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BOYS AND GIRLS (PG-13) Ryan (Freddie Prinze Jr.) and Jennifer (Claire Forlani) meet as adolescents, don't get along but keep running into each other until, in college, they fall in like. That gets them through three years, but after having sex they have to decide whether to risk their friendship by going for love. Prinze has the personality of a cheese pizza without enough tomato sauce. Forlani has more but not enough to carry a picture without help. That comes primarily from Jason Biggs as Ryan's roommate. The one real comic scene in this light romance is an outtake shown during the closing credits. -- SW

BUTTERFLY (R) Set on the eve of Fascist rule in 1930s Spain, this sugary tale of youthful innocence snuffed out by adult politics centers on a 7-year-old tailor's son growing up in a small Spanish village and his rapt fascination with the kindly teacher who opens the boy's eyes to the world around him. -- FF

CHICKEN RUN (G) World War II POW flicks like The Great Escape are reimagined with plucky poultry trying to break out of an English chicken farm. Compared to the brilliant whimsy of the creators' Oscar-winning "Wallace and Gromit" shorts, Chicken Run is a more conventional cartoon feature, but it still offers inspired sight gags and exciting action scenes by the dozen. -- CH

CROUPIER This look at a would-be novelist's venture into the seamy aspects of a London casino reveals fascinating details of gambling and has a crisp, efficient directing style. But though Clive Owen, in the title role, is meant to be detached and voyeuristic, he proves seems simply, and the twists at the end muddy the precedings rather than illuminate them. Alex Kingston affirms her acting potential as a quirky and enigmatic high roller. -- CH

DINOSAUR (PG) This family-friendly story about an abandoned dinosaur who is raised by mammals and returns from exile after a meteor shower to save the herd, may be nothing more than a bundle of cartoon clichés that clash with the dazzlingly authentic digital dinosaurs, but this intricately detailed prehistoric world is still a joy to behold. In fact, some of the scarier moments may be a little too realistic for some younger viewers. -- EM

8 WOMEN (R) The latest, and maybe greatest, by Peter Greenaway, contemporary cinema's resident Mad Genius. After the death of his wife, an aging tycoon and his spoiled son assemble a Fellini-esque stable of "fantasy" women, who rub their (and our) noses in male frailty and the absurdity of sexual politics in this occasionally side-splitting, visually exquisite satire made ostensibly in homage to Fellini's 8 1/2. -- EM

ERIN BROCKOVICH (R) A true populist movie that deserves its inevitable popularity, Steven Soderbergh's film is a perfect vehicle for Julia Roberts. In this true story, she's a working-class woman who dresses like a working girl. In a menial job at Albert Finney's law firm, she stumbles on PG&E's involvement in pollution that poisons an entire community. She builds a case and persuades Finney to take it. That's not funny, but Susannah Grant's screenplay finds copious humor in the characters while treating the story with the seriousness it deserves. But for the March release, this could have been Roberts' Oscar role. -- SW

FREQUENCY (R) Only voices, not bodies, cross the temporal divide as father (Dennis Quaid) and son (Jim Caviezel) converse over the same short-wave radio in 1969 and 1999. Flashy cutting lets us follow simultaneous events in both time zones, gradually revealing what's happening in each and sometimes making connections between the two. Toby Emmerich's script is rich in incident and a certain logic, giving you an emotional workout with plenty of action highlights -- and the best one-word advice since The Graduate. The acting is fine, but this movie belongs to Emmerich, director Gregory Hoblit (Primal Fear) and editor David Rosenbloom. -- SW

GLADIATOR (R) There still hasn't been a great gladiator movie since Spartacus, but stunning cinematography and fast and furious fight sequences that border on the surreal save this beloabored but lovely period epic about an enslaved general (Russell Crowe) who becomes a champion fighter in Rome's spectacular and bloody gladiatorial games in order to take revenge on a treacherous twerp of an emperor (Joaquin Phoenix). Fans of the late Oliver Reed will surely enjoy one of his final performances as a crusty ex-warrior who runs a stable of gladiators. -- EM

GONE IN 60 SECONDS (R) Written by Scott Michael Rosenberg, this is a collection of the worst guy-flick clichés imaginable. The only thing more remarkable is the butcher job done by the director, Dominic Sena. As the movie is totally devoid of tension, Sena employs the old ticking-clock-on-the-screen ploy to keep us on the edge of our seats. Snore! Every single actor in this film, including Nicolas Cage, Angelina Jolie and Robert Duvall, is wasted. Instead of going to see this one, spend your time driving your car like it was stolen. -- DJ

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