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Film Times & Brief Film Reviews

For Friday, Jan. 5 through Thursday, Jan. 11

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Times are subject to change, and we recommend calling ahead to confirm.

Raleigh

Beaver Creek Cinema 12
Beaver Creek Shopping Center, off NC 55, Apex. 676-3456.

Call for shows and times.

Blue Ridge 14
600 Blue Ridge Rd, Raleigh. 282-9003.

The Barnyard—1:10, 3:15, 5:20, 7:25. Borat—1:15, 3:20, 5:25, 7:30, 9:35. Facing the Giants—1:30, 7:10. Flyboys—1, 4, 7, 10. The Gridiron Gang—9:30. The Guardian—1:05, 4:05, 7, 10. The Illusionist—1:45, 4:20, 7:10, 9:50. Marie Antoinette—4:20, 9:50. One Night with the King—1:20, 4:30, 7:10, 9:45. Open Season—1:15, 3:20, 5:25, 7:30, 9:35. Pirates of the Carribean 2—1, 4, 7, 10. The Prestige—1:30, 4:20, 7:10, 10. Santa Clause 3—The Escape Clause—1, 3:15, 5:30, 7:45, 10. The Saw 3—1:30, 4:15, 7, 9:30. Tenacious D—1, 3:15, 5:30, 7:45, 9:55. Texas Chainsaw Massacre: The Beginning—1:15, 3:20, 5:25, 7:30, 9:35.

Brier Creek Stadium 14
8611 Brier Creek Pkwy, Raleigh. 484-9994.

Call for shows and times.

Carmike Cinema
5501 Atlantic Springs Rd, Raleigh. 645-1111.

Apocalypto—1, 4, 7, 9:55. Black Christmas—1, 3:10, 5:20, 7:30, 9:40. Charlotte's Web—1, 3:15, 5:30, 7:45, 9:55. Children of Men—1:30, 4:30, 7:20, 9:50. Code Name: The Cleaner—1:05, 3:15, 5:30, 7:45, 10. Eragon—1:45, 4:15, 7, 9:30. Freedom Writers—1, 4, 7, 9:55. The Good Shepherd—1, 4:30, 8. Happily N'ever After—1, 3:10, 5:20, 7:30, 9:40. Happy Feet—1:45, 4:20, 7:10, 9:50. Night at the Museum—1:25, 4, 7, 9:35. The Pursuit of Happyness—1:30, 4:10, 7:05, 9:45. Rocky Balboa—1:15, 4:15, 7:10, 9:45. Thr3e—1:30, 4:15, 7, 9:30. We Are Marshall—1:20, 4:15, 7:10, 10.

Colony Theatre
Colony Shopping Center, 501 Atlantic Springs Rd 5438 Six Forks Rd, Raleigh. 856-0111.

The History Boys—7:10, 9:20. Also Fri-Sun 2:15, 4:30. Old Joy—9:30. Also Fri-Sun 4:15. The Queen—7. Also Fri-Sun 2.

Crossroads 20
501 Caitboo Ave, Crossroads Shopping Center, Cary. 226-2000.

Call for shows and times.

Galaxy Cinema
770 Cary Towne Blvd, Cary. 463-9989, mygalaxycinema.com.

Bhagham Bhag—Fri-Sun 6:10, 9:40; Mon-Thu 2:30. Come Early Morning—3, 5:05, 7:10. Dhoom 2—Fri-Sun 6:10, 9:40; Mon-Thu 7:30. The History Boys—1:15, 4, 7:05. Old Joy—1:05, 3:10, 7:15, 9. Thr3e—1:20, 4:10, 7, 9:20. The Queen—12:55, 3:05 (No Sat-Sun), 5:10, 7:25.

Garner Towne Square
2600 Timber Dr, Garner. 779-2212.

Call for shows and times.

IMAX Theatre at Exploris
201 E Hargett St, Raleigh. 834-4040.

Call for shows and times.

Mission Valley Cinema
2109-124 Avent Ferry Rd, Raleigh. 834-2233.

