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THE ABANDONED


Anastasia Hille is a young woman who learns she's just inherited a house -- in the middle of nowhere. When she arrives, she's joined by a man who may or may not be related to her, and they both face some wet, scary things. A decrepit haunted house is as good a setting as any for a horror film, but The Abandoned makes the mistake of setting much of the action in the main character's head. We never really learn just how real the ghosts are. (MD) Rated 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





THE ASTRONAUT FARMER


He's a rancher named Charlie Farmer. As played in low-key manner by Billy Bob Thornton, he's also a dreamer -- a wannabe astronaut who's building his own rocket. He's shooting for at least one orbit, you see, if not the moon. Everything about the film is implausible, but it's also a warm and inspirational





BECAUSE I SAID SO


When perpetually single mom Daphne (Diane Keaton) makes it her mission in life to find Mr. Right for her somewhat flighty youngest daughter, Milly (Mandy Moore), there is no pleasure to be found, only guilt. The loose plot is more of a frame on which to hang the series of sappy scenes and offensive mother-daughter sexual banter. (Toddy Burton) Rated PG-13





BREACH


Chris Cooper is an FBI veteran who may be a traitor; Ryan Phillippe is an up-and-coming agent who's assigned to watch him. The mystery is whether or not the guy is guilty, and there's plenty of tension leading up to the answer. But in an idiotic move, the filmmakers give it all away in the opening frames. A good idea is to cover your ears and blink your eyes at the beginning, until the TV image of Attorney General John Ashcroft is gone. Only then does the gripping film-long flashback begin. (ES) Rated PG-13





BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA


The Narnia producers, the special-effects wizards from King Kong and Lord of the Rings, Disney backing -- clearly, Bridge to Terabithia has the right pedigree to become a kids' hit. AnnaSophia Robb (Because of Winn-Dixie) acts more like a boy so that Josh Hutcherson (RV) will act more like a girl (you know, use his imagination and draw things and stuff). Together, they imagine a mythical world -- and get to rule over it. (MB) Rated PG





BUGS


Real-life footage of bugs (mainly a praying mantis and a caterpillar) tells the story of their life in the rain forest. The IMAX screen closes in on the insects with a childlike intensity, but the directors have spiced things up with occasional effects -- such as Mantis Vision. Judi Dench, the film's narrator, brings a Shakespearean relish to discussions of what it feels like to eat your opponent's head. (MD) Imax, Not Rated





tyler perry's


DADDY'S LITTLE GIRLS


It's My Three Sons and Cinderella combined and reversed: A mechanic named Monty (Idris Elba) has three adorable daughters and a harridan ex-wife who sues to regain custody. Good thing Monty meets just the kind of potential stepmother the girls need: An attorney who's smokin' hot (Gabrielle Union). Director Tyler Perry plans to upend our assumptions about race, gender and class. (MB) Rated PG-13








GHOST RIDER


Comic book adaptations get some leeway when it comes to camp, but this remake of the semi-popular Marvel series overdoes it, with a feeble storyline, laughable dialogue and eye-rolling performances from otherwise-greats Nic Cage, Peter Fonda and Sam Elliott. The film's feeble consolation? Eva Mendes' ample (and omnipresent) cleavage. (JS) Rated PG-13





HANNIBAL RISING


French actor Gaspard Ulliel (Strayed) plays the incipient cannibal who, after his affluent parents are murdered by Nazis, escapes to Paris where his widowed Japanese aunt, Lady Murasaki (Gong Li, Memoirs of a Geisha), welcomes him. It isn't long before Hannibal's indoctrination into Japanese traditions, French cuisine and medical techniques sends him on a revenge-killing spree unlike any other. (CS) Rated R





HAPPY FEET


This well-written and gorgeously rendered story of a penguin who is ostracized because he can't sing is an alternately daffy and affecting tale of the struggle for individual identity. Mumble (Elijah Wood), who can't sing but can tap dance, must fight superstition. (LB) Rated PG





THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND


Big Forest Whitaker steals this fictional film with his portrayal of the monstrous real-life Ugandan dictator General Idi Amin. But James McAvoy (the faun in Chronicles of Narnia) holds his own as a na & iuml;ve young Scottish doctor who settles in the African country to help villagers and then becomes, against his will, Amin's personal physician. The ending is flawed, but just about everything leading up to it is spellbinding. (ES) Rated R





LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA


Aside from being an American-made movie in Japanese about the Empire of Japan's side of the Iwo Jima battle, nothing distinguishes Clint Eastwood's companion film to Flags of Our Fathers. Ken Watanabe has the intensity to match the dark story, but his co-star -- young Kazunari Ninomiya -- can't keep from overacting throughout. (MD) Rated R





THE MESSENGERS


The Ring has almost single-handedly ruined the cinematic ghost story. Nearly every film produced in its wake contains the same things: pale ghost children with big eyes who walk like jerky spiders. The only thing that changes, usually, is where the creepy house the kids inhabit is located. That's true here too, though this time the kids come to a sunflower ranch in South Dakota. (LB) Rated PG-13





MUSIC AND LYRICS


Hugh Grant is an '80s has-been pop singer. Drew Barrymore is just the girl who waters his plants -- but she can write the lyrics he wants for his big comeback. (The realism inspires, doesn't it?) He needs her, she dotes on him, they get all cutesy-wuvvy, cue the music. (Which, unfortunately, requires them to sing.) In typically crass marketing for V-Day, heartless flacks are fobbing off a chick-flick trick upon us. As for the quality of the Grant-Barrymore love duets: He's Milli, she's Vanilli. (MB) Rated PG-13





NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM


Putting Ben Stiller in a situation that's going to get out of control has been standard comedy formula for five years now. Night at the Museum brings nothing more to the mix than a special effects-driven set piece. (MD) Rated PG





NORBIT


In Norbit, creators Eddie and Charlie Murphy (he of Dave Chappelle's Show) have given us a 102-minute minstrel show in which Eddie Murphy plays the Woody Allen-like title role and Norbit's overweight and overbearing wife and the Chinese racist who adopts baby Norbit. None of it is funny. (LB) Rated PG-13





THE NUMBER 23


Jim Carrey gets freaked out by the number 23, but we never really understand why. Then he gets obsessed with it, but we never really understand his motivation. Finally, he starts having homicidal feelings, brought on entirely by the fact that the number 23 is popping up in strange places in his life. By that time, though, the entire audience has checked out. The Number 23 is less than zero. (LB) Rated R





PAN'S LABYRINTH


As fairy tales for adults go, this one's a keeper. Mexican director Guillermo del Toro (Mimic, Hellboy) takes us to post-Civil War Spain and shows us that world through the eyes of an imaginative young girl. But she's having a rough time with real life and desperately wants to believe in fairies. The film is stocked with figurative as well as real monsters (the girl's brutal stepfather, creatures in the woods) and has a fascinating take on life, death, and rebirth. Not at all for young kids. (ES) Rated R





THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS


Will Smith makes it hard for critics to write unkind things about him by starring in this family drama with his real-life son Jaden. As a father who goes to great lengths to keep his son from hardship, Smith has the kind of based-on-real-life material to make Oprah cry. (MD) Rated PG-13





RENO 911!: MIAMI


The one in short-shorts is kinda cute. (Completely inept, but cute.) He and his fellow Keystone Kops travel to a police convention, all the way from Nevada to Florida (road trip! with car crashes!) where by a complete fluke (involving a beached whale, for real) they are compelled to practice what few police skills they possess. Visual gags typical of the Comedy Central series (gators snapping in swimming pools! jerks Tasered by bikini babes!) ensue. (MB) Rated R





ROVING MARS


OK, you try designing a spaceship that will travel 100 million miles and then deposit a half-ton of sensitive scientific instruments on the surface of another planet. I mean, a century ago, H.G. Wells had us believing that the Martians had it in for us, and now you can just stroll into an IMAX theater and see what it looks like to walk on Mars. Amazing. (MB) Rated G





THE WORK & amp; THE GLORY III


The third of a projected nine-part Mormon epic, WG3 treats the prejudice against and doubts among the followers of Joseph Smith who had migrated to Missouri in the 1830s. Glossy production values undergird anguished discussions of spirituality. (MB) Rated G

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