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By The Inlander & r & & r & AMAZING GRACE


The song that would eventually come to be known as "Amazing Grace" arose out of the abolitionist movement. England's abolitionist movement. They did it first. The film chronicles the life of William Wilberforce, a British MP who spent his career fighting to end the British slave trade. (LB) Rated PG





ANIMAL HOUSE


Back in 1979, the Writers Guild of America nominated the film Animal House for a Best Comedy award. The screenwriters lost--which is a common occurrence if you're involved with a lowbrow comedy film and it's awards time. But the subsequent quarter- century has proven that the Writers Guild had it right. This irreverent comedy became the blueprint for countless sex-infused collegiate farces (and nearly every film starring Seann William Scott), none of which has yet bested Animal House's raw belly-laugh appeal. (MD) At the Garland Friday and Saturday midnights. Rated R





BLADES OF GLORY


Chazz Michael Michaels (Will Ferrell) and Jimmy MacElroy (Jon Heder) play figure skating rivals who get in a fistfight, earn lifetime bans, then must team up as the world's first all-male pair to continue skating. A movie about freakish effeminacy and close proximity between male testicles and male faces, Blades of Glory succeeds because it relies on situational discomfort, not homophobia, and because it doesn't take up too much of our time. (LB) Rated PG-13





THE HILLS HAVE EYES II


Last year, Wes Craven handed over the remake of The Hills Have Eyes to splatter genius Alexandre Aja, and Aja turned in a moody, emotional remake. Now Craven loses his newfound credibility by handing the sequel's remake to Martin Weisz, a music video director turned inept horror filmmaker. Gone is the claustrophobic family bonding and eerie landscape, replaced by a tough-love group of Army Reserves and sequences of rooms in caves. (MD) Rated R





HURRICANE ON THE BAYOU


Katrina can be discussed in human, social and political terms easily enough, in forums ranging from political roundtables to Spike Lee films. But Hurricane on the Bayou examines the hurricane as an ecological issue. Beginning as a conservation documentary about the Mississippi Delta, the filmmakers end up turning their IMAX cameras on Katrina as an example of a worst-case scenario. The human and economic costs of ecological mismanagement are laid bare in 45 minutes. (MD) Not Rated; no deaths are depicted.





THE LOOKOUT


Chris Pratt (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is damaged goods. Once the big man on his high school campus, he's responsible for a horrifying auto accident that killed some friends and left him a shell of himself. And now some creepy bad guys are trying to use him to commit a crime. This is a slow-moving, quite intense character study, with solid performances from Gordon-Levitt, Matthew Goode as a soft-spoken dangerous fellow, and Jeff Daniels as our hero's only true pal. (ES) Rated R





MEET THE ROBINSONS


Animation meets sci-fi meets an adoptee's identity crisis in this vaguely Jimmy Neutron knockoff. Lewis, a boy who lives in an orphanage, is great at concocting inventions but not so good at the getting-adopted part. Lewis' Memory Scanner seems likely to lead him to his birthmother until a crab-like, dim-witted and dastardly villain known as Bowler Hat Guy foils the kid's plans. Time travel follows. Kids may enjoy Robinsons, but adults will miss the wink-wink charms of Toy Story or Shrek. (MB) Rated G





THE LAST MIMZY


Kids and science breed stories about geeks who either become cool or accept their geekdom. The Last Mimzy, though, takes two mathematical genius siblings and gives them a chance to be bona fide, world-saving heroes (not just "way to be yourself" heroes). Somehow their big brains warn them about the end of the world and give them the tools to head it off. (LB) Rated PG





PEACEFUL WARRIOR


Very few films about gymnastics make it into the "heartwarming sports saga" category, much less ones starring Nick Nolte as "Socrates," the crusty-yet-tenderhearted mentor who helps refine the film's young hunk of malleable manhood (Scott Mechlowicz, most famous for being the guy in the "I Don't Want To Be" music video). But Peaceful Warrior takes at least one additional step towards originality -- Socrates can levitate and such, helped no doubt by director Victor Salva (Powder, Jeepers Creepers), whose films are always a little surreal. (MD) Rated PG-13





PREMONITION


Sandra Bullock stars as a housewife whose husband dies in a car crash -- except that he shows up, alive and well, the next day. And then dies again. Friends and psychologists dismiss her grieved ravings -- at first. Premonition sounds like What Lies Beneath, only with nightmares and psychic foreshadowing thrown in. Potentially spooky. (MB) Rated PG-13








REIGN OVER ME


A film about a man who has lost his family to the horrors of 9/11, Reign Over Me hangs in precarious balance for its entirety. Not content to make either a tear jerker or a psychological think piece, and not a good enough filmmaker to manage the balance alone, Mike Binder leans heavily on his cast (especially Sandler, who has showed glimmers of greatness before, but delivers here) to make it work. And it works pretty well. (LB) Rated R





ROVING MARS


The sound alone is deafening, and juxtaposed with Phillip Glass' crystalline musical score, the roar of a rocket pushing the rovers into space is impressive. As are the sights and sounds of the parachute test in a giant wind hangar. But this short IMAX film loses focus -- is it trying to recreate the surface of Mars with the help of CGI animation, or is it examining the space program? Maybe it will seem clearer on the DVD (they sell those now for IMAX). (MD) Rated G





SHOOTER


Mark Wahlberg is the former Marine ace who's screwed by the government, gets out -- and then is brought back so he can be screwed again. Michael Pena is the brand-new FBI agent who realizes that the ex-Marine on the run has been set up, but then he starts asking the wrong questions of the wrong people. Excellent action, a thoughtful script, and a gaggle of great supporting performances (Levon Helm is a scene-stealer as an arms expert) push this way beyond your standard revenge film. (ES) Rated R





300


The Greek-versus-Persian battle of Thermopylae comes to bloody, eye-popping life in the CGI celebration of the Frank Miller graphic novel. Fierce and noble King Leonidas (Gerard Butler) and his band of 300 men face off against the uncountable hordes of the bratty King Xerxes (Rodrigo Santoro). Themes of diplomacy versus war arise, but once the swords come out, there's no escaping the cartoonish violence. (ES) Rated R





TMNT


This might not exactly please you Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles purists. It's computer-generated, so it looks pretty, but also looks action-heavy and funny-lite. Worse, it centers on a battle with some "tech-industrialist" named Max Winters who has no connection to the original plots. On the plus side, there's hot ninja chick Karai from the original comic. Another plus is that it seems to start after the end of the second live action film, ignoring the regrettable existence of the third film that sent the turtles to colonial Japan. (LB) Rated PG





WILD HOGS


Four middle-aged friends, sick of their jobs, bored with their lives and generally having nothing to look forward to, take a cross-country motorcycle trip. Four essentially backboneless suburbanite dudes frequenting biker bars? You can be sure there'll be a little love and a whole lot uh learnin'. (LB) Rated PG-13





ZODIAC


David Fincher's riveting telling of the West Coast Zodiac murders of the 1960s and '70s focuses much more on the people looking into the killings -- cops Mark Ruffalo and Anthony Edwards, and newspaper guys Robert Downey Jr. and Jake Gyllenhaal -- than on the killings. Great use of music, and a solid dynamic between Downey and Gyllenhaal, but removing a half hour would have helped. (ES) Rated R

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