Call for shows and times.

Movies at North Hills 14
4150 Main at North Hills St, Raleigh. 786-4511.

Call for shows and times.

Park Place 16
9525 Chapel Hill Rd, Morrisville. 645-1111.

Apocalypto—1, 4, 7, 9:55. Black Christmas—1, 3:10, 5:20, 7:30, 9:40. Casino Royale—1:15, 4:10, 7, 9:55. Charlotte's Web—1, 3:15, 5:30, 7:45, 9:55. Children of Men—1:30, 4:30, 7:20, 9:50. Code Name: The Cleaner—1:05, 3:15, 5:30, 7:45, 10. Eragon—1:45, 4:15, 7, 9:30. Freedom Writers—1, 4, 7, 9:55. The Good Shepherd—1, 4:30, 8. Happily N'ever After—1, 3:10, 5:20, 7:30, 9:40. Happy Feet—1:45, 4:20, 7:10, 9:50. The Holiday—1, 3:55, 7, 9:50. Night at the Museum—1:25, 4, 7, 9:35. The Pursuit of Happyness—1:30, 4:10, 7:05, 9:45. Rocky Balboa—1:15, 4:15, 7:10, 9:45. We Are Marshall—1:20, 4:15, 7:10, 10.

The Raleigh Grande
Corner of Glenwood Ave and Lynn Rd, Raleigh. 226-2000.

Call for shows and times.

Raleighwood Cinema Grill
Falls Village Shopping Center, Raleigh. 847-0326. www.raleighwoodmovies.com.

Call for shows and times.

Rialto Theater
1620 Glenwood Ave, Raleigh. 856-0111.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer—8. Also Sat-Sun 2, 5. Rocky Horror Picture Show—Fri midnight.

Six Forks Station Cinema
9500 Forum Dr, Raleigh. 846-3904.

Charlotte's Web—12:30, 2:40, 4:50, 7:05, 9:20. Eragon—12:35, 2:50, 5, 7:20, 9:40. The Holiday—1:15, 4:10, 7:20, 10:00. Night at the Museum—12:30, 2:45, 5, 7:15, 9:35. Rocky Balboa—1:30, 4:15, 7:10, 9:45. We Are Marshall—1:20, 4:15, 7:10, 9:50.

White Oak Village
1205 Timber Dr East, Garner. 676-FILM.

Call for shows and times.

Durham

Carolina Theatre
309 W Morgan St, Durham. 560-3030, www.carolinatheatre.org.

The History Boys—7, 9. Also Sat-Sun 2:10, 4:10. Old Joy—9:10. Also Sat-Sun 2. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer—7:15. Also Sat-Sun 2:15. The Queen—7:10. Also Sat-Sun 4:15.

Phoenix 10
1056 W Club Blvd, Durham. 286-1001, www.phoenixtheatres.com.

Call for shows and times.

Southpoint Cinemas
8030 Renaissance Pkwy, Durham. 676-3456.

Call for shows and times.

Starlite Drive-In
2523 E Club Blvd, Durham. 688-1037.

Call for shows and times.

Wynnsong
1800 Martin Luther King Blvd, Durham. 489-9020.

Black Christmas—1, 3:10, 5:20, 7:30, 9:40. Also Fri-Sat 11:50. Blood Diamond—1, 4, 7, 10. Charlotte's Web—1, 3:15, 5:30, 7:45, 9:55. Children of Men—1:30, 4:30, 7:20, 9:50. Also Fri-Sat 12:30. Code Name: The Cleaner—1:05, 3:15, 5:30, 7:45, 10. Also Fri-Sat 12:15. Eragon—1:45, 4:15, 7, 9:30. Also Fri-Sat 12. Freedom Writers—1, 4, 7, 9:55. The Good Shepherd—1, 4:30, 8. Also Fri-Sat 11:30. Happily N'ever After—1, 3:10, 5:20, 7:30, 9:40. Also Fri-Sat 11:50. Happy Feet—1:45, 4:20, 7:10. The Holiday—9:50. Also Fri-Sat 12:30. Night at the Museum—1:25, 4, 7, 9:35. Fri-Sat 12:10. The Pursuit of Happyness—1:30, 4:10, 7:05, 9:45. Also Fri-Sat 12:55. Rocky Balboa—1:15, 4:15, 7:10, 9:45. Thr3e—1:30, 4:15, 7, 9:30. Also Fri-Sat 12. We Are Marshall—1:20, 4:15, 7:10, 10.

