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Short Subjectives May 09 2007

Delta Farce, Georgia Rule, Home of the Brave

Opening Friday

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28 WEEKS LATER (R) See review.

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AFTER THE WEDDING 3 stars. See review.

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AIR GUITAR NATION 4 stars (R) See review.

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AWAY FROM HER 5 stars (PG-13) See review.

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BAMAKO (NR) The contemporary story of an African couple in Mali's capital city, Bamako, told against the backdrop of intense public political proceedings. Written and directed by Abderrahmane Sissako. (Landmark)

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DELTA FARCE (PG-13) Starring Blue Collar comics Larry the Cable Guy and Bill Engvall, the film follows three inept Iraq-bound soldiers who are accidently dropped in Mexico. Hilarity ensues. Directed by C.B. Harding.

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THE EX (PG-13) From director Jesse Peretz, this comedy stars Zach Braff and Amanda Peet as newlyweds Tom and Sophia. When Sophia decides the family should return to Ohio so she can be a stay-at-home mom and Tom can work for her father, life as a new family unit gets a bit more complicated when an old flame of Sophia's (Jason Bateman) threatens to break up their love nest.

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GEORGIA RULE (R) A film by Garry Marshall chronicling three generations of feisty women (Jane Fonda, Felicity Huffman and Lindsay Lohan star).

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HOME OF THE BRAVE (R) Directed by Irwin Winkler, this war drama stars Samuel L. Jackson and Curtis "50 Cent" Jackson as returning Iraq war veterans adjusting to life back at home.

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THE HIP-HOP PROJECT 2 stars (PG-13) The goal of the NYC organization Art Start's Hip-Hop Project, to help kids express their anxieties and difficult lives through writing and performing hip-hop, is undeniably powerful. But this documentary about that unique group, led by former street kid and hip-hop artist Chris "Kazi" Rolle, is an inadequate, disappointing treatment of that mission. Directors Matt Ruskin's and Scott K. Rosenberg's film is unfocused, poorly structured and in the end, far less inspiring than it should be. -- Felicia Feaster

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THE SALON (PG-13) A Mark Brown-directed film about a beauty salon that also functions as a neighborhood's unofficial town hall.

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WAITRESS (PG-13) From director Adrienne Shelly comes this romantic comedy about a small-town waitress who is pregnant with her abusive husband's baby and finds love with the new doctor in town.

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Duly Noted

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SWEET AUBURN INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL Part of the Sweet Auburn SpringFest 2007, the international film festival features African-American-, Hispanic-, Asian- and African-produced films celebrating culture in motion. See website for screening times and locƒations. May 10-13, Fri., 5-11 p.m.; Sat., 11 a.m.-9 p.m.; Sun., 2-8 p.m. Historic Auburn Avenue, downtown Atlanta. www.sweetauburn.com, www.blackcinema.org.

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THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975) (R) The cult classic of cult classics, the musical horror spoof follows an all-American couple (Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick) to the castle of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry), a drag queen/mad scientist from another galaxy. It's all fun and games until Meat Loaf gets killed. Dress as your favorite character and participate in this musical on acid. Midnight Fri. at Lefont Plaza Theatre and Sat. at Peachtree Cinema & Games, Norcross.

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Continuing

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300 4 stars (R) In 480 B.C., 300 Spartan warriors stand against an army of hundreds of thousands in an ultraviolent action epic that makes the Hercules and Conan movies look like flailing slap-fights. Like Sin City, it's based on a macho graphic novel by Frank Miller and all the backgrounds are computer-generated; unlike Sin City, the painterly images don't overwhelm the emotional investment of such actors as Gerard Butler and Lena Headey as Sparta's king and queen. If it plays like the biggest Army recruiting commercial ever made (particularly given that the bad guys are Iranians — I mean, Persians), 300 nevertheless conquers its own overwrought tendencies to offer a thrilling, larger-than-life spectacle. — Curt Holman

