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Film times & brief film reviews 

Movie times are good from Friday, Feb. 23 through Thursday, March 1 except where noted.

Times are subject to change, and we recommend calling ahead to confirm.

Raleigh

Cinema 12
Beaver Creek Shopping Center, off NC 55, Apex. 676-3456.

The Astronaut Farmer—Fri-Sun 1, 3:45, 6:30, 9:15. Because I Said So—Fri-Sun 12:35, 3, 6:20, 9. Breach—Fri-Sun 1:15, 4:15, 7:10, 10. Bridge to Terabithia—Fri-Sun 12:45, 3:30, 6:15, 8:45. Daddy's Little Girls—Fri-Sun 2:30, 5:15, 7:50, 10:10. Ghost Rider—Fri-Sun 12:30, 1:30, 3:15, 4:30, 6:45, 7:30, 9:30, 10:15. Hannibal Rising—Fri-Sun 3:40, 9:45. Music and Lyrics—Fri-Sun 12:50, 4, 7, 9:40. Night at the MuseumFri-Sun 1:10, 6:40. NorbitFri-Sun 2, 5, 7:25, 9:50. The Number 23—Fri-Sun 2, 4:45, 7:40, 10. Reno 911: Miami—Fri-Sun 2:45, 5:30, 8, 10:10. Call for additional times.

Blue Ridge 14
600 Blue Ridge Rd, Raleigh. 282-9003.

Alpha Dog—1:30, 4:15, 7, 9:40. Apocalypto—1:10, 4:05, 7, 9:55. Black Christmas—1, 3:10, 5:20, 7:30, 9:40. Borat—1:15, 3:20, 5:25, 7:30, 9:35. Casino Royal—1:15, 4:10, 7, 9:55. Code Name: The Cleaner—1:10, 3:20, 5:30, 7:50, 10. DejaVu—1:10, 4, 7, 9:45. The Departed—1, 4, 7, 10. Eragon—1:45, 4:15, 7, 9:30. The Good Shepherd—1, 4:30, 8. The Holiday—1, 3:55, 7, 9:50. Perfume—1, 4, 7, 9:45. Primeval—1:05, 3:15, 5:30, 7:45, 10. Saw 3—1:30, 4:15, 7, 9:30. Unaccompanied Minors—1, 3:10, 5:50, 7:30, 9:40. We are Marshall—1:20, 4:15, 7:10, 10.

Brier Creek Stadium 14
8611 Brier Creek Pkwy, Raleigh. 484-9994.

Call for shows and times.

Carmike Cinema
5501 Atlantic Springs Rd, Raleigh. 645-1111.

Abandoned—1:30, 4:15, 7, 9:30. The Astronaut Farmer—1:15, 4:10, 7, 9:45. Breach—1:45, 4:30, 7:15, 9:45. Bridge to Terabithia—1:05, 3:20, 5:35, 7:45, 9:55. Catch and Release—1:20. Daddy's Little Girls—1, 1:15, 3:15, 3:30, 5:30, 5:45, 7:45, 8, 10. Also Fri-Sat 10:15. Epic Movie—1, 3:05, 5:15, 7:20, 9:30. Ghost Rider—1, 1:30, 3:25, 4:15, 5:50, 7, 8:15, 9:30. Kidtoons Presents: Little Robots—Sat-Sun 1, 3. The Messengers—1, 3:10, 5:20, 7:30, 9:40. Music and Lyrics—1, 4, 7, 9:45. Norbit—1:30, 4:15, 7, 9:30. The Number 23—1, 3:15, 5:30, 7:45, 10. Premium—1:05, 3:20, 5:35, 7:45, 9:55. The Pursuit of Happyness—4:10, 7:05, 9:45. Reno 911: Miami—1:20, 3:25, 5:30, 7:35, 9:40. Smokin' Aces—1:25, 4:20, 7:10, 9:50. Stomp the Yard—2 (No Sat-Sun), 4:45, 7:25, 9:50.

Colony Theater
Colony Shopping Center, 5438 Six Forks Rd, Raleigh. 856-0111. Call for shows and times.

Crossroads 20
501 Caitboo Ave, Crossroads Shopping Center, Cary. 226-2000.

Call for shows and times.

