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By The Inlander & r & & r & DEAD OR ALIVE


Based on a fighting game series known primarily for its massively mammaried heroines (the second installment having, apparently, an entire physics engine dedicated to the animation of, you know, breasts) and the beach volleyball spin-off game it spawned, DOA the film introduces the characters and their flimsy backstories, then sends them to an island and pits them against each other -- exactly as a fighting game would. And that's it. The resulting film is bad, but not pretentiously so or groaningly so. And that makes it daft and light and often pretty fun. Like rental fun, though, obviously. (LB) Rated PG-13





FANTASTIC FOUR: RISE OF THE SILVER SURFER


One of the worst sequels ever, this debacle picks up where the first awful film left off, now pitting the superhero quartet against a silver surfing dude from outer space. Is he here because he wants to destroy our world, or because someone or something is making him do it? Heck, I don't know! Nothing in this carelessly sloppy script is explained, including the smarmy presence of Dr. Doom, who was killed off in the first one. (ES) Rated PG





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. (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. 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 shows his nasty side 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





MONTY PYTHON AND THE HOLY GRAIL


For every glossy, sexed-up version of the Middle Ages/King Arthur that hits the big screen, there ought to be a requisite showing of Monty Python and the Holy Grail to balance things out. Some of the Pythons' funniest material shows up here, from the inspired silliness of men prancing like horses (clop clop!) to killer bunnies with their nasty, big pointed teeth. Bring out your dead! Friday and Saturday midnight at the Garland. (SB) Rated PG-13





NANCY DREW


Emma Roberts, taking on the part of the teen detective, wears a stuck-on smile (and a horrendous wardrobe) as she ignores her friends and any rules from her clueless father. She's been ordered by Dad to "stop sleuthing," so she up and takes on a new case. And though she's always in some sort of "peril," she seems to have been hanging out with MacGyver, because anything she needs to get out of a jam is in one of her pockets. (ES) Rated PG





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" 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


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


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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