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AMAZING GRACE 3 stars (PG) Director Michael Apted (49 Up) examines the attempts of British reformers in Parliament led by William Wilberforce (Ioan Gruffudd) to end the Empire's slave trade toward the end of the 18th century. While Apted's own attempts to quicken the film's extended storyline spanning nearly two decades by using flashbacks falls a bit short, the compelling subject matter and Gruffudd's earnest performance are engaging enough. Veteran British actors Albert Finney and Michael Gambon lend a capable hand in supporting roles, with Finney playing a repentant slave-ship captain who eventually penned the famous gospel hymn of the movie's title. — David Lee Simmons

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AQUA TEEN HUNGER FORCE COLON MOVIE FILM FOR THEATERS 2 stars (R) A bickering milkshake, meatball and box of french fries become embroiled in a power struggle over a piece of exercise equipment that might destroy the world. That said, the plot is pretty much beside the point, and it's a blind leap to assume there even IS a point. This big-screen adaptation of "Aqua Teen Hunger Force" shows heroic integrity by staying true to the surreal gags and aggressive nonsequiturs of Adult Swim, and makes practically no concessions to the uninitiated or nonstoned. The Mooninites (feisty aliens with deadpan voices and Atari-era animation) remain hilarious creations, but trying to stretch out the humor of a 12-minute "Aqua Teen" episode to the length of a feature film feels like trying to make a full meal out of vending-machine snack food. — Holman

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ARE WE DONE YET? 2 stars (PG) In this modern interpretation of the 1948 postwar classic Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House family man Nick Persons (Ice Cube) moves from a city apartment to a drool-worthy country mansion but finds himself and his house wrapped around the finger of an outlandish local contractor (a genuinely uproarious John C. McGinley). The laughs are few and far between — mostly courtesy of McGinley — though Ice Cube's scowl and introverted, impacted emotions come in handy in expressing homeowner building angst. — Feaster

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AVENUE MONTAIGNE 3 stars (PG-13) A frothy but entertaining Gallic drama about how the other half lives, Daniéle Thompson's sorta Cinderella story has a beautiful gamine (Cécile de France) taking a job at a chic cafe in the wealthy Avenue Montaigne district of Paris whose unhappy rich inhabitants she watches contemplating life changes. A pianist (Albert Dupontel) wants to give up his career, an art collector (Claude Brasseur) is auctioning off the fruits of his lifelong hobby and a soap opera actress (Valérie Lemercier) contemplates gladly trading her fame and riches to play Simone de Beauvoir on the big screen. If your expectations are low, the film is a diverting, pretty distraction. — Feaster (Midtown)

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BLACK BOOK 4 stars (R) In The Netherlands in 1944, a Jewish fugitive (Carice van Houten) turns femme fatale as an anti-Nazi resistance fighter, only to discover that things aren't as black-and-white as it seems. Dutch director Paul Verhoeven returns to his homeland after making such lurid, visceral Hollywood product as Basic Instinct, Showgirls and Starship Troopers, with results that can be both thrilling and ridiculously melodramatic. Instead of coming across as a caricature of femininity, Van Houten's star-making performance always feel credible and anchors the film despite its borderline-ludicrous plot twists. -- Holman

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BLADES OF GLORY 3 stars (PG-13) Two figure skaters, played by fey Jon Heder and swaggering Will Ferrell, attempt to put aside their bitter rivalry and become the first man-on-man ice-skating team. Will Ferrell's typical comedies let the funny outfits do half the work, but Blades of Glory improves on the formula with stranger, snappier dialogue ("Get out of my face!" "I'll get inside your face!"), a wonderfully bizarre vision of professional skating and an ability to tweak gay panic without resorting to actual homophobia. Ferrell and Heder make amusing foils, and the film gives "Arrested Development" fans a treat by reuniting Will Arnett and Amy Poehler as a psychotically competitive brother-sister figure skating team. — Holman

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BOY CULTURE (NR) A successful Seattle-based male escort describes his tangled relationships with his two roommates and an older male client. Directed by Q. Allen Brocka.