Galaxy Cinema
770 Cary Towne Blvd, Cary. 463-9989, mygalaxycinema.com.

Choking Man—Wed 7:15. Eklavya-The Royal Guard—3. Also Fri-Sun 9:45. Factory Girl—1:05, 5:15, 9:20. Four Eyed Monsters—Sat 3:15. Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd.—Fri-Sun 6:15, 9:40; Mon-Thu 3:15, 7:25. The Last King of Scotland1:25, 7. Notes on a Scandal—1, 3:05, 5:05. Also Thu-Sat 7:10; Mon 7:10. Pan's Labyrinth—1:20, 4, 7:05, 9:30. The Queen—12:55, 5:25, 7:30. Venus—1:10, 3:10, 7:15. Volver—4:10, 9:35.

Garner Towne Square
2600 Timber Dr, Garner. 779-2212.

Call for shows and times.

IMAX Theatre at Exploris
201 E Hargett St, Raleigh. 834-4040.

Deep Sea 3D, Forces of Nature, Greatest Places, Happy Feet, Mystery of the Nile, Mystic India. Call for times.

Mission Valley Cinema
2109-124 Avent Ferry Rd, Raleigh. 834-2233.

Call for shows and times.

Movies at North Hills 14
4150 Main at North Hills St, Raleigh. 786-4511.

Call for shows and times.

Park Place 16
9525 Chapel Hill Rd, Morrisville. 645-1111.

Abandoned—1:30, 4:15, 7, 9:30. The Astronaut Farmer—1:15, 4:10, 7, 9:45. Because I Said So—2 (No Sat-Sun), 4:45, 7:30, 9:55. Breach—1:45, 4:30, 7:15, 9:45. Bridge to Terabithia—1:05, 3:20, 5:35, 7:45, 9:55. Catch and Release—1:20. Charlotte's Web—1 (No Sat-Sun), 3:15 (No Sat-Sun), 5:30, 7:45, 9:55. Children of Men—9:35. Daddy's Little Girls—1, 1:15, 3:15, 3:30, 5:30, 5:45, 7:45, 8, 10. Ghost Rider—1, 1:30, 3:25, 4:15, 5:50, 7, 8:15, 9:30. Kidtoons Presents: My Little Pony—Sat-Sun 1, 3. Music and Lyrics—1, 4, 7, 9:45. Night at the Museum—1:25, 4, 7, 9:35. Norbit—1:30, 4:15, 7, 9:30. The Number 23—1, 3:15, 5:30, 7:45, 10. Premium—1:05, 3:20, 5:35, 7:45, 9:55. The Pursuit of Happyness—4:10, 7:05, 9:45. The Queen—1:35, 4:05, 7, 9:30. Reno 911: Miami—1:20, 3:25, 5:30, 7:35, 9:40.

The Raleigh Grande
Corner of Glenwood Ave and Lynn Rd, Raleigh. 226-2000.

Call for shows and times.

Raleighwood Cinema Grill
Falls Village Shopping Center, Raleigh. 847-0326. www.raleighwoodmovies.com.

Call for shows and times.

Rialto Theater
1620 Glenwood Ave, Raleigh. 856-0111.

Notes on a Scandal—7, 9:15. Also Sat-Sun 2, 4:30. Rocky Horror Picture Show—Fri midnight.

Six Forks Station Cinema
9500 Forum Dr, Raleigh. 846-3904.

Bridge to Terabithia—12:45, 2:55, 5:05, 7:15, 9:30. Ghost Rider—1:30, 4:15, 7:20, 9:45. Music and Lyrics—12:45, 2:50, 5, 7:20, 9:40. Norbit—1:20, 4, 7:10, 9:35. The Number 23—1, 3:05, 5:10, 7:25, 9:45. The Queen—1:15, 4, 7:05, 9:30.

White Oak Village
1205 Timber Dr East, Garner. 676-FILM.

