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by Inlander Staff & r & 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. The music is over the top, lending the short film the feel of a live cartoon. The ending is schmaltzy, but redeems the bugs with a treatment that transcends simplistic "circle of life" stuff. (MD) Imax, Not Rated





CATCH A FIRE


While the film is ostensibly about a complacent factory worker in apartheid South Africa who becomes a freedom fighter, what makes it succeed is the way his nemesis, played by Tim Robbins, embodies the blind fear that allows men to do unspeakable things while still remaining a deeply human character. Derek Luke is good as Patrick Chamusso, but it's Robbins' show. (LB) Rated PG-13





THE DEPARTED


Martin Scorsese returns to form in this gritty remake of a 2002 Hong Kong film. Set in contemporary Boston, the story's premise is that the cops have a rat (Leonardo DiCaprio) in mobster Jack Nicholson's Irish gang, and Nicholson has one (Matt Damon) infiltrating the cops. Suspicions within both camps run rampant, and raw violence is never very far from center-screen. Solid acting from all, tragedy of Shakespearean proportions, and an eclectic rock soundtrack. (ES) Rated R





EMPLOYEE OF THE MONTH


A dumb-as-nails story about a dude who likes a chick who seemingly only likes overachieving losers -- Vince (Dax Shepard), for example, who's spent a decade working hard to be the world's best register jockey -- Employee of the Month nonetheless gets you thinking at points. Is this really a dumb-as-nails romantic slacker comedym or is it a cunning parody on dumb-as-nails romantic slacker comedies? Just when you think it's dumb, it says something smart. Then, it says half a dozen dumb things. Then a smart one. And so on. (LB) Rated PG-13





FLAGS OF OUR FATHERS


The photo of six Marines planting an American flag on Iwo Jima became iconic from the moment it ran on the covers of newspapers across the States. Clint Eastwood's film of the book looks at the troubled lives of three of those men during and after the days when they were labeled heroes and forced by the military to shill for war bonds. Horrific war scenes mix with introspective emotional sequences, resulting in a story that's both patriotic and damning. This is a major triumph for Eastwood, one of America's best filmmakers. (ES) Rated R





FLICKA


The book (My Friend Flicka) is about a boy and a horse, but this film remake of the adaptation goes the girly route. On a ranch -- one that needs saving, like so many -- a girl (Alison Lohman) wants to prove herself capable of taking over the family business by riding a wild horse. Tim McGraw as Daddy means this will be a coming-of-age in the saddle story for proto-agricultural feminists. Rated PG





GRUDGE 2


Starting where the first Grudge left off, Karen Davis (Sarah Michelle Gellar) tries to burn down the cursed house. But burning down a demon's house means he can get at anyone from anywhere at any time. Doesn't exactly cause suspense, but whatever. I'm not worried about suspense when I get to watch a girl -- who has no discernable connection to the Grudgies (as I call them), other than to live in the same apartment complex as some cursed peeps -- drink a half gallon of milk and then puke it back up into the carton for no discernable reason. Real terror is when you know somebody's going to have a real bad cereal experience. (LB) Rated PG-13





THE GUARDIAN


Kevin Costner plays an aging Coast Guard rescue instructor, Ashton Kutcher is his feistiest student, there is much clashing between them as training progresses (till the script, not very cleverly, gets them drinking beers together). Both guys are pretty good in the parts, but the film plops clich & eacute; upon clich & eacute; and features what could be the highest-number of slow-motion shots ever seen onscreen. (ES) Rated PG-13





JACKASS: NUMBER TWO


Is there any reason for even a capsule review of Jackass? Hell, you all know what you're getting into here. It starts with a running of the bulls ... in suburbia. There are stunts involving branding, fishing, bees, bicycles, snakes, genitalia, water and Bam Margera's mother. There's even a bit titled "How to Milk a Horse" (at which you will become queasy). There is vomiting. There is a great song called "All My Friends Are Dead." The film is sick, twisted -- and funny as hell. (ES) Rated R





