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Film times & brief film reviews 

For Friday, Jan. 26 through Thursday, Feb. 1 except where noted

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


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

Blood and Chocolate—1:30, 4:15, 7:20, 9:50. Catch and Release—1, 3:45, 6:45, 9:20. Charlotte's Web—12:40, 6:20. Dreamgirls—12:35, 3:30, 6:30, 9:25. Epic Movie—2:45, 5:15, 7:45, 10. Eragon—2, 4:35, 7:05, 9:35. Freedom Writers—12:30, 3:15, 9:45. The Good Shepherd—6:15. Night at the Museum—1:15, 4, 7, 9:40. The Pursuit of Happyness—1:45, 4:30, 7:10, 9:55. The Queen—12:50, 4:10, 6:35, 9. Smokin' Aces—2:30, 5, 7:30, 10. Stomp the Yard—12:45, 3:50, 6:50, 9:30. We Are Marshall—3:25, 8:35.

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

Borat—1:15, 3:20, 5:25, 7:30, 9:35. Deck the Halls—1:15, 3:20, 5:25, 7:30, 9:40. DejaVu—1:10, 4, 7, 9:45. Flags of our Fathers—1:15, 4:10, 7, 9:55. Flushed Away—1, 3:05, 5:10, 7:15, 9:20. The Fountain—1, 3:15, 5:30, 7:45, 10. The Guardian—1:05, 4:05, 7, 10. The Nativity Story—1:30, 3:35, 5:40, 7:45, 9:50. Open Season—1:15, 3:20, 5:25, 7:30, 9:35. The Prestige—1:30, 4:20, 7:10, 10. Santa Clause 3—1, 3:15, 5:30, 7:45, 10. Saw 3—1:30, 4:15, 7, 9:30. Stranger Than Fiction—1:30, 4:20, 7:10, 10. Van Wilder Part Deux—1:45, 4:30, 7:15, 9:35.

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.

Apocalypto—1 (No Sat-Sun), 4 (No Sat-Sun), 7, 9:55. Blood and Chocolate—1:30, 4:15, 7:15, 9:55. Catch and Release—1:45, 4:30, 7, 9:40. Charlotte's Web—1, 3:15, 5:30, 7:45, 9:55. Children of Men—1:30, 4:30, 7:20, 9:50. Code Name: The Cleaner—7:45, 10. Dreamgirls—1:10, 4:10, 7, 9:50. Epic Movie—1, 3:05, 5:15, 7:20. Freedom Writers—1, 4, 7, 9:55. Happily N'ever After—1, 3:10, 5:20. Happy Feet—1:45, 4:20, 7:10, 9:50. The Hitcher—1:10, 3:45, 5:50, 8, 10:05. Kidtoons Presents: My Little Pony—Sat-Sun 1, 3. Night at the Museum—1:25, 4, 7, 9:35. The Pursuit of Happyness—1:30, 4:10, 7:05, 9:45. Smokin' Aces—1:25, 4:20, 7:10, 9:50. Stomp the Yard—12:45, 3:20, 5:55, 8:30.

Colony Theatre
Colony Shopping Center, 5438 Six Forks Rd, Raleigh. 856-0111.

The Painted Veil—7:10, 9:30. Also Sat-Sun 1:45, 4:15. The Queen—7, 9:20. Also Fri-Sun 2, 4:30.

