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Movie guide

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Sterritt **** Absorbing documentary about Yvonne Bezerra de Mello's selfless work helping street children in Rio de Janeiro, also showing her simultaneous life as a well-to-do woman with a ritzy lifestyle. Moving, revealing, harrowing. In English and Portuguese with English subtitles.

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CURRENTLY IN RELEASE
Bad Santa (R)

Director: Terry Zwigoff. With Billy Bob Thornton, Tony Cox, Lauren Graham, Brett Kelly. (91 min.)

Staff ** "Bad Santa," indeed. With all the hype about this film, one may expect a dark, cynical comedy with some sort of commentary on the mass consumerism of the season. Sadly, moments like that are few. Instead, we get 93 minutes of Billy Bob Thornton drinking and pointlessly cussing in a Santa suit. The plot of a down-and-out safecracker who robs department stores posing as Santa is left by the wayside, as is the comedic potential of Bernie Mac and the late John Ritter. This movie is as welcome as a lump of coal. By Adam Weiskind

Staff ** Mean-spirited, juvenile, tasteless, raunchy.

Sex/Nudity: 13 scenes of innuendo, 3 sex scenes. Violence: 14 scenes of violence. Profanity: 275 harsh profanities. Drugs: 17 scenes with alcohol, 17 scenes with smoking, 1 with drugs.

The Cat in the Hat (PG)

Director: Bo Welch. With Mike Myers, Kelly Preston, Alec Baldwin, Dakota Fanning. (71 min.)

Sterritt * Dismal adaptation of Dr. Seuss's classic book, about a magical cat who coaxes two kids into having mischievous fun while their mom's away. Myers plays the title feline as if he were a borscht-belt comedian without a speck of talent, and Welch's frenetic style is more like a Freudian fever dream than a children's amusement. In all, jaw-droppingly miscalculated.

Staff * Irritating, Cat-astrophic, inappropriate for kids.

Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes with innuendo. Violence: 10 scenes of mild violence, played for laughs. Profanity: 1 profanity, and several scenes of vulgarity, crudity. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol.

Gothika (R)

Director: Mathieu Kassovitz. With Halle Berry, Robert Downey Jr., Penélope Cruz, Charles S. Dutton. (97 min.)

Sterritt ** Accused of murdering her husband, a psychiatrist (Berry) is forcibly committed to her own mental institution, where her colleagues have trouble believing her growing realization that an evil ghost is behind the whole tragic misunderstanding. Great cast, great atmosphere, little sense or first-rate suspense.

Staff **1/2 Dark, eerie, grisly.

Sex/Nudity: 1 instance of nudity, 2 innuendos. Violence: 15 instances of violence, including rape and sexual torture. Profanity: 5 profanities. Drugs: 3 scenes with smoking.

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.

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.

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