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Sterritt *** Left to fend for herself by an uncaring mother and an impersonal society, a teenage girl sinks into a spiral of abuse by others and misguided decisions of her own. Set mostly in an unnamed part of the former Soviet Union, this grim Danish-Swedish production is socially revealing and artistically creative, both coldly realistic and infused with compassion for its heroine and her youth culture. In Rus sian and Swedish with English subtitles.

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Northfork (PG-13)

Director: Michael Polish. With Nick Nolte, Daryl Hannah, James Woods, Kyle MacLachlan. (103 min.)

Sterritt **** A hydroelectric project is about to put a Great Plains town underwater, and an evacuation committee is assigned to ensure no family gets left in harm's way. Meanwhile a sick boy, too weak to move, has an elaborate fever dream about angels as ineffectual and good-hearted as he is. This offbeat fable elegantly mingles drama, comedy, fantasy, and low-key spiritual resonance. Nolte's final soliloquy provides a crowning touch.

Staff ** Understated, disjointed, wistful.

Sex/Nudity: 1 scene. Violence: 2 violent scenes. Profanity: 1 profanity. Drugs: None.

Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (PG-13)

Director: Gore Verbinski. With Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, Geoffrey Rush, Jonathan Pryce. (136 min.)

Sterritt ** This swashbuckling yarn centers on an endangered woman, a mysterious pendant, and a crew of cursed pirates who want to get their hands on both so they can undo the malediction that's turned them into undead versions of the Flying Dutchman. The story is silly, but the cinematography is handsome and Cap'n Depp shines as a fey buccaneer whose dandified demeanor is more fun to watch than the rest of the spectacle.

Staff *** Depp steals the show, swashbuckling fun, a little long.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 18 violent scenes, including stabbings, hangings. Drugs: 10 scenes with drinking. Profanity: 6 mild profanities.

Secret Lives: Hidden Children & Their Rescuers During WWII (Not rated)

Director: Aviva Sleslin. With surviving parents and children of the World War II era.

Sterritt *** This is a documentary about non-Jewish adults who risked their lives and families to save Jewish children from Nazi brutality. Although it isn't very original in style, this heartfelt account is always instructive and frequently very touching. In English, German, and French with English subtitles.

Swimming Pool (R)

Director: Fran├žois Ozon. With Charlotte Rampling, Charles Dance. (102 min.)

Sterritt ** Suffering from writer's block, an English mystery novelist moves into a French chateau owned by her publisher, where she enters an increasingly ominous relationship with a woman who's staying there. The suspenseful setup never pays off, but Rampling continues the impressive collaboration with Ozon that began with "Under the Sand" in 2000. In English and French with English subtitles.

Staff **1/2 Understated, superficial, entertaining.

Sex/Nudity: 15 scenes, including nudity, sex. Violence: 3 scenes. Profanity: 9 profanities. Drugs: 20 scenes of drinking, smoking, drug use.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (R)

Director: Jonathan Mostow. With Arnold Schwarzenegger, Kristanna Loken, Nick Stahl, Claire Danes. (109 min.)

Sterritt ** A high-tech Terminator is sent from the future to assassinate the late Sarah Connor's son, who has a crucial role to play in a future battle between humans and gizmos. The human resistance movement sends a similar cyborg to protect him, touching off spectacular battles with computer-generated visual effects. Schwarzenegger strides across the screen with a magnetism that makes the Hulk look wimpy.

Staff *** Relentless pace, witty at times, potent.

Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes of posterior nudity; 2 scenes with innuendo. Violence: 24 extended scenes, including high-tech fights, shootings. Profanity: 26 profanities. Drugs: 3 scenes of drinking.

OUT ON VIDEO
Nicholas Nickleby (PG)

Director: Douglas McGrath. With Charlie Hunnam, Anne Hathaway, Jim Broadbent. (133 min.)

Sterritt *** Large-scale adaptation of Charles Dickens's novel about a man who meets a motley list of friends and foes while trying to rescue his family from poverty. Some portions are a Dickensian delight. It's uneven, but Dickens admirers shouldn't miss it.

Staff ***Satisfying, more sugar than spice.

Sex/Nudity: None. Profanity: None. Violence: 10 scenes. Drugs: 8 instances of drinking; 1 with smoking.

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