The Astronaut Farmer—Mon-Thu 1:40, 4:10, 6:40, 9:15. Because I Said So—Mon-Thu 1:05, 4, 6:50, 9:20. Breach—Mon-Thu 1:10, 3:50, 6:45, 9:25. Bridge To Terabithia—Mon-Thu 1, 3:30, 5:55, 8:20. Daddy's Little Girls—Mon-Thu 1:15, 2:10, 3:45, 4:35, 6:15, 7, 8:45, 9:40. Ghost Rider—Mon-Thu 1, 1:45, 3:40, 4:25, 6:20, 7:30, 9, 10:10. Hannibal Rising—Mon-Thu 1:25, 4:20, 7:10, 10. Music and Lyrics—Mon-Thu 2, 4:45, 7:20, 10:05. Night at the Museum—Mon-Thu 1:20, 3:55, 6:30, 9:10. Norbit—Mon-Thu 1:30, 4:15, 7:15, 9:50. The Number 23—Mon-Thu 2:20, 4:40, 7:05, 9:35. Reno 911: Miami—Mon-Thu 2:15, 4:30, 6:55, 9:45.

Durham

Carolina Theatre
309 W Morgan St, Durham. 560-3030, www.carolinatheatre.org.

The Animation Show—7:15, 9:20. Also Sat-Sun 2:15, 4:20. Countdown to Ten: Avant de Partir (Before Leaving)—Wed 7. Benjamin Smoke—Wed 9pm. Dead Alive—7, 9:30. Also Sat-Sun 2, 4:30. Nevermore Film Festival—Fri-Sun. Visit www.carolinatheatre.org/nevermore for more info.

Phoenix 10
1056 W Club Blvd, Durham. 286-1001, www.phoenixtheatres.com.

The Astronuat Farmer—12:05, 2:30, 4:55, 7:20, 9:45. Bridge to Terabithia—11:25, 1:50, 4:20, 6:50, 9:20. Daddy's Little Girls—11:30, 12, 2:05, 2:35, 4:25, 5, 7, 7:30, 9:30, 10. Ghost Rider—11:35, 2:15, 5:05, 7:40, 10:10. The Messengers—11:55, 2:25, 4:35, 7:10, 9:35. Music and Lyrics—11:40, 1:55, 4:10, 7:05, 9:25. Norbit—11:45, 2:20, 4:40, 7:15, 9:40. The Number 23—11:50, 2:10, 4:45, 7:35, 10:05. Reno 911: Miami—12:30, 2:45, 5:10, 7:25, 9:50.

Southpoint Cinemas
8030 Renaissance Pkwy, Durham. 676-3456.

Call for shows and times.

Starlite Drive-In
2523 E Club Blvd, Durham. 688-1037.

Call for shows and times.

Wynnsong
1800 Martin Luther King Blvd, Durham. 489-9020.

Abandoned—1:30, 4:15, 7, 9:30. Also Fri-Sat 12. The Astronaut Farmer—1:15, 4:10, 7, 9:45. Also Fri-Sat 12:30. Babel1, 4, 7:05, 10. Breach—1:45, 4:30, 7:15, 9:45. Also Fri-Sat 12:15. Bridge to Terabithia—1:05, 3:20, 5:35, 7:45, 9:55. Also Fri-Sat 12:10. Catch and Release1:20. Daddy's Little Girls—1, 1:15, 3:15, 3:30, 5:30, 5:45, 7:45, 8, 10. Also Fri-Sat 10:15, 12:15. Dreamgirls—1:10 (No Sat-Sun), 4:10 (No Sat-Sun), 7, 9:50. Epic Movie—1, 3:05, 5:15, 7:20, 9:30. Also Fri-Sat 11:40. Freedom Writers—1 (No Sat-Sun), 4 (No Sat-Sun), 7, 9:55. Ghost Rider—1, 1:30, 3:25, 4:15, 5:50, 7, 8:15, 9:30. Also Fri-Sat 10:40, 12. Kidtoons Presents: My Little Pony—Sat-Sun 1, 3. Music and Lyrics—1, 4, 7, 9:45. Also Fri-Sat 12:30. Norbit—1:30, 4:15, 7, 9:30. Also Fri-Sat 12. The Number 23—1, 3:15, 5:30, 7:45, 10. Also Fri-Sat 12:15. Pan's Labyrinth—1:35, 4:20, 7, 9:35. Also Fri-Sat 12:10. Premium—1:05, 3:20, 5:35, 7:45, 9:55. Also Fri-Sat 12:05. The Pursuit of Happyness—4:10, 7:05, 9:45. Also Fri-Sat 12:25. Reno 911: Miami—1:20, 3:25, 5:390, 7:35, 9:40. Also Fri-Sat 11:45.

