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Flick picks and pans

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For movies and showtimes, see the movie listings in this Arts & Entertainment section.AQUAMARINE:Two eighth-graders (Emma Roberts and JoJo) befriend a mermaid (Sara Paxton) who has three days to prove to her merfather that love exists. The girls have a crush on a lifeguard (Jake McDorman), but are too young for him to date, so they coach the mermaid. Meanwhile, a mean blond girl (Arielle Kebbel) and her posse do what mean blondes and posses always do in teenage movies, which is to cause everybody a lot of trouble before they are defeated and humiliated. Fairly simpleminded, but awfully sweet, and the young actresses have an unstudied charm. I know theres an audience for this movie just as surely as I know I am not that audience. Classified: PG. Running time: 109 minutes. Rating: Two stars. (Ebert, Universal Press Syndicate).16 BLOCKS: Bruce Willis plays a tired, middle-aged detective with a booze problem who is assigned to transport a witness (Mos Def) 16 blocks to a grand jury hearing. This turns out to be difficult because many people want the witness dead. Willis plays the cop as a man who has been pushed once too often and pushes back. Mos Def plays the witness as a goofy motormouth who may have something serious going on beneath his nonstop monologue. David Morse is the evil police captain. Directed by Richard Donner (“Lethal Weapon”), who isnt doing anything particularly new, but does it well, and benefits from solid performances. Classified: PG-13. Running time: 105 minutes. Rating: Three stars. (Ebert, Universal Press Syndicate). TRANSAMERICA: Felicity Huffman plays a man named Bree, who is only days away from sex change surgery when informed that 17 years ago she fathered a son. Her therapist refuses surgery until she deals with the child (Kevin Zegers); she flies to New York and they drive to Los Angeles together, at first without Bree revealing who or what she is. Bree is a ladylike, middle-class conservative, and the son is a street hustler; their journey is one of mutual discovery, not least during a stopover with Brees family. Works because Huffman makes Bree so persistently, patiently and conventionally sincere. With Graham Greene as a Native American who gives them a lift. Rating: Three stars. Classified: R. Running time: 103 minutes. Rating: Three stars. (Ebert, Universal Press Syndicate).

MRS HENDERSON PRESENTS: Dame Judi Dench buys an old theater and Bob Hoskins manages it in a loving tribute to Londons Windmill, which presented vaudeville enlivened by artistic tableaux in which nude women posed. If they moved, the Lord Chamberlain (Christopher Guest) ruled, the show would be obscene; if they did not, they were art in the same sense as the nudes in the National Gallery. The theaters great claim was, We Never Closed, and during the Blitz the bombs fell and so did the feather boas, as Mrs. Henderson offered her bit, and her girls their bits, for troop morale. Classified: R. Running time: 103 minutes. Rating: Three stars. (Ebert, Universal Press Syndicate)THE THREE BURIALS OF MELQUIADES ESTRADA: When his friend Melquiades is killed in a stupid act by a border patrolman, a cowman named Perkins (Tommy Lee Jones) enforces a simple but brutal form of justice: He forces the border agent (Barry Pepper) to dig up the body, so the two of them can return it to the mans home in Mexico. The kind of story that John Huston or Sam Peckinpah might have wanted to film. Begins with a bedrock of loyalty, and mixes it with a little madness. Jones acting and the screenplay by Guillermo Arriaga won prizes at Cannes 2005. Classified: R. Running time: 121 minutes. Rating: Four stars. (Ebert, Universal Press Syndicate). ULTRAVIOLET: Milla Jovovich stars as a member of a race of genetically engineered superhumans trying to avoid extermination by the government. With Cameron Bright, Nick Chinlund and William Fichtner. Directed by Kurt Wimmer. Classified: PG-13 for sequences of violent action throughout, partial nudity and language. (Los Angeles Times)