Chapel Hill

Chelsea
Timberlyne Village Mall, 1129 Weaver Dairy Rd, Chapel Hill. 968-3005.

The History Boys—7, 9:25. Also Sat-Sun 2, 4:25. Old Joy—7:10. Also Sat-Sun 2:10. Perfume—6:30, 9:15. Also Sat-Sun 2:30. The Queen—9. Also Sat-Sun 4.

Lumina
Southern Village, NC 15-501 South, Chapel Hill. 932-9000.

Call for shows and times.

Movies at Timberlyne
Timberlyne Shopping Center, 120 Banks Dr off Weaver Dairy Rd, Chapel Hill. 933-8600.

Call for shows and times.

Varsity
123 E Franklin St, Chapel Hill. 967-8665.

Children of Men—7, 9:20. Also Sat-Sun 2, 4:20. The Good Shepherd—6:50, 9:30. Also Sat-Sun 2:30.

Graham

Graham Cinema
119 N Main St, Graham. (336) 226-1488.

Call for shows and times.

Roxboro

Palace Pointe
5050 Durham Rd, Roxboro. (336) 598-5050.

Black Christmas—4:30, 7. Also Fri-Sat 9:30; Sat-Sun 2:15; Thu 1. Charlotte's Web—4:55, 7:05. Also Fri-Sat 9:40; Sat-Sun 2:20; Thu 1. Code Name: The Cleaner—4:35, 7:10. Also Fri-Sat 9:25; Sat-Sun 2:25; Thu 1. Happily N'ever After—4:45, 7:05. Also Fri-Sat 9:30; Sat-Sun 2:10; Thu 1. Night at the Museum—4:30, 7. Also Fri-Sat 9:25; Sat-Sun 2:10; Thu 1. The Pursuit of Happyness—4:40, 7:15. Also Fri-Sat 9:45; Sat-Sun 2:05; Thu 1. Rocky Balboa—4:50, 7:10. Also Fri-Sat 9:35; Sat-Sun 2:25; Thu 1. We Are Marshall—4:40, 7:15. Also Fri-Sat 9:45; Sat-Sun 2; Thu 1.

Special Showings

Chronological by date and time

Phantom Planet: Fri, Jan 5, 7 pm: The mysterious appearance of an unknown planet brings miniature people, giant monsters, beautiful women & undaunted heroes to the screen. NC Museum of Natural Sciences, 11 W Jones St, Raleigh. Presented by A/V Geeks. Free.

NC Museum of Art Winter Film Series: Fri, Jan 5, 8 pm: Army of Shadows. Fri, Jan 12, 8 pm: The Fallen Idol. 2110 Blue Ridge Rd, Raleigh. 839-6262, www.ncartmuseum.org. $5, $3.50 students.

Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism: Fri, Jan 5, potluck at 7:30 pm, movie at 8: Robert Greenwald's film examines how media empires, led by Rupert Murdoch's Fox News, have been running a "race to the bottom" in television news. Durham Co-op Grocery, 1101 W Chapel Hill St. Free.

Hemp and the Rule of Law: Tue, Jan 9, 7 pm: Blending history with current events, this documentary traces hemp's legendary past in United States agriculture & chronicles the heated debate to return the crop to American farmers. Kings Barcade, 424 S McDowell St, Raleigh. Preceded by Independent Voices. Free.

NC State University Campus Cinema: Thu, Jan 11 & Sat, Jan 13, 7 pm; Fri, Jan 12 & Sun Jan 14, 10 pm: Saw III. Thu, Jan 11 & Sat, Jan 13, 9:30 pm; Fri, Jan 12 & Sun Jan 14, 7 pm: The Prestige. Witherspoon Student Center, NC State Campus, www.ncsu.edu/cinema. $1.50-2.50.

