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Capsules by Michael Sragow and Chris Kaltenbach. Full reviews at

Aquamarine -- will separate the world into two camps: 14-year-old girls who will love it, and those who will realize this is a movie only 14-year-old girls can love. Claire (Emma Roberts) and Hailey (pop singer Joanna "JoJo" Levesque) are enjoying summer in the seaside Florida village they call home. Hailey's mom, a marine biologist, has just landed a dream job in Australia. Devastated, the girls try to ignore their coming separation, opting instead to partake in their favorite pastime: boy-watching. And that means, especially, the hunky Raymond (Jake McDorman). Then a storm deposits a mermaid (Sara Paxton) in their pool. The mermaid, named Aquamarine, must find someone to love her within three days, or she'll have to marry someone her father has picked out. Help me, she tells the girls, and I'll grant you a wish. Now Claire and Hailey face a dilemma. They could use the wish to keep Hailey from having to move. But the boy Aquamarine has settled on is Raymond. Can the girls overcome their shared crush? Of course they can. While they're at it, they learn from her, absorbing some of her self-confidence and willingness to take chances. (C.K.) Rated PG. Time 100 minutes B-


The Boys of Baraka -- provides eloquent and infuriating testimony to the failures of the Baltimore public school system. But the two-year program it's based on - sending a score of 12- and 13-year-old African-American boys to a boarding school named Baraka, in Kenya - remains a sign of hope, even after the program disintegrates. And the movie is a sign of hope, too. It's unceasingly involving and entertaining. (M.S.) Unrated 84 minutes A

Brokeback Mountain -- stars Heath Ledger as the ranch-hand lover of rodeo-man Jake Gyllenhaal. After their first summer of love, they marry and start families, but reconnect after four years. Soon they're going on "fishing trips" and comparing notes on lives of quiet desperation. The result is as close to a still life as you can get with human characters. (M.S.) R 134 minutes C


Cache -- is the feel-guilty movie of the new millennium. The director, Michael Haneke, an Austrian who makes films in France, depicts characters who'd just about define the discreet charms of the bourgeoisie if he weren't so intent on unveiling their inner sleaziness. Daniel Auteuil plays the host of a public-TV talk show, a sort of Gallic Charlie Rose with intellectual street cred. Juliette Binoche plays his wife, a success in publishing. Auteuil starts to receive disturbing surveillance videos that link him to the aftermath of a terrible racist episode in French history. (M.S.) R 121 minutes C+

Capote -- is a bleakly funny, profoundly unsettling depiction of Truman Capote as a young literary lion on the scent of his "nonfiction novel" about a Kansas murder. As Capote bonds with killer Perry Smith, actor Philip Seymour Hoffman takes the writer from tenderness to brute manipulation. He creates the odyssey of a man who achieves a self-knowledge that defeats instead of strengthens him. (M.S.) R 114 minutes A+

Curious George -- gives the fabled Man in the Yellow Hat a name (Ted), but otherwise all is as it should be in this winsome big-screen adaptation of H.A. and Margret Rey's tales of a mischievous monkey and his innocent adventures. The story is about Ted's search in Africa for a giant idol that will save his museum from bankruptcy and the little monkey who follows him home. Like the books from which it springs, Curious George is safe and tame, utterly without guile or malicious intent. Some adults may find the film unbearably simplistic, or its pace burdensomely slow. But it would be a shame if movie audiences have become so hyper-adrenalized that they can't appreciate a charmer like this one. (C.K.) G 87 minutes B

Dave Chappelle's Block Party -- simply records the build-up and the play-out of the comedian's attempt to stage his dream rap concert on a Brooklyn street corner, shooting it in sherbety colors and editing it in an ice-cream swirl. Chappelle doesn't just generate laughs: He inspires wonder and delight. He's an observational comic with a drawling syntax that's almost as sly as Mark Twain's. He loves Thelonious Monk's timing because when the jazzman seemed off-rhythm, he was really on. The same is true of Chappelle. (M.S.) R 100 minutes B+