MAN OF THE YEAR


Writer-director Barry Levinson has figured out a way to get Robin Williams to strut his stuff while still keeping it entertaining and not overbearing. Williams plays a TV talk show host who makes a presidential run. He's wild and raucous, but he makes lots of sense on the campaign trail. But then the film takes a strange turn when it looks into faulty voting machines, becoming a tense thriller. Lots of good stuff, but the two moods don't mix. (ES) Rated PG-13





Marie Antoinette


Beginning with her marriage and ending before her beheading, Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette takes solace in the tradition she's been born into, electing to stay with the husband she didn't choose and whose sexual timidity and dysfunction caused her a decade of distress. That's not a cloyingly Hollywood ending, but neither does the character's lack of development have the ultimate resonance we might have hoped for. It's incredibly difficult to process, deep in the escapism of the cineplex, a film that says, simply, some lives neither succeed beautifully nor fail catastrophically. Some lives -- even those lived without want or reflection -- just are. For that transgression, Marie Antoinette will be both loved and reviled. (LB) Rated PG-13





ONE NIGHT WITH THE KING


The Bible gets real sensual with the telling of the story of Esther, whose unworldly beauty and pluck single-handedly saved all Jews everywhere by wedding the most powerful dude in all the world at the time, the Persian Emperor Xerxes. Rated PG





OPEN SEASON


A truly vapid buddy flick about an urban (read: African-American-sounding) grizzly (Martin Lawrence, who's become rich feeding ignorant white people their own racial misperceptions) and his reluctant friendship with a white-tail deer (Ashton Kutcher). Open Season is less a film with a plot than a series of sight gags and one-liners floating down a poorly depicted, generally forgettable river. (LB) Rated PG





THE PRESTIGE


Fans of The Illusionist need not worry that this is just more early 20th-century magician business. This one gives you two magicians for the price of one, and fierce competition between them gets very much out of control. Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale star as the master performers, with gadget builder Michael Caine and a surprisingly restrained Scarlett Johansson as a love interest. Twists and turns galore, under the twisting, turning direction of Christopher Nolan (Memento), are accompanied by a quiet, mannered performance by David Bowie as Nikola Tesla. (ES) Rated PG-13





Running With Scissors


The film adaptation of the sort-of-autobiographical Augusten Burroughs book about a 14-year-old boy growing up amid dysfunctional families has had a few edges softened. But it's still a great piece of darkly comic craziness. And everyone in it seems to be crazy except for our young protagonist (Joseph Cross), who's rather confused. With Annette Bening as his needy mom, Alec Baldwin as his drunken father, Brian Cox as his nutzoid psychiatrist, and Joseph Fiennes as his very troubled friend. (ES) Rated R





Saw III


We've always believed that the first Saw was built out of a love for David Fincher's Se7en and an idea for a punny tag line ("See Saw" nearly made us puke). So what direction does the third installment take when the first was essentially directionless? More blood; more wanky, carpe-diem pseudo-philosophy; and a prot & eacute;g & eacute;. Yeah, a prot & eacute;g & eacute;. Rated R.





The Science of Sleep


Michael Gondry (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, all your fave music vids) takes his surrealism and gets childlike. Gael Garcia Bernal is a dude who can't distinguish dream from reality, and thus has all these hopelessly French claymation adventures. Charlotte Gainsbourg is his creative foil, someone as artistically brilliant as he is, but who actually does stuff with her life. Rated R





Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning


Though it barely explains why Leatherface carries a chainsaw (he just picked it up), or why his family eats human flesh (the packing plant closed), this prequel does reveal that the jerky, grainy cinematography that made the remake so annoying has been around since the family of Texan cannibals killed their first teenagers. With no series-changing endings possible, The Beginning tries to generate tension by focusing on the family members as they make the bloody transition from crazy hicks to cannibals to overacting C-list movie stars. (MD) Rated R





WIRED TO WIN


A kind of meditation on the mental components of physical success, the film uses an upcoming touchstone, the Tour de France, as a way to get people thinking about the way our brains work in conjunction with our bodies. (LB) Imax, Not Rated

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