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PENELOPE 1 star (PG) Christina Ricci is Penelope, a rich girl saddled with a family curse that has endowed her with a pig snout in this badly mangled attempt at fairy-tale whimsy. Her mother's (Catherine O'Hara) efforts to find Penelope a blue-blood husband despite the piggy mug unearth sensitive hunk James McAvoy, but this film's tween-directed message that beauty is in the eye of the beholder is a joyless washout in the end. -- Feaster
PERSEPOLIS 4 stars (PG-13) Marjane Satrapi co-directs the animated adaptation of her graphic-novel memoir about growing up in Iran and witnessing the Shah's tyranny, the war with Iraq and life under Islamic fundamentalists. The simplicity of the primarily black-and-white animation superbly captures her childlike perspective, although the film's second half, chronicling her battles with depression as a young woman, loses some of its political sweep. -- Holman
THE PIRATES WHO DON'T DO ANYTHING: A VEGGIETALES MOVIE (G) In the latest VeggieTales film, three lazy misfits dream of putting on a show about pirates, but their timidity, lack of confidence and laziness relegate them to waiting tables at a pirate-themed restaurant. The plot twists when they travel back in time on a quest and learn about being pirates.
P.S. I LOVE YOU (PG-13) When Holly Kennedy's (Hilary Swank) husband dies from an illness, she is left grief-stricken. She discovers her late husband has planned out 10 monthly messages to guide her through recovery, which help her slowly transition to a new life. Directed by Richard LaGravenese.
RAMBO 2 stars (R) Vietnam vet/killing machine John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) journeys to genocide-ravaged Burma to rescue some American missionaries -- especially the blonde one (Julie Benz) -- and blow a bunch of ethnic-cleansing bad guys to smithereens. At 61, Stallone directs his seventh film (and first in the Rambo franchise) like he's trying to prove he's got the chops for today's violent torture-porn franchises such as Hostel. Implicitly homophobic and xenophobic, Rambo offers an astonishingly violent revenge fantasy for audiences who want their kills in quantity more than quality. -- Holman
ROMULUS, MY FATHER (R) Based on Raimond Gaita's memoir, this film tells the story of a young boy, Raimond, his father Romulus, and his depressed mother Christina. Focusing on the family's struggles with mental illness and immigration, Romulus, My Father is about the bond between father and son.
THE SAVAGES 4 stars (R) Two self-absorbed intellectual siblings (superbly played by Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman) find themselves forced to care for the ailing, demented father (Philip Bosco) who abandoned them years ago. Writer/director Tamara Jenkins' razor-sharp sophomore film (after Slums of Beverly Hills) manages to be at once gentle and merciless, encouraging us to laugh at the characters' childishness while empathizing with their unhappiness. The Savages' mix of comedy, insight and fear of mortality play almost like a subplot to Jonathan Franzen's novel The Corrections. -- Holman
SEMI-PRO 3 stars (R) Just how many times can Will Ferrell make the same comedy about a flailing, pasty, self-deluded athlete and/or broadcaster? Following Anchorman et al, this spoof of the 1970s American Basketball Association is Farrell's laziest and most predictable yuck fest. I'm not proud to admit that it provided me with the bare minimum of laughs to be enjoyable, but if the name "Flint Michigan Tropics" or the idea of a team striving for fourth place fail to amuse you, don't even give Semi-Pro a shot. -- Holman
THE SIGNAL 3 stars (R) A mysterious signal sends TV viewers and phone users into homicidal fits in this indie success story from Atlanta filmmakers David Bruckner, Jacob Gentry and Dan Bush. The three filmmakers each directed a different third of the movie and the radical shifts in tone, particularly an off-kilter bid for dark satire, undermine the film's effective, economical dread. Definitely see it to support local filmmakers and actors (including Justin Welborn and Anessa Ramsey). -- Holman
THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES 3 stars (PG) The Grace kids (Sarah Bolger, and Freddie Highmore playing twins) stop worrying about their parents' separation when one of them discovers an ancestor's field guide to magical creatures. Too intense and violent for pretweens, The Spiderwick Chronicles' fast-paced adventure scenes evoke 1980s family adventures such as Gremlins and The Goonies without being quite so obnoxious, and retains the books' more serious themes of broken homes. -- Holman
STEP UP 2 THE STREETS (PG-13) In this sequel to Step Up, street dancer Andie (Briana Evigan) finds herself at an elite school of the arts. While trying to bridge the gap between her two lives, Andie creates a team of dancers to compete in an underground dance-off. Jamal Sims, Step Up's original choreographer, returns with help from Hi-Hat (How She Move) and Dave Scott (Stomp the Yard).