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THE BALTIMORE SUN

Capsules by Michael Sragow and Chris Kaltenbach, except where noted. Full reviews at baltimoresun.com/movies.

Akeelah and the Bee -- follows a formula, one of the oldest in all of fiction: an underdog, struggling against the odds, seeks fame, fortune and - most importantly - self-respect. But this is one of the most winning movies of 2006 in its abundance of great intentions. (C.K.) PG 112 minutes B+

An Inconvenient Truth -- is more than a documentary of Al Gore's dynamic traveling slide show about global warming. It's a spiritual autobiography and a call to conscience that rests on Gore's credibility as a student of ecology and an individual engaged in the key conflicts of his time. (M.S.) PG 100 minutes A

Art School Confidential -- is intermittently exhilarating. Director Terry Zwigoff (Bad Santa) skewers not just the jocks who taunt the artist hero (Max Minghella) in high school, but the clueless members of his family and, most of all, the pseuds who surround him at the Strathmore Institute, a fashionably decrepit art school. When the hero falls for a smart, gorgeous art model (Sophia Myles), it becomes an unwieldy combination - bitter and semisweet. But robust, intelligent contempt is so rare that we should treasure the caustic pieces of it here. (M.S.) R 102 minutes B

The Break-Up -- is half a great movie: a biting, hard-hearted comedic look at what happens when former lovers take off the gloves and begin using each other as emotional punching bags. But The Break-Up doesn't offer insight into how the attraction between Vince Vaughn's Gary and Jennifer Aniston's Brooke arose. (C.K.) PG-13 105 minutes B

Cars, -- the latest computer-animated universe from director John Lasseter, contains only automobiles that have human features. But these cars overflow with heart, wit and new ideas. Lasseter turns a portrait of hot-shot Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) into a salute to slowing down and savoring life. (M.S.) G 116 minutes A

Clean -- is an eloquent, evanescent movie about the up-and-down attempt of a drug-addict mother (Maggie Cheung) to gain enough stability to reclaim custody of her son. Cheung is marvelous, and Nick Nolte acts with sandblasting purity as the boy's grandfather. (M.S.) R 110 minutes B+

Click -- continues the fascinating process of watching Adam Sandler mature onscreen. The frat-boy humor remains, but as in 2004's 50 First Dates, it's leavened by honest heart, compelling inventiveness and the acknowledgment that not everything in life exists to be snickered at. Sand- ler plays Michael Newman, a too-successful architect whose drive and ambition leave no time for his family. Things seem to get better when he gets hold of a universal remote that really does control his universe, but as one might suspect, unforeseen problems soon arise. Click, with its nods to It's a Wonderful Life, suggests a much more harmonious marriage between the comedic and the heartfelt than many of Sandler's critics may have ever thought possible. (C.K.) PG-13 98 minutes B-

The Da Vinci Code -- issues a spray of perspiration - not from the hero (Tom Hanks) and heroine (Audrey Tautou) outrunning forces set on framing them for multiple murders, but from director Ron Howard and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman as they try (and fail) to stay on top of Dan Brown's heavy, exposition-riddled plot. (M.S.) PG-13 149 minutes C

District B-13 -- boasts actor-athletes David Belle and Cyril Raffaelli, who turn kicking butt into jack-booted ballet. It's 2010, and the French government has disowned and walled off the most crime-ridden suburb of Paris. The plot clicks into gear when someone hijacks a neutron bomb and delivers it to the district's ruling drug lord. The entire film goes by like a theme-park cyclone ride. (M.S.) R 85 minutes B

The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, -- the third and best entry in the series brings American bad-boy racer Lucas Black to Tokyo and introduces him to "drifting." The cars seem to move like high-speed hovercrafts, and the youthful crowds help give this spectacle a cavalcade of kicks. (M.S.) PG-13 105 minutes B+

Keeping Up With the Steins -- is equal parts a rumination on the rapacious silliness that comes from efforts to keep up with the Joneses and a tale of family rapprochement. Too bad the filmmakers couldn't settle on one plotline. The film tries to do too much, with too many changes of tone. (C.K.) PG-13 99 minutes C+

Garfield: A Tail of Two Kitties -- is tedious almost beyond endurance, an exercise in diminishing returns that takes the minor pleasures of the first film and makes believe the public is desperately clamoring for more. They aren't. The plot involves everyone journeying to London, where Garfield is mistaken for a cat of noble blood. (C.K.) PG 80 minutes D-

The Lake House -- features a mailbox that functions as a time portal and allows lonely doctor Sandra Bullock and lonely architect Keanu Reeves to correspond even though they live two years apart. It's so pitifully low on invention, it keeps reminding you of previous romantic retreads. (M.S.) PG 98 minutes C+

