Short Film Caps 

After Midnight (Italy, 2004) - A museum custodian has his solitude shattered when he encounters a beautiful young woman on the run from the law. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 7 p.m. Thursday, September 18 and 9:05 p.m. Sunday, September 21.

Babylon A.D. - This is an ambitious, serious-minded sci-fi film that at times recalls such superior examples of the genre as Blade Runner and Children of Men. Based on the French novel Babylon BabiesBabylon A.D. feels as if large chunks of narrative are missing, leaving plot holes the producers tried to fill with poorly shot action scenes. And that's a shame, because there are parts of this movie that work and suck you in. Maybe the international cut, which is 15 minutes longer, will help somewhat. And with that in mind, I can only say that your best bet if you want to see this movie is to wait for the inevitable "special extended version" DVD. (Robert Ignizio)

Band of Outsiders (France, 1964) - New Wave filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard billed himself rather self-aggrandizingly as "Jean-Luc Cinema Godard" in 1964 when he made this minor classic, a riff on crime-genre pulp fiction (based on the novel Fool's Gold by Dolores Hitchens), with comes off more playful than Breathless but not as feted. Two alienated young Parisian guys in an English-language class, influenced by American crime stories and outlaw mystique, try to rob a house that a fetching female classmate (Anna Karina, Godard's wife at the time) tells them is filled with riches. Inevitably, a fatally film-noirish love triangle devours the protagonists as the robbery scheme is set into motion. Well known for a non-sequitur scene in which the trio takes a detour into the Louvre for a prankish high-speed tour, a sequence most recently commemorated in Betolucci's The Dreamers. Cleveland Institute of Art Cinematheque. At 8:50 p.m. Thursday, September 18 and 7:30 p.m. Friday, September 19. (Charles Cassady)

Bangkok Dangerous - Joe (Nicholas Cage) is a hit man planning to retire after one last job in Bangkok. Along the way, however, he undergoes a transformation from cold and amoral assassin into a human being with a conscience. That change is brought about by two locals: Kong (Shahkrit Yamnarm), a petty criminal Joe takes under his wing, and Fon (Charlie Young), a deaf girl Joe starts to fall for. Cage, who can be over the top at times, is quite good here, as is Yamnarm. Directors the Pang brothers are equally adept at creating action set pieces or just setting the right somber tone of loneliness for Cage's character. There are some lapses in logic here and there, and Fon is more of a plot device than an actual character, but the film is engaging enough that those flaws didn't ruin it. It also helps that the movie wraps up with a satisfying, very un-Hollywood ending. (Ignizio)

Burn After Reading - The change of pace offered here from the Coen brothers, who cleaned up last year at the Academy Awards for their intense No Country for Old Men, is likely to leave many fans scratching their collective heads. A whimsical story about a woman (Frances McDormand) who discovers a CD-ROM of what she thinks are top secret C.I.A. files, Burn After Reading hardly has the depth of No Country. And yet it's worth seeing just for the performance by John Malkovich, who stars as the hot-tempered CIA agent whose life falls apart before our eyes as he loses both his job and his marriage in one fell swoop. (Jeff Niesel)