The Civil War: Ken Burns' celebrated nine-part documentary from 1990. Thu, Jan 11, 6:30 pm: 1861—The Cause: At the Crossroads of Our Being. Thu, Jan 18: 1862—Very Bloody Affair: From the Peninsular Campaign to Shiloh. Olivia Raney Local History Library, 4016 Carya Dr, Raleigh. 250-1196, oliviaraney@co.wake.nc.us. Free.

Cinema Inc.: Fri, Jan 14, 7 pm: State of the Union. Rialto Theater, 1620 Glenwood Ave, Raleigh. $20 annual subscription. 787-7611.

Martin Luther King Jr Film Festival: Wed, Jan 17, noon: The Boy King. Thu, Jan 18, noon: Martin Luther King: The Legacy. Fri, Jan 19: The Assassination of Martin Luther King. Sonja Haynes Stone Center, 150 South Rd, Chapel Hill. 962-9001, www.ibiblio.org/shscbch/. Free.

Student Friends Movie Night: Thu, Jan 18, 7: Pollock. Ed Harris' acclaimed film about Abstract Expressionist painter Jackson Pollock, aka "Jack the Dripper." Ackland Art Museum, Columbia St near Franklin, Chapel Hill. 843-3676. Free.


Film Capsules

Our rating system uses zero to four stars. If a movie has no rating, it has not been reviewed by Laura Boyes (LB), Godfrey Cheshire (GC), David Fellerath (DF), Neil Morris (NM) or Zack Smith (ZS).

Opening This Week

CHILDREN OF MEN—Charged with ferrying the only known pregnant girl to safety, Clive Owen's Theo Faron is part-Joseph, part-Noah in this postmodern nativity story set in a not-too-distant dystopia in which women have mysteriously grown infertile and humankind stands at the brink of its gradual, seemingly inescapable extinction. Sadly, our cultural, racial and religious prejudices not only survive but thrive in this vacuum of life's lost purpose and meaning—denizens of an isolated British Isle in 2027 are ordered by their totalitarian regime to report undocumented immigrants as often as women are reminded of the illegality of refusing fertility tests. In loosely adapting P.D. James' 1992 novel, director Alfonso Cuaron conjures a masterwork of coincidental contradictions: a sci-fi fantasy steeped in gritty realism, a futuristic fiction replete with political poignancy and a paradigm of technical proficiency reliant upon handheld camerawork and long, extended takes. It is quite simply the best directed film of 2006, and probably the most cautionary. Rated R. —NM

CODE NAME: THE CLEANER&mdashCedric the Entertainer plays a janitor named Jake who awakes in a hotel room with a cut to his head and a dead FBI agent lying next to him. Beset by amnesia, all the evidence at Jake's disposal (evidently save a mirror) convinces him that he is a secret government agent in the midst of some mission involving a missing microchip from a video game company. What ensues is a minstrel daytrip down the comic back roads of miscegenation and sundry afro-stereotypes. Director Les Mayfield, purveyor of the similarly loathsome The Man, fashions this affront to the art of cinema with the dexterity of a pickaxe. It is an embarrassment for everyone involved, from the genial Cedric to Nicolette Sheridan and Lucy Liu, each tossed into paper mache-thin characters who, after suffering the indignity of giving life to this ridiculous script, wind up in a scene crosscut between catfighting and wallowing in bubble bath. Rated PG-13. —NM.

