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Short Takes
THE RULES OF ATTRACTION Directed by Roger Avary From a novel by the world's oldest bad boy, Bret Easton Ellis, comes this frenetically chic look at a daisy chain of collegiate craving. The cafeteria girl (Kate Bosworth) loves the scheming stud (James Van Der Beek), who loves the soulful virgin (Shannyn Sossamon), who loves the smug film student (Kip Pardue), while a gorgeous bisexual (Ian Somerhalder) is ready to have them all. Sex, drugs and rack 'n' ruin; pretty people doing nasty things to one another...honestly, what more could you want in a movie?

WHITE OLEANDER Directed by Peter Kosminsky The Janet Fitch novel (and Oprah book) that inspired this perfect-child-in-a-rotten-world drama is a cozy read. Teenage foster child Astrid (Alison Lohman) has monumentally bad luck with mother figures (Michelle Pfeiffer, Robin Wright Penn, Renee Zellweger) but endures by taking on the attitudes of the women who disappoint her. Somehow the viewer endures too, because Lohman's pensive loveliness carries the film.

AMERICAN IDOL GREATEST MOMENTS Various Artists Idol grand dame Kelly Clarkson can belt it out, and her hit single, A Moment Like This, is one of the best Kodak jingles ever to masquerade as a pop song. Tamyra Gray's take on A House Is Not a Home is respectable, but the rest of the singers on this instant piece of pop nostalgia really do deserve the withering insults to which they were subjected. The song selection (lots of Stevie Wonder) is repetitive, and the performances have the spooky, hyperemotive quality of a Six Flags revue. That trait may come in handy in the performers' inevitable search for future employment.

SIMPLY NATURAL Carla Cook She isn't a dewy blond or a postadolescent waif, so Carla Cook would seem to be facing a rocky path across the current jazz terrain. But she can sing — really sing. Situating her gospel-tinted voice in a propulsive rhythmic groove, she proceeds to bend the blues, rehabilitate some standards (by Simon and Garfunkel as well as by Duke Ellington) and scamper through a couple of her own intriguing compositions. Simply Natural may fall an inch short of her spectacular last CD, Dem Bones, but that's no insult. Cook can cook.

BANG BANG YOU'RE DEAD Showtime, Oct. 13, 8:00 p.m. E.T. One day Trevor Adams (Ben Foster) brings a bomb to high school. The weapon doesn't go off; it's a dummy. But when a drama teacher (Tom Cavanagh) casts Trevor in a play about a school shooting, the campus explodes into paranoia, pushing Trevor to the brink of real violence. Bang Bang is too speech-heavy, and for a movie about the danger of stereotypes, it's rife with them: meathead jocks, insensitive parents, earnest teachers. But Foster makes Trevor searingly real, a bright, eyes-averted loner who so badly wants you to think he doesn't care that you know he does. This is a flawed but unignorable trip into the terrified heart of zero-tolerance America.

BIRDS OF PREY The WB, Wednesdays, 9p.m. E.T. The WB continues to mine two inexhaustible resources: the DC Comics library and the young male appetite for hot superheroines. The Huntress (Batman and Catwoman's daughter), wheelchair-bound Oracle and psychic Dinah fight crime while looking slick and zinging the requisite self-conscious jokes ("Is your spider-sense tingling?" one Bird needles another). But flat performances and stock comic-book story lines keep Birds grounded.

LITTLE HAM There's a lot that's dated and silly in this off-Broadway musical based on a Langston Hughes play about gangsters in 1930s Harlem. But what's dated and delightful is Judd Woldin's effortlessly tuneful jazz score, the best of its kind in years.

October 14, 2002 Vol. 160 No. 16

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