The Family That Preys - Director Tyler Perry's latest movie about middle-class African Americans offers the usual quotient of interracial affairs and illegitimate offspring. The story here surrounds a greedy son (Cole Hauser) who tries to wrest the family business out of the hands of his aging-but-obstinate mother (Kathy Bates), a wealthy white woman who would rather spend her time slumming with an African-American diner owner (Alfre Woodward). The set-up is all initially believable and Woodward and Bates have great chemistry. But at a certain point midway through, the movie crosses into soap-opera territory and resorts to the kind of drama you'd expect out of General Hospital, albeit with a bit more ethnic diversity. (Niesel) Hamlet 2 - Why do so many of today's movies start brilliantly and then go nowhere? I think they're like certain romantic suitors: strong starters but poor finishers. The comedy Hamlet 2 is plagued by the same condition. This movie, directed and co-written by Andrew Fleming, has good ideas, among them the absurd notion of a sequel to Hamlet. What it lacks, unfortunately, is the stamina to successfully develop those ideas. The story is about a Tucson high school drama teacher, the improbably surnamed Dana Marschz (Steve Coogan), who directs a ridiculous musical in hopes of saving the school's drama program. When the school board, parents and community hear of the blasphemous play, they try to stop the production, until a publicity-hungry ACLU lawyer (Saturday Night Live's Amy Poehler) takes up the case. The first half-hour is filled with funny lines, most of them belonging to the flinty Catherine Keener, who plays Dana's frustrated wife, Brie. But the film outlasts its laughs by a long stretch, meandering into pointless subplots, which have no comic payoff. The movie tries to parody too many things, including inspirational-teacher movies like Mr. Holland's Opus and Dead Poets Society. The songs are mildly amusing, but the production is far too slick to be convincing as the work of high school students. Still, there is something sweet about Hamlet 2, just as there is about some of those ineffectual suitors. It is, like its hero, an endearing, well-meaning semi-failure. (Zoslov)

The House Bunny - Although it's refreshing to see Adam Sandler's Happy Madison production company make its first female-driven comedy, The House Bunny is as skimpy as Anna Faris' wardrobe. Orphaned as a child, the only home Shelley (Anna Faris) has ever known is the Playboy Mansion. After Hef boots her out following her 27th birthday (that's 59 in Bunny years), she winds up becoming the house mom of Zeta Alpha Zeta, a sorority full of socially inept girls who might lose their house. With some senseless inspirational words from Shelley and a major makeover, the group of misfits (played by Emma Stone, Rumer Willis and Katharine McPhee) soon become the sought-after girls on campus, discovering who they really are along the way. Written by the women behind Legally Blonde, The House Bunny is not nearly as smart. Faris has proved herself as a comedic actress, but pulling off an entire movie on her own is questionable. Although this is supposed to be Faris' breakthrough role, the real one to keep an eye on is Superbad's Emma Stone, who continues to impress with her witty personality. (Lauren Yusko)

Igor - There isn't much to this CGI time-killer about a mad scientist's hunchbacked assistant who has aspirations of his own. So it's the little things that count: the title character (voiced by John Cusack), an Igor School grad with a Yes-Master degree who sounds like Boris Karloff when he's around others and like John Cusack when he's narrating the movie; his stitched-together creation, who mistakes Igor's "evil" orders for her name, Eva; and a pair of chatty inventions/sidekicks Ð a suicidal rabbit cursed with immortality (Steve Buscemi in full existential-angst mode) and a not-so-brilliant brain in a jar who accidentally scrawled "Brian" on the outside of his home in permanent ink. After his bumbling master's latest experiment ends fatally for the old guy, Igor gets the run of the lab and makes a monster, which he hopes will snag first place in the Evil Science Fair. Unfortunately, all the goodhearted Eva wants to do is act. The horror! Opens Friday areawide. 1/2 (Michael Gallucci)

In Search of a Midnight Kiss - Alex Holdridge's low-budget romance aspires to be something like Before Sunset. It falls way short of the mark, however, as two desperate singles (Scoot McNairy and Sara Simmonds) meet through ads they've posted on the Internet and spend a wild New Year's Eve night on the streets of downtown Los Angeles. He's an aspiring screenwriter who can't get anyone to call him back and she's trying to dump her persistent cowboy boyfriend that followed her to the city from Texas. In the end, they find out they have more in common than they initially thought, but the film's acting is so second-rate and its story so predictable, it's hard to sit through. (Niesel)

Righteous Kill - Righteous Kill offers the kind of mild entertainment you'd expect from a straight-to-video crime thriller. You know, it's the sort of film that makes for a pleasant enough evening in front of the TV with a six-pack, but you wouldn't really want to plunk down 10 bucks to see it. Normally, you wouldn't expect a movie like this to star Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino. Nonetheless, here they are. DeNiro and Pacino have been in films together before (Heat, The Godfather 2), but this is their first true co-starring vehicle. The supporting cast - Carla Gugino, Donnie Wahlberg, John Leguizamo and 50 Cent - is good, too. Director/producer John Avnet delivers a polished and professional looking film, but it's hard not to feel like you've seen this all before. Written by Russell Gerwitz (Inside Man), Righteous Kill thinks it's smarter and cleverer than it really is. As DeNiro and Pacino try to solve a series of vigilante murders, the script works so hard to misdirect the audience that it actually had the opposite effect on me. I still enjoyed the performances, and Gerwitz does give the actors a few good lines, but that doesn't entirely make up for the by-the-numbers plot. 1/2 (Ignizio)