The Lost City -- offers an experience akin to falling into a delirious dream on a marathon train ride only to be roused every 15 minutes by a conductor punching your ticket or barking out the next stop. Andy Garcia plays a classy club-owner in 1959 Havana. He also directs, less successfully. The movie portrays Cuba under Batista in all its confusion and complexity. But Garcia's prosaic storytelling doesn't match his gifts for texture and romance. (M.S.) R 143 minutes B-

Mission: Impossible III -- will provide a satisfying ride only for series fans. It hinges on Tom Cruise's abilities to race through city streets like the Flash or soar through the air and land safely thanks to super bungee cords and his virtuoso ways with a parachute. (M.S.) PG-13 125 minutes B-

Nacho Libre -- as a romantic comedy is cute. As an introduction to Mexican wrestling it promises more than it delivers. As a mix of the two, the film never seems to find its footing. Fans of star Jack Black are going to expect a gonzo romp. Fans of writer-director Jared Hess are going to expect a reprise of his Napoleon Dynamite. Neither side is going to be satisfied. (C.K.) PG 90 minutes C+

The Omen -- with Liev Schreiber and Julia Stiles as the unwitting parents of the anti-Christ, is an almost scene-for-scene remake of the original 1976 film. Besides seeing Mia Farrow play a demonic nanny, there's not much to the film that a repeat viewing of its earlier incarnation couldn't provide. (C.K.) R 110 minutes C+

Over the Hedge -- is the tale of forest critters and their wide-eyed introduction to the pleasures and dangers of suburbia. It has animals that will appeal to the young, humor that will appeal to adolescents, tongue-in-cheek sophistication that will endear itself to adults and an appreciation of its animated predecessors that should warm the hearts of veteran moviegoers. (C.K.) PG 86 minutes A-

Poseidon -- fails to provide even the dubious excitement of seeing a handful survive and hundreds of passengers and crew drown when a monstrous wave overturns a cruise ship. It's clear no one's on the open sea, just in some studio tank, stuck up Remake River without a paddle. (M.S.) PG-13 99 minutes D

A Prairie Home Companion -- is a down-home-exquisite musical dramedy. It fills you with a joyful noise even when the subject is mortality. Working from a script by Garrison Keillor, with some of the personalities and/or characters from Keillor's radio show of the same name, the director, Robert Altman, achieves a homespun-gossamer texture. (M.S.) PG-13 105 minutes A

The Proposition -- is one of those grand, mythic Westerns. Only this rough-hewn land isn't the American West, but the Australian Outback. And while this terrific film sounds like something out of the Sam Peckinpah playbook, the auteurs here are director John Hillcoat and writer Nick Cave. (C.K.) R 104 minutes B+

RV, -- Barry Sonnenfeld's remake (in spirit, if not in name) of National Lampoon's Vacation is a comedy in which Robin Williams doesn't resort to his standard shtick (except for one overlong and unfunny scene in which he gangsta raps). Like Chevy Chase in Vacation, Williams is a dad who takes his brood on a cross-country vacation, during which they finally come to realize that dad isn't such a doofus after all. The film has some real laughs, mostly thanks to Jeff Daniels and Kristin Chenoweth as a hick family that refuses to be left behind. Still, it's impossible to shake the feeling that we've seen all this before. (C.K.) PG-13 92 minutes B-

Superman Returns -- is slavishly reverential and morose - it presents the Man of Steel (Brandon Routh) as a messiah from the pages of The Da Vinci Code. Its one good running joke is the way everyone wonders how far Lois Lane (Kate Bosworth) went with the big guy in the past, when she spent the night with him. The movie contains a dozen winning moments of humor, uplift or exhilaration. But too much of it plays like a near-death experience. (M.S.) PG-13 154 minutes C+

United 93 -- returns us to Sept. 11, 2001, with immediacy, intelligence and a full-bodied human impact. Instead of weepiness, it offers us insight and revelation. What's great about United 93 is that you never feel it's just a movie - even though, as a movie, it's terrific. (M.S.) R 111 minutes A+

Waist Deep -- is a paean to fatherly love, and a pain to movie-lovers. Thugs jack the car of single father and ex-con O2 (Tyrese Gibson) while his son Junior (H. Hunter Hall) lies asleep in the back seat. Meat (hip-hop star The Game), a one-eyed monster who rules an underworld empire, demands a $100,000 ransom. It's about as much fun for the viewer as being dropped into a virtual-reality version of a highway-safety crash film. (M.S.) R 97 minutes F

Water -- cries out against ancient yet extant Hindu laws that say widows of all ages should either throw themselves on their spouse's funeral pyre, adopt a life of renunciation or marry a brother of the deceased. But this literary feature too often takes the form of a romance novel rather than robust or muckraking fiction. (M.S.) PG-13 114 minutes B-

X-Men: The Last Stand -- stays true to the franchise: Professor Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and his band of mutants negotiate peacefully with mainstream society, while nemesis Magneto (Ian McKellen) raises an opposition culture, this time to destroy a "cure" for the mutant gene. But too many characters stand around with their mouths open. (M.S.) PG-13 104 minutes B-

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