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report card staff critics' takes on the top movies

The Baltimore Sun

Boy A

What it's about: A young man released after a lengthy prison term for an atrocious crime committed in his childhood adjusts to society with the help of a new name and manufactured background.

Rated: R

The scoop: The movie turns clinical whenever it flashes back to the antihero's childhood, but Andrew Garfield (above) gives a genius lead performance filled with terror and wonder.

Grade: *** ( 3 STARS)

Brick Lane

What it's about: A Bangladeshi woman (Tannishtha Chatterjee, above), suffocating in an arranged married to a decades-older man (Satish Kaushik) in London, begins to sew blue jeans at home and drifts into an affair with the man who delivers the denim.

Rated: PG-13

The scoop: The husband steals the movie: He's comical when he thinks he is a man of ideas, but he's heartbreaking when he shows he is full of common sense and uncommon feeling.

Grade: *** ( 3 STARS)

Burn After Reading

What it's about: Espionage gets mixed up with a gym worker's (Brad Pitt, above) desire to get a Hollywood body, a CIA wife's move to get a divorce, and a U.S. Treasury agent's propensity to get some thrills whenever his flame flicks him the wrong way.

Rated: R

The scoop : You can't fault the ensemble (George Clooney and Frances McDormand are especially spirited), but the movie lacks internal combustion. It's more willfully silly than peppy and more like a lava lamp than lava.

Grade : ** 1/2 ( 2 1/2)

Frozen River

What it's about: A hard-bitten wife and mother (Melissa Leo, above), living in a small town outside the Mohawk Reservation on the border with Quebec, partners with a cryptic Mohawk (Misty Upham) to smuggle illegal immigrants across the border.

Rated: R

The scoop: It's Leo's movie; her character can be racist, crude and reckless, yet without pleading, Leo takes you so far into her soul you never reduce her to a sociological label.

Grade: *** ( 3 STARS)

The Family That Preys

What it's about: Alfre Woodard (above) and Kathy Bates star as Atlanta matriarchs and longtime friends who are caught up in the woes of their spoiled children.

Rated: PG-13

The scoop: This film, an overwrought melodrama of sibling rivalry, infidelity, family business power plays and terminal illness, is Tyler Perry's soapiest yet.

Grade: * ( 1 STARS )

Ghost Town

What it's about: Ghost Greg Kinnear enlists misanthropic dentist Ricky Gervais to prevent his widow's (Tea Leoni, above) second marriage.

Rated : PG-13

The scoop: The fun starts with the title (this film's "ghost town" is New York) and doesn't end until the final line. The film is a ticklish, unpredictable love story with an old-fashioned Technicolor glow.

Grade : *** 1/2 ( 3 1/2 STARS)

Lakeview Terrace

What it's about: An interracial couple (Patrick Wilson and Kerry Washington) move to an L.A. suburb and almost immediately suspect their neighbor, a veteran black cop (Samuel L. Jackson, above), of plotting to drive them out of the neighborhood.

Rated : PG-13

The scoop: It's one more failed thriller about men behaving badly - and stupidly.

Grade : * 1/2 ( 1 1/2 STARS)

Righteous Kill

What it's about: When a vigilante starts killing bad guys, two pairs of detectives - Al Pacino and Robert De Niro (above), and John Leguizamo and Donnie Wahlberg - begin to suspect a cop might be the one sending pimps and rapists to their deaths.

Rated : PG-13

The scoop: What we get is plain bad direction and writing - and, sadly, mediocre acting from Pacino and De Niro.

Grade : * 1/2 ( 1 1/2 )

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