by The Inlander & r & Babel

Director Alejandro Gonz & aacute;lez I & ntilde; & aacute;rritu and screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga make beautiful, joyless films. The third and likely final collaboration between the two concludes a really good trilogy (also including Amores Perros and 21 Grams) about guilt, blame and loss with a just OK meditation on the similar way people grieve and blame all over the globe. From sexually reactive Japanese teens to an affluent, unhappy American couple (Brad Pitt and Cate Blanchett, both very good), this film proves we're all connected and we're all sad. Good call. (LB) Rated R


Fact and fiction intertwine in writer-director-co-star Emilio Estevez's take on what might have been going on in guests' and workers' lives at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles during the hours preceding the June 1968 assassination of Bobby Kennedy. A superb cast -- Anthony Hopkins, Laurence Fishburne, Helen Hunt, William H. Macy, Demi Moore, Martin Sheen, Sharon Stone, many more -- work in both separate and connecting scenarios, while RFK is seen mostly on TV screens. Expertly presented and very moving. (ES) Rated R


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


Real-life footage of bugs (mainly a preying 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

Casino Royale

James Bond is reborn, and the new one -- Daniel Craig -- may be poised to take over the "most popular" crown from Sean Connery. This adaptation of Ian Fleming's first novel presents the Bond that Fleming wrote about -- a grim, determined agent who doesn't bother with any one-liners. He's there to get the job done -- in this case, beating a villain out of his money at a poker game and, of course, driving fast, bedding beautiful women and constantly escaping death. This kick-ass movie gives the franchise a needed shot in the arm, and it gives viewers a reason to hold on tight while watching. (ES) Rated PG-13


Matthew Broderick and Danny DeVito fight it out to be Mr. Christmas, the dude on the block with the best Christmas decorations. We liked this idea better when it was the middle section of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Rated PG

D & eacute;j & agrave; Vu

In some ways, this story of time-travel sleuthing is Tony Scott's most challenging film since True Romance. For all its quasi-intellectualism and philosophical preening, though, D & eacute;j & agrave; Vu caves to formula ceaselessly. Once Hero Carlin (Denzel) and Damsel Claire (Paula Patton) finally make contact -- across the vast expanse of time -- after only knowing each other an hour, tops, they kiss. This is moments after Claire was convinced Carlin had been trying to douse her in diesel and burn her alive.

But the make-out scene is necessary. Following the Bruckheimeran Method for action plot development, you have to have some emotional release before the climactic battle, even if it's just a kiss from out of absolutely nowhere. (LB) Rated PG-13


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

For Your Consideration

Mockumentary filmmaker (A Mighty Wind, Waiting for Guffman) Christopher Guest's core group of satiric performers -- Harry Shearer, Catherine O'Hara, Fred Willard, Parker Posey -- embodies foolish Tinseltown pros who get crazily ambitious once Oscar "buzz" invades their routines in this Hollywood satire. But For Your Consideration never grasps contemporary Hollywood's cultural decline: It smirks at how Hollywood divas connect their egos to money, their insecurities to fame, their work to prizes. Instead of shaming Hollywood vanity, For Your Consideration becomes part of the problem. Nothing's sadder than useless satire. (AW) Rated PG-13

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

Happy Feet

Robin Williams is so much funnier when you can't see his face. Here he plays several different penguins in this tale of flightless birds who choose mates by their ability to sing. Tough luck for Mumble (Elijah Wood), who couldn't carry a tune in a bucket but sure can tap a mean game. (At IMAX, AMC and Regal) Rated PG

Let's Go to Prison

How many "drop the soap" jokes can fit into a single motion picture? Dax Shepard, from Punk'd, attempts to find out in this comedy based on a book by an ex-con. Rated R


The story of how Queen Elizabeth II dealt with the death of Princess Di, The Queen lives and breathes almost solely on the power of Helen Mirren's performance. Which is good, because the central question is a doozy. Elizabeth waited a week to speak publicly about her estranged daughter-in-law, much to the sorrow and anger of the average Briton; director Stephen Frears' film centers on whether the queen's actions were the result of precedent, propriety, or simply the queen's pride. (LB)


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


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.

Stranger Than Fiction

A good, fun premise (novelist is writing a story about a character who happens to be real, and decides she ought to kill him off), some great acting (Will Ferrell's best) and very good direction from Marc Forster (Monster's Ball, Finding Neverland, the crappy but visually gorgeous Stay) ultimately devolves into a pedantic, quasi-philosophical think piece whose climax hinges on an ethical no-brainer that is nonetheless given 20 minutes of sappy hand-wringing to arrive at an obvious conclusion. Give it an "A" for effort, but this bad boy needed way more work at the screenwriting stage. (LB) Rated PG-13.


File this under five years too late. There was a point in our history when Jack Black was the funny jerky music snob in High Fidelity while simultaneously being the front man for joke-metal group Tenacious D, whose self-titled album no one actually bought, but everyone -- absolutely everyone -- had a burned copy of. Here they go in search of the Pick of Destiny, which will make them funny -- er, that is, the greatest band in the world. Rated R

Book and Brew @ Heritage Bar & Kitchen

Thu., Jan. 27, 5:30 p.m.
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