Chapel Hill

Chelsea
Timberlyne Village Mall, 1129 Weaver Dairy Rd, Chapel Hill. 968-3005.

The Last King of Scotland—7. Also Sat-Sun 2. Notes on a Scandal—7:20, 9:20. Also Sat-Sun 2:10, 4:40. Venus—7:10, 9:10. Also Sat-Sun 2:20, 4:20. Volver—9:30. Also Sat-Sun 4:30.

Lumina
Southern Village, NC 15-501 South, Chapel Hill. 932-9000.

The Astronaut Farmer—1:15, 4, 7:05, 9:30. Bridge to Terabithia—12:30, 2:40, 4:50, 7:15, 9:30. Ghost Rider—1:30, 4:15, 7, 9:45. Music and Lyrics—12:45, 2:55, 5:05, 7:20, 9:35. Notes on a Scandal—1, 3, 7:25, 9:40. Volver—5.

Movies at Timberlyne
Timberlyne Shopping Center, 120 Banks Dr off Weaver Dairy Rd, Chapel Hill. 933-8600.

Call for shows and times.

Varsity
123 E Franklin St, Chapel Hill. 967-8665.

Music and Lyrics—7:10, 9:20. Also Sat-Sun 2:10, 4:20. Pan's Labyrinth—7, 9:30. Also Sat-Sun 2, 4:30.

Graham

Graham Cinema
119 N Main St, Graham. (336) 226-1488.

Call for shows and times.

Roxboro

Palace Pointe
5050 Durham Rd, Roxboro. (336) 598-5050.

The Astronaut Farmer—4:30, 7. Also Fri-Sat 9:20; Fri-Sun 2; Thu 1. Bridge to Terabithia—4:35, 7:05. Also Fri-Sat 9:25; Fri-Sun 2:10; Thu 1. Daddy's Little Girls—4:30, 7. Also Fri-Sat 9:15; Fri-Sun 2:05; Thu 1. Ghost Rider—4:40, 7:10. Also Fri-Sat 9:40; Fri-Sun 2; Thu 1. Music and Lyrics—4:50, 7:20. Also Fri-Sat 9:35; Fri-Sun 2:20; Thu 1. Norbit—4:45, 7:15. Also Fri-Sat 9:35; Fri-Sun 2:15; Thu 1. The Number 23—4:35, 7:15. Also Fri-Sat 9:30; Fri-Sun 2:15; Thu 1. Reno 911: Miami—4:45, 7:20. Also Fri-Sat 9:25; Fri-Sun 2:20; Thu 1.

Special Showings

Chronological by date and time

Triangle Indie Film Meetup Group: A congregation of serious movie fans who gather before selected film screenings in the area. Films listed in this section that have been selected for a meetup are marked with an *. indiefilm.meetup.com/134.

Duke Screen/Society: Wed, Feb 21, 7 pm: Syriana. Griffith, Duke Campus. Thu, Feb 22, 7 pm: Out of Phoenix Bridge, Nasher Museum. Mon, Feb 26, 8 pm: La Grande Vadrouille (Don't Look Now... We're Being Shot At).* Richard White. Tue, Feb 27, 7 pm: Tajne Tasmy SB (Secret Tapes) & The Intimacy of Strangers. Nasher. www.duke.edu/web/film/screensociety/schedule.html.

NC State University Campus Cinema: Wed, Feb 21, 7 pm: Heritage Africa. Free. Thu, Feb 22 & Sat, Feb 24, 7 pm; Fri, Feb 23 & Sun, Feb 25, 9 pm: Casino Royale. Thu, Feb 22 & Sat, Feb 24, 10 pm; Fri, Feb 23 & Sun, Feb 25, 7 pm: Ghostbusters. Thu, Feb 22, 11:59 pm: Reno 911: Miami. Free. Witherspoon Student Center, NC State Campus, www.ncsu.edu/cinema. $1.50-2.50.

The Civil War: Ken Burns' celebrated nine-part documentary from 1990. Thu, Feb 22, 6:30 pm: 1865—Most Hallowed Ground: From the Crater to the Shenandoah. Olivia Raney Local History Library, 4016 Carya Dr, Raleigh. 250-1196, oliviaraney@co.wake.nc.us. Free.

