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8 MILE (R) Bratty rapper Eminem plays a struggling hip-hop artist loosely based on himself in this struggling-artist story from Academy Award-caliber director Curtis Hanson. Structured around a series of public rap "duels," the film plays like a Rocky or Karate Kid movie, only with profane rhymes substituting for fisticuffs. If not a versatile thespian, Eminem proves comfortable in front of the camera, and the film reveals a genuine interest in hip-hop culture and the impoverished Detroit setting.--CH
EL CRIMEN DE PADRE AMARO (R) A hunky young priest (Y Tu Mama Tambien's Gael Garcia Bernal) moves to a corrupt town and finds his morals put to the test, not the least by a teenage parishioner (Ana Claudia Talancon). With everything from highway robberies to cats that eat communion wafers, the film provides some watchable melodrama. But neither director Carlos Carrera nor his main character show much interest in spirituality, making the film a heavy-handed critique of Catholicism, but with little soul-searching of its own. At Lefont Garden Hills.--CH
THE EMPEROR'S CLUB (PG-13) This prep school dramedy about a bookish teacher (Kevin Kline) and a spoiled student (Emile Hirsch) plagiarizes a little from Dead Poet's Society before developing some fresh ideas about second chances and how youthful experiences shape adult character. Subtract points for its sleepy tone and for putting contemporary slang in the mouths of students in the '70s. That's not how they did it Old School.--CH
EXTREME OPS (PG-13) Fans of XXX make the target demographic for this action flick in which some extreme sports filmmakers must use their talents at stuff like snowboarding to outmaneuver terrorists in the Alps.
FAR FROM HEAVEN (PG-13) A rhapsodic, and often surreally accurate homage to the classic 1950s melodramas made by one of the genre's greatest subversives, Douglas Sirk, this tale of homosexuality and prejudice in 1957 Connecticut stars Julianne Moore and has all the stifled passion and bone-deep malaise of a Sirk production. As he did in the neo-rock opera Velvet Goldmine, director Todd Haynes has revitalized a disparaged genre, the women's picture, and in the process made one of the most heartfelt expressions of female confinement around.--FF
FRIDA (R) Tony Award winning director Julie Taymor brings a slightly off-kilter sensibility to this strong bio-picture of the tempestuous life and times of Mexican painter and feminist icon Frida Kahlo. Salma Hayek and Alfred Molina as the love of her life, Diego Rivera, are convincing and human as the terminally at-odds husband and wife whose fascinating involvement with the art and radical politics of the '30s and '40s makes them long overdue for such a film treatment. . At United Artists Tara Cinemas.--FF
FRIDAY AFTER NEXT (R) The Ice Cube series of comedies becomes a trilogy, with Mike Epps and John Witherspoon returning for this Christmas-themed installment.
GHOST SHIP (R) Gabriel Byrne and Julianna Margulies play salvage officers aboard a haunted vessel. It's from Steve Beck, director of Thir13een Ghosts, but doesn't have a "clever" title like that one.
HALF PAST DEAD (PG-13) It's a steel cage rasslin' match when a high-tech band of thieves break into a maximum security prison and butt heads with death row inmates lead by Steven Seagall.
HARRY POTTER AND THE CHAMBER OF SECRETS (PG) Schoolboy sorcerer Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and his pals try to solve a series of mysterious attacks at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The first film found narrative momentum in Harry discovering his place in the newfound magical realm, but the sequel plays like an overlong Hardy Boys story set in Disneyworld's Haunted Mansion. Exciting scenes involve monstrous spiders and snakes, and Kenneth Branagh conjures huge laughs as a fatuous professor, but they can't make up for the slack storyline and surplus characters. Call it Harry Potter and the Chamber of Exposition.--CH
I SPY (PG-13) Mindless entertainment, with the emphasis on mindless -- unless you happen to find particularly entertaining the idea of yet another buddy/action comedy in which mismatched partners must overcome cultural differences (and death-defying stunt sequences) to save the world. This in-name-only "remake" of the '60s secret-agent series features a disarmingly agreeable turn by Owen Wilson as the flustered straight man, but Eddie Murphy really ought give his obnoxious smart-ass routine a rest.--Bert Osborne
IMAX Lewis & Clark: Great Journey West (NR) Jeff Bridges narrates this sweeping documentary that traces the famed explorers' 8,000-mile trek across America. Through March 14. Australia: Land Beyond Time (NR) Check out the kangaroos, koalas and other denizens of Down Under in this travelogue of the world's biggest island. Through Dec. 13. Fernbank Museum of Natural History IMAX Theater, 767 Clifton Road. www.fernbank.edu.
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