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

Alpha Dog—3:45 6:40. Arthur and the Invisibles—1:30, 7:35. Babel—5:05, 8:30. Blood and Chocolate—1:50, 4:20, 7, 9:20. Blood Diamond—5:45, 8:50. Catch and Release—1:40, 4:25, 7:10, 9:55. Charlotte's Web—11:55, 5:20. Children of Men—12:15, 3:25, 6:15, 8:55. The Departed—4:05, 8. Dreamgirls—12, 3:10, 6:30, 9:35. Epic Movie—12:50, 3:50, 7:25, 9:50. Eragon—2:40, 8:10. Freedom Writers—2:20, 5:25, 8:20. The Good German—12:45, 3:30, 6:20, 9. The Good Shepherd—12:10, 9:30. Happy Feet—12:05, 2:50. The Hitcher—2:30, 5:15, 7:40, 10:30. The Holiday—2. Letters from Iwo Jima—12:25, 3:40, 6:50, 10. Night at the Museum—1, 4:30, 7:50, 10:25. Pan's Labyrinth—1:05, 3:55, 6:35, 9:25. The Pursuit of Happyness—1:10, 4, 6:45, 9:40. Rocky Balboa—4:40, 10:15. Smokin' Aces—2:04, 4:45, 7:30, 10:05. Stomp the Yard—1:20, 4:10, 7:20, 10:10. We Are Marshal—12:35.

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

The Blossoming of Maximo Oliveros—4:05, 9:30. Guru—Fri-Sun 6; Mon-Thu 2:30. The Last King of Scotland—1:10, 4:10, 7:05, 9:40. The Painted Veil—1:15, 6:55. Pan's Labyrinth—1:30, 4:25, 7, 9:45. The Queen—1, 3:05, 5:10, 7:15, 9:20 (No Fri). Salaam-E-Ishq—Fri-Sun 2, 9:25; Mon-Thu 7:25. Volver—1:05, 4, 7, 9:30.

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

Alpha Dog, Catch and Release, Dreamgirls, Epic Movie, Freedom Writers, Happy Feet, The Hitcher, Night at the Museum, Pursuit of Happyness, The Queen, Smokin' Aces, Stomp the Yard. Call for 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, Polar Express 3D. Call for times.

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

Children of Men—1:30, 4:10, 7:10, 9:40. Epic Movie—1:45, 4:15, 7:20, 9:35. The Hitcher—1:20, 4:05, 7:20, 9:50. Smokin' Aces—1:25, 4:15, 7, 9:50. Stomp the Yard—1:45, 4:20, 7:10, 9:40.

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.

Arthur and the Invisibles—1, 3:10, 5:20. Babel—1, 4, 7:05, 10. Blood and Chocolate—1:30, 4:15, 7:15, 9:55. Catch and Release—1:45, 4:30, 7, 9:40. Charlotte's Web—1, 3:15, 5:30, 7:45, 9:55. Children of Men—1:30, 4:30, 7:20, 9:50. Dreamgirls—1:10, 4:10, 7, 9:50. Epic Movie—1, 3:05, 5:15, 7:20, 9:30. Freedom Writers—1, 4, 7, 9:55. The Good Shepherd—1 (No Sat-Sun), 4:45, 8:15. The Hitcher—1:10, 3:45, 5:50, 8, 10:05. Kidtoons Presents: My Little Pony—Sat-Sun 1, 3. Night at the Museum—1:25, 4, 7, 9:35. The Painted Veil—1:20, 4:15, 7:10, 10. The Queen—7:30, 9:55. Smokin' Aces—1:25, 4:20, 7:10, 9:50. Stomp the Yard—12:45, 3:20, 5:55, 8:30.

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.

Call for shows and times.

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

Last King of Scotland—7, 9:25. Also Sat-Sun 2, 4:30. Rocky Horror Picture Show—Fri midnight.

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

Arthur and the Invisibles—3:05, 5:05. Charlotte's Web—12:30, 2:40, 4:50, 7:05. Dreamgirls—1, 3:50, 7:10, 9:45. The Hitcher—9:20. Night at the Museum—12:30, 2:45, 5, 7:15, 9:35. The Painted Veil—1:20, 4:05, 7:10, 9:40. Pursuit of Happyness—12:45, 7:20, 9:45. The Queen—1:15, 4, 7:05, 9:30.

