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by Inlander Staff & r & BORAT


The funniest film of the year (of the decade?) is also the most politically incorrect. And that's what makes it so funny. Sacha Baron Cohen brings his Kazakhstani TV journalist character, Borat, to the screen in a faux documentary road trip across America. The shtick is that Borat never comes out of character, and meets up with a lot of unsuspecting Americans who aren't brought in on the joke. He's an imbecilic, racist misogynist who has no idea he's doing anything wrong. A special nude sequence will leave you howling. (ES) Rated 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








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





Flushed Away


Nick Park had no hand in this film, meaning it's missing the spear point of Aardman Studio's three Oscar wins (two for Wallace & amp; Gromit shorts, one for last year's W & amp;G feature debut, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit). As you might expect, then, the comic irreverence of Aardman's best work is blunted here and dulled, but not entirely worn down. Despite that, and a plot and main character so purile as to be almost unwatchable initially, Flushed Away works if you sit tight. Make it past the first 15 minutes, and you'll find yourself laughing through the final 70. (LB) Rated PG








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





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





SANTA CLAUSE 3


There's more fine print in Tim Allen's little Santa contract, and this one says ... well, we're not sure what it says. It certainly doesn't make any sense. Somehow, "the escape clause" means Santa and his (never before seen) nemesis Jack Frost (Martin Short) get to go back in time or something. Rated G





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.

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