by The Inlander & r & & r &


Mel Gibson's abhorrent behavior can't take away the fact that he knows how to make an epic film. This is set in a Mayan forest where a peaceful tribe is attacked by ruthless marauders who take prisoners. One man tries to find his way back, through all kinds of obstacles. The film is reverent toward nature, superbly photographed and scored, and brimming with decapitations. It also, oddly, has bright flashes of humor. Completely enthralling for a fast-paced 140 minutes. (ES) Rated R


Sororities are exactly what psychotic murderers want. Just look at the DVD-store shelf-space devoted to horror films that take place in sororities. It's clear they're unsafe. One more movie will soon be added to that shelf: a remake of the old screamin' girls classic Black Christmas. It stars Michelle Trachtenberg, who slummed as the little sister on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Now she has the chance to grow up and confront evil on her own. (MD) Rated R


This is really two films. There's the sober and horrifyingly proximate view of the conflict diamond situation. You have warlords and government officials, land rich but cash-strapped. You have the common folk -- like Mende fisherman Solomon Vandy (Djimon Hounsou) -- who are raped, mutilated, tortured and enslaved to mine the diamonds. On the other hand, you have all the running and ducking and shooting and hiding of good, brainless action. Blood Diamond is disjointed but effective and occasionally poignant. (LB) Rated R

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


The new live-action version of the classic E.B. White book features great CGI work as far as the cast of talking animals goes, but much the same thing has been seen before in Babe. The story of a barn spider (voice of Julia Roberts) who is determined to save the life of a runt pig who's heading for slaughter will appeal to young kids. But the casting of the creepy and annoying Dakota Fanning (as a live-action character) will bother some adults. The bittersweet story concerns life and death on the farm, but there's plenty of slapstick to keep kiddies occupied. (ES) Rated G


In this riveting, kinetic film, Theo Feron is drawn into a story of almost unfathomable importance. In a dystopian future, humanity has been infertile for 18 years. Theo must get Kee, nine months pregnant, past Britain's totalitarian army, self-serving rebels and riotous mobs, to the coast and, possibly, to safety. The success of this film is not primarily in writer/director Alfonso Cuar & oacute;n's dialogue -- which is often pockmarked and unsure -- but in the story he tells without speech, in those long shots and in the way he creates an environment of such chaos that the film's initial tension is preserved with very little orchestral trickery. (LB) Rated R


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


Nurtured on the original Star Wars trilogy and J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings saga, Eragon is little more than a fantasy amalgamation of those works' main moments minus the good filmmaking that made them meaningful. Shot primarily with close-ups of faces talking about things, Eragon loses momentum every time it tries to move the plot forward. Newcomer Edward Speleers is full of fresh-faced enthusiasm and raw-boned good looks, but his floppy blonde hair and gleaming white teeth make him come across as a beach bum more than a hero charged with saving the world. Jeremy Irons, who begins the film as narrator, is killed partway through and isn't allowed to finish. As the king of a kingdom (the film offers very few details), John Malkovich talks... as he always does... in strained... broken phrases... through clenched teeth. (MD) Rated PG


As de facto head of the CIA's counter-intelligence arm, Edward Wilson's job is to plant enough false information to mislead his Communist counterparts. A blown plan, though, leads Wilson on a voyage of uneasy reflection that takes him through the past 50 years of his life, from Yale's Skull and Bones to Berlin to the halls of the CIA. It's a journey that not only charts his career, but also the genesis of a whole new kind of war machine built primarily on information and disinformation. The Good Shepherd is Robert De Niro's first attempt at directing since 1993's A Bronx Tale. His greatest triumph is the dull paranoia he is able to instill in the audience. (LB) Rated R


This story of a penguin who is ostracized because he can't sing and is blamed for the loss of his colony's fish supply, Happy Feet is an alternately daffy and affecting tale of the struggle for individual identity in a rigid social context. Well-written and gorgeously rendered, Mumble (Elijah Wood), who can't sing but can tap dance magnificently, must fight the superstition and closed-mindedness that have not only made him an outcast but caused his people to turn a blind eye toward their fish woes. (LB) Rated PG


The chick-flick auteuress responsible for What Women Want and Something's Gotta Give gets the glossy leading ladies she's always wanted: Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet. Left loveless for the holidays, they decide to swap stylish homes (one in L.A., the other across the pond) and before you know it, they're engaged in picturesque romancing with Jude Law and Jack Black. (MD) Rated PG-13

The Nativity Story

This one's hoping to be The Parturition of the Christ. Screenwriter Mike Rich, who's devout, has remained Gospel-faithful while envisioning a Nativity sequence less event driven than character-driven. We see Mary and Joseph as human beings caught up in the extraordinary: their arranged betrothal, the Annunciation, Joseph's dream, the sand-blown journey to Bethlehem, the three Magi, and one very paranoid Herod. (Thankfully, director Catherine Hardwicke didn't ask Mel Gibson to help film the Massacre of the Innocents.) The cast includes Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider) as Mary, Shohreh Aghdashloo (House of Sand and Fog) as Elizabeth, and Alexander Siddig (Deep Space Nine) as the archangel Gabriel. (MB) Rated PG


Putting Ben Stiller in a situation that's going to get out of control has been standard comedy formula for five years now. Night at the Museum brings nothing more to the mix than a special effects-driven set piece amidst which Stiller delivers his expected histrionics. Some old guys with scary teeth (Dick Van Dyke and Mickey Rooney, most notably) ham it up as the villains, nearly mitigating Robin Williams' smarmy Teddy Roosevelt. (MD) Rated PG


The popular Chris Van Allsburg book gets the Robert Zemeckis treatment and a dazzling animated style that makes it look like a living Van Allsburg drawing. Never mind that train to Hogwarts. The one that pulls up at a young boy's house on Christmas Eve is headed for the North Pole and a certain jolly fat man. And it seems that the other young passengers have one thing in common: They're all wearing pajamas. Tom Hanks voices the conductor and four other parts, including the boy. Charming, wistful, with a nice dose of adventure. (ES) At the IMAX in Riverfront Park. Rated G


Will Smith makes it hard for critics to write unkind things about him by starring in this family drama with his real-life son Jaden. As a father who goes to great lengths to keep his son from hardship after the family is forced to survive on an unpaid internship, Smith has the based-on-real-life material to make Oprah cry. (She's already endorsed the movie.) Will it feature a feel-good capitalist fantasy ending, or something more sincere? Might not matter to Smith, who will have a multi-million dollar portrait of his son no matter how the movie turns out. Rated (MD) PG-13


Not for the faint-of-heart, director Darren Aronofsky's second feature film is a jittery, intentionally overdone horror movie with heroin as the monster. Aronofsky's brash filmmaking techniques are still enlivening cinema, while Ellen Burstyn's hysterical performance mines the clich & eacute;s of scream queens past. (MD) Friday and Saturday midnights, at The Garland. Rated R


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


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, 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

Vaccination Happy Hour @ Spokane Arena

Wed., June 16, 5-7 p.m.
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