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

Arthur and the Invisibles—12:30, 2:55. Catch and Release—2:30, 5:10, 7:50, 10:25. Charlotte's Web—12:35, 3:05, 5:35, 8:15. Dreamgirls—1, 4, 7, 10:05. Epic Movie—12:40, 2:50, 5, 7:30, 9:45. Freedom Writers—2, 4:45, 7:40, 10:20. The Good Shepherd—5:25, 9. Happy Feet—12:45, 3:40, 6:15, 8:50. The Hitcher—3:15, 5:50, 8:05, 10:15. Night at the Museum—1:30, 4:10, 6:50, 9:25. The Pursuit of Happyness—1:15, 4:25, 7:10, 9:55. The Queen—1:50, 4:15, 6:40, 9:15. Smokin' Aces—2:10, 4:50, 7:25, 10:10. Stomp the Yard—1:40, 4:30, 7:15, 10. We Are Marshall—2:20, 5:40, 8:40.


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

The Last King of Scotland—7:05, 9:30. Also Sat-Sun 2, 4:30. The Queen—7:10, 9:10. Also Sat-Sun 2:10, 4:10. Volver—7, 9:20. Also Sat-Sun 2:05, 3:35.

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

Alpha Dog—7:15, 10:15. Arthur and the Invisibles—11:45, 2:10, 4:20. Blood and Chocolate—11:50, 2:20, 4:55, 7:20, 9:45. Code Name: The Cleaner—12, 2:25, 4:45, 7:20, 9:40. Dreamgirls—12:30, 3:30, 6:45, 9:55. Epic Movie—11:40, 1:55, 4:10, 7:05, 9:25. The Hitcher—12:05, 2:30, 4:35, 7:35, 9:50. Night at the Museum—11:35, 2:05, 4:30, 7, 9:35. Pursuit of Happyness—11:30, 2:15, 4:50, 7:30, 10:10. Smokin' Aces—11:55, 2:35, 5, 7:40, 10:20. Stomp the Yard—11:25, 2, 4:40, 7:25, 10.

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

Alpha Dog—Fri-Sat 12:20, 10:25. Blood and Chocolate—Fri-Sat 12:10, 2:30, 5:15, 8, 10:30. Blood Diamond—Fri-Sat 9. Casino Royal—Fri-Sat 3:50, 9:30. Catch and Release—Fri-Sat 1:20, 4:25, 7:10, 9:50. Children of Men—Fri-Sat 1:15, 7. The Departed—Fri-Sat 2:55, 6:10. Dreamgirls—Fri-Sat 12:30, 3:30, 6:20, 9:15. Epic Movie—Fri-Sat 12:45, 3, 5:20, 7:35, 10. Freedom Writers—Fri-Sat 1, 3:55, 6:50, 9:40. The Good Shepherd—Fri-Sat 3;05, 6:55. Happy Feet—Fri-Sat 12, 2:40. The Hitcher—Fri-Sat 5:30, 7:55, 10:30. Letters from Iwo Jima—Fri-Sat 12:10, 3:15, 6:20, 9:25. Night at the Museum—Fri-Sat 12:20, 2:50, 6:05, 8:35. Pan's Labyrinth—Fri-Sat 1:40, 4:45, 7:25, 10:05. The Pursuit of Happyness—Fri-Sat 12:35, 3:20, 7:05, 9:55. The Queen—Fri-Sat 11:55, 2:15, 6:35. Smokin' Aces—Fri-Sat 2, 5, 7:45, 10:20. Stomp the Yard—Fri-Sat 1:05, 4:05, 6:45, 9:35. We Are Marshal—Fri-Sat 12, 9:40. Call for additional times.

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

Call for shows and times.

