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The Baltimore Sun

Capsules by film critics Michael Sragow and Chris Kaltenbach unless noted. Full reviews are at baltimoresun.com/movies.

Because I Said So -- Diane Keaton is a mother who can't bear the thought of her lovelorn daughter (Mandy Moore) spending one more minute unattached. This is a relationship film put together by people who think TV sitcoms are reality shows. (C.K.) PG-13 111 minutes D

Breach -- tells the story of the capture of super-spy Robert Hanssen with a delicious doggedness. Writer-director Billy Ray doesn't try to dazzle you with the scope of Hanssen's treachery. He focuses on how this man (played with virtuoso insinuations of creepiness by Chris Cooper) could operate for decades as an enemy within, rising to the top rung of American counterintelligence. By the end, the movie has planted a nightmare in your brain that won't leave you at the crack of dawn. (M.S.) PG-13 110 minutes B+

Bridge to Terabithia, -- based on Katherine Paterson's 1978 Newbery Medal-winning novel, centers on young Jess (Josh Hutcherson), a boy seemingly on the outs with everyone, and his friendship with Leslie (AnnaSophia Robb) who urges him to use his imagination. The two are soon imagining themselves as the king and queen of a wondrous kingdom, Terabithia, and use it as their retreat from the unpleasantness around them (C.K.) PG 96 minutes (C.K.) B

Children of Men -- is a sci-fi thriller that has less to do with the plot - disease has left all the women sterile - than with the director's vision of where our culture is headed. That's not necessarily a bad thing, given that the director is Alfonso Cuaron, one of current cinema's most striking visual stylists. But as great as the film looks, the story, with Clive Owen and Julianne Moore among those trying to protect the first pregnant woman to turn up in nearly 20 years, never quite comes into focus. Is it about the importance of fighting for an ideal? The need to focus on the future? The redemptive power of love? Or is it a determinedly pessimistic ode to the utter (and ultimate) stupidity of men? (C.K.) R 106 minutes B-

Daddy's Little Girls -- stars Idris Elba as Monty, a single dad trying to save the cash to buy out the garage where he works, and trying to gain custody of his three adorable daughters from their shrewish, drug-dealing mother (Tasha Smith). First, though, Monty has to put up with the stunning, snappish upper-crust attorney Julia (Gabrielle Union, who lifts the entire movie). (Orlando Sentinel) PG-13 95 minutes B-

Dreamgirls -- threads the history of black entertainers crossing into mainstream pop through the story of the rise and dissolution of a Supremes-like group. Writer-director Bill Condon's ability to combine artifice, reality, choreography and improv, and the astonishing performances by Jennifer Hudson and Eddie Murphy, make this the true heir to Chicago as a great movie musical. The talent floods off the screen and leaves you drenched in emotion and street wit. (M.S.) PG-13 131 minutes A

Factory Girl -- captures how simultaneously wonderful and awful it was for Edie Sedgwick to be Andy Warhol's muse. It was wonderful for capturing the reckless beauty of her youth. But it was awful when she found she was a muse and nothing but a muse at a time when she needed true friends and people who might draw out her talent as well as her personality. Sienna Miller plays her superbly. (M.S.) R 91 minutes B

Ghost Rider -- shows what happens when you deal with the devil. A teenage carnival stunt cyclist, Johnny Blaze (Matt Long) makes such a deal to save his father's life. Of course, Mephistopheles (Peter Fonda) being the jerk that he is, this bargain doesn't work out to Johnny's satisfaction. Years later, Johnny (now played by Nicolas Cage) becomes the Evel Knievel of his generation. When his childhood sweetheart (Eva Mendes) comes back into his life, Johnny turns on the charm. Some may find this distracting as they wait for him to get down to the business of stopping Meph's rebellious son Blackheart (Wes Bentley) from taking over the world. (Los Angeles Daily News) PG-13 114 minutes C+

Hannibal Rising -- relates how Hannibal Lecter learned cannibalism as a young boy when starving Lithuanian irregulars, at the end of World War II, ate his sister; after the war he seeks revenge, with samurai skills he learns from his Japanese aunt and surgical skills he learns in med school. This movie doesn't reinvent the evil genius; it merely offers plodding explanations for a monster who was scarier when unexplained. (M.S.) R. 117 minutes. C

The Last King of Scotland -- is Idi Amin, the Scot-loving, infamous Ugandan dictator who staged a coup in 1971. Forest Whitaker gives a performance huge in size and spirit and terrifying in its downward-spiraling momentum as Amin. James McAvoy has a giddy self-awareness as the co-antihero, a reckless Scot who becomes Amin's personal physician. (M.S.) R 121 minutes A-

Music and Lyrics -- is an affable romantic farce about a washed-up '80s pop star (Hugh Grant) who needs a lyricist to help him write a comeback hit - and finds one in his replacement plant-watering gal (Drew Barrymore). Grant once again proves himself the prince of erotic dither, Barrymore plays a peach with aplomb, and Haley Bennett is a real find as a Britney Spears-type pop star. (M.S.) 110 minutes B

Norbit -- is Eddie Murphy as a nice guy who gets married to Eddie Murphy in a billowing fat suit as the vile Rasputia; then lithe, ultra-nice Thandie Newton, as Norbit's true love Kate, comes back to town. But the script Murphy helped write never builds an entire comic architecture. (M.S.) PG-13 102 minutes C-

Notes on a Scandal -- is a sour tale of two flawed teachers: the fetching art instructor (Cate Blanchett), who sleeps with a 15-year-old student, and the battle-ax history department head, Barbara Covett (Judi Dench), who uses knowledge of the affair to forge a closer bond with her. (M.S.) R 91 minutes C+

The Painted Veil -- is the superbly acted love story of a mismatched British bacteriologist (Edward Norton) and a seemingly shallow London woman (Naomi Watts) who marries him in a desperate attempt to escape her family. (M.S.) PG-13 124 minutes B+

Pan's Labyrinth -- trips the dark fantastic: In 1944 Spain, a pro-Franco military thug tries to squash a stubborn pocket of resistance, while his virtuous, spunky stepdaughter enters a fairy-tale kingdom. (M.S.) R 112 minutes A

The Queen -- is Helen Mirren: As Queen Elizabeth II, she does an exhilarating, death-defying tightrope walk in sensible shoes, and Michael Sheen, as her new Labor prime minister, Tony Blair, spots her brilliantly. (M.S.) PG-13 97 minutes A

The Pursuit of Happyness -- subverts every cliche in its path as it tells a small, fictionalized piece of the life of Chris Gardner, a struggling medical-equipment vendor who stakes his future on becoming a stockbroker. The tough beauty of the picture is that it lets each viewer weigh the costs and benefits to the hero. As Gardner, Will Smith practices the highest form of acting: the kind that seems artless. (M.S.) PG-13 117 minutes A

Smokin' Aces, -- in which a gaggle of the world's deadliest and most colorful assassins vie for the $1 million bounty placed on the head of a Tahoe mob stoolie (Jeremy Piven), has no idea where it's going. But as a careening roller-coaster ride masquerading as a movie, it's a hoot. (C.K.) R 106 minutes B

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