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· BROKEN FLOWERS 2 stars (R) Cinema's two reigning Zen masters of deadpan understatement, Bill Murray and filmmaker Jim Jarmusch, dial it back a little too far in this melancholy comedy. Murray's aging Don Juan road-trips to see which of four ex-lovers (played superbly by Sharon Stone, Frances Conroy, Jessica Lange and Tilda Swinton) is the mother to the son he never knew. With such self-conscious tedium and heavy-handed symbols, Broken Flowers feels wasteful of its terrific cast, although Murray's touchingly subtle work strikes some highly affecting chords in the last 15 minutes. -- Holman
· THE BROTHERS GRIMM 1 star (PG-13) Inveterate scenery chewer and slapstick fan Terry Gilliam directs the blandly Caucasian team of Matt Damon and Heath Ledger in an annoyingly manic action-adventure yarn. The two 19th-century German brothers Wilhelm and Jacob, who wrote fairy tales like "Rapunzel" and "Snow White," become swashbuckling adventurers in screenwriter Ehren Kruger's hands. The brothers fight to exorcise a haunted German forest of its ghouls. A tangled, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink storyline proves Gilliam was not paying attention when he re-read all of those simple but effective Grimm tales. -- Felicia Feaster
· THE CONSTANT GARDENER 4 stars (R) In this flashy, faithful adaptation of John Le Carré's espionage bestseller, Ralph Fiennes plays impressively against type as a meek diplomat in Africa investigating the murder of his activist wife (Rachel Weisz). Director Fernando Mereilles brings a similar intensity and eye for telling detail that marked sizzling City of God and makes The Constant Gardener one of the rare political thriller's that's actually about politics. Too many characters seem to exist simply for exposition instead of insight, but the film stirringly blends suspenseful paranoia, tragic romance and indignation at corporate misdeeds in the Third World. -- Holman
· THE DEVIL'S REJECTS (R) The wait is over: Musician Rob Zombie has written and directed another movie, taking up where House of 1000 Corpses left off. I guess House of 1001 Corpses wasn't as good a title.
· THE EDUKATORS 4 stars (R) A fiction film answer to anti-globalist docs like The Yes Men and The Corporation, this humanist, deep-thinking, punk rock German thriller pits three sexy young anarchists against a Berlin filled with greedy yuppies and the corporate power structure that enables them. Sure, the Marxist jaw-flapping can get heavy-handed and the film tends to drag near the end. In an era when most cinematic displays of youthful brio unfold in the bedroom and the dance floor, it's a refreshing change of pace to see young hipsters fighting for human rights and a moral way of life. -- Feaster
· THE EXORCISM OF EMILY ROSE 2 stars (PG-13) A morally conflicted, atheist attorney (Laura Linney) defends a brooding priest (Tom Wilkinson) of negligent homicide in the wake of an unsuccessful exorcism. With an Oscar-caliber cast and a premise that blends courtroom drama with supernatural conflicts, this supernatural thriller promises scares and thoughtful content, and fails to deliver them both. You'd do better with a Halloween episode of "Law and Order" than Exorcism's lame legal plot points and muddled spirituality. -- Holman
· THE 40 YEAR-OLD VIRGIN 4 stars (R) Can a sheltered, geeky electronics store employee ("The Daily Show's" Steve Carell, who co-wrote the script) discover the joys of man-on-woman action, or will fate conspire comedically against him? This raunchy but surprisingly sweet comedy with a relaxed, engaging cast takes great pleasure in examining society's sexual obsessions and the anxiety it engenders. It's a little long, but like the cable cult-flick Office Space, it gets plenty of mileage of taking place in the same generic, chain-store America where must of us live, work and play. -- Holman
· FOUR BROTHERS 3 stars (R) The adopted sons (two white, two black) of a slain Detroit woman seek the truth about their mother's death. This lo-fi urban thriller from John Singleton may be heavy-handed and silly, but it captures the spare, edgy fun of cult blaxploitation films far better than the director's own remake of Shaft. Atlanta's Andre Benjamin of Outkast fame comports himself comfortably as the most respectable of the title siblings. -- Holman
· GRIZZLY MAN 3 stars (R) Legendary German director Werner Herzog contemplates the call of the wild by recounting the true story of ill-fated wildlife activist Timothy Treadwell, the self-appointed "guardian" of Alaska's grizzly bears up until he and his girlfriend were fatally attacked by one. Herzog edits nearly 100 hours of Treadwell's own footage to reveal a man so dedicated to wildlife that he lost perspective on its genuine dangers. Herzog's intrusive narration diminishes Grizzly Man's impact, but the film's portrayal of nature -- at once beautiful and brutal -- has a lingering force. -- Holman
· HUSTLE & FLOW 4 stars Writer/director Craig Brewer mixes a heady cocktail of pimp life and crunk hip-hop in one of the best films of 2005 -- and arguably the most honest, eye-opening screen portrayal of rap music ever made. Terrence Howard gives a sensitive, complex performance as Djay, a two-bit Memphis pimp and pusher who sees hip-hop as his last chance to escape criminal life. We don't sympathize with him, exactly, but Hustle & Flow doesn't do justice to Djay's contradictions: talented artist, exploiter of women, melancholy soul. Brewer captures the infectious thrill of musical creation in Djay's makeshift recording sessions (you'll find yourself singing along to his song "Whoop That Trick") and even generates nail-biting suspense when he tries to win the favor of rap star Skinny Black (played with appropriate arrogance by Atlanta's Ludacris). -- Holman
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