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

Babel—1, 4, 7:05, 10. Blood and Chocolate—1:30, 4:15, 7:15, 9:55. Also Fri-Sat 12:30. Catch and Release—1:45, 4:30, 7, 9:40. Children of Men—1:30, 4:30, 7:20, 9:50. Also Fri-Sat 12:30. Dreamgirls—1:10, 4:10, 7, 9:50. Epic Movie—1, 3:05, 5:15, 7:20, 9:30. Also Fri-Sat 11:40. Freedom Writers—1, 4, 7, 9:55. Happily N'ever After—1 (No Sat-Sun), 3:10 (No Sat-Sun), 5:20, 7:30, 9:40. Also Fri-Sat 11:50. The Hitcher—1:10, 3:45, 5:50, 8, 10:05. Also Fri-Sat 12:10. Kidtoons Presents: My Little Pony—Sat-Sun 1, 3. Night at the Museum—1:25, 4, 7, 9:35. Also Fri-Sat 12:10. The Pursuit of Happyness—1:30, 4:10, 7:05, 9:45. Also Fri-Sat 12:25. The Queen—1:35, 4:05, 7, 9:30. Also Fri-Sat 12. Smokin' Aces—1:25, 4:20, 7:10, 9:50. Also Fri-Sat 12:20. Stomp the Yard—12:45, 3:20, 5:55, 8:30. Also Fri-Sat 11:05. Volver—1:30, 4:10, 7:05, 9:45. Also Fri-Sat 12:30.

Chapel Hill

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

The Last King of Scotland—7, 9:30. Also Sat-Sun 2, 4:30. The Painted Veil—7:10, 9:35. Also Sat-Sun 2:10, 4:40. The Queen—7:15, 9:20. Also Sat-Sun 2:15, 4:20.

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

Children of Men—1:30, 4:15, 7:25, 9:45. The Departed—1, 4, 7, 9:55. Freedom Writers—1:15, 7:10. The Hitcher—4:10, 9:50. Night at the Museum—12:30, 2:45, 5:05, 7:20, 9:40. The Pursuit of Happyness—1:40, 4:10, 7, 9:30. The Queen—1:20, 4:10, 7:10, 9:55.

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

Call for shows and times.

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

Pan's Labyrinth—7:10, 9:30. Also Sat-Sun 2:10, 4:30. Volver—7, 9:20. Also Sat-Mon 2, 4:20.


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

Rocky Balboa—7. Also Fri-Sun 9:15; Sat-Sun 2:30, 4:45.


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

Call for shows and times.

Special Showings

Chronological by date and time

Screen/ Society: Wed, Jan 24, 7 pm: Solaris (Tarkovsky). Griffith Theater, Duke Campus. Thu, Jan 25, 7 pm: Bumming in Beijing: The Last Dreamers. Nasher Museum of Art. Mon, Jan 29, 8 pm: Forbidden Games & Night and Fog. Richard White. Tue, Jan 30, 7 pm: Alphaville & La Jetee. Griffith. Wed, Jan 31, 7 pm: Pretty Baby. 9:30 pm: Persona. Griffith.

NC State University Campus Cinema: Thu, Jan 25, 7 pm: The Kids are Alright. Free. Thu, Jan 25, 10 pm; Fri, Jan 26, 9:30 pm; Sat, Jan 27, 7 pm; Sun, Jan 28, 9:30 pm: Running with Scissors. Fri, Jan 26 & Sun, Jan 28, 7 pm; Sat, Jan 27, 9:30 pm: Flushed Away. Witherspoon Student Center, NC State Campus, $1.50-2.50.

The Civil War: Ken Burns' celebrated nine-part documentary from 1990. Thu, Jan 25, 6:30 pm: 1862 - Forever Free. Emancipation. The War Ennobled. Olivia Raney Local History Library, 4016 Carya Dr, Raleigh. 250-1196, Free.

The Abortion Diaries: Thu, Jan 25, 7 pm: Producer/ director Penny Lane will speak. Durham Co-op Grocery, 1101 W Chapel Hill St. Free.

NC Museum of Art Winter Film Series: Fri, Jan 26, 8 pm: Tokyo Story. Fri, Feb 2, 8 pm: Electric Shadows. 2110 Blue Ridge Rd, Raleigh. 839-6262, $5, $3.50 students.

