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By The Inlander & r & & r & EVAN ALMIGHTY


$175 million? Seriously? In this hyper-expensive "comedy" about a present-day flood and the present-day man present-day God tasks with saving northeastern Virginia, the story blows, the special effects aren't special, and Steve Carrel phones it in. Almost unwatchable. (LB) Rated PG





1408


John Cusack stars as a paranormal investigator who checks into a supposedly haunted hotel room, then talks to... something on the telephone. Samuel L. Jackson gets a chance to be creepy and ominous as the hotel manager who doesn't want things to get bad. (MD) Rated PG-13


FULL METAL JACKET


Stanley Kubrick was emotionally brilliant if not entirely coherent in this Vietnam film that begins with a harrowing basic training section and ends in a brutally stylized street fight. Kubrick forces himself into uncomfortable intimacy with his soldier subjects, overcoming the story's hackneyed stereotypes and some of his directorial coldness with sheer closeness. But Kubrick's ethical conflicts are embodied on the screen with fewer nuances than they were in his other war films (Barry Lyndon, Dr. Strangelove), leaving the feeling that Full Metal Jacket is mostly about fury. At midnight on both Friday and Saturday at the Garland. (MD) Rated R





GRAND CANYON:


THE HIDDEN SECRETS


Number of gas tanks to fill on a trip to the Grand Canyon from Spokane: 4. Number of times stopped at McDonald's on the way down: 10. Getting a personalized tour of the Grand Canyon at the nearest IMAX: priceless. Actually, $7.75. But that is a menial fee to see the winner of the 2000 IMAX Hall of Fame award. Not only do you see the grandeur of the canyon itself, but through the oversized screen, the hidden secrets are brought to life from the panoramic landscapes of the crest to the concealed rapids below. (KM) Not Rated





HAIRSPRAY


There have been plenty of big, splashy musicals in recent years, but why are they always so grim? This one, about teens in Baltimore in the early '60s, is incredibly happy, and heck, John Travolta plays a 350-pound woman! It's about mother-daughter relationships, husband-wife relationships, times of racial change, all celebrated in catchy song and dance, with a star-turn performance by newcomer Nikki Blonsky. Yes, there is such thing as a feel-good movie. (ES) Rated PG





HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX


The best Potter to date makes the previous, comparatively bloated entry almost forgettable. This streamlined version of the immense fifth book picks up with Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) threatened with expulsion from Hogwarts for using his magic in public -- even though it was to save his own life. The ever-sprawling story relies less on the friendships among him, Hermione (Emma Watson), and Ron (Rupert Gint), and more on a transformation from fantasy to horror, with a bit of politics thrown in. Most of the regular cast is still around (one is killed off), and the newest member -- Dolores Umbridge -- provides actress Imelda Staunton with some of the best scenery-chewing in the series. (ES) Rated PG-13





HURRICANE ON THE BAYOU


Katrina can be discussed in human, social and political terms 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 documentary about the Mississippi Delta, the filmmakers end up turning their IMAX cameras on Katrina as an example of a worst-case scenario. (MD) Not Rated; no deaths are depicted





I NOW PRONOUNCE YOU CHUCK AND LARRY


Two FDNY firefighters must pretend they're gay to keep their benefits. The reason that firefighters Chuck (Adam Sandler) and Larry (Kevin James) are pretending to be gay doesn't make much sense, but why should it? It's merely the entire plot. During the movie, Chuck and Larry learn how discrimination hurts, they have fights that make it sound like they really are a gay couple, their FDNY brothers grudgingly embrace tolerance, someone gets over his dead wife, and lifelong lessons are learned. But the most important lesson of all is that Sandler and James are not themselves homosexuals. (BK) Rated PG-13





KNOCKED UP


A story about a slacker (of course) who gets an ambitious young entertainment reporter preggers, Knocked Up is a nice commentary on the current state of the family. Writer/director Judd Apatow's male characters are enthralling, especially Pete (Paul Rudd). His women lack multi-dimensionality but the casting choices (Katherine Heigl and Leslie Mann specifically) add depth and warmth. (LB) Rated PG





LICENSE TO WED


Ben (John Krasinski) proposes. Sadie (Mandy Moore) agrees but wants to be married by Rev. Frank (Robin Williams) -- who consents, but requires a series of odd (stupid) pass-or-fail pre-marriage counseling sessions. (BK) Rated PG





LIVE FREE OR DIE HARD


It's been a dozen years since Bruce Willis last played Detective John McClane, but the wait was definitely worth it. This time out he's attempting to save America from an attack on the vast computer networks that run it. The gimmick is that he's an analog cop in a digital world, and doesn't understand what he's fighting. But he's ably aided (both story- and acting-wise) by computer aficionado Matt Farrell (Justin Long). The action is spectacular and relentless, and the film carries a terrific sense of humor to go along with all the fist-smashing, bullet-flying, explosive mayhem. (ES) Rated PG-13





OCEAN'S THIRTEEN


George Clooney and the rest of the well-dressed criminal crew return to Las Vegas to come to the vengeful aid of their pal Reuben Tishkoff (Elliott Gould), who's had his fiscal posterior handed to him by dirty dealer Willy Bank (Al Pacino). The story becomes a drone of white noise, color and empty spectacle punctuated by dead-end subplots that lead to a predictable backslapping conclusion. (CS) Rated PG-13





PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN: AT WORLD'S END


Johnny Depp, Orlando Bloom and Keira Knightley return to argue, do battle, and (this time) star in a film with a story that makes little sense -- something about "nine pirate lords." Visual effects are great, but add nothing to the story; the soundtrack is ear-splittingly bombastic; Keith Richards pops by for five minutes to give "advice" to his son (Depp) and plunk a tune on a pirate guitar. Arrrgh! (ES) Rated PG-13





RATATOUILLE


Brad Bird, the genius behind the animated films The Iron Giant and The Incredibles, returns with a Pixar film about a food-loving rat in Paris who turns out to be a great chef, and becomes the brains behind the new concoctions at a restaurant that's popular, but has seen better days. It has exquisite visuals, superb voice acting, and a lovely story about the importance of friendship and family. It's also a riot for kids and adults. (ES) Rated G





SICKO


The best thing about this Michael Moore documentary is that there's less Michael Moore. Holding his ego in check with unbelievable restraint, he takes a back seat and lets a comparison of our f-ed up health system to others around the world take center stage. Many of the Moore-ian pratfalls still exist, though. Rather than presenting and disputing counter arguments, homeboy just ignores them. That won't win him converts, but he's always preferred preaching to the choir. It's probably too much to ask that he lose his ego and gain real rhetorical chops in one film. (LB) Rated PG-13





TRANSFORMERS


Autobots and Decepticons descend to Planet Earth to continue their longtime battle and search for a missing source of power. It's one of those good-versus-evil things. But Earth's occupants don't have much to do but get out of the way of these huge machines that can convert into cars, trucks and planes. Directed by Michael Bay, and starring Shia LaBeouf and the gorgeous Megan Fox, with John Turturro and Jon Voight in the supporting cast. Much eye-popping devastation and unexpected humor. (ES) Rated PG-13

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