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THE BALTIMORE SUN

STAFF CRITICS GIVE YOU THE LOWDOWN ON TEN TOP MOVIES, POPCORN NOT INCLUDED

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

What It's About: C.S. Lewis' classic tale of four British children going from the frying pan of London during the Blitz to the cold fire of a battle between good and evil in the fantastic parallel world of Narnia.

Rated: PG

The scoop: A wonderful escape into a landscape filled with marvels as well as cogent moral quandaries.

Grade: A

Capote

What It's About: New Yorker writer Truman Capote researches the murder of a Kansas farm family and gets in over his head with one of the killers.

Rated: R

The scoop: Forty years from now, people will still be talking about Philip Seymour Hoffman's .

Grade: A+

Good Night, and Good Luck

What It's About: CBS news pioneer Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn) takes down the Wisconsin demagogue Sen. Joseph R. McCarthy at the height of McCarthy's anti-Communist witch hunt.

Rated: PG

The scoop: It's a brilliantly entertaining picture, as personal as it is political - both a tribute to a master reporter and a reverie on his Bogart-like code and glamour.

Grade: A

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

What It's About: Harry and his friends face the anxieties of first dates and the dangers of the Triwizard Tournament, as Lord Voldemort hovers closer.

Rated: PG-13

The scoop: Fans of the series won't want to miss the sight of Hermione Granger (Emma Watson) all gussied up for the first Yule Ball. And for others, there's always gaudy-funny Brendan Gleeson as Mad-Eye Moody.

Grade: B-

King Kong

What It's About: The beauty and the beast (a 25-foot gorilla), this time with more dinosaurs and creepy critters than ever on Skull Island.

Rated: PG-13

The scoop: Peter Jackson delivers all the thrills you expect from him, and all the emotion too - Naomi Watts and the big ape are this Christmas' dream couple.

Grade: B+

Pride and Prejudice

What It's About: Potential lovers must see beyond their own, well, pride and prejudice.

Rated: PG

The scoop: Keira Knightley's surprisingly strong star performance makes this latest adaptation more of a date movie than a chick flick.

Grade: B-

Rent

What It's About: Friends in New York's East Village in the '80s confront AIDS, drugs and a greedy real-estate developer in this adaptation of the Tony- and Pulitzer-Prize-winning musical.

Rated: PG-13

The scoop: Tracie Thoms and Jesse L. Martin shine, but what may have been effective on stage comes off unbearably mawkish and heavy-handed on the big screen.

Grade: C-

The Squid and the Whale

What It's About: A frustrated novelist and professor (Jeff Daniels) and his up-and-coming writer wife are on the rocks.

Rated: R

The scoop: To add a third animal to the mix, Noah Baumbach's comedy-drama about his parents' split is like Woody Allen without the bull.

Grade: A-

Syriana

What It's About: Big Oil, the CIA, the built-in corruption of the American political and economic system and a trio of professionals caught up in it all.

Rated: R

The scoop: It's this season's Starbucks movie, sure to stir up caffeinated conversation - and you do get star performances from George Clooney, Matt Damon and Jeffrey Wright.

Grade: C+

Walk the Line

What It's About: Country music legend Johnny Cash (Joaquin Phoenix) rises, falls and rises again with the love of June Carter Cash (Reese Witherspoon).

Rated: PG-13

The scoop: Phoenix and Witherspoon act - and vocalize - their way into movie legend with their uncanny performances.

Grade: A

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