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

BLOOD AND CHOCOLATE—Ah-oo! Werewolves of Bucharest! ... sorry. This overwrought, very loose adaptation of Annette Curtis Klause's teen horror novel tells the story of a young woman (Blue Car's Agnes Bruckner) torn between her family of Romanian werewolves and the love of a graphic novelist (Hugh Dancy). Chocolate is mostly notable for making werewolves into Eurotrash prone to Casino Royale-esque wall-bouncing. And could someone please give poor Bruckner a meaty role in a good film or TV series? She's the only one with any presence here. Rated PG-13. —ZS

THE BLOSSOMING OF MAXIMO OLIVEROS—One of the past year's best foreign films, this scrappy no-budgeter from debuting Filipino director Aureaus Solito explores the slums of Manila via the story of a flamboyant 12-year-old gay boy, the homemaker in a family of macho petty criminals, who develops a serious crush on a policeman. Exhibiting a compassionate social vision comparable to the Italian neorealists', the film is lyrical, insightful and full of winning performances, especially vibrant Nathan Lopez as Maxi. Not rated. —GC

CATCH AND RELEASE—The title aptly suggests what should be done with this minnow about Gray (Jennifer Garner, channeling Julia Roberts), a woman dealing with the untimely death of her fiancé with a little help from their mutual chums (Kevin Smith and Sam Jaeger). Garner's perpetually pursed puss placards the first scene and never wipes away the tears, even as Gray copes with the loss of her betrothed by hopping into bed with his best friend (Timothy Olyphant). Writer-debut director Susannah Grant justifies this by revealing that the dearly departed may have carried on an affair with an L.A. masseuse (Juliette Lewis, channeling Juliette Lewis) and fathered an illegitimate moppet. Regardless, the tableau is less Big Chill than a bit chilly, a maudlin meander steeped in fly fishing, peace gardens and an incessant, grating acoustic guitar soundtrack that accompanies banal thirtysomethings who speak in clichés and seek spiritual guidance off the back of herbal tea boxes. Rated PG-13. —NM

EPIC MOVIE—Banking on the youth-market success of horror spoof Scary Movie and last year's chick flick parody Date Movie, screenwriters Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg gunk up the big screen for the third time with this ode to big-budget Hollywood hit-makers through a "funny through recognition" comic style that relies on the regurgitation of mini-plots and characters from past blockbusters (i.e. The Da Vinci Code, Nacho Libre, Snakes on a Plane, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and The Chronicles of Narnia). This film may be dead-on in spoofing Hollywood's predictability, but the real laugh lies in the film's own unerring ability to tank while referencing said "predictability." This movie is epically unfunny (unless yellow snow, crotch-kicks and bestiality give you a giggle). Rated PG-13. —KJ

SALAAM-E-ISHQ (SALUTE TO LOVE)—An all-star Hindi reimagining of Love, Actually examines the intersecting romantic destinies of six couples. Director Nikhil Advani's sophomore effort (following his blockbuster Kal Ho Naa Ho) has been two years in the making and clocks in at a massive 3 1/2 hours. Not rated.—LB

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 (an obscure cue from The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly noticeably sneaks its way onto the soundtrack) with this scattershot of nihilism, black comedy, action and crime drama. A cadre of archetypes—FBI, the Mafia, neo-Nazis, hitmen/ women, etc.—vie to be the first to put their hands on (and, for most, bullets in) Las Vegas illusionist and mob informant Buddy "Aces" Israel (Jeremy Piven, unconvincing). Carnahan's skill and still-budding promise as a filmmaker shine through at times, and many will find a certain level of post-9/11 satisfaction in contrasting the antiseptic beauty of the Lake Tahoe setting with the ugly sadism that comes crashing through its gates. Too bad, then, that a fractured, absurd narrative and hole-ridden plot erase away any semblance of gritty subtext, cleared room for only hails of gunfire and buckets of blood. Rated R. —NM

VOLVER—Pedro Almodóvar's new film explores the powerful generational bonds between mothers and daughters. 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

