning of Christmas. This corporate pimping is actually far more offensive than the scatological humor, which, had this been live-action rather than animated, would have earned the film an R rather than its benign PG-13 rating. 1/2

DIE ANOTHER DAY Just as it took Roger Moore a couple of movies to grow into the part of James Bond, so too has it taken Pierce Brosnan a while to satisfactorily pull off the role at the center of the most successful franchise in film history. His newfound conviction (he's become less the Moore playboy and more the Sean Connery hardass) is only one of the reasons that this 20th entry in the 40-year-old series easily emerges as the best of the Brosnan Bonds -- and, in effect, the best 007 outing in over a decade. Except for one unfortunate "surfing" sequence late in the game (featuring arguably the worst special effects ever produced for the series), the action is tightly orchestrated and thus more exciting, and the various performers, including Halle Berry (the first Bond babe with an Oscar) as the enigmatic Jinx, all breathe vigorous life into their characterizations. Scattered tributes to past flicks in the series also add to the merriment.

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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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