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Film times & brief film reviews 

Movie times are good from Friday, March 9 through Thursday, March 15 except where noted.

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


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

300—Fri-Sun 1:45, 4:45, 7:30, 10:15. The Astronaut Farmer—Fri-Sun 6:40, 9:25. Because I Said So—Fri-Sun 3:20, 9. Black Snake Moan—Fri-Sun 12, 4:50, 7:35, 10:15. Breach—Fri-Sun 1:45, 4, 7:10, 9:50. Bridge to Terabithia—Fri-Sun 12:45, 3:30, 6:10, 8:45. Ghost Rider—Fri-Sun 1:30, 4:30, 7:15, 10. Happy Feet—Fri-Sun 12:35, 3:15. Music and Lyrics—Fri-Sun 12:50, 4:15, 6:45, 9:20. Night at the Museum—Fri-Sun 12:30, 6:30. Norbit—Fri-Sun 1:10, 3:40, 6:15, 8:40. Reno 911: Miami—Fri-Sun 2:15, 5:30, 7:45, 10:05. Wild Hogs—1, 3:45, 7, 9:30. Zodiac—2:30, 6:20, 9:45. Call for additional times.

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

Casino Royale—1:15, 4:10, 7, 9:55. Charlotte's Web—1, 3:15, 5:30, 7:45, 9:55. Children of Men—1:30, 4:30, 7:30, 10. Code Name: The Cleaner—1:10, 3:20, 5:30, 7:50, 10. Curse of the Golden Flower—1:45, 4:30, 7:15, 9:50. The Departed—1, 4, 7, 10. Eragon—1:45, 4:15, 7, 9:30. Freedom Writers—1, 4, 7, 9:55. Happy Feet—1:45, 4:20, 7, 9:50. The Hitcher—1:10, 3:15, 5:20, 7:25, 9:35. The Pursuit of Happyness—1:30, 4:10, 7:05, 9:45. Rocky Balboa—1:15, 4:15, 7:05, 9:35. Saw 3—1:30, 4:15, 7, 9:30. Smokin' Aces—1:25, 4:25, 7:10, 9:50. Stomp the Yard—1:15, 4, 7:15, 9:50. Unaccompanied Minors—1, 3:10, 5:50, 7:30, 9:40.

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.

300—1, 1:55, 4, 4:45, 7, 7:30, 9:45, 10. Also Fri 12:30. Believe in Me—1:50, 4:35, 7:20, 9:50. Also Fri 12:20. Black Snake Moan—1:30, 4:15, 7, 9:40. Also Fri 12:30. Breach—1:45, 4:30, 7:15, 9:45. Also Fri 12:15. Bridge to Terabithia—1:05, 3:20, 5:35, 7:45, 9:55. Catch and Release—1:20. Daddy's Little Girls—1, 3:15, 5:30, 7:45, 10. Also Fri 12:15. Epic Movie—1, 3:05, 5:15, 7:20, 9:30. Ghost Rider—1:30, 4:15, 7, 9:30. Also Fri 12. Happy Feet—1:45, 4:20. Kidtoons Presents: Little Robots—Sat-Sun 1, 3. The Messengers—1 (No Fri-Sat), 3:10 (No Fri-Sat), 5:20, 7:30, 9:40. Also Fri 11:50. Norbit—1:30, 4:15, 7, 9:30. Also Fri 12. The Number 23—1, 3:15, 5:30, 7:45, 10. Also Fri 12:15. The Pursuit of Happyness—4:10, 7:05, 9:45. Reno 911: Miami—1:20, 3:25, 5:30, 7:35, 9:40. Also Fri 11:45. Smokin' Aces—1:25, 4:20, 7:10, 9:50. The Ultimate Gift—1:40, 4:20, 7, 9:40. Also Fri 12:20. Wild Hogs—12:45, 3:05, 5:25, 7:45, 10. Also Fri 12:15. Zodiac—12:45, 4, 7:15. Also Fri-Sat 10:30.