The Rural Route Film Festival: Thu, Feb 22, 7 pm. UNC-Chapel Hill, Manning Hall Rm. 209. Free. comm.unc.edu/related/screen_arts/screenevents/index_html.

NC Museum of Art Winter Film Series: Fri, Feb 23, 8 pm: A Face in the Crowd. Fri, March 2, 8 pm: The China Syndrome. 2110 Blue Ridge Rd, Raleigh. 839-6262, www.ncartmuseum.org. $5, $3.50 students.

2007 All-American Film Festival: Feb 23 & 24: Durham Arts Council Theater, 120 Morris St, Durham. $4. www.allamericanfilmfestival.com.

The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil: Wed, Feb 28, 7 pm. Colony Theater, 5438 Six Forks Road, Raleigh. 847-5677. Q&A by Stephen Hren of NC Powerdown will follow film. Thu, Mar 1, time TBD: El Kilombo Intergalactica, 324/B Geer St, Durham.


Film Capsules

Our rating system uses zero to four stars. If a movie has no rating, it has not been reviewed by Laura Boyes (LB), Godfrey Cheshire (GC), David Fellerath (DF), Kathy Justice (KJ), Neil Morris (NM) or Zack Smith (ZS).

Opening This Week

THE ABANDONED—What's with the scary movies from Spain? Here, a woman returns to the village of her childhood and begins making inquiries.... Rated R.

AMAZING GRACE—Director Michael Apted commemorates the 200th anniversary of the law banning the slave trade in the British Empire with a hagiography of abolitionist MP William Wilberforce (Ioan Gruffudd). Apted takes an important historical episode and sets it inside an echo chamber of parliamentary brinkmanship and guilty white hand-wringing with barely a mention of the sober economic, sociological and political arguments offered in defense of, in hindsight, an indefensible industry. Indeed, the real Wilberforce was a pragmatist with a paternalistic, even contemptuous attitude towards slaves themselves. However, these contradictions are white-washed away in favor of an ascetic zealot who constantly rises from his colitis-infected sickbed to deliver yet another stirring speech or croon the titular hymn written by reformed slave shipman John Newton. The fragility of Gruffudd's leading shoulders forces Apted to call on central British casting for some much-needed heft—"Paging Messrs. Finney and Gambon." Rated PG. —NM

THE ASTRONAUT FARMER—Brothers Mark and Michael Polish are known for their whimsical non-narratives that have minimal commercial potential. Somehow, they've gotten studio backing for this tale of an astronaut (Billy Bob Thornton) who builds his own rocket after circumstances force him to retire from NASA. Rated PG.

FOUR EYED MONSTERS—A hit at Slamdance a couple of years back, this is an experimental digital feature that explores the fear and loathing around romance. Not rated.

HONEYMOON TRAVELS PVT. LTD.—Six newlywed couples travel by bus to their honeymoon destination, tropical Goa, in a comedy helmed by a first-time woman director. Along for the ride are cheeky character actor Boman Irani and '70s beauty Shabana Azmi, who share a scandalous on-screen kiss. Not rated. —LB

THE NUMBER 23—Which is scarier: having to watch a suspense thriller starring Jim Carrey or anything directed by Joel Schumacher? Those two confounding queries are married in this numeric nonsense about Walter Sparrow (Carrey), an animal control officer who becomes immersed in a hardboiled crime novel seemingly based on his life. Thanks to some tortuous arithmetic, Walter also begins seeing the titular prime number everywhere—much to the chagrin of his wife (Virginia Madsen) and common coherence. The frenzied puzzle plot, drawn from the sort of script that might win an amateur screenwriting contest, lacks a single frightening, intriguing or credible moment. Schumacher's obtrusive visual gimcracks cannot camouflage a befuddled, embarrassed cast, including Carrey, who can barely contain his comic impulses amid such kooky kitsch. Instead, it is the film's audience who will be laughing, but for all the wrong reasons. Rated R. —NM

RENO 911: MIAMI—If you've seen the Comedy Central show, you're going. If you haven't, you probably won't. Rated R.