Eight Below, -- in which eight gorgeous sled dogs are stranded in the frozen Antarctic after being left behind by their owners, should win over all but the determinedly cynical. Ordered on an expedition under threatening conditions, guide Jerry Smith (Paul Walker) takes a scientist to look for meteorites. When a storm hits, the two are saved by their dogs, which they are then forced to leave behind. Guilt-ridden, Smith tries to return for them. The dogs are beautiful, loyal and whip-smart. Watching them should leave any sensate human thrilled at times, near tears at others. Sure, the movie's manipulative, but at least it's expertly manipulative. (C.K.) PG 112 minutes. B

Final Destination 3 -- continues the movie franchise in which some teen and a group of his or her friends somehow cheat death, only to discover soon thereafter that the Grim Reaper doesn't like taking no for an answer. As the movie progresses, the teens meet their ends in grisly, increasingly intricate ways. Granted, there's a certain perverse fun in trying to outguess a movie like this. But this is the third trip to the same cinematic trough, and it's hard to believe even hard-core fans aren't getting a little tired of the repetition. (C.K.) R 90 minutes C

Firewall -- offers competently doctored formula: Grade B pap with a violent mickey in it. As a computer security V.P. for a bank, battling a master thief who locks down his family, Harrison Ford has the reliability and the plain and simple charm of the old Timex watch: He takes a licking and keeps on ticking. (M.S.) PG-13 106 minutes B-

Freedomland -- plays like a pilot for a new forensic series set in Jersey. The music blares, the camera bobs and the editing flashes to a cavalcade of ticked-off characters. A white woman (Julianne Moore) declares that a black man has jacked her car; under the ministrations of an African-American housing project cop (Samuel L. Jackson), she remembers that her son was in the back seat as the jacker peeled out. He isn't the only person to go missing in the movie. The way Joe Roth has directed it, spurious tension undercuts screenwriter-novelist Richard Price's characterizations. (M.S.) R. 121 minutes. C+


Hoodwinked -- is the story of Little Red Riding Hood. No, it's the story of what happens after Red has her infamous encounter with the wolf, as cops and detectives case the crime scene to figure out what happened. What ends up onscreen is a low-level hoot. (C.K.) PG 80 minutes C+

King Kong, -- in Peter Jackson's hugely entertaining, undeniably erratic remake, resembles a DC Comics super ape. He boasts the brainpan of Gorilla Grodd and a scrambled version of Superman's power menu. Jackson overstuffs the film with action set pieces, including a superfluous arachnid jamboree. Yet whenever the spectacle grows wearying, the sight of Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts), the courageous blonde who entrances the gorilla, supplies a shot of adrenaline. (M.S.) PG-13 187 minutes B+

Last Holiday -- is best when it matches the endearingly low-key performance of Queen Latifah, who ratchets down her outsized persona to great effect in this comedy about a store clerk who, discovering she has only weeks to live, decides to live it up at a European resort. The film's genius is that her decision doesn't make her in any way insufferable; but instead lets her finally enjoy who she is. (C.K.) PG-13 112 minutes B

Match Point -- features a sizzling performance by Scarlett Johansson - she brings down this homicidal London-set romance like a match igniting a Covent Garden opera house of cards. An onslaught of arias indicates that nothing will be easy for her struggling American actress and her ambitious Irish lover (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers). Every move seems preordained. But Johansson bequeaths the welcome sight of a talent in full bloom to this wilted dark whimsy of a movie. (M.S.) R 124 minutes C

Munich -- is a sermonizing anti-thriller ostensibly depicting the aftermath of the Palestinian terrorist slaughter of 11 Israeli Olympians in 1972. But from the moment the Israelis decide Munich has changed everything to the final shot of the World Trade Center, director Steven Spielberg and screenwriter Tony Kushner reduce Israel's response to the massacre to an analogy of America's response to al-Qaida. This is a subject for historical debate, not pseudo-humanistic propaganda. (M.S.) R 160 minutes C-