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

Inland Empire—8. Also Fri-Sun 1, 4:30. The Last King of Scotland—4:15. Also Fri-Sun 9:15. The Queen—7. Also Fri-Sun 2.

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,

Eklavya-The Royal Guard—Fri-Sun 6:15; Mon-Thu 7:25. Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd.—Fri-Sun 9:45. The Last King of Scotland—1:05, 4:05, 7. Also Sat-Thu 9:35. The Lives of Others—1, 4, 7, 9:45. Pan's Labyrinth—1:20, 4:10, 7:15, 9:40. The Queen—1:10, 7:05. The Ultimate Gift—1:15, 4:15, 7:10, 9:30. Volver—4:20, 9:15.

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

The 300, Black Snake Moan, Bridge to Terabithia, Daddy's Little Girls, Ghost Rider, Norbit, The Number 23, Reno 911: Miami, Wild Hogs, Zodiac. 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, Mystic India. Call for times.

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

300—1:30, 4:15, 7:05, 9:45. Breach—1:40, 4:20, 7:25, 9:40. Ghost Rider—1:15, 4:10, 7:20, 9:50. Reno 911: Miami—1:45, 4:10, 7:10, 9:50. Wild Hogs—1:25, 4, 7:15, 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.

300—1, 1:55, 4, 4:45, 7, 7:30, 9:45, 10. Also Fri 12:30. Black Snake Moan—1:30, 4:15, 7, 9:40. Also Fri 12:30. Breach—1:45, 4:30, 7:15, 9:45. Also Fri 12:15. 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. Ghost Rider—1:30, 4:15, 7, 9:30. Also Fri 12. Kidtoons Presents: Strawberry Shortcake—Sat-Sun 1, 3. Music and Lyrics—1, 4, 7, 9:45. Night at the Museum—2, 4:45, 7:35, 10:05. Norbit—1:30, 4:15, 7, 9:30. Also Fri 12. The Number 23—1, 3:15, 5:30, 7:45, 10. Also Fri 12:15. The Pursuit of Happyness—4:10, 7:05, 9:45. The Queen—1:35, 4:05, 7, 9:30. Also Fri 12. Reno 911: Miami—2 (No Sat-Sun), 4:45, 7:35, 9:40. Also Fri 11:45. Wild Hogs—12:45, 1, 3:05, 3:20, 5:25, 5:40, 7:45, 8, 10. Also Fri-Sat 10:20; Fri 12:15. Zodiac—12:45, 1:30, 4, 4:45, 7:15, 8. Also Fri-Sat 10:30.

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

300—1, 2, 3:45, 4:45, 6:30, 7:30, 9:15, 10:15. Amazing Grace—1:10, 4:10, 6:50, 9:40. Black Snake Moan—2:15, 5, 7:45, 10:30. Breach—11:20, 4:05, 6:40, 9:25. Bridge to Terabithia—1:05, 3:30, 6:15, 8:45. Daddy's Little Girls—1:40, 7:05. Dreamgirls—1, 4, 7:15, 10:10. Ghost Rider—1:45, 4:30, 7:10, 10. Music and Lyrics—1:10, 3:35, 6:10, 8:35. Night at the Museum—1:20, 7:25. Norbit—2:30, 5:05, 7:40, 10:25. The Number 23—2:45, 5:15, 8, 10:20. Pan's Labyrinth—4:50, 10:05. Reno 911: Miami—4:20, 9:35. Wild Hogs—1:15, 4, 6:45, 9:30. The Ultimate Gift—1:30, 4:15, 7, 9:45. Zodiac—1:45, 5:30, 9.

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

Call for shows and times.

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

The Lives of Others—7:30. Also Sat-Sun 1:30, 4:30. Rocky Horror Picture Show—Fri midnight.

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

300—1:30, 4:10, 7:15, 9:45. Breach—1:30, 4:15, 7:05, 9:30. Bridge to Terabithia—12:45, 2:55, 5:05, 7:15, 9:30. Music and Lyrics—12:40, 2:50, 5, 7:20, 9:40. The Queen—1:15, 4, 7, 9:35. Wild Hogs—12:35, 2:45, 4:55, 7:10, 9:35.

