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THE GREAT DEBATERS (PG-13) Denzel Washington stars and directs in the true story of Melvin B. Tolson, a professor at Wiley College in Texas. In 1935 Tolson created the school's first debate team, leading them to challenge Harvard in the national championship.
HOW SHE MOVE (PG-13) Raya Green (newcomer Rutina Wesley) is forced to leave private school and return home to her impoverished neighborhood following her sister's death, where she rediscovers her love for competitive step dancing. This Sundance Film Festival hit features choreography by Hi Hat.
HOW TO COOK YOUR LIFE (PG-13) Writer/director Doris Dorrie's documentary looks at the connections between Buddhism and food and the quip "you are what you eat."
I AM LEGEND 4 stars (PG-13) Will Smith plays the sole human inhabitant of New York City after a genetically engineered virus wipes out most of mankind and turns the rest into blood-crazed mutants. The film offers nearly unbearable suspense scenes and stunning images of postapocalyptic Manhattan, overrun with wild animals with grass growing up through the streets. Despite some heavy-handed, ineffectual philosophizing in the last act, Smith delivers one of his best performances and I Am Legend turns out to be the best "summer movie" of 2007. -- Holman
I'M NOT THERE 3 stars (R) Ambitious, smart but decidedly muddled, cerebral superhipster Todd Haynes' biopicture of enigmatic, chameleonlike singer Bob Dylan features six different actors playing Dylan, including a mind-blowing turn by Cate Blanchett, Richard Gere, Christian Bale and a young black kid (Marcus Carl Franklin). The film melds an equally diverse array of styles and film allusions from Fellini to D.A. Pennebaker. The film is often gorgeous and clever, though it may be deep Dylan fans who enjoy Haynes' crazy-quilt film the most. -- Feaster
INTO THE WILD 4 stars (R) Emile Hirsch stars as affluent Emory University grad Chris McCandless, who died at age 24 after dropping off the grid to live on his own in the Alaskan wilderness. A surprising amount of transcendence and hopefulness infuses the normally dour Sean Penn's fourth directorial effort about McCandless' physical and interior journey based on Jon Krakauer's nonfiction account. Marked by nods to '60s and '70s cinema, Penn's film also has relevance to our own times as growing eco- and global-awareness have made more and more people take a McCandless look at the bad path "civilization" is on. -- Feaster
JUNO 4 stars (PG-13) An insanely funny script by Diablo Cody and bone-dry comic timing provided by Ellen Page make Juno feel like the breakout indie of the year. Page is a knocked-up 16-year-old who decides to hand over her child to a couple (Jason Bateman, Jennifer Garner) she thinks are desperate for a baby. Things turn out to be more complicated, and much sweeter than this attitudinal comedy initially suggests. -- Feaster
THE KITE RUNNER 3 stars (PG-13) Director Marc Forster (Monster's Ball, Finding Neverland) returns to familiar themes of childhood and loss in his adaptation of Khaled Hosseini's beloved book. The story moves from 1978 Afghanistan to America and then back again to the Taliban-ruled country as it tells the story of two boyhood friends and the trauma that defines them. Solid acting and moments of acute emotional truth can't, however, distract from Forster's sublimation of his unique style and a feeling that he took the safe path in this adaptation. --Feaster
LET'S GET LOST 3 stars (NOT RATED) Bruce Weber's loosely structured 1988 documentary captures the charisma and musical mystique of jazz trumpeter/vocalist Chet Baker, as well as his personal flaws and failed relationships. Unavailable for years, Let's Get Lost's re-release features impressive black-and-white cinematography (Weber is an iconic fashion photographer) and offers an intriguing example of how our artistic idols seldom live up to our expectations for them. -- Holman
MAD MONEY (PG-13) Diane Keaton, Katie Holmes and Queen Latifah star in this comedy about three working-class women who plan to rob the Federal Reserve Bank. Callie Khouri (Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood) directs.
MEET THE SPARTANS (PG-13) From screenwriters Jason Friedberg and Aaron Seltzer who cranked out Scary Movie, Date Movie and Epic Movie comes another mockery: today's film industry. Meet the Spartans is a spoof of 300 but takes hits at other popular flicks and movie icons, as the invading Persian army includes Paris Hilton, Transformers and Rocky Balboa.
MICHAEL CLAYTON 4 stars 4 stars (R) George Clooney stars in this re-release as Michael Clayton, a metaphorical janitor, serving as custodian of the dirty secrets of New York's masters of the universe. Tony Gilroy directs this slick conspiracy thriller that harks back, like a recurring nightmare, to the paranoia of Three Days of the Condor and other 1970s suspense films. -- Holman