Current Releases

ALPHA DOG—There is potential floating about Nick Cassavetes' roman a clef of L.A. drug dealer Jesse James Hollywood and the 1999 kidnapping and murder of Nicholas Markowitz. A shame, then, that Cassavetes' script rambles so aimlessly, falling back on a surreal, sardonic vibe, a la typical Bret Easton Ellis schlock. When your most poignant scene is shot against a visibly blue-screened nightscape, and the penultimate one features Sharon Stone in a fat-suit, there are clearly loose ends that need tying up. Rated R. —NM

APOCALYPTO—Mel Gibson's subtitled plunge into ancient Mayan civilization turns out to be a brilliantly imagined, thoroughly engrossing popcorn epic. Rated R. —GC

ARTHUR AND THE INVISIBLES—The transition from one language to another can sometimes be detrimental to a film's cohesive script, but that's just one of the problems facing action-director Luc Besson's fudged CGI fantasy. Originally filmed in French, this King Arthur meets The Sword in the Stone with a dash of Harry Potter hybrid falls flat on its face. The jokes don't stick and the plot has more holes than a piece of Swiss. Not even a stellar lineup of pop cultural icons can save it (Madonna, Snoop Dog, Jimmy Fallon and David Bowie provide character voices). All in all, the land of the Minimoys (miniscule gnome-like critters who live underground) may be fun for the kiddoes, but it leaves all the adults saying, "Oh, no." Rated PG. —KJ

CASINO ROYALE—Easily the best 007 movie since the 1960s, the 21st installment in cinema's most successful franchise sweeps away a lot of the cutesy gimmickry that's encumbered it in recent decades while inaugurating a new Bond, Daniel Craig, who proves to be the most skilled and charismatic actor to occupy the role since Sean Connery. Rated PG-13. —GC

CHARLOTTE'S WEB—Director Gary Winick's remake is quite watchable, but if you are looking for an enchanting movie filmed in Australia about an underdog pig, talking farm animals and their human minders, go rent Babe. Rated G. —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

CODE NAME: THE CLEANER—This minstrel daytrip down the comic back roads of miscegenation and sundry afro-stereotypes is an affront to the art of cinema, cobbled together with the dexterity of a pickaxe by director Les Mayfield, purveyor of the similarly loathsome The Man. Rated PG-13. —NM

DREAMGIRLS—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

ERAGON—One part Star Wars, one part The Lord of the Rings, and three parts crap. Rated PG.—NM

FREEDOM WRITERS—An ultra-banal plot in which an idealistic (and, as usual, white) teacher tries to inspire a group of multiracial miscreants victimized by social decay and a neglectful educational system. Synchronize your watches to the scenes where someone gets shot, someone gets sent to prison, and Hilary Swank joins in a hip-hop group jig. Rated PG-13. —NM

THE GOOD GERMAN—Ever the idiosyncratic film geek, Steven Soderbergh mounts a suspense drama set in post-WWII Germany using black and white film and only camera equipment available in the '40s. Alas, the result looks less like some golden-age classic than a '60s TV show. And Soderbergh wastes the talents of George Clooney and Cate Blanchett in a tale (about a U.S. reporter probing occupation skullduggery in 1945 Potsdam) that wants to seem as knowing as The Third Man but is mainly turgid and facilely cynical. Rated R. —GC

THE GOOD SHEPHERD—Focused on a buttoned-down counterintelligence expert played by Matt Damon, Robert De Niro's second directorial outing examines the CIA's roots and first 30 years through a dark, complex drama that's rich enough to evoke comparisons to classics like The Godfather and All the President's Men. Though Eric Roth's script doesn't finally live up to its epic ambitions, this is still one of the year's most fascinating and intelligent films. Angelina Jolie, William Hurt, Billy Crudup and De Niro himself costar. Rated R.—GC

GURU—Abhishek Bachchan stars as a country bumpkin who charms and bullies his way from his village to the helm of a string of textile factories. Director Mani Ratnam's rags to riches story taps into the national anxiety about Westernization; Guru is a polyester tycoon whose rivals wear Gandhi's homespun khadi fabric. Abhishek unleashes his inner dork, with unflattering camera angles and extra poundage, convincingly limning an ambivalent character who is both genius and thug. With Aishwayra Rai. —LB

