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•IMAX THEATER Deep Sea (NR) Get an up-close-and-personal look at sea turtles, giant octopi and other strange and colorful marine life in this visit to the ocean floor. Greece: Secrets of the Past (NR) This documentary explores the archeological secrets of Ancient Greece and features the Parthenon in its original glory as well as the volcanic eruption that buried the island of Santorini. Fernbank Museum of Natural History IMAX Theater, 767 Clifton Road. 404-929-6300. www.fernbank.edu.
•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 amidst a black power and folk music-infected Africa. But it soon descends into 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
•THE NATIVITY STORY 2 stars. (PG) Like a well-meaning, pro-Jewish prequel to The Passion of the Christ, this Bible epic recounts the courtship of Mary (Keisha Castle-Hughes) and Joseph (Oscar Isaac) against a background of immaculate conception and Roman exploitation. . Despite the sympathetic and respectful performance of Castle-Hughes, the results prove stodgy and solemn, with the last 20 minutes resembling the most pain-staking live nativity re-enactment you can imagine: There's the star, there's the shepherds, here come the comic-relief wise men, etc. -- Holman
•NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM 4 stars. (PG) See review.
•THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS 3 stars. (PG-13) Will Smith is earnest and appealing, even if his enthusiasm is more believable than his sorrow in this fact-based film about a man struggling to change his life. In this valentine to the American dream, Chris Gardner (Smith) has been abandoned by his wife to care for his 5-year-old son while trying to change from a homeless medical supply salesman with a high school diploma to a Dean Witter stockbroker. Just when director Gabriele Muccino digs beneath his glossy Hollywood tale and shows the domino-effect hardship of being poor, something fraudulent or superficial steals his thunder. But the story's sentimental take on black fatherhood and the well-done father-son relationship account for a great deal of its appeal. -- Feaster
•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. 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
•ROCKY BALBOA 2 stars. (PG-13) The sixth Rocky movie is perhaps the ultimate in both money-grubbing and star-groveling, yet because Stallone so obviously loves this great character he created, it's hard to get worked up in a fury of righteous indignation. Rocky Balboa has some nice touches, particularly in the way it draws upon memories of previous installments, and Stallone is never more human as an actor than when he's essaying this role. But the movie spends too much time in idle and not enough in overdrive; and what should be the central storyline -- Rocky comes out of retirement to fight a champion (Antonio Tarver) half his age -- only takes shape once the picture's nearly over. -- Brunson
•STRANGER THAN FICTION 3 stars. (PG-13) Dull IRS agent Harold Crick (Will Ferrell) learns that he has inadvertently become the lead character in a book being written by reclusive author Kay Eiffel (Emma Thompson). Despite the innovative premise, this never matches the existential, mind-bending depths of, say, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and remains resolutely mainstream, with flights of fancy that lightly tickle the brain but never really challenge it. The upside is that this allows a love story to take root amid the high concept, and as enacted by Ferrell and Maggie Gyllenhaal (playing a baker who awakens Harold's dormant passions), it's both charming and disarming. -- Brunson
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