Can this smile save the inner-city kids? Hilary Swank stars in Freedom Writers, which opens Friday. - PHOTO COURTESY OF PARAMOUNT PICTURES
FREEDOM WRITERS—The sincerity of this depiction of real-life educator Erin Gruwell (Hilary Swank) and the cathartic missives of her inner-L.A. high school students cannot fully compensate for the ultra-banal plot in which an idealistic (and, as usual, white) teacher tries to inspire a group of multiracial miscreants victimized by social decay and a neglectful educational system. Synchronize your watches to the scenes where someone gets shot, someone gets sent to prison, and Swank joins in a hip-hop group jig. By casting Patrick Dempsey as the husband who takes a backseat to Gruwell's professional calling, the film seems to say, "Look, she's so noble she'll even give up McDreamy for these kids!" Swank's presence, in lieu of some Hollywood has-been or a starlet looking for street cred, lends the movie much-needed heft. But, while the lessons taught by this story are laudable, the curriculum rings too familiar. Rated PG-13. —NM

HAPPILY N'EVER AFTER—It's officially reached the point where making fun of clichés has become a cliché. This relentlessly self-referential tale of fairy tale villains taking over the stories where they always lose is harmless but predictable, going over the same territory from Shrek, Ella Enchanted, Hoodwinked, etc. Wouldn't it be nice to see some new stories instead of revamped classics and wisecracking animals? Though in this film's defense, its CGI Cinderella does have an adorable pixie haircut. Rated PG. —ZS.

OLD JOY—Kelly Reichardt's naturalistic drama about two old friends on a weekend camping trip in Oregon's Cascade Mountains is one of the best films of 2006, but it also plays like one of the best films of 1973 or so, a time of political disillusionment and a boomer generation that found itself starting to settle down. Old Joy is reminiscent of such 1970s boys-gone-wild classics as Deliverance and The Deer Hunter, but its two leads (Will Oldham and Daniel London) are clearly creatures of our own times, perhaps to their sorrow. Reviewed on page 38. Not rated. —DF

PERFUME: THE STORY OF A MURDERER—This appalling mess tells the tale of Grenouille (Ben Whishaw), an outcast in 18th-century France with a superhuman sense of smell, who becomes obsessed with capturing the essence of beauty in a perfume. Based on a novel by Patrick Suskind that was a favorite of Kurt Cobain, director Tom Tykwer fails to capture the story's subtext about alienation in favor of lurid spectacle. It looks terrific, but it doesn't have a point. Reviewed on page 39. Rated R. —ZS

THR3E—A cunning psychopathic killer leaves clues that ensnare three people into his deadly web. However, Thr3e is not to be confused with Se7en. Honest. Rated PG-13.

Current Releases

APOCALYPTO— Mel Gibson's subtitled plunge into ancient Mayan civilization turns out to be a brilliantly imagined, thoroughly engrossing popcorn epic. Yes, as in previous Gibson films, there's plenty of blood and gore, but here it doesn't have the S&M tinge of Passion of the Christ. And while there are hints that Mel wants astute viewers to understand this as a kind of Meso-American correlative for the Book of Revelation, the movie's real claim to fame is that it's simply a great display of old-fashioned movie thrills and storytelling smarts. Rated R. —GC

BHAGHAM BHAG (RUN AWAY)—An Indian theater company comes to London, initiating four unfunny slapstick plots. Govinda, the king of 1990s Bollywood comedy, makes an anticipated comeback after a term in politics. But, he looks tired, and not at all pleased with playing sidekick to 2000s king of comedy, Akshay Kumar. Director Priyadarshan directs traffic, as the company searches for a leading lady, some dim-witted drug dealers bungle, a mob of mullet-wigged thugs stalk and the plot of Vertigo all collide. The non-stop activity denies Govinda and Akshay either much of a chance to bounce comedy off each other, or display their superior dancing ability. The audience, however, laughed non-stop, and left the theater singing "Pyaar ka signal" (Love's signal).—LB

BLACK CHRISTMAS—they say Christmas began as a pagan holiday. This year, a group of sorority sisters make the ultimate sacrifice. Rated R.

