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Movie Guide

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Sex/Nudity: 11 mentions. Violence: none Profanity: 20 mild, 11 strong expressions. Drugs: 1 smoking scene.

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Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story (PG-13)

Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber. With Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Christine Taylor, Rip Torn. (92 min.)

Sterritt * The owners of rival health clubs enter teams in a Las Vegas dodgeball tournament to win a cash prize. Stiller strives to be a wild and wacky villain, Vaughn endeavors to be a likable and average hero, and both fall flat on their faces, like everything else in this unspeakably stupid comedy.

The Clearing (R)

Director: Pieter Jan Brugge. With Robert Redford, Helen Mirren, Willem Dafoe, Melissa Sagemiller. (94 min.)

Sterritt *** Redford gives one of his best performances ever in this taut, emotionally engrossing thriller about a wealthy businessman kidnapped by a small-time criminal (Dafoe) and held for ransom from his wife (Mirren) and family. Only a sentimental, strung-out ending mars the drama's momentum.

Staff **1/2 Modest, chilly, underplayed.

Sex/Nudity: 2 instances of innuendo. Violence: 6 scenes. Profanity: 10 strong expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes of drinking, 2 of smoking.

De-Lovely (PG-13)

Director: Irwin Winkler. With Kevin Kline, Ashley Judd, Jonathan Pryce, Alanis Morissette. (125 min.)

Sterritt **** This music-filled biography portrays legendary songwriter Cole Porter, a bisexual scamp whose marriage became the most important anchor in his emotional life. The movie is remarkably touching and engrossing, with Kline's spot-on acting and realistically second-rate singing balancing Judd's one-note performance as his wife. The screenplay spends too long winding Porter's story up, but overall it is as de-lovely as its title promises.

Staff *** Rich, tragic, honest.

Sex/Nudity: 4 instances of innuendo. Violence: none. Profanity: 10 mild expressions. Drugs: 15 instances of drinking, 19 of smoking.

Fahrenheit 9/11 (R)

Director: Michael Moore. With George W. Bush, Lila Lipscomb, Michael Moore. (117 min.)

Sterritt **** Moore's most deeply felt documentary takes on the Bush administration's past and present positions from terrorism to the president's character, using a wide array of cinematic and journalistic techniques. The results pack a political wallop whether or not you agree with Moore, and they'd be even stronger if his narration didn't have a cloying quality that touches the heart more than the mind.

Staff **** Trenchant, caustic, revealing.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 14 scenes Profanity: 8 instances. Drugs: 1 instance of smoking.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (PG)

Director: Alfonso CuarĂ³n. WIth Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson. (141 min.)

Sterritt *** The third installment of the series based on J.K. Rowling's novels is darker than its predecessors, with Harry stalked by a killer who's escaped from prison, and haunted by ghostly guardians called Dementors who may be more dangerous than the murderer. Add a werewolf, a magic map, and a hippogriff, and you have a horror movie for mature kids.

Staff *** Spellbinding, spooky, not for kids.

Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 12 scenes. Profanity: 8 mild expressions. Drugs: 3 instances of drinking.

The Notebook (PG-13)

Director: Nick Cassavetes. With Gena Rowlands, James Garner, Rachel McAdams, Ryan Gosling. (115 min.)

Sterritt ** An aging man reads a lengthy love story to a debilitated old woman, and gradually we realize its profound relevance to their own former lives. Rowlands is superb, as usual, and Garner partners her with the grace of a dancer. Cassavetes's directing style is slow and stilted, indicating yet again that his notion of moviemaking is the opposite of everything his father, the great John Cassavetes, stood for.

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