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"Shadow of the Vampire," "Sugar & Spice," "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon." On video: "Silence of the Lambs."

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!B! "Shadow of the Vampire"!B! "Sugar & Spice"!B! "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon"


Video Check:!B! "Silence of the Lambs"




"Shadow of the Vampire" — Willem Dafoe breathes new life into the Count Dracula myth in this delightful "mockumentary" from "Begotten's" E. Elias Merhige. What if, Merhige's premise asks, the real star of F.W. Murnau's 1922 silent classic "Nosferatu" were a real vampire? John Malkovich plays the obsessed German expressionist filmmaker Murnau with the right amount of artsy self-consciousness, but the movie belongs to Willem Dafoe. Not since early in his career has Dafoe been given a role he can sink his teeth into ... literally! Nearly unrecognizable as the actor Max Shreck, he preys upon the cast and crew of "Nosferatu" with the same bloodthirsty zeal as obsessed director/producer Murnau. The latter will make any sacrifice for his art — even cast members — unless they are pivotal to the next day's shoot schedule, of course. Whether one is familiar with the original horror classic Merhige so artfully jests or not, "Shadow of the Vampire" will charm and horrify. "Sugar & Spice" — If only this PG-13-rated cheerleader spoof had a few more charms, it might be worthy of a rousing endorsement. While a portion of this dark comedy about teen-age girls who turn to bank robbing to help out their pregnant squad leader is genuinely funny, it's rarely the laugh-out-loud kind of humor. Marley Shelton is Diane, the captain of the "A" squad at Lincoln High, who keeps her team on the right path with her perpetual cheeriness. But when she falls for the captain of the football team and ends up preggers — her pretty-in-pink vision of the world comes crashing down. Enter squad members Kansas (Mena Suvari), a tough girl with a mom behind bars; Hannah (Rachel Blanchard), a good girl from a Bible-thumping home who loves horseback riding; Lucy (Sara Marsh), the team brain looking for scholarship to Harvard; and finally Cleo (Melissa George), who's obsessed with Conan O'Brien. While each actress ekes out as much mileage as possible from the stereotype she's playing, the movie never rises above the obvious. "Sugar & Spice" comes across as a "near miss," a frothy motion picture with moments of guilty pleasure, but not consistently funny or biting enough to warrant a recommendation. "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" — The gals in "Charlie's Angels" may have said they kick butt, but the women in this martial arts epic romance walk the walk, including some incredible cutting-edge stunts high atop the canopy of a bamboo forest. Everything about this action-packed film from iconoclast Taiwanese director Ang Lee shouts kung-fu-style cheese. But in execution, it soars. Don't let the presence of subtitles keep you away. This is the year's big "event" movie. "Silence of the Lambs" — With the release of "Hannibal" this week, revisit the award-winning entry that started our recent on-screen fascination with serial killers, "Silence of the Lambs." The second in a trilogy from writer Thomas Harris about a serial killer and the stalwart FBI agents who track them, "Silence of the Lambs" gets under your skin. Classy as well as creepy and scary, this Jodie Foster/Anthony Hopkins delight elevated the slasher subgenre of horror films to eerie new heights.

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