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•THE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND 3 stars (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 exploitative material to deliver a performance of astounding humanity and appeal that gets you into the dark, divided heart of the dictator. -- Feaster
•LET'S GO TO PRISON (R) Will Arnett, beloved as the jerky, pretentious "illusionist" in "Arrested Development," plays a doofus who finds himself wrongfully jailed in this raunchy comedy directed by "Mr. Show" co-creator Bob Odenkirk.
•LITTLE CHILDREN 4 stars (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
•MARIE ANTOINETTE 3 stars (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 '80s 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
•THE PRESTIGE 4 stars (PG-13) Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman play rival Victorian-era stage magicians in an enchanting, intricate period piece. Director Christopher Nolan (Memento, Batman Begins) raises the suspense and emotional stakes of Christopher Priest's seemingly unfilmable novel, which features fascinating behind-the-scenes details of an illusionist's craft as well as the eternal tension between showmanship and technical perfectionism. The Prestige provides plenty of razzle-dazzle and clever construction that will reward a second viewing, even if the ambiguous ending prompts arguments about how they did it. -- Holman
•THE QUEEN 4 stars (PG-13) Helen Mirren is enthralling as the emotionally flummoxed Queen Elizabeth II who finds herself stuck in the middle of royal protocol and modernization when former princess Diana dies. The grieving British masses demand a public funeral, but the monarch resists and chipper new Prime Minister Tony Blair (Michael Sheen) steps in to run interference. An often hilarious portrait of the bizarre WASP rituals of the royals and the media blitzkrieg surrounding Diana's death, Stephen Frears' exceptionally enjoyable tragicomedy is a tour de force all around. -- Feaster
•THE RETURN (PG-13) In this supernatural thriller, Sarah Michelle Gellar plays a young woman haunted by visions of a murder, and tries to solve the mystery before the killer targets her.
•RUNNING WITH SCISSORS 2 stars (R) In this A-list adaptation of Augusten Burroughs' best-selling memoir, an unbalanced mother (Annette Bening) dumps her loving teenage son (Joseph Cross) at the squalid home of her psychiatrist (Brian Cox) and his loopy family. "Nip/Tuck" creator and first-time director Ryan Murphy gets the film's suburban "Me Decade" look exactly right while completely missing the book's deadpan sense of humor and relying on the soundtrack music for the film's emotional heavy lifting. Bening certainly acts her heart out, but her efforts are virtually for naught, since we pretty much know everything about her character from the moment we set eyes on her. -- Holman
•THE SANTA CLAUSE III: THE ESCAPE CLAUSE (PG) Tim Allen once more dons the white beard and red felt as a regular guy who takes to his newfound career as Kris Kringle. In this outing, Santa invites his new in-laws (Ann-Margaret and Alan Arkin) to the North Pole at the same time as Jack Frost (Martin Short) attempts a hostile takeover. It sounds sort of like a cross between Meet the Fockers and "Mr. Cold Miser."