Current Releases

BECAUSE I SAID SO—Clearly, director Michael Lehman's lost his taste for the bitch-fest grandeur of his 1989 Heathers debut and gone all squishy. Diane Keaton once again plays an overbearing postmenopausal mother who meddles in the dating life of her youngest daughter, Milly (a sticky-sweet Mandy Moore). Rated PG-13. —KJ

BREACH—This workmanlike film of the plan to catch real-life FBI agent turned traitor Robert Hanssen (Chris Cooper) is a suitably taut cat-and-mouse thriller. While the story is told from the point of view of Eric O'Neill (Ryan Phillippe), the greenhorn agent assigned by his handler (Laura Linney) to spy on Hanssen, it is Cooper who steals the show by effectively conveying the internal contradictions of a man whose reticent facade of devout Catholicism and conservative personal politics masks a psyche plagued by megalomania, sexual repression and daddy issues. A better movie might have focused more on Hanssen's background and the events that initially revealed Hanssen's treachery. Still, like writer-director Billy Ray's Shattered Glass, another tale of betrayal and deception set inside an ivory tower industry, this film's strength derives from its verisimilitude instead of rote genre trappings. Rated PG-13. —NM

THE BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA—It's a dog eat dog world for poor sensitive Jesse (Josh Hutcherson), whose big family is unimpressed by his woes. Then, a nervy new girl (AnnaSophia Robb) appears, with a no-nonsense attitude and a bizarrely hip wardrobe. She leads him to the locus of fairy tale transformations, the Big Woods behind their houses, repurposed as magical Terabithia. Unfamiliar with the beloved book backstory, I can only evoke my prior experience of Oz, Narnia, the Shire and other places angsty pubescent teens go to have life-changing experiences, usually involving the death of a beloved companion, human or otherwise. Indeed, Terabithia seems a bit like Lord of the Rings Lite, a starter fantasy minus the carnage of those aimed at slightly older viewers. A desperately needed antidote to the vulgar comedies and product tie-in generators often targeting children, Bridge to Terabithia is nobly inoffensive and formulaic, and sadly, a tad dull. Rated PG. —LB

CATCH AND RELEASE—The title aptly suggests what should be done with this minnow about Gray (Jennifer Garner), a woman dealing with the untimely death of her fiancé with a little help from their mutual chums (Kevin Smith and Sam Jaeger). The tableau is less Big Chill than a bit chilly. Rated PG-13. —NM

CHILDREN OF MEN— Charged with ferrying the world's only known pregnant girl to safety, Clive Owen's Theo Faron is part-Joseph, part-Noah in this post-modern nativity story set in a not-too-distant British dystopia in which women have mysteriously grown infertile and humankind stands at the brink of its gradual, seemingly inescapable extinction. Director Alfonso Cuaron conjures a masterwork of coincidental contradictions and quite simply the best directed film of 2006. Rated R. —NM

DADDY'S LITTLE GIRLS—Evidently Madea is back in the closet for now, as Tyler Perry instead stays behind the camera for a romantic comedy tracing the complications that ensue when Gabrielle Union's rich lawyer falls for a struggling auto mechanic. Rated PG-13.

DREAMGIRLS—A '60s girl group reaches the top, but only after fronting Deena (Beyoncé), a beauty with crossover appeal, and benching the raw sound and plump physique of the more talented Effie (Jennifer Hudson). This movie stars Beyoncé.  Does no one see the irony in this? The pastiche score of R&B, Motown and disco sounds is convincing, but devolves into one power ballad after another. American Idol confirms the public's insatiable thirst for these anthems, but enough already. Rated PG-13. —LB

EKLAVYA: THE ROYAL GUARD—At a majestic citadel in dusty Rajasthan, a noble heir (Saif Ali Khan) arrives during the apparent twilight of the gods. Palace intrigue has taken its toll: his mother has been murdered by his father, an act witnessed by his dotty sister. The family crumbles under the weight of greed and disdain for legal democracy. Not set in history, the royals instead have firmly rejected modernity, maintaining their feudal power. Only the iconoclastic young prince, the aged retainer (Amitabh Bachchan), whose dharma (duty) requires unquestioning loyalty, and a policeman, raised out of an untouchable caste, and bearing a wry disdain for aristocratic privilege (Sanjay Dutt) can salvage value from the traditional monarchy. Vidhu Vinod Chopra's Eklavya is exquisitely photographed, runs under two hours and has only a single song, a nostalgic lullaby. Saif nails the Hamlet vibe, aided by Amitabh's intense evocation of dharma as a duty born from reason. —LB