HAPPILY N'EVER AFTER—It's officially reached the point where making fun of clichés has become a cliché. This relentlessly self-referential tale of fairy tale villains taking over the stories where they always lose is harmless but predictable, going over the same territory from Shrek, Ella Enchanted, Hoodwinked, etc. Wouldn't it be nice to see some new stories instead of revamped classics and wisecracking animals? Though in this film's defense, its CGI Cinderella does have an adorable pixie haircut. Rated PG. —ZS

HAPPY FEET—Spawned from the machinations of March of the Penguins, this bird-brained eco-musical posits that penguins are not only hatched under daunting natural obstacles, but born bearing intrinsic familiarity with an anthology of late 20th century American pop music. Rated PG. —NM

THE HITCHER—I know Rutger Hauer, sir, and you, Sean Bean, are no Rutger Hauer. This Michael Bay-produced remake of Robert Harmon's 1986 thriller about a psychotic hitchhiker (Hauer then, Bean now) with a high resistance to injury and really, really good aim follows almost every story beat of the original and even recycles some of its soundtrack. However, it trades the original's sense of absurd, nightmarish tension for cheap shocks and numerous close-ups of gaping wounds. Rated R. —ZS

click to enlarge Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland - PHOTO COURTESY OF FOX SEARCHLIGHT
  • Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight
  • Forest Whitaker in The Last King of Scotland
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

LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA—In a companion to his Flags of Our Fathers, Clint Eastwood looks at the Battle of Iwo Jima from the Japanese point of view. Though there's novelty in seeing Clint directing a Japanese cast in an arty subtitled film, the grim drama here is full of self-congratulatory Hollywood "humanism" that avoids a tough-minded look at the emperor-worshipping militarism that brought the Japanese into this suicidal last stand. Plus, the film's excessive length makes it a tiresome slog. Rated R.—GC

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM—Somehow, 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. However, this tale of a shlubby night guard (Ben Stiller) dealing with exhibits coming to life at the Museum of Natural History doesn't offer much beyond typical bland family fare. Points to Robin Williams for not going over the top as Teddy Roosevelt, and also to the filmmakers for assembling an eclectic cast including Mickey Rooney, Ricky Gervais and Dick Van Dyke. Rated PG.—ZS

THE PAINTED VEIL—W. Somerset Maugham's Kitty and Walter Fane is not a timeless literary love story—they embody the ordinary, sometimes smothered everyday of married couples who long to rekindle the embers of their relationship. But, beyond the sweeping vistas and gorgeous scenery set in 1920s China, the film's meta-moral is a cautionary reminder of the perils facing Occidentals, even well-meaning ones, who ignorantly seek to impose their value system upon disparate cultures. Rated PG-13. —NM

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 fantasy world. The plots come together in unexpected ways, and there are shocking, brutal images that will haunt you in one of the best fantasy films of the last five years. Rated R. —ZS

PRIMEVAL—This heavily marketed horror flick about the world's most prolific serial killer is in fact a no-fuss, no-frills monster flick with a plot ripped straight from the bible of Jaws. Centered on a group of news journalists search and destroy mission for Gustave, a 25-foot crocodile who has chomped down on local villagers in Burundi, Central Africa for years, the film fails to achieve the campy horror flick charisma it warrants or to make the socio-cultural impact it strives to achieve. Rated R.—KJ

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS—With its early Reagan-era milieu, the most textured parts of this inspiring rags-to-riches biopic of struggling Chris Gardner (Will Smith) accentuate the intractable 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

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

WE ARE MARSHALLCharlie's Angels mastermind McG gets serious with this based-on-a-true-story tale of Marshall University Thundering Herd football team, but the results take a genuinely moving true story and impose a traditional "underdogs come together" sports film onto it. Rated PG. —ZS


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