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

300—Fri-Sun 1, 2:30, 4:30, 5:30, 7:25, 8:45, 10:10; Mon-Thu 1, 2:30, 3:45, 5:30, 7:15, 8:45, 10. The Astronaut Farmer—Fri-Sun 3:20, 8:20; Mon-Thu 4:35, 9:35. Because I Said So—Fri-Sun 12:50, 5:50; Mon-Thu 2:05, 7:05. Black Snake Moan—Fri-Sun 12:30, 3:40, 7, 9:40; Mon-Thu 1:15, 4, 7, 9:50. Breach—Fri-Sun 12:35, 3:55, 8; Mon-Thu 1:40, 5:15, 8:30. Bridge To Terabithia—Fri-Sun 12:40, 3:30, 6:05, 8:30; Mon-Thu 1:05, 3:30, 6:15, 8:40. Daddy's Little Girls—Fri-Sun 2, 4:45, 7:15, 9:55; Mon-Thu 2:10, 4:45, 7:35, 10:15. Ghost Rider—Fri-Sun 2:10, 4:55, 7:35, 10:20; Mon-Thu 2, 4:40, 7:25, 10:10. Music and Lyrics—1:10, 3:50, 6:25, 9. Night at the Museum—Fri-Sun 1:20, 4:10, 6:45, 9:20; Mon-Thu 1:20, 4:05, 6:40, 9:25. Norbit—Fri-Sun 1:40, 5:10, 7:45, 10:15; Mon-Thu 1:25, 5:10, 7:45, 10:10. The Number 23—Fri-Sun 1:15, 4, 7:10, 10; Mon-Thu 1:35, 3:55, 7:10, 10:05. Wild Hogs—1:30, 4:20, 6:50, 9:15 (Mon-Thu 9:25). Zodiac—Fri-Sun 2:45, 6:15, 9:45; Mon-Thu 2:20, 5:45, 9:10.


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

Call for shows and times.

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

300—11:25, 2:10, 5, 7:40, 10:20. Black Snake Moan—11:30, 2:05, 4:45, 7:30, 10:05. Bridge to Terabithia—11:20, 1:50, 4:20, 6:50, 9:20. Daddy's Little Girls—12, 2:30, 4:55, 7:25, 9:50. Ghost Rider—11:35, 2:15, 4:50, 7:35, 10:10. Music and Lyrics—11:45, 1:55, 4:10, 7:05, 9:25. Norbit—11:55, 2:25, 4:40, 7:15, 9:40. Number 23—11:50, 2:20, 4:35, 7, 9:30. Reno 911: Miami—12:30, 2:35, 5:05, 7:20, 9:45. Wild Hogs—11:40, 2, 4:25, 7:10, 9:35.

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

300—Fri-Sat 1, 2, 3:50, 4:50, 6:50, 7:40, 9:40, 10:30. Amazing Grace—Fri-Sat 12:15, 3:25, 6:10, 8:55. Black Snake Moan—Fri-Sat 1:40, 4:55, 7:35, 10:20. Breach—Fri-Sat 1:45, 4:25, 7:10, 9:45. Bridge to Terabithia—Fri-Sat 12:50, 3:10, 6:05, 8:25. Daddy's Little Girls—Fri-Sat 1:35, 6:40. Dreamgirls—Fri-Sat 12:45 6:35. Ghost Rider—Fri-Sat 1:10, 3:55, 7:15, 9:50. Music and Lyrics—Fri-Sat 1:30, 4:45, 7:25, 10. Norbit—Fri-Sat 12:05, 2:30, 6:05, 8:30. The Number 23—Fri-Sat 12:35, 2:55 5:25 (No Sat), 7:55, 10:25. Pan's Labyrinth—Fri-Sat 3:30, 9:35. Reno 911: Miami—Fri-Sat 4:15, 10:30. The Ultimate Gift—Fri-Sat 12:40, 3:35, 6:20, 9. Wild Hogs—Fri-Sat 12:25, 1:20, 3, 4:05, 6:15, 7, 8:35, 9:30. Zodiac—Fri-Sat 12, 3:20, 6:40, 10:05. 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.