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THE CONDEMNED (R) Stone Cold Steve Austin stars in this action thriller about a man on death row in a Central American prison who is purchased by a wealthy businessman and sent to a remote island where he and nine of the world's most infamous murderers must fight to be the last man left alive. Directed by Scott Wiper.

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DEAD SILENCE (R) A newlywed (Ryan Kwanten) investigates the death of his wife after they moved to a haunted small town in this thriller directed by James Wan.

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DIGGERS 3 stars (R) Four friends, all independent clam diggers in small-town Long Island circa 1976, face life-changing problems even as a corporation threatens to extinguish their livelihood. Director Katherine Dieckmann sets a bittersweet, elegiac tone for the soft-spoken drama, which alternates between feeling deeply lived-in and self-consciously artificial. Paul Rudd effectively underplays the central performance, although screenwriter Ken Marino frequently showboats as a stressed-out family man with rage issues. -- Holman

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DISTURBIA 3 stars (PG-13) A likable but troubled teen (Shia LaBeouf) under house arrest turns self-appointed neighborhood watch and suspects the guy next door (David Morse) of being a murderer. Director D.J. Caruso proves interested in the voyeuristic POV shots of the premise, at least as a technical exercise, and LaBeouf and Morse lend snap to their roles. Despite being a transparent Hitchcock imitation, Disturbia persuasively argues that the time may be ripe to revisit Rear Window's themes, thanks to advances in picture phones, digital cameras and other gadgets of the YouTube generation. — Holman

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FIREHOUSE DOG (PG) The world's most famous — and Hollywood's most pampered — pooch is separated from his owner and ends up as the mascot of a hapless fire station. There, he helps a 12-year-old boy (Josh Hutcherson) and his father, a veteran fire chief, turn the station into the city's finest. Directed by Todd Holland.

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FRACTURE (R) Crime thriller starring Anthony Hopkins as a meticulous engineer accused of murdering his adulterous wife. Ryan Gosling (Half Nelson) plays the district attorney in charge of bringing him to justice. Directed by Gregory Hoblit (Hart's War) and co-stars David Strathairn and Embeth Davidtz.

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GRINDHOUSE 3 stars (R) Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez team up for a self-contained double feature that pays homage to sleazy exploitation films of the 1970s and the seedy cinemas that screened them. Rodriguez's zombie spoof Planet Terror goes almost exclusively for juvenile gross-outs, although Rose McGowan creates an iconic character as a go-go dancer turned zombie killer who's like a cross between Wonder Woman and the Bride of Frankenstein. Tarantino takes Death Proof more seriously by affectionately introducing the strong, likeable female characters (including Rosario Dawson and stuntwoman Zoe Bell as herself) stalked by a psycho stunt driver (Kurt Russell). Apart from Death Proof's breathtaking final car chase, Grindhouse's most appealing qualities are its hilarious fake movie trailers and its evocation of the scratchy prints and missing reels of old film prints. — Holman

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THE HOAX 4 stars (R) Lasse Hallstrom's (Chocolat, The Cider House Rules) rollicking adaptation of the true tale of literary charlatan Clifford Irving who sold a faked biography of reclusive nut and billionaire Howard Hughes to his publisher McGraw-Hill is a tale of deception for our times with a marvelously cagey and charismatic lead performance by Richard Gere. — Feaster

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HOT FUZZ 3 stars (R) A London supercop (co-writer Simon Pegg) finds himself transferred to a seemingly crime-free English village, which turns out to be far more dangerous than it seems. Pegg and director/co-writer Edgar Wright satirize action-movie clichés with the same blend of affection and adrenaline that they brought to their zombie romantic comedy Shaun of the Dead. Pegg and Wright pen an air-tight screenplay, charged with the vocabulary of Hollywood shoot-em-ups (tight close-ups and booming sound effects can accompany the most mundane actions). Partnered again with Nick Frost as a bumbling police officer, Pegg and Wright display a sense of humor that should be registered as a lethal weapon. To hear an exclusive podcast interview with Simon Pegg and Nick Frost, visit atlanta.creativeloafing.com and click on Flicks. — Holman

