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Opening Films 

by Inlander Staff & r &


ALPHA DOG


Nick Cassavetes (writer of Blow, director of The Notebook) brings us Justin Timberlake's first non-straight-to-DVD film! That'll be enough for most people I know to see Alpha Dog, but if you need more, it actually seems like a decent film, revolving around a hasty abduction/ransom scheme and a weird kidnapper/kidnapee friendship. (LB) Rated R





ARTHUR AND THE INVISIBLES


Bowie, Madonna, De Niro... they brought out the big guns to do the voices of the one-inch Minimoy fairies who populate this CGI-laden adventure. Too bad the special effects people forgot the little things -- like synching the English dialogue of this recorded-in-French fantasy. (But then it always was difficult to figure what was coming out of Snoop Dogg's mouth.) Adorable Freddie Highmore enlists the rascal to help him fend off evil real estate developers, who are only slightly less freakish than the imps themselves. (MB) Rated PG





CODE NAME: THE CLEANER


Cedric the Entertainer wakes up next to a dead FBI agent with no idea how he got there. So he bumbles through 84 minutes of slapstick action trying to figure it out. Is he an agent? Or just a janitor? Is Nicolette Sheridan his mistress? Has he completely stopped trying to live up to his promising title? (JS) Rated PG-13





CURSE OF THE GOLDEN FLOWER


After taking a year off in 2005 (to direct Riding Alone for Thousands of Miles, which just played here a month ago or so), Yimou Zhang comes back with more wire-fu than ever. The director of Hero and House of Flying Daggers gives us the chivalric story of what looks to be two lovers and two very big armies. It's a wu xia epic, so the lovers will make love, the armies will make war and then one or all of the main characters will die. (LB) Rated R





FREEDOM WRITERS


Hilary Swank plays real-life teacher Erin Gruwell, who, in the early '90s, got a classroom of troublemakers to learn tolerance by keeping journals. But this is no retread of an "inspiring teacher" story. This is sensitive storytelling, with great performances from the leads as well the first-time teen actors. And there are a few Kleenex moments. (ES) Rated PG-13





HAPPILY N' EVER AFTER


The producers of Shrek and Shrek 2 churn out more smart-alecky, po-mo reworkings of classic fairy tales -- this time, without the voice talent or, it appears, the wit. Sarah Michelle Gellar and Freddie Prinze, Jr., star in a fable about fables that stop happening by the book. (JS) Rated PG





MET OPERA: TAN DUN'S


THE FIRST EMPEROR


Qin Shi Huang was the Chinese emperor who built the Great Wall and those life-size terra cotta soldiers. A decade ago, the Met Opera commissioned Chinese composer Tan Dun to write an opera about Qin's vision of a unified China. On Jan. 13 at 10:30 am, the Met's production will be beamed live to cities all over the world... with Placido Domingo as a Chinese emperor! Costumes by the woman who designed for Kurosawa's Ran! A production designed by Zhang Yimou (Raise the Red Lantern, House of Flying Daggers)! Of course, it's also three hours and 15 minutes, so kids' tickets (at $15 per) might be hard to justify. At least it's sung in English. (MB)





PRIMEVAL


A group of crocodile hunters goes to Africa to track down a legendary man-eater with the name of Gustave. In the process, they anger a local warlord. Maybe the bones scattered across the movie poster is where they end up. (MD) Rated R





STOMP THE YARD


Oh, those crazy kids at Truth U. They're at a (fictional) historically black school in Georgia, so you know they're passionate about civil rights. If only they didn't have to spend so much time jukin' and jivin' in their frats' all-important step dance competitions. Because the best way to improve the lot of disadvantaged African-Americans is to, you know, reinforce the stereotypes about them. If you enjoy the gyrations of bootylicious butt-up-manship, then cool; otherwise, please leave the Yard. (MB) Rated PG-13

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