300—1, 1:55, 4, 4:45, 7, 7:30, 9:45, 10. Also Fri-Sat 12:30. Believe in Me—1:50, 4:35, 7:20, 9:50. Also Fri-Sat 12:20. Black Snake Moan—1:30, 4:15, 7, 9:40. Also Fri-Sat 12:30. 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, 3:15, 5:30, 7:45, 10. Also Fri-Sat 12:15. 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—1:30, 4:15, 7, 9:30. Also Fri-Sat 12. Happy Feet—2 (No Fri-Sat), 4:35. Kidtoons Presents: My Little Pony—Sat-Sun 1, 3. Music and Lyrics—1 (No Sat-Sun), 4 (No Sat-Sun), 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. The Pursuit of Happyness—4:10, 7:05, 9:45. Also Fri-Sat 12:25. Reno 911: Miami—1:20, 3:25, 5:30, 7:35, 9:40. Also Fri-Sat 11:45. The Ultimate Gift—1:40, 4:20, 7, 9:40. Also Fri-Sat 12:20. Wild Hogs—12:45, 3:05, 5:25, 7:45, 10. Also Fri-Sat 12:15. Zodiac—12:45, 4, 7:15. Also Fri-Sat 10:30.

Chapel Hill

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

Black Snake Moan—7, 9:30. Also Sat-Sun 2, 4:30. The Last King of Scotland—9:20. Also Sat-Sun 4:20. The Lives of Others—6:50, 9:20. Also Sat-Sun 1:45, 4:15. Notes on a Scandal—7:20. Also Sat-Sun 2:10.

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

300—1:30, 4:15, 7, 10:45. Bridge to Terabithia—12:35, 2:40, 4:45, 7:10, 9:30. Miss Potter—1:15, 3:10, 5:10, 7:20, 9:30. Music and Lyrics—12:45, 2:55, 5:05, 7:20, 9:35. Wild Hogs—12:30, 2:45, 5, 7:15, 9:40.

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.

300—7, 9:20. Also Sat-Sun 2, 4:20. Zodiac—6:45, 9:40. Also Sat-Sun 1, 3:50.


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

Casino Royale—7. Also Fri-Sun 9:45; Sat-Sun 4.


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

Call for shows and times.

Special Showings

Chronological by date and time

Duke Screen/Society: Wed, Mar 7, 7 pm: Munich. Griffith. Thu Mar 8, 7 pm: Urban Sonnets. Nasher.

The Civil War: Ken Burns' celebrated nine-part documentary from 1990. Thu, Mar 8, 6:30 pm: 1865—The Better Angels of Our Nature: Victory. Assassination. Rebirth. Olivia Raney Local History Library, 4016 Carya Dr, Raleigh. 250-1196, Free.

All My Babies: A 1953 film by George Stoney about African-American midwifery. Thu, Mar 8, 7 pm: Center for Documentary Studies Auditorium, 1317 Pettigrew St, Durham. Free.

Mountain Top Removal: Fri, Mar 9, 7 pm: An examination of the controversial coal mining practice. Free. Pullen Memorial Baptist Church, 1801 Hillsborough St, Raleigh.

NC Museum of Art Winter Film Series: Fri, Mar 9, 8 pm: Network. Fri, Mar 16, 8 pm: Sparrows. 2110 Blue Ridge Rd, Raleigh. 839-6262, $5, $3.50 students.

Cinema Inc: Sun, Mar 11, 7 pm: Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! 1620 Glenwood Ave, Raleigh. Admission by annual subscription.

NC State University Campus Cinema: Wed, Mar 14, 7 pm: Black Gold. Free. Witherspoon Student Center, NC State Campus. $1.50-2.50.

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

300—It's the Battle of Thermopylae, with Leonidas and his doughty band of Spartans lined up against the big bad Persians of Xerxes. Adapted from the Frank Miller (Sin City) graphic novel. Rated R.