Tropic Thunder - While shooting on location in the jungles of Vietnam, the cast and crew of a "Rambo"-esque adventure movie are attacked by a real band of guerrilla fighters/heroin dealers. The ensuing stand-off between the feral Flaming Dragons and the clueless, girly-man actors is a meta-hoot, even when (especially when) it's spurting enough blood to keep Count Dracula in plasma for several lifetimes. Only the fourth movie directed by Ben Stiller in the past 14 years, this acid-tinged valentine to Hollywood sends up a particular mind-set of Tinseltown player to a fare-the-well. Not since Borat has a comedy been so eager to make you cringe - and chuckle - at the same time. The mostly terrific cast includes Stiller, Jack Black and Robert Downey Jr. as an Aussie Method actor who undergoes a pigment dye job to play an African American soldier. In an extended cameo appearance, a foul-mouthed, prosthetics-laden Tom Cruise generates the film's biggest laughs playing a studio boss equivalent to Austin Powers' Fat Bastard. (Paurich)

Transsiberian - Brad Anderson's (Next Stop Wonderland, The Machinist) thriller has plenty going for it. Beautifully shot and filmed on the train that runs from Beijing to Moscow, it throws so many curveballs into the mix, it's nearly impossible to know what's coming next. The plot surrounds an American couple (Woody Harrelson and Emily Mortimer) that meets another couple (Eduardo Noriega and Kate Mara) as they're traveling through some of the most remote parts of Russia. The Americans, however, soon find themselves in a middle of an investigation headed up by a Russian cop (Sir Ben Kingsley) who can't be trusted. Well-acted and suspenseful, Transsiberian is yet another excellent film from a director who continues to exceed expectations. 1/2 (Jeff Niesel)

Vicky Cristina Barcelona - Vicky Cristina Barcelona finds director Woody Allen in a lighter mood, telling the story of two friends: dark-haired, sensible Vicky (Rebecca Hall) and blond, impulsive Cristina (Scarlett Johansson), who share a summer vacation - and a lover, Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem) - in Barcelona. After a weekend trip to Oviedo, Juan Antonio, to Vicky's disappointment, takes up with Cristina, who moves in with him. Vicky resigns herself to marrying the ambitious and reliable Doug (Chris Messina), who seems, by contrast, hopelessly dull. Cristina and Juan Antonio's romantic idyll is interrupted when he is forced to rescue his suicidal ex-wife Maria Elena (Penélope Cruz), who moves into the house. After some initial mistrust, the three fall into a comfortable ménage. Later, Vicky tries to reignite the flame with Juan Antonio, resulting in an absurd twist of fate. It's a mere wisp of a movie, but the clever, talky script and fine cast make it go down like a cool glass of limonada. (Zoslov) The Women - "It's All About Men!" That was the slogan on the poster for The Women, the 1939 movie version of Clare Boothe Luce's catty, all-female Broadway play. Directed by George Cukor, the movie starred Norma Shearer, Rosalind Russell and Joan Crawford. Diane English, who created TV's Murphy Brown, makes her feature debut with a remake starring Meg Ryan (who also produced). The result isn't as bad as you might expect, but far less funny than you might hope. Ryan plays Mary Hanes, a Connecticut wife who discovers her husband is having an affair. Her friends (Annette Bening, Debra Messing and Jada Pinkett Smith) rally around her and scope out the "other woman," a gold-digging Saks perfume clerk played by Eva Mendes. Though many of English's jokes fall flat, she offers a more sympathetic view of women than Luce, who cracked that the women who inspired her play "deserved to be smacked across the head with a meat ax." 1/2 (Zoslov)

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