EPIC MOVIE—Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg (Scary Movie, Date Movie) gunk up the big screen for the third time with this parody of Hollywood hit-makers. The real laugh lies in the film's own unerring ability to tank while referencing said "predictability." Rated PG-13. —KJ

FACTORY GIRL—Actress Sienna Miller gives a terrific, dead-on performance as Edie Sedgwick in this biopic of the Andy Warhol socialite "superstar." Unfortunately, Miller is framed by a film that's as tepid and by-the-numbers as her work is incandescent. Director George Hickenlooper (The Mayor of the Sunset Strip) is undercut by Captain Mauzner's formulaic script and, no doubt, by the fact that Edie's actual life was probably a lot duller than it sounded in the absorbing 1982 book Edie: An American Girl. Rated R. —GC

GHOST RIDERDaredevil writer/director Mark Steven Johnson tops himself, and not in a good way, by adapting another B-list Marvel superhero into an overwritten, overwrought film. Nicolas Cage actually has some fun as the flaming-skulled stuntman-turned-supernatural-bounty-hunter when he's not hamstrung by the lame script and endless visual tricks that provide a compelling argument against the storytelling rule of "show, don't tell." The witty casting of Peter Fonda and Sam Elliott can't overcome the nonsensical plot and the fact that Ghost Rider is made of computer effects roughly on the level of a cheap screensaver. On the other hand, this does answer the question of whatever happened to American Beauty's Wes Bentley, who plays "Blackheart, Son of Mephistopheles." Yeeeeeah. Still better than Elektra. Rated PG-13. —ZS

HANNIBAL RISING—Here's a tip to all would-be "prequel" filmmakers: Great villains become less great when you explain away their mystique. Even if it didn't have the greatness of Silence of the Lambs staring in its face, even if it didn't have to deal with the fact that Anthony Hopkins is nowhere to be seen, this portrait of the cannibal as a young man (Gaspard Ulliel) is still an utter bore. Giving Lecter an origin story that involves tracking down Nazis with a samurai sword is like trying to turn Charles Manson into an action hero. For some reason, Curse of the Golden Flower's Gong Li is in here as well. Rated R. —ZS

THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND—A bravura performance by Forest Whitaker as Ugandan dictator Idi Amin anchors this smart, engrossing drama about a Third World country's nightmarish descent into tyranny and destruction. Seen through the eyes of a callow young Scottish doctor (an excellent James McAvoy), the film persuasively evokes the matter-of-fact surrealism that accompanies a shrewd, charismatic madman's rise and the payback he exacts for the humiliation of colonialism, a vengeance tragically visited on his own people. Rated R.—GC

THE MESSENGERS—Don't expect this new film to fill the creep-fest quotient its trailer suggests, even if it is helmed by Asian horror-meisters the Pang Brothers (2002's The Eye). As it stands, the film offers up a veritable mish-mash of horror hooey (references to The Birds, Amityville Horror, The Shining and Poltergeist run amuck) and a grab bag of tired tricks (irremovable stains, blood pouring from a faucet, etc.). Add John Corbett as a deranged killer, a bevy of sunflower seeds and a tiny tot that can see dead people, and you get the picture. Rated PG-13.—KJ

MUSIC AND LYRICS—Written and directed by chick-flick mastermind Marc Lawrence (Two Weeks Notice, Miss Congeniality), the script is tried and true: '80s has-been pop artist Alex Fletcher (Hugh Grant) links up with Sophie Fisher (Drew Barrymore), a neurotic plant-waterer, poet and lyricist to pen a hit song for a Shakira-esque pop tart. Although the two fall in love, then out of love, then in love again, the flirtatious banter between the actors tends to fizzle and pop into oblivion. Luckily, the film catches a wave of redemption through sarcastically self-referencing the music industry it caters too. After all, it is a film about pop songs—short lived, bubble gum explosions of over-romanticized fluff—so it should come as no surprise that the best scene is approximately three minutes long and involves Hugh Grant, a synthesizer and a retro hip-shake from the 80s. Rated PG-13. —KJ

