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By The Inlander & r & & r & E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL


I was talking with a friend about Artificial Intelligence: AI the other day. She mused, "How did it suck if Stanley Kubrick was involved?" I answered brusquely, "Because Steven Spielberg was too." That's no slight on Spielly -- each man makes a particular kind of film and has a very specific kind of talent. Among Spielberg's is the ability to go so audaciously overboard with sentimentality that it stops feeling wrong. E.T. showcases that perfectly in the film's precociousness and molasses pace, boy and alien bonding slowly until they are inseparable. It's a tale of youth and loss masquerading as sci-fi, told with detail and patience. Friday and Saturday midnights at the Garland. (LB) Rated PG





GRACIE


This project might be a little too much in the family for it to rise above typical inspirational-sports-movie fare: Director Davis Guggenheim is married to Elisabeth Shue (whose high school experiences are the basis of this movie, who's playing the title character's mother, and whose brother Andrew plays the coach here). In 1978, a girl faces sexist obstacles when trying to join her school's boys' soccer team. Here's hoping she can bend it like the Karate Kid. (MB) Rated PG-13





HOSTEL PART II


A gaggle of American girls, as full of feminine clich & eacute;s as a sitcom, head to a spa for a weekend vacation only to find themselves in the torture-for-pay hostel of the first film. Hostel Part II is as lazy an event as you'll find outside of PG-13. Some of the gore is extreme, but too much of it is tempered with gags to be effectively scary. And while director Eli Roth has the chutzpah to show the murder of a child, he's weaker than the pop song "Stupid Girls" when it comes to skewering airheads. (MD) Rated R





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. The human and economic costs of ecological mismanagement are laid bare in 45 minutes. (MD) Not Rated; no deaths are depicted





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 (how young people really don't want to have them). 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





LEWIS & amp; CLARK


GREAT JOURNEY WEST


The IMAX folks have packed a lot into this vivid account of the two adventurers' travels across the American wilderness. Narrator Jeff Bridges does pretty much all the speaking, while actors play out the scenes. And those scenes are played out in breathtakingly beautiful settings, spellbinding on the giant screen. Much of the story gets into details of important characters -- such as Indian guide Sacagawea -- who were left out of our history books. (ES) Unrated





MR. BROOKS


Kevin Costner again shows his nasty side (see 3000 Miles to Graceland), as a troubled man who's addicted to killing strangers, and feels the urge coming back after thinking he's licked it. He's goaded on by his "inner demon," played with nasty glee by William Hurt, who can only be seen and heard by Costner's title character. There are a couple of exceedingly violent and bloody scenes, but much of this is filled with black, black humor. (ES) Rated R





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). Reuben ends up in critical condition from the traumatizing shock of having his fiscal posterior handed to him by dirty dealer Willy Bank (Al Pacino). Danny Ocean (Clooney) and the boys hatch a convoluted plan to wreck Willy's magnificent new hotel and casino "The Bank" (a spiraling triad skyscraper created to beautiful effect with CGI) on the night of the hotel's July 3rd "soft opening." 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" and hints of them going up against Lord Beckett, who wants to "rule the seas." 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





SHREK THE THIRD


Shrek's deconstruction of fairy tales managed to be both deliciously subversive and heartwarmingly traditional. Shrek 2 stunned me in that it was even smarter and slyer and more seditious than the first. We've been primed for the tweaking of fairy tales and the post-ironic spin on myths and mythmaking. We've seen it. We've been around the park twice, bought the T-shirt and the Shrek ears, sent a postcard home. Now we're bored. Shrek the Third is... fine. But I wanted a lot more than "fine." I expected much, much more than "fine." (MJ) Rated PG





SPIDER-MAN 3


The first film was pretty good, the second was great, this one ups the action and the angst (and the budget) and is the best of the series. Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) and Mary Jane Watson (Kirsten Dunst) have everything going for them, till a black blob of goo drops from the sky, just about the same time a bunch of different people turn into monsters. Multi-leveled storytelling zips along at a frantic pace, but director Sam Raimi, despite leaving questions about the power of the goo, maintains masterful control. Dark, but lots of fun. (ES) Rated PG-13





SURF'S UP


It's animated penguins, yet again. But this film's clever approach is to present them in a faux documentary about competitive surfing penguins. Shia LaBeouf voices young upstart Cody; Zooey Deschanel is the slightly older Lani; and Jeff Bridges (almost as laid-back as he was in The Big Lebowski) is the legendary Big Z. The film is so hip, it even uses scratchy B & amp;W "archival footage" of past penguin surf heroes. (ES) Rated PG





WAITRESS


At the center of this marvel of a movie is a near-perfect performance by Keri Russell as Jenna, the waitress who finds strength enough to get out of a bad, loveless, exploitive marriage and the good sense not to go hopping right into another one. Adrienne Shelly's deceptively sharp script remains steadfast, keeping expectations low then making all the right counterintuitive choices. It's the best, most satisfying film about personal growth I've seen this year. (LB) Rated PG-13

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