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DREAMGIRLS


Eddie Murphy's singing and acting as soul-rock star James "Thunder" Early shine even brighter than performances by the fictional girl group the Dreams (Beyonce Knowles, Jennifer Hudson, Anika Noni Rose) in this musical about the rise and fall (and rise and fall) of black performers in 1960s Detroit. It features greedy managers (Jamie Foxx), talented and hungry artists, and an unfair business where backstabbing is the norm. The songs aren't memorable but the film is flashy. (ES) Rated PG-13





THE GOOD SHEPHERD


Robert De Niro directs Matt Damon and Angelina Jolie and, in a small part, himself, in a story of how the current CIA might have started, how working for such an organization is a perfect way to ruin your family life, how truth and lies sometimes are almost indistinguishable, and -- in what's likely a poke at George W. Bush -- how Yale's Skull and Bones Society breeds a "special" type of leader. (ES) Rated R





THE HISTORY BOYS


Teach to the test, or teach for life? That's the debate among instructors of eight British schoolboys, who'll do just about anything to get into either Ox or Bridge -- including put up with the rigors of taskmaster Stephen Campbell Moore or the eccentricities (including a harmless bit of fondling on a motorbike, don't you know) of Richard Griffiths (Harry Potter's rotund Uncle Vernon). Director Nicholas Hytner's entire London stage cast reappears for the film -- a fact that usually bodes well. And improves rehearsals. (MB) Rated R





NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM


Remember in that movie Mannequin when Andrew McCarthy built himself a dummy and she came to life after the store closed and they fell in love and everyone thought he was crazy? This is kind of like that, except at a museum, where Ben Stiller's night gig as a security guard turns into a constant carnival of exhibits come to life. The T-Rex skeleton stomps around; all the Mayans, cowboys, gladiators and Huns from the dioramas go at each other, and Stiller runs around like an idiot for an hour and a half. (JS) Rated PG





ROCKY BALBOA


The sixth -- and last -- round of Rocky movies (no, he does not die in it) is a bit soft in the middle -- kind of like its main character. Our hero (Sly Stallone) is back in South Philly, Adrian has died, he don't got much to do ... except hold court each night at his restaurant, Adrian's, telling tales of ring conquests. Then a promoter has an idea -- get him in shape, and match him up with the current, unpopular champ. It's sappy, it's old-fashioned, but it's heartfelt. And the big fight is quite good! (ES) Rated PG





WE ARE MARSHALL


The story of the worst disaster in American sports history: an entire football team lost to a plane crash, a community in shock, players and coaches persevering so they can once again field a team. We Are Marshall is perfectly ripe for a little on-field tear-jerking, and I was ready to do some uncomfortably heavy weeping, but things just didn't click. With uneven pacing; confusing, inexplicable tone shifts; and direction so ham-fisted it resembles my jump shot (flashy but usually way off the mark), the film is a nice diversion at times, but fails on some pretty basic levels. (LB) Rated PG





A CHRISTMAS STORY


Kids are bundled for cold weather like pigs in blankets. Tongues stick to metal poles. Dad longs after a lamp with a mannequin's shapely leg for a stand. The classic American holiday story, and it's funny every year. Friday and Saturday midnights at the Garland. (LS) Rated PG

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