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Movie Guide

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Sterritt **** A car crash sets off events affecting two sisters with emotional problems, a former thug who's now a Christian, an ailing professor, and his wife, who wants to have a baby. The title refers to the weight a body supposedly loses when its soul leaves the material world, a notion Iñárritu uses as a metaphor for the limitations of our ability to understand the enigmas of the human experience.

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Brother Bear (G)

Directors: Aaron Blaise, Robert Walker. With voices of: Joaquin Phoenix, Michael Clarke Duncan. (85 min.)

Sterritt ** This old-fashioned animation tells the story of three native-American brothers, one of whom is mysteriously turned into a bear as a path to redemption from his human faults. All the old Disney trademarks are here, except the wit and surprise that were once the studio's stock in trade.

Staff **1/2 Warm, scenic, enthralling storyline.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 8 scenes. Profanity: None. Drugs: None.

Elf (PG)

Director: Jon Favreau. With: Will Ferrell, James Caan, Zooey Deschanel, Edward Asner. (92 min.)

Sterritt **** Buddy was raised at the North Pole by Santa but when he learns he's an adopted human rather than an everyday elf, he heads for Manhattan to meet his dad, a Scrooge-like executive. The cast is perfect, and David Berenbaum has written a smart and funny sugarplum of a screenplay. Feel free to open before Christmas, or any other time of year.

Staff *** Sprightly, festive, good-hearted fun.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 4 scenes of violence, including a beating. Profanity: 2 mild profanities. Drugs: 5 scenes with alcohol, 1 scene with smoking.

The Haunted Mansion (PG)

Director: Ron Minkoff. With: Eddie Murphy, Marsha Thomason, Terence Stamp, Wallace Shawn. (88 min.)

Sterritt ** Hoping to land a commission, two married real-estate brokers and their kids visit a spooky old manor containing a mysterious young man, his weirded-out butler, and ghosts galore. While this uneven horror comedy may supply giggles and shivers to the preteens it's aimed at, grownups won't find anything they haven't seen before. Stamp's portrayal of the butler is fun, though.

In America (PG-13)

Director: Jim Sheridan. With: Samantha Morton, Paddy Considine, Djimon Hounsou, Emma Bolger. (103 min.)

Sterritt ** An actor emigrates from Ireland to New York with his wife and young daughters, moving into a scruffy tenement and hoping he'll achieve some success before overwhelming poverty gets the better of them all. The story has too many trite moments, but strong acting and a goodhearted attitude keep it afloat.

Staff ***1/2 Touching, genuine, take some tissues.

Sex/Nudity: 3 sex scenes, 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: 1 scene. Profanity: 4 instances. Drugs: 1 scene of drinking.

Love Actually (R)

Director: Richard Curtis. With: Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Laura Linney. (128 min.)

Sterritt * Set in London during the Christmas season, this overstuffed romantic comedy tells intertwined tales about the prime minister and an assistant he's infatuated with, his sister and her straying husband, a rock star who hates the holiday song he's just recorded, and plenty more. The cast glitters but the storytelling falls flat, relying on bathroom humor and needless nudity.

Staff *** Charming, light, impressive cast.

Sex/Nudity: 3 sex scenes, 7 instances of innuendo, including scenes with nudity. Violence: Mostly comic violence. Profanity: 26 instances. Drugs: 9 scenes of drinking.

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (PG-13)

Director: Peter Weir. With: Russell Crowe, Paul Bettany, Billy Boyd, James D'Arcy. (138 min.)