BELIEVE IN MEHoosiers in ponytails would best describe this derivative, lazily constructed drama about Clay Driscoll (Jeffrey Donovan), a high school basketball coach who moves to a Western Oklahoma dust bowl in 1964 to helm the boy's team but is instead assigned to the floundering, under-funded girls program. The film is loosely based on the novel Brief Garland and legendary real-life Oklahoma coach Jim Keith, who battled institutional obstacles in the pre-Title IX era of women's athletics. But for some passing references to this struggle, the film is mainly a collection of broad stereotypes and overblown accents. Donovan, last seen in Come Early Morning and a television near you, is singularly awful. And, while broadly based in fact, writer-director's Robert Collector's fictionalized plot is curiously reminiscent of the 2006 documentary The Heart of the Game, even down to the fight to reinstate a teenage mother back onto the team. Rated PG. —NM

INLAND EMPIRE—David Lynch's first feature since his celebrated Mulholland Drive is difficult, intermittently exhilirating and three hours long. Recapitulating the plot of Inland Empire is pointless; by way of comparison, Mulholland Drive seems as tightly constructed as Rear Window. But narrative coherency isn't really Lynch's aim. As far as he has something to say, Inland Empire seems to be a return to Mulholland Drive's vision of Hollywood as a malignantly seductive void that draws in attractive young women, only to chew them up and leave them for dead on the corner of Hollywood and Vine. With Laura Dern, Justin Theroux, Jeremy Irons, and several ladies from past Lynch films. Rated R. —DF

THE LIVES OF OTHERS—It is no coincidence that German writer-director Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck sets this socio-thriller about repression in Communist-ruled East Germany during the year 1984, as the German Democratic Republic was the literal fruition of an Orwellian dystopia. A secret police agent (Ulrich Mühe) engaging in warrantless searches and surveillance finds redemption through exposure to an embattled playwright (Sebastian Koch) and his actress girlfriend (Martina Gedeck). Donnersmarck crafts a sublime, somber and visually subfusc portrait of a modern-day police state and its timorous citizenry, who carry on as people they are not in obedience to a spurious nation-state. Rated R. —NM

MISS POTTER—Renée Zellweger stars as Peter Rabbit creator Beatrix Potter in this catnip for the American Girls demographic. Beatrix is a drab spinster who meets a kindred spirit in publisher Norman Warne (Ewan McGregor, surely no relation to the crotchety farmer who is poor Peter's nemesis). Full of twinkly charm, he enthuses about her "bunny book to conjure with" and sets about making her the best selling children's author of all time. Would that Emily Watson, playing Warne's tart feminist sister, was cast as Miss Potter. Sugary Zellweger seems a bit demented at times, nattering on with her—sometimes animated—little furry friends. The books, nursery room staples still, have a frank appreciation of a farm's cycle of birth and death, situating them between the horrors of Grimm and today's tamer storybooks. Virtually devoid of drama, and at times a bit too cutesy-poo, for the right audience, Miss Potter's Edwardian girl power rocks. Rated PG. —LB

THE ULTIMATE GIFT—One of the more able recent offerings from the Fox Faith Movies brood, this adaptation of Jim Stovall's bestselling book from company director Michael O. Sajbel (One Night with the King) follows Jason (Drew Fuller), a trust fund baby tasked by the video will of his recently deceased billionaire grandfather's (James Garner) into a 12-step course of forced contrition and self-discovery as a prerequisite to his inheritance. Naturally, Jason learns life lessons by working on Brian Dennehy's Texas ranch, enduring an Ecuadorian drug lord's hotbox and befriending a cancer-stricken sprite (Abigail Breslin) and her conveniently single mom (Ali Hillis). This sincere family film is overlong and sugary to the point of inducing a diabetic coma. But, it is notable for its eclectic cast, which also includes Bill Cobbs and Lee Meriwether, and exclusively Charlotte-area filming locales (although the sight of a kudzu-covered Amazon forest might raised some eyebrows). Rated PG. —NM