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM—The melding of the talents behind The Pacifier, Herbie: Fully Loaded, Just Married and the Pink Panther and Cheaper by the Dozen remakes isn't the disasterpiece it could have been. Still, this tale of a shlubby guard (Ben Stiller) dealing with exhibits coming to life doesn't offer much beyond bland family fare. Rated PG.—ZS

NORBIT—While Oscar-nominee Eddie Murphy (yep, it's true) does little here to diminish his status as a comic genius, the problems anchoring down this patchwork are even heavier than its central harridan. The nebbish Norbit, recycled from Murphy's Jiff Ramsey in Bowfinger, is trapped in a marriage to the rotund Rasputia (Murphy redux), a grotesquerie and would-be Klump cousin or, more regrettably, his Johnny-come-lately to the same "big black woman" routine that has sustained Martin Lawrence's and Tyler Perry's careers for years. Beyond its banality, what the film really trades in are a spate of mean-spirited ethnic stereotypes and fat jokes, furthered by the presence of rail-thin Thandie Newton as Norbit's childhood sweetheart. Rated PG-13. —NM

NOTES ON A SCANDAL—Judi Dench and Cate Blanchett give razor-sharp performances in this clever, impeccably mounted British drama about a spinster teacher who discovers that a younger, married colleague is having an affair with a 15-year-old student. Blending satire, suspense and psychological scrutiny, the film delivers characters of unusual complexity and depth thanks to a well-honed script by Patrick Marber from Zoe Heller's novel; its several Oscar nominations, including for its two stars, are well deserved. Rated R. —GC

PAN'S LABYRINTH—Guillermo Del Toro's (Hellboy) riveting dark fantasy chronicles the tale of Ofelia (Ivana Baquero), a young girl in 1944 Spain who must contend with both a stepfather who's a fascist soldier (Sergi Lopez) and a faun (Doug Jones) who draws her into an equally threatening world. The plots come together in unexpected ways, and there are brutal images that will haunt you in one of the best fantasy films of the last five years. Rated R. —ZS

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS—With its Reagan-era milieu, the best parts of this rags-to-riches biopic of struggling Chris Gardner (Will Smith) highlight the class and economic divide that often smothers even the most well-intentioned and hard-working among us. Rated PG-13.—NM

THE QUEEN—The latest from Stephen Frears has a great premise: a look into the lives of Britain's royal family at the time of the tumultuous public reaction to the death of Princess Diana. Unfortunately, the seriocomic concept is undermined from the first by Peter Morgan's script, which has all the obviousness and banality of a TV production. Rated PG-13. —GC

SMOKIN' ACES—Following up his vastly underrated cop drama Narc, director Joe Carnahan reverts back to his Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane days of worshiping at the alter of early Tarantino and spaghetti Westerns with this scattershot of nihilism, black comedy, action and crime drama. Too bad, then, that a fractured, absurd narrative and hole-ridden plot erase any semblance of gritty subtext, clearing room for only hails of gunfire and buckets of blood. Rated R. —NM

STOMP THE YARDYou Got Served meets Drumline in this tale of a doo-ragged LA street dancer (Columbus Short from TV's Studio 60) who becomes involved in a fraternity step line at Atlanta's Truth University. The film plays like it was written by a computer program taking clichéd scenes and dialogue constantly parodied on South Park, Family Guy and The Boondocks and combining them into one uber-screenplay. Rated PG-13. —ZS

VENUS—Peter O'Toole's presence and performance lend gravitas to this tale of an aging actor who enters into a relationship with his friend's young grandniece (Jodie Whittaker) that's equal parts unrequited lust and heartfelt mentorship. Though there are some occasional slips into sitcom and melodrama, at its heart this is a beautifully observant portrait of old age and faded glory, with some moments of real humor and poignance. Besides O'Toole, there's also great work by Vanessa Redgrave and Leslie Phillips, and a promising debut from newcoming Whittaker. Rated R. ZS

VOLVER—Pedro Almodóvar explores the powerful generational bonds between mothers and daughters. As a mother returns from the dead (volver means "to return") to repair shredded relations with her daughter, her daughter must in turn nurture her ties both with the past and the future. Penelope Cruz's magnificent Oscar-nominated performance, and her welcome return to Spanish film, evokes Mediterranean heroines such as those played in the 1950s and '60s by Anna Magnani and Sophia Loren. Rated R. —LB

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