Nanny McPhee -- offers a great time to be had at the movies. Emma Thompson stars in repulsive makeup as a nanny who shows up to care for the unruly children of widower Mr. Brown (Colin Firth), a bankrupt mortician. He has accepted the financial help of autocratic Aunt Adelaide (Angela Lansbury), who has one condition: that he marry again. That doesn't sit well with his kids. Nanny McPhee's strange powers soon cow the kids into submission. Then Mr. Brown proposes to a horrible woman from town. Whatever will they do? (C.K.) PG 97 minutes B


Night Watch -- arrives here from Russia with its graphic potency intact and a rush of inventive subtitles that ramp up its comic-book-like energy: when vampires summon their latest victim, the letters run red and trail off in wispy streams of blood. The plot depicts one of those never-ending battles that start in antiquity and persist to the present day. Luckily, the director, Timur Bekmambetov, who co-wrote the script with Sergei Lukyanenko (author of the original novel), keeps the conflicts immediate and crunchy. (M.S.) R 116 minutes B

The Pink Panther -- features Steve Martin tying himself into a Gordian knot trying to play Inspector Clouseau. Seeing Martin wreak changes on a classic slapstick character is like watching a lab experiment in a comedy clinic. Martin is so inherently graceful and dance-like (and cerebral) that when he plays clumsy the laughs must derive from bizarre choreography, not inspired, spontaneous idiocy. And even that happens only a few times here. (M.S.) PG 95 minutes C

Running Scared -- is the story of the guy paid to get rid of murder weapons for the mob (Paul Walker) and the deadly fix he's in when a young boy (Cameron Bright) uses one of them to shoot his abusive stepfather. Writer-director Wayne Kramer (The Cooler) tries to create a gangland fairytale out of blood and bluster and crippled flights of fancy. The result is an out-of-control, lost-in-the-funhouse experience. That goes even for viewers who consider mental impairment, drug addiction, sadism and abused women and youngsters the stuff of carny-sideshow entertainment. Kramer tips his hat to his superiors in the closing credits; the final line reads, "For Sam Peckinpah, Brian De Palma and Walter Hill." He should have added two words: "I'm sorry." (M.S.) R 122 minutes D

16 Blocks -- follows a pretty standard Hollywood formula: An optimist wins, a burnout is revived and all is well once again with the world. But the movie marks an intriguing new chapter in an established actor's career and an exciting milestone in that of a relative newcomer. The veteran would be Bruce Willis, here as booze-addled cop Jack Mosley, who gets an unexpected shot at redemption. As good as Willis is, he's no match for Mos Def as Eddie Bunker, a small-time hood who's decided it's time to turn his life around. When we first see Mosley, he's been given a last-minute assignment - take this kid Eddie from the station to the courthouse just 16 blocks away. But it turns out Eddie's the key witness in an investigation of police corruption, and a bunch of cops, including his former partner, Frank Nugent (a creepy David Morse), are determined to see that he doesn't make it alive. (C.K.) PG-13. Time 105 minutes B+

Something New -- tackles an important social and cultural issue: interracial dating in a culture where color-blindness is still a far-off goal. Sanaa Lathan is Kenya McQueen, a career-obsessed financial consultant who notices that she's on the fast track alone. Then she meets Brian (Simon Baker), a handsome, absolutely wonderful guy. It doesn't take long for Kenya to realize that Brian is one fine catch. Except that she's black, and he's white. Something New doesn't live up to its title; it is the sort of intimate love story that Hollywood has been churning out for years. But it does offer that most pleasant and valuable of viewing experiences: a message movie in which story and character come first. (C.K.) PG-13 100 minutes B+

Transamerica -- courses on the jet-stream of Felicity Huffman's performance as Stanley "Bree" Osbourne, a man determined to become a woman. With humor and sanity, Huffman portrays a quest for self-definition without pleading for sympathy or selling a panacea. (M.S.) R 103 minutes B+