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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





BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA


The Narnia producers, the effects folks from King Kong and Lord of the Rings, Disney backing -- clearly, Bridge to Terabithia has the right pedigree to become a 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). Together, they imagine a mythical world -- and get to rule it. (MB) Rated PG





DEAD SILENCE


Killer ventriloquist dummies -- that's the best thing Saw creator James Wan could come up with. Around them he creates a laughable horror film full of decrepit old theatres, graveyards and dolls. It's also woefully lacking in coherence and blood. By the time the final plot twist turns its head, the film's fear, tension and humor have lost their voices, leaving only Donnie Wahlberg's virtuosically bad performance as a cop to console horror fans. (MD) Rated R





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 story, laughable dialogue and eye-rolling performances from Nic Cage and Peter Fonda. The consolation? Eva Mendes' ample cleavage. (JS) 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


Producer Greg MacGillivray was in the middle of filming an IMAX documentary about the endangered wetlands of the American bayou when Hurricane Katrina struck. Broadening his scope to include the people who inhabit the South's swampy regions, MacGillivray ended up with a much bigger movie than he intended. At IMAX. (MD) Not Rated





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





THE LIVES OF OTHERS


A story of expression and suppression in Soviet-dominated East Germany, The Lives of Others is as much about love and art as obedience. Until his friends are blacklisted for their beliefs, playwright Georg Dreyman never thinks about rebelling against the party line. Until the intelligence officer assigned to watch him day and night understands to what spurious, self-serving ends he's being used, he never thinks of disobeying orders. This is a gorgeous film about a fascinating time. (LB) Rated R





MUSIC AND LYRICS


Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore have just days to write a hit pop song for a superstar diva. You have 96 minutes to watch them pace and chew their pencils. The resulting ballad is balanced and surprisingly catchy, but the film -- stacked with witty dialogue but lacking chemistry or character -- is all lyrics, little music. (JS) 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





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





PRIDE


In the sub-genre of feel-good film that takes a group of poor (often minority) teens with nothing to do and nowhere to go, then gives them something to do and thus, somewhere to go with their lives, the number of things actually to do is shrinking. Basketball's been done, steppin's been done, cheerleading's been done. Writing has been done multiple times. Swimming never has. Pride, a story about a swim coach (Terrence Howard) who teaches kids how to succeed in life by succeeding in the swimming pool, then, was inevitable. (LB) Rated PG





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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