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Capsule reviews of recently released movies 

Catch a Fire, Conversations With God, Saw III

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JACKASS NUMBER TWO (R) Johnny Knoxville and his self-destructive buddies re-up for more mortifying pranks and kamikaze stunts.

JESUS CAMP *** (PG-13) Though filmmakers Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady are from the overstate-the-obvious school of movie-making, their documentary on the creepy efforts of evangelical Christianity to make children into their religious foot soldiers in the culture wars sends a compelling message. The filmmakers document the efforts by Pentecostal Children's Minister Becky Fischer and complicit parents to indoctrinate children in an evangelical political agenda. The children are adorable, earnest and fervent, and you feel sad for how both Fischer and the filmmakers use them to fulfill their individual agendas. -- Feaster

JET LI'S FEARLESS (PG-13) Billed as the final martial arts film from the high-flying Jet Li, this chop-sockey historical epic promises spectacular period details and gravity-defying fight scenes.

KEEPING MUM *** (R) The darkish British comedy Keeping Mum is cinema as cozy as an afghan or a nice cuppa tea -- something comforting but not exactly life-sustaining. Cut-glass highbrow beauty Kristin Scott Thomas slums through the yuks as the sexually frustrated wife of a village minister (Rowan Atkinson), but her attempt at an affair with an oily American golf pro (Patrick Swayze) is violently frowned upon by her new housekeeper (Maggie Smith), a dear old Mary Poppins-type with a homicidal secret. -- Feaster

THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND *** (R) Based on Giles Foden's novel, this thriller imagines 1970s Ugandan dictator Idi Amin (Forrest Whitaker) appointing a naive Scottish doctor as his personal doctor. As their relationship develops, Nicholas Garrigan (James McAvoy) also becomes Amin's political confidante, witnessing his growing paranoia and murderous reign firsthand. The film begins as a rousing study of Amin's charismatic, outsize personality amid a black power and folk music-infected Africa. But it soon descends into a kind of Halloween--goes--African, an absurd white man's nightmare as Garrigan finds himself trapped in the baroque horrors of Amin's Uganda. Though there is implausibility galore and a disturbing use of Africa as the source of both the white world's fantasies and fear, Whitaker rises above the often exploitive material to deliver a performance of astounding humanity and appeal that gets you into the dark, divided heart of the dictator. -- Feaster

LITTLE CHILDREN **** (R) One of the rare films that improves on a novel, Todd Field's film adaptation of Tom Perrotta's (Election) snarky social comedy has real tenderness for and insight into its characters despite their myriad problems ranging from selfishness and porn-addiction to antisocial sexual urges. Kate Winslet and Patrick Wilson are the married parents of young children who meet on the playground and soon tumble into bed in a leafy Massachusetts suburb where adultery is just a way of momentarily escaping deeper anxieties. -- Feaster

LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE ** (R) When a bubbly 7-year-old (Abigail Breslin) aspires to compete in the Little Miss Sunshine beauty pageant, her quirky relatives (including Greg Kinnear as a failed motivational speaker and Steve Carell as a suicidal Proust scholar) take a road trip across country. Not since National Lampoon's Vacation has such a Whitman's Sampler of freaks crammed into a car, and this feather-light film only serves to prove the increasing mainstreaming of independent film. -- Feaster

MAN OF THE YEAR (PG-13) Writer-director Barry Levinson imagines what would happen if an outspoken and compassionate comedian (Robin Williams) became president of the United States. It's a decent premise for a piercing satire, but Levinson's approach is so timid that it makes last spring's soggy American Dreamz look as incendiary as a Michael Moore documentary by comparison. Williams delivers the same lazy performance we almost always get, with the actor groveling for laughs via his patented physical shtick and repertoire of stale jokes that were already passé around the time Roman emperors began chucking Christian standup comics to the lions. -- Brunson

MARIE ANTOINETTE *** (PG-13) Eighteenth-century Versailles meets high school in Sofia Coppola's confectionary, girly-girl take on France's most famous teenage queen. Kirsten Dunst is pearly perfection as the Austrian babe traded to the French as the wife to future King of France XVI (Jason Schwartzman), who prefers his hunting dude pals to making babies with Marie A. Coppola has never failed to let her cool girl flag fly, and her injection of Eighties Pop tunes and California attitude into the 18th century royal court is often a gas. But it's not enough to cover for Marie A's distinct lack of an inner life (gazing wistfully out of windows doesn't count), or some compelling take on this famous female rebel. -- Feaster

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