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THE FORGOTTEN (PG-13) Is someone trying to make Julianne Moore think her dead nine-year-old son never existed? Or is she really delusional, as therapist Gary Sinise says? This interesting puzzle is solved too quickly (presumably to lock in our sympathy), leaving us with less interesting "Who" and "Why" questions as The Forgotten becomes a standard thriller with X-Files overtones. Moore keeps it watchable and underrated director Joseph Ruben (The Stepfather) pulls off some good shock moments. -- SW
FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS (PG-13) Billy Bob Thornton plays a high school football coach who leads a team in Odessa, Texas, to the state championship. Based on the bestselling book of the same name.
GHOST IN THE SHELL 2: INNOCENCE (PG-13) Director Mamoru Oshii presents the long-awaited follow-up to the stylish anime cult fave. This high-tech murder mystery takes place in mankind's future, when the line separating humans, cyborgs and robots blurs to the point of disappearing altogether.
GOING UPRIVER: THE LONG WAR OF JOHN KERRY (NR) George Butler's documentary recounts the extremes of the U.S. experiences in Vietnam through presidential candidate John Kerry's military service and subsequent anti-war activism. While Going Upriver presents Kerry in a positive light, it resists being pigeonholed as a "campaign video" by stirring up the raw, difficult emotions associated with the Vietnam war, including an engrossing, day-by-day recap of the vets' famed week-long Washington D.C. protest. Preceded by "Soldier's Pay" from Three Kings director David O. Russell. -- CH
HEAD IN THE CLOUDS (R) This 1950s-style, Hollywood-glossy romantic epic is as shallow as the characters it tries belatedly to make us care about. Don't expect art and you may enjoy it. Guy (Stuart Townsend) falls for free-spirited Gilda (Charlize Theron) when she bursts into his Cambridge dorm room in 1933 and never gets over her, despite her lack of political consciousness. Penelope Cruz plays Gilda's "protégée" (nudge nudge, wink wink), who shares Guy's ideals. Head in the Clouds runs too long on too little momentum but may be perfect for a generation that wants their romance heavy on sex and light on emotional involvement. -- SW
LADDER 49 (PG-13) It's Backdraft for post-9/11 America. Firefighter Joaquin Phoenix recalls his years of hijinks and heroism in the Baltimore Fire Department while waiting for Chief John Travolta's men to rescue him from a burning building -- or not. It couldn't be more formulaic. You'll recognize several clichés from old war movies, but here the enemy is fire. Without a fraction of the edge of Denis Leary's Rescue Me series on FX, Ladder 49 unfolds like a Lifetime movie for men. Our brave firefighters deserve a better tribute. -- SW
MARIA FULL OF GRACE (R) A clear-eyed, almost documentarian account of a 17-year-old Colombian (Catalina Sandino Moreno) who decides to smuggle a bellyful of heroin into the United States as a mule. First-time NYU-schooled filmmaker Joshua Marston avoids sensationalism in his remarkably sober and engrossing story of Moreno's white-knuckle progress from Colombia to Jamaica Hills, Queens. -- FF
MR. 3000 (PG-13) The king of The Original Kings of Comedy, Bernie Mac proves himself a capable, charismatic leading man in this feel-good movie that, despite an original premise, seems overly familiar. Returning to baseball at 47 to make up three discounted hits, Stan Ross (Mac) finally becomes a team player. If Big Mac can make a movie like this work in spite of its flaws, when a good script comes his way, he should hit it out of the park. -- SW
THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES (R) The man who would grow up to be a violent revolutionary and the star of every counterculture's T-shirt, Ernesto "Che" Guevara, receives some emotional backstory in Brazilian director Walter Salles's earnest but lightweight film. Before he took up firearms, Che traveled with best friend through South America, and discovered the kind of poverty and injustice his bourgeois Argentinean upbringing denied. Bernal and the scenery are beautiful but this bio-picture lacks the fire in the belly its radical subject deserves. -- FF
RAISE YOUR VOICE (PG) I tried getting in touch with my inner teenage girl but even she has too much taste to like this Hilary Duff vehicle about an Arizona girl bringing her homespun values to wicked Los Angeles for a summer music program. Her father (David Keith), who out-ogres Shrek, won't let her go, but the movie's message is that teenagers should follow their hearts, even if they have to disobey their parents. Apart from Duff's mediocre pop bleating the music mix proves interesting and diverse. -- SW
RED LIGHTS (NR) A good, old-fashioned taut thriller in the Hitchcock mode, Cedric Kahn's nimble little story of a bickering husband and wife driving from Paris to Bordeaux takes confidence from the director's assured hand and the pathetic, little-man rage of Jean-Pierre Darroussin playing a nobody married to a goddess (Carole Bouquet) who discovers his manhood on the road. -- FF