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I THINK I LOVE MY WIFE 2 stars (R) A bland comic remake of French director Eric Rohmer's Chloe in the Afternoon starring, written and directed by Chris Rock about a Manhattan banker with a perfect home life in the suburbs, children and a pretty wife who nevertheless lusts for a sexpot (Kerry Washington) who tempts him away from home and hearth. Nothing new in the marital angst genre in this unsatisfying, mostly unfunny, oddly bitter translation of Rock's standup comedy to film. — Feaster

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IMAX THEATER Deep Sea (NR) Get an up-close-and-personal look at sea turtles, giant octopi and other strange and colorful marine life in this visit to the ocean floor. Greece: Secrets of the Past (NR) This documentary explores the archeological secrets of Ancient Greece and features the Parthenon in its original glory as well as the volcanic eruption that buried the island of Santorini. Fernbank Museum of Natural History IMAX Theater, 767 Clifton Road. 404-929-6300. www.fernbank.edu.

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INTO GREAT SILENCE (NR) This documentary from German filmmaker Philip Gröning chronicles the day-to-day lives of the monks who inhabit the Grande Chartreuse monastery in the French Alps. Gröning filmed the documentary without a crew or lighting, while he attended daily prayers, rituals and tasks. The result is a film that embodies the very monastery in which it is set. (Tara)

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THE INVISIBLE (PG-13) High school teenager Nick (Justin Chatwin) becomes trapped in a kind of limbo between the living and dead after being mistaken for someone else and attacked by a disturbed girl (Margarita Levieva). Supernatural thriller from David S. Goyer features Marcia Gay Harden.

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KICKIN' IT OLD SKOOL (PG-13) After a freak break-dancing accident, Justin Schumacher (Jamie Kennedy) is left in a coma for 20 years. He wakes up to discover that break dancing is still alive — and kickin' — and tries to pop, lock and drop his way back to the top.

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KILLER OF SHEEP 5 stars (NR) Since its release in 1977, director Charles Burnett's heartbreakingly somber portrait of the emotional divide between a depressed slaughterhouse worker Stan (Henry G. Sanders) and his beautiful wife in the inner-city neighborhood of Watts in Los Angeles still has the ability to seduce with its poetic beauty. An intimate snapshot of little boys playing in the city's vacant lots and the joking, warm intimacy between neighbors, Burnett's films is reminiscent of the observational storytelling of the Italian neorealists. Few films have treated everyday African-American life with such lyricism and tenderness and this film, made when Burnett was a film student at UCLA, has deservedly become an independent film legend. -- Feaster

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THE LOOKOUT (R) Directed by Scott Frank (Academy Award-nominated screenwriter for Out of Sight), The Lookout follows Chris Pratt (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), a once-promising high school athlete who becomes mentally impaired after a tragic accident. After finding work as a janitor, Chris becomes part of a heist at a bank that employs him. The film also stars Jeff Daniels (The Squid and the Whale) and Isla Fisher (Wedding Crashers).

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LUCKY YOU (PG-13) Set in Las Vegas' high-stakes poker world, Huck Cheever (Eric Bana) struggles with personal challenges (including a complicated relationship with his father, poker legend L.C. Cheever, played by Robert Duvall) while trying to win the World Poker Championship and the heart of Billie Offer (Drew Barrymore). From director Curtis Hanson (8 Mile, Wonder Boys).

