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Movie Guide

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Sterritt **** Dworkin makes a powerful filmmaking debut with this long, intense documentary about an inner-city family beset by problems of poverty and addiction. The movie is expansive in its concerns, intimate in its emotions, and incisive in its analysis of the interplay between social-service systems and the individual, often idiosyncratic households they're meant to help.

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Man on the Train (R)

Director: Patrice Leconte. With Jean Rochefort, Johnny Hallyday, Isabelle Petit-Jacques. (90 min.)

Sterritt *** Rochefort and Hallyday play two aging men - a retired poetry teacher and an over-the-hill robber - who meet when the latter comes to town for a poorly planned heist. Their friendship starts by chance and ends abruptly, but it blossoms long enough to make each man wonder if his chosen path has been as fulfilling as it has seemed. Heartfelt acting makes up for some stodgy dialogue and sentimentality, and it's nice to know Leconte still has a foot firmly planted in old-fashioned humanistic storytelling. In French with English subtitles.

Only the Strong Survive (PG-13)

Directors: Chris Hegedus, D.A. Pennebaker. With Mary Wilson, Isaac Hayes, Sam Moore. (95 min.)

Staff ** 1/2 Groove your way back to the heyday of soul in this documentary that follows artists who've been strong enough to carry on, or revive, their musical careers. You'll catch up with Mary Wilson of the Supremes. You'll feel every heartfelt note as Sam Moore sings "When Something's Wrong With My Baby" during a tribute to Isaac Hayes. The film lacks the poignancy of the long-overdue tribute to musicians in "Standing in the Shadows of Motown." But it delivers the same joyful blend of humorous stories and tunes that simply won't let you sit still. By Stacy A. Teicher

Violence: None. Profanity: 2 profanities.

Owning Mahowny (R)

Director: Richard Kwietniowski. With Philip Seymour Hoffman, Minnie Driver, John Hurt. (104 min.)

Sterritt **** Based on true events, this engrossing drama chronicles the decline of a mild-mannered bank clerk (Hoffman) as his gambling addiction drives him so deeply into debt that even his bookies feel bad about it. Hoffman is devastatingly good, and Hurt is excellent as a money-driven casino manager who wants to milk his obsessive client for all he's worth. Kwietniowski's second feature isn't as brilliant as his first, "Love and Death on Long Island," but it confirms his promise as an exceptional talent.

The Shape of Things (R)

Director: Neil LaBute. With Rachel Weisz, Paul Rudd, Gretchen Mol. (97 min.)

Sterritt **** An insecure college student becomes more assured under the sway of his new girlfriend, an aspiring artist who transforms his self-image but brings rueful surprises when she turns out to have an intellectual agenda. The film begins as a well-crafted dramatic comedy, then morphs into a disturbing deconstruction of truisms about love, loyalty, maturing, and the complex permutations of art and ethics. LaBute succeeds as he never did in his previous films.

Staff *** Insightful, powerful, incisive dialogue.

Sex/Nudity: 5 scenes, including innuendo and implied sex. Violence: 5 scenes of pushing. Profanity: 32 harsh expressions. Drugs: 1 scene of drinking; 1 with drugs.

Winged Migration (G)

Director: Jacques Perrin. With many flying birds. (85 min.)

Staff ** Birds, birds, birds. Some of the shots have the up-close naturalism of Audubon paintings, capturing our feathered friends in colorful detail. Others are out-and-out spectacular, with eye-filling juxtapositions of bird flocks and scenic vistas. As pretty as it is, however, the film isn't very informative, conveying little about its subject beyond what species and locations are on the screen.

X2: X-Men United (PG-13)

Director: Bryan Singer. With Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Halle Berry. (134 min.)

Staff **1/2Warning: Do not even consider going to this sequel until you've seen the first X-Men film. The sequel picks up as if you just ran to the fridge for a soda. That said, Singer has given this a slightly more serious tone, a broader canvas, and more minutes for your money. There are some great new characters and memorable interchanges between the two main mutants about the age-old question: "Who am I?" By Gloria Goodale

Staff *** X-cellent, superior sequel, overcooked.

Sex/Nudity: 3 innuendos. 1 brief nude scene. Violence: Extreme violence throughout. Profanity: 11 expressions. Drugs: 1 drinking scene; 3 with smoking.

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