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Opening Films 

by Inlander Staff & r & Babel

Taking its mythological cue from the Tower of Babel, which so offended God that he made humans speak many different languages where before we'd spoken only one, Babel is about culture clash. The film centers on Susan (Cate Blanchett), who's shot while vacationing in Morocco, along with her husband Richard (Brad Pitt), the boy who accidentally shoots her, the gun's original owner and some other people -- including a couple of Asian schoolgirls -- who undoubtedly fit in somehow. While we may speak different languages, says Babel, there are threads that unite us. Here's hoping those threads are more than just rifles and schoolgirls. Rated R

Donnie Brasco

Donnie Brasco was the movie in which Johnny Depp decided to shed his 21 Jump Street image and become a serious actor. The prettyboy looks and quirky mannerisms don't figure into his sleazy undercover FBI agent performance. Even notorious scenery-chewer Al Pacino restrains himself, bringing a level of warmth and ambiguity that elevates the film to the level of human drama, not just insider crime story. Garland, Friday and Saturday, Midnight. (MD) Rated R

A Good Year

Peter Mayle's slight novel about a London workaholic who inherits a vineyard and home in Provence gets an excellent trim and tune-up in Ridley Scott's adaptation. Russell Crowe stars and shows off his soft side as Max, a cad who's probably a nice guy, and might just take to this new life. Complications arise when a young American woman (Abbie Cornish) arrives claiming to be the heiress. Romance is in the air when Max meets French firebrand Fanny (Marion Cotillard). Totally charming stuff. (ES) Rated PG-13

Harsh Times

Seemingly three movies at once, Jim Davis (Christian Bale) is an ex-Army Ranger trying to get hired on as a Fed. Though white, he also seems to have been raised in a predominately Latino section of L.A, meaning he speaks with a very particular street affectation. He's also bat shit insane, looking for trouble and, when he finds it, killing indiscriminately. Looks like a schizophrenic ghetto fable. Rated R

The Queen

Helen Mirren stars as Elizabeth II in a dramedy about the beloved figurehead and her less than beloved family. Does British tabloids one better by coupling snark, satire and general salaciousness with considerable Oscar buzz. Rated PG-13

The Return

All right, kiddies, ready for an analogy that won't be on your SATs? Sarah Michelle Gellar is to PG-13 horror schlock as curry is to Indian food: ubiquitous and, in the wrong doses, upsetting to the ol' stomach. Surprise, she's at it again in The Return, playing a Midwestern sales rep whose door-to-dooring is interrupted by supernatural dreams and visions. These dreams and visions, as you might expect, are evil, and lead her down a prairie dog hole of mystery and jump-cut thrills. Rated PG-13.

Stranger than Fiction

Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) hears voices. And not just the kind we all hear. The lonely IRS agent hears a British woman's voice narrating his every move. Strange. Even stranger is that the voice belongs to Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson), a struggling author with terrible writer's block, who can't figure out how to kill her main character -- one Harold Crick. As Crick slowly realizes that he's a puppet overhearing his own death foretold -- and as Eiffel discovers that she has the strings -- Stranger becomes some kind of trippy pop philosophical treatise on Will and pre-destination. Or something. Rated PG-13

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