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MEET THE ROBINSONS (G) A schoolboy inventor travels to the future and meets a lovably eccentric family. This computer-animated family flick is based on A Day With Wilbur Robinson by William Joyce, whose playfully retro children's books inspired the kid's shows "Rolie Polie Olie" and "George Shrinks," not to mention the cool designs of Robots.

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THE NAMESAKE 2 stars (PG-13) Mira Nair's (Monsoon Wedding) latest foray into cross-cultural ennui is a bit of a disappointment. When her adaptation of Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Jhumpa Lahiri's novel is focused on recent newlyweds Ashima (Tabu) and Ashoke (Irfan Khan) as they make the difficult immigrant's journey from bright, warm Calcutta to grim Queens in the '70s the film succeeds beautifully. But when Nair's attention turns to their dour teenage hatchling Gogol (Kal Penn) in this epic family drama of cultural collision between the old world and the new, the film loses some energy. Gogol's bratty angst just doesn't carry the emotional gravitas of his parents' loneliness and yearning and every time the attention is on the younger generation's problems the film suffers. — Feaster (Tara)

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NEXT (PG-13) Cris Johnson (Nicholas Cage) is able to see a few minutes into the future — a gift that sometimes causes him more trouble than it's worth. Sick of being treated like a science project by the government, he flees to Las Vegas to see if he can make something out of always knowing what comes next. Julianne Moore and Jessica Biel also star. Directed by Lee Tamahori.

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PATHFINDER (R) A young Norse boy who becomes stranded when his Viking ship is wrecked off the East Coast of North America grows up among the Native Americans only to defend the tribe against the Vikings who came to destroy them. Action-adventure is directed by Marcus Nispel and stars Karl Urban.

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PERFECT STRANGER HIIII (R) Without big names Bruce Willis and Halle Berry, this stupidly serpentine sex thriller with an unbearably hackneyed twist ending would have been direct-to-cable fare. Like soft-core Nancy Drew, Berry is a maverick reporter who decides to use her sleuthing expertise, sex appeal and the help of a computer genius colleague (a wasted Giovanni Ribisi) to go after an advertising bigwig (Bruce Willis) she believes is behind a friend's gruesome murder. Very little seems plausible or even especially entertaining in this crass, throwaway thriller from the wildly uneven James Foley (At Close Range, Two Bits). — Feaster

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PREMONITION 3 stars (PG-13) Sandra Bullock plays a housewife who begins doubting her sanity after his husband's death when she experiences her days out of sequence. Reminiscent of the premises of both Memento and Groundhog Day, director Mennan Yapo's supernatural thriller intrigues the audience with Bill Kelly's reasonably clever script instead of horror-house jolts. — Holman

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PRIDE (PG) Sunu Gonera's fact-based film follows inner-city Philadelphia swim coach Jim Ellis' (Terrence Howard) fight to build a swim team in one of Philly's toughest neighborhoods in the 1970s. Driven by his love of competitive swimming, Ellis refurbishes an abandoned recreational pool with the help of its custodian Elston (Bernie Mac). Recruiting teens from the streets, Jim struggles to transform a motley team of novices into capable swimmers — all in time for the upcoming state championships.

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THE REAPING (R) Hilary Swank plays a former Christian missionary who lost her faith after her family was tragically killed, and has since become a world-renowned expert in disproving religious phenomena. But when she investigates a small Louisiana town that is suffering from what appear to be the biblical plagues, she realizes that science cannot explain what is happening and she must regain her faith to combat the dark forces threatening the community. Directed by Stephen Hopkins (The Life and Death of Peter Sellers).

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REDLINE (PG-13) Double-crossed by his fellow smuggler and subsequently attacked, a thug (Rutger Hauer) gains new life as a cyborg bent on revenge. Directed by Tibor Takács and co-stars Eddie Griffin.