Current Releases

THE ABANDONED—This gimmicky debut from Spanish horror maven Nacho Cerda can be summed up in one word: rotten. Stuck between two genres—the haunted house film and zombie fantasy—the film literally implodes on itself in a sticky mess of Blair Witch-style disorientation tactics and Night of the Living Dead-ringers as American filmmaker Marie (Anastasia Hille) returns to her Russian homeland to claim ownership of a decrepit familial farmhouse. The plot thickens (or worsens) as a mysterious brother (Karel Roden) begins to reveal the secret of the grisly murder of their birth mother and a set of pallid doppelgangers plague the duo. Fans of Genesis and Aftermath beware, Nacho's upped the cheese quotient. Rated R. —KJ

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. Rated PG. —NM

THE ASTRONAUT FARMER—Another minimalist production from the Polish brothers (Northfork, Twin Falls Idaho) smacks of Field of Dreams meets October Sky, starring a farmer named Farmer (Billy Bob Thornton) who lives on Midwestern ranchland so nondescript the billboards read "Space Available." This double-entendre also refers to Farmer's single-minded fixation on constructing a rocket-ship and blasting himself into outer space, even to the detriment of his family's finances and the public perception of his sanity. Partly an ode to human ingenuity, there is also a wry commentary on the stifling of the American spirit. Rated PG. —NM

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. Rated PG-13. —KJ

BLACK SNAKE MOAN—Craig Brewer, the Memphis-based auteur of Hustle & Flow, serves up another steaming slice of distinctive Southern cinema with a musical core: this time, the blues. Though wryly packaged like an Erskine Caldwell lust fantasy, Brewer's sin 'n' salvation parable has the brilliant Christina Ricci as a loose girl chained to a radiator by irate bluesman Samuel L. Jackson, who aims to cure her wickedness. Directed with Tarantino-like verve, the witty, heartfelt film also features strong supporting work by Justin Timberlake. Rated R. —GC

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. 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 who leads him to the locus of fairy tale transformations, the Big Woods behind their houses. 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

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—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. Only the iconoclastic young prince and two companions 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. —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

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. Rated PG-13. —ZS

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 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. 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 to. Rated PG-13. —KJ

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. 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

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. Rated R. —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 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

RENO 911!: MIAMI—Naked boobs, toilet humor, masturbation jokes, a dozen F-bombs and Lt. Jim Dangle's hot-pants are the real stars here. It's hard for a TV show that typically times out at the 30-minute mark to develop a plot substantial enough to be stretched out over 84 minutes. And this proves to be the case as Reno 911's crass humor takes the driver's seat and the film's plot is left at a dirty gas station somewhere off of I-40. Rated R. —KJ

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. 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—Penelope Cruz's magnificent Oscar-nominated performance, and her welcome return to Spanish films, evokes Mediterranean heroines such as those played in the 1950s and '60s by Anna Magnani and Sophia Loren. Rated R. —LB

WILD HOGS—Not so much bad as painfully pointless, this diversion about a quartet of suburban biker wannabes battling emasculation and middle-age malaise who embark on a cross-country road trip will run afoul of anyone craving something beyond faded film stars submitting to slapstick and puerile homoerotic hijinks for the sake of a paycheck. Rated PG-13. —NM

ZODIAC—Director David Fincher (Se7en) crafts a spellbinding dissection of the Zodiac serial murders that terrorized Northern California in the late 1960s. This atmospheric crime saga, adapted from author Robert Graysmith's bestseller, blends elements of a newsroom drama, exacting police procedural and psychological thriller in examining how the chase to catch the killer became an obsession for those caught in its web, from Graysmith (Jake Gyllenhaal) to a San Francisco flatfoot (Mark Ruffalo) to a newspaper reporter played by Robert Downey Jr. (in an awards-caliber performance). The methodical pacing and two and one-half hour running time make this potboiler more of a slow simmer. But the devoted cast and Fincher's atmospheric acumen holds the film together, particularly during wrenching re-creations of Zodiac's slayings that includes the most visceral cinematic stabbing since Psycho. Rated R. —NM


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