THE WORLDS FASTEST INDIAN: Anthony Hopkins plays Burt Munro, a codger from New Zealand who takes nitro pills for his heart condition, and has spent years tinkering with a 1920 Indian motorcycle. In 1967 he thinks the bike is ready for a trip to Speed Week at the Bonneville Salt Flats. The millionaire racing teams have never seen anything like Burt and his Indian. Is that a cork in the gas tank? Directed by Roger Donaldson, and based on a true story. Did Burt set a new record in his category? Spoiler warning: The movie is not titled The Worlds Second-Fastest Indian. Classified: PG-13. Running time: 127 minutes. Rating: Three stars. (Ebert, Universal Press Syndicate).CAPOTE: In 1959, Truman Capote read of a Kansas murder and decided to write a book about it. The result, In Cold Blood, made him richer and more famous, and destroyed his life. Caught in a moral contradiction between his feelings for the killers and the fact that they needed to die for him to finish his book, he wrote a great book and was consumed by guilt and doubt. Bennett Millers film stars Philip Seymour Hoffman in an Oscar-worthy performance as the author, who despite his famous mannerisms was able to enter a Midwestern community and gain the trust of everyone he talked to, even the killers. We observe how he works on the story, and the story works on him. Classified: R. Running time: 114 minutes. Rating: Four stars. (Ebert, Universal Press Syndicate)CURIOUS GEORGE: Faithful to the spirit and innocence of the famous books, with a visual look thats uncluttered and charming. George the monkey follows the Man in the Yellow Hat (Will Ferrell) back from Africa and has adventures in New York, including floating over the city hanging onto balloons. Not a family movie, because its not intended for grown-ups, but frankly and cheerfully a childrens movie, for smaller kids, who will not be baffled or think its too scary. Other voices by Drew Barrymore, Eugene Levy, Dick Van Dyke. Classified: G. Running time: 86 minutes. Rating: Three stars. (Ebert, Universal Press Syndicate).

DATE MOVIE: Alyson Hannigan, Adam Campbell, Jennifer Coolidge, Tony Cox, Fred Willard and Eddie Griffin star in this spoof of romantic comedies. Directed by Aaron Seltzer. Written by Jason Friedberg and Seltzer. Classified: PG-13. (Los Angeles Times)DOOGAL: An evil sorcerer seeks to unite three diamonds that possess the power to freeze the sun, and only an unlikely quartet led by the titular pooch with a sweet tooth can stop him in this animated feature. Voices by Kenan Thompson, Jon Stewart, Whoopi Goldberg, Judi Dench and William H. Macy, Ian McKellen. Not yet rated. (Los Angeles Times)EIGHT BELOW: Eight sled dogs are left behind when a scientific expedition has to pull out of Antarctica ahead of a winter storm. Their master (Paul Walker) desperately wants to return for them, but is overruled by superiors, and by the fierce weather. Can the dogs survive the long winter? Convincing and sometimes breathtaking footage of the dogs and their story, intercut with a more mundane human narrative, also including Bruce Greenwood as the scientist obsessed with retrieving a meteorite from Mars and Moon Bloodgood as the expedition’s pilot. Classified: PG. Running time: 120 minutes. Rating: Three stars. (Ebert, Universal Press Syndicate). FIREWALL: Harrison Ford plays a banks online security expert, and Paul Bettany is the crook who kidnaps his family to force him to transfer millions of dollars. Virginia Madsen is Fords wife, who is as smart as he is, as they try to outthink a man who may be planning to kill them all. The standard plot is enlivened by lots of digital stuff: Ford uses mainframes, laptops, cell phones, fax machines, miniature lapel mikes, spycams and his daughters iPod, plus a lot of masking tape. The plot may have holes in retrospect, but it works well enough as it hums along, with skillful performances and an ingenious element in a chase scene. Not a great thriller, but it has its moments. Classified: PG-13. Running time: 120 minutes. Rating: Three stars. (Ebert, Universal Press Syndicate). THE NEW WORLD: Terrence Malicks The New World strips away the legends from the story of Pocahontas and her tribe and the English settlers at Jamestown, and imagines how new and strange these people must have seemed to one another. A 14-year-old named Qorianka Kilcher plays the Indian princess (who is never called by name), Colin Farrell is Capt. John Smith, and Christian Bale is John Rolfe, who took her back to England and an audience with the king. The characters are always surrounded by nature, in a film of great beauty and poetry. Classified: PG-13. Running time: 130 minutes. Rating: Four stars. (Ebert, Universal Press Syndicate).


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