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SHOOTER 2 stars (R) Playing a sniper with a testosterone-dripping name of Bob Lee Swagger, Mark Wahlberg follows up his Best Supporting Actor nomination for The Departed with a dumber "political" action film. His covert military sniper gets coaxed from retirement to avert an assassination, only to be framed and become the target of a national manhunt. The script convincingly portrays the nuts-and-bolts details of marksmanship, and Training Day director Antoine Fuqua can stage a competent action scene, but the film relies on so many clichés that you can cherry-pick your pet peeves (like a Southern school teacher apparently unable to speak proper English), and the film's "patriotic" philosophy seems to boil down to vengeful anarchy. ­-- Holman

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SLOW BURN (R) As if district attorney (Ray Liotta) doesn't have enough on his hands with a time-sensitive showdown against a gang leader (LL Cool J), he also has to fend off the machinations of a hot assistant district attorney (Jolene Blalock) and a mysterious stranger. Directed by Wayne Beach and co-stars Chiwetel Ejiofor, Bruce McGill, Taye Diggs and Mekhi Phifer.

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SPIDER-MAN 3 4 stars (PG-13) In the third and most entertaining of director Sam Raimi's Spider-Man trilogy, the darker impulses of normally sunny superhero Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) take over thanks in part to an alien parasite that provides him with a black costume and a bad attitude. Awkwardly paced and top-heavy with new characters, Spider-Man 3 nevertheless keeps the conflicts rooted in character while improving on the spectacular special effects of the earlier films. If it's a little tiresome to see girlfriend Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) constantly in peril, the creativity and excitement of freaky, poignant villains such as the Sandman (Thomas Haden Church) take up the slack in Raimi's web. -- Holman

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TMNT (PG) After the defeat of their old archenemy Shredder, the Turtles have grown apart as a family. Struggling to keep them together, their rat sensei Splinter becomes worried when strange things begin to brew in New York City. Directed by Kevin Munroe; voice cast includes Kevin Smith and Sarah Michelle Gellar.

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THE TV SET 4 stars (R) Sigourney Weaver is deliciously shallow and David Duchovny sympathetically whipped as, respectively, a TV network president and a TV series writer duking it out during pilot season over the small changes to Mike's (Duchovny) angst-ridden drama that soon become very large ones. Though interesting as a study in television's escalating reality-show stupidity and the perils of creativity-by-committee, the film works on a broader level too as a study of corporate culture, selling out and the sacrifices that eat away at your soul. -- Feaster

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VACANCY (R) Nimród Antal's horror film stars Luke Wilson and Kate Beckinsale as a couple forced to spend the night in a roadside motel after their car breaks down. After finding hidden cameras in the room and a terrifying snuff film playing on the VCR, they realize they must escape before they become the stars ­-- and victims — of a real-life horror flick.

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WILD HOGS HIIII (PG-13) Simple-minded comedy has the audacity to reference Deliverance in one scene, yet the only folks who'll be squealing like a pig are the ones who fork over 10 bucks, only to find themselves royally screwed after enduring its inanities. Four Cincinnati bunglers (John Travolta, Tim Allen, Martin Lawrence and William H. Macy) decide to embark on a midlife-crisis road trip to the West Coast. The "gay panic" humor is so rampant that it's reasonable to wonder if cast and crew wrapped each shooting day by beating up a homosexual off-screen. — Matt Brunson

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WIND CHILL (R) Two college students (played by Ashton Holmes and Emily Blunt) are terrorized by ghosts after their car breaks down during a snow storm on Christmas eve.

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YEAR OF THE DOG 4 stars (PG-13) Screenwriter Mike White's (Chuck & Buck, School of Rock) directorial debut is a gingerly misanthropic anti-chick flick about a woman, Peggy (Molly Shannon), crazy for dogs, who goes through a radical life change when her beloved beagle, Pencil, dies. Defying every expectation about where such stories are "supposed" to go, this deadpan comedy and wonderfully openhearted film is a small triumph of go-its-own-way indie cinema. Shannon is a revelation playing an utterly idiosyncratic and lovable woman who sees life very differently from the people around her. — Feaster



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