BLOOD DIAMOND—No doubt the campaign against conflict diamonds is a worthy one, but the film plays like a typically self-righteous Hollywood sermon wrapped around a very bloody, totally predictable and unbelievable adventure yarn constructed of jackhammer "action beats." Even fine performances by leads Leonardo DiCaprio (sporting a South African accent) and Djimon Hounsou can't offset the formulaic filmmaking, or Jennifer Connelly's lame turn as an activist reporter. Rated R. —GC

BORAT: CULTURAL LEARNINGS OF AMERICA FOR MAKE BENEFIT GLORIOUS NATION OF KAZAKHSTAN—Inventive British TV satirist Sacha Baron Cohen makes his big-screen starring debut playing Borat, an eager, culturally obtuse Kazakh TV r eporter road tripping across the United States. Though the comedy sometimes relies a bit too obviously on gross-out and lowbrow provocations (including its absurdist take on Jews), its relentless ingenuity and its star's wacky winning presence make it unfailingly amusing, a sure guarantee of many Cohen comedies to come. Rated R. —GC

CASINO ROYALE—Easily the best 007 movie since the 1960s, the 21st installment in cinema's most successful franchise sweeps away a lot of the cutesy gimmickry that's encumbered it in recent decades while inaugurating a new Bond, Daniel Craig, who proves to be the most skilled and charismatic actor to occupy the role since Sean Connery. While the basic formula of action and intrigue in exotic locales remains the same, the fantasy quotient has been significantly reduced, giving us a more human, complex Bond. Rated PG-13. —GC

CHARLOTTE'S WEB—While this live-action rendering of the venerable E.B. White children's book will delight young viewers, some of the original text's idyllic transcendence gets lost amongst such contemporary allowances as burping rats and flatulent cows. Director Gary Winick's effort is quite watchable, but if you are looking for an enchanting movie filmed in Australia about an underdog pig, talking farm animals and their human minders, go rent Babe. Rated G. —NM

COME EARLY MORNING—Previously known as an actress, Joey Lauren Adams makes an extremely impressive debut as writer-director, as well as turning out the best Southern film of 2006, in this flavorful indie dramedy about a Little Rock gal named Lucy, who's trying to move beyond her habit of getting drunk and hooking up with stray guys. Ashley Judd is superb in the lead role and there's also fine work by Diane Ladd, Scott Wilson and Jeffrey Donovan. Rated R.—GC

DHOOM 2— Straightlaced cop Jai (Abhishek Bachchan) teams with bad boy cycle racer Ali (Uday Chopra) in a breathlessly entertaining movie of monumental silliness. Hrithik Roshan (one of People magazine's Sexiest Men Alive) snatches the spotlight as a master thief and action guru Allen Amin devises a dizzying array of stunts. The cast (including seductresses Aishwarya Rai and Bipasha Basu) radiate a superhuman level of gorgeousness, beautifully lit, primped and moistened. The giddy international caper encourages you to rev your engines, check your brain and dhoom, dhoom. Not rated.—LB

DREAMGIRLS—A '60s girl group reaches the top, but only after fronting Deena (Beyoncé), a beauty with crossover appeal, and benching the raw sound and plump physique of the more talented Effie (Jennifer Hudson). This movie stars Beyoncé.  Does no one see the irony in this? The pastiche score of R&B, Motown and disco sounds is convincing, but devolves into one power ballad after another. American Idol confirms the public's insatiable thirst for these anthems, but enough already. Rated PG-13. —LB

ERAGON—One part Star Wars, one part The Lord of the Rings, and three parts crap. Rated PG.—NM

THE GOOD SHEPHERD—Focused on a buttoned-down counterintelligence expert played by Matt Damon, Robert De Niro's second directorial outing examines the CIA's roots and first 30 years through a dark, complex drama that's rich enough to evoke comparisons to classics like The Godfather and All the President's Men. Though Eric Roth's script doesn't finally live up to its epic ambitions, this is still one of the year's most fascinating and intelligent films. Angelina Jolie, William Hurt, Billy Crudup and De Niro himself costar. Rated R.—GC

HAPPY FEET—Spawned from the machinations of March of the Penguins, this bird-brained eco-musical posits that penguins are not only hatched under daunting natural obstacles, but born bearing intrinsic familiarity with an anthology of late 20th century American pop music. What starts out as part The Jazz Singer, part Footloose ends up a contradictory fiction where human encroachment on an endangered ecosystem is halted only when the inhabitants of that environment adopt Western pop culture and thereby prove their entertainment worth. Rated PG. —NM

