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Amazing Grace (PG)

Director: Michael Apted. With Ioan Gruffudd, Albert Finney. (111 min.)

Michael Apted is among the most uneven of filmmakers. His "Up" series of documentaries is renowned, and such films as "Coal Miner's Daughter" are first-rate. But he also has an unfortunate penchant for bland stateliness, and never more so than in "Amazing Grace," a well-intentioned piece of historical waxworks about William Wilberforce (Ioan Gruffudd), the 18th-century British parliamentarian who led the abolitionist crusade to end the slave trade in the colonies of the New World. Albert Finney, in a juicy and too brief cameo, plays the former slave trader turned penitent priest who composed the song "Amazing Grace." Grade: C–

Starter for Ten (PG-13)

Director: Tom Vaughan. With James McAvoy, Rebecca Hall, Charles Dance. (96 min.)

James McAvoy, who was such a whirlwind as the doctor in "The Last King of Scotland," is on the go again in "Starter for Ten," a modestly enjoyable comedy set in the 1980s about a working-class student from Essex who goes to Bristol University and scrambles to get on the team for the British television quiz show "University Challenge." McAvoy succeeds in making the boy's mania for trivia endearing rather than annoying. As his (delayed) love interest, Rebecca Hall, playing a campus radical and the first Jewish person he has ever encountered, is stunning. The daughter of England's legendary theater director Peter Hall, she is on her way to a greatness of her own. Grade: B

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