THE HISTORY BOYS—Nicholas Hytner's film of Alan Bennett's West End-to-Broadway hit has the typical strengths and weaknesses of its theatrical kind. Set in an '80s British class of boys hoping to study history at university, a milieu rife with homoerotic, student-teacher and teacher-administrator tensions, the film boasts a cavalcade of witty writing and expertly engaging work by star Richard Griffiths and a slew of young newcomers. But Bennett's script is also overlong and too pleased with its facile, two-dimensional, ultimately sentimental view of human nature. Rated R.—GC

THE HOLIDAY—Writer-director Nancy Meyers' triennial sap-fest about symbiotic sisterhood congeals with the yuletide-angst subgenre to form a half-baked Christmas cookie-cutter movie. Some sporadic chuckles, picturesque settings and infectious charm cannot offset the lack of focus and somnolent banality. With Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jack Black and Jude Law. Rated PG-13. —NM

NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM—Somehow, the melding of the talents behind The Pacifier, Herbie: Fully Loaded, Just Married and the Pink Panther and Cheaper by the Dozen remakes isn't the disasterpiece it could have been. However, this tale of a shlubby night guard (Ben Stiller) dealing with exhibits coming to life at the Museum of Natural History doesn't offer much beyond typical bland family fare. Points to Robin Williams for not going over the top as Teddy Roosevelt, and also to the filmmakers for assembling an eclectic cast including Mickey Rooney, Ricky Gervais and Dick Van Dyke. Rated PG.—ZS

THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS—With its early Reagan-era milieu, the most textured parts of this inspiring rags-to-riches biopic of struggling Chris Gardner (Will Smith) accentuate the intractable class and economic divide that often smothers even the most well-intentioned and hard-working among us. And, the film's most effective moments are the tender and genuine exchanges between Gardner and his young son, played by Smith's real-life son Jaden. Still, director Gabriele Muccino essentially crafts a glorified after-school special imbued with more filler than focus. Rated PG-13.—NM

THE QUEEN—The latest from Stephen Frears has a great premise: a look into the lives of Britain's royal family at the time of the tumultuous public reaction to the death of Princess Diana. Unfortunately, the seriocomic concept is undermined from the first by Peter Morgan's script, which has all the obviousness and banality of a TV production. Rated PG-13. —GC

REQUIEM—Sandra Hüller gives a haunting performance as Michaela, a young German woman from a religious home who slowly becomes convinced she is possessed by demons when she goes away to college. Suffering from epilepsy and the guilt heaped on her by her oppressive mother (Imogen Kogge), Michaela's condition is framed by writer Bernd Lange and director Hans-Christian Schmid in a realistic, almost documentary fashion, as she's slowly convinced of her own madness. The film doesn't offer easy answers, suggesting that whether or not she's truly possessed, her belief in the possession represents a weird sort of personal martyrdom and liberation. The film was inspired by a true story that also inspired 2005's The Exorcism of Emily Rose—and boy, they really mucked that one up in comparison to this film. Not rated.—ZS

ROCKY BALBOA—The film franchise nearly stages its greatest comeback, spotlighting a middle-aged Italian Stallion (Sylvester Stallone) subsisting off his faded glory and living amongst the ghosts of his South Philly past. However, once another recycled training montage segues into one final (?) fight against the current champ, Mason "The Line" Dixon (real-life boxer Antonio Tarver), the film loses its focus and spirit. In the end, Rocky Balboa is not unlike its centerpiece Las Vegas exhibition bout—a meaningless spectacle that fails to advance the Rocky lore. Rated PG-13. —NM

WE ARE MARSHALLCharlie's Angels mastermind McG gets serious with this based-on-a-true-story tale of Marshall University Thundering Herd football team, but the results take a genuinely moving true story and impose a traditional "underdogs come together" sports film onto it. Rated PG. —ZS

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