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Weekend Box Office: September 14-16, 2007
The Brave One tops the box office with $13.5 million

Daily Box Office: Wednesday, September 19, 2007
The Brave One tops Wednesday's box office with $1.0 million

Jane Austen Book Club / ***1/2 (PG-13)
"The Jane Austen Book Club" (PG-13, 105 minutes). Six members of a book club read Jane Austen’s six novels over six month of their lives, in a wise and witty romantic comedy where Austen sometimes seems to be advising them. You don’t need to have read the books to enjoy the movie (but you may want to afterwards). With Kathy Baker, Maria Bello, Emily Blunt, Amy Brenneman, Hugh Dancy, Maggie Grace, Lynn Redgrave and Jimmy Smits. Rating: Three and a half stars.

Good Luck Chuck / * (R)
By Roger Ebert Here is the dirty movie of the year, slimy and scummy, and among its casualties is poor Jessica Alba, who is a cutie and shouldn't have been let out to play with these boys. "Good Luck Chuck" layers a creaky plot device on top of countless excuses to show breasts, sometimes three at a time, and is potty-mouthed and brain-damaged.

December Boys / ** (PG-13)
"December Boys" (PG-13, 105 minutes). Daniel Radcliffe's first non-"Harry Potter" feature, where he plays one of four Australian orphans taken for a summer holiday by the sea. Three of them hope to get adopted; Daniel hopes to begin a lifelong romance with the lithesome Teresa Palmer. The storybook opening slides into more daring material about smoking, drinking and sex, and it’s odd that the Virgin Mary makes an appearance in a movie so chockablock with mortal sins. Rating: Two stars.

King of Califorina / *** (PG-13)
"King of California" (PG-13, 93 minutes). Michael Douglas plays a whiskery mental patient, just released, who enlists his 16- year-old daughter (Evan Rachel Wood) in a quest for buried treasure which he finally locates beneath the aisle of a Costco store. The actors make the characters almost unreasonably plausible, redeeming roles that almost seem tailored for Abbott and Costello and turning them into perversely intriguing individuals. Rating: Three stars.

Dedication / ** (R)
“Dedication” (R, 93 minutes). Billy Crudup plays a children’s book author whose collaborated (Tom Wilkinson) dies. his publisher (Bob Balaban) yokes him to a new collaborator (Mandy Moore), setting up the obligatory rom-com situation where their incompatibilities mesh. The author is a hateful and neurotic man, cured by the movie’s formula, in the directorial debut of that splendid actor Justin Theroux. Rating: Two stars.

The Lives of Others / **** (R)
By Roger Ebert Doubling back to review some titles I missed while ill. He sits like a man taking a hearing test, big headphones clamped over his ears, his body and face frozen, listening for a faraway sound. His name is Gerd Wiesler, and he is a captain in the Stasi, the notorious secret police of East Germany. The year is, appropriately, 1984, and he is Big Brother, watching. He sits in an attic day after day, night after night, spying on the people in the flat below.

The Brave One / ***1/2 (R)
“The Brave One” (R, 122 minutes). Jodie Foster plays a radio talker whose finance is murdered by muggers in Central Park. Recovering from her own wounds, she buys a gun for self-protection, which turns into revenge. But this superior, perceptive thriller isn’t a “Death Wish” remake but a psychological study of a subtle understanding that takes shadowy form between Foster and a detective played by Terrence Howard. Directed by Neil Jordan. Rating: Three and a half stars

Eastern Promises / **** (R)
“Eastern Promises” (R, 96 minutes). One of David Cronenberg’s finest films with Viggo Mortensen as a driver for the Russian Mafia in London, and Naomi Watts as a midwife determined to protect the life of newborn infant. A diary leads her to the sealed world of the Russians, led by Armin Mueller-Stahl as the patriarch and Vincent Cassel as his son; the result into exactly a crime story, but a thriller about human nature. Scenes of startling violence. Rating: Four stars.

Across the Universe / **** (PG-13)
"Across the Universe" (PG-13, //// minute). Here is a bold, beautiful, visually-enchanting musical where we walk (ital) into (unital) the theater humming the songs. Julie Taymor's "Across the Universe" is an audacious marriage of cutting-edge visual techniques, heart-warming performances, 1960s history, and the Beatles song book.

In the Valley of Elah / **** (R)
By Roger Ebert I don't know Tommy Lee Jones at all. Let's get that clear. I've interviewed him, and at Cannes we had one of those discussions at the American Pavilion. He didn't enjoy doing it, but he felt duty-bound to promote his great film "The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada." During my questions, he twisted his hands like a kid in the principal's office. He remains a mystery to me, which is why I feel free to share some feelings about him. I'm trying to understand why he is such a superb actor.

Mr. Woodcock / *** (PG-13)
“Mr. Woodcock” (PG-13, /// minutes) Billy Bob Thornton in full Bad Santa mode in an uneasy comedy about an adult (Seann William Scott) who returns home to discover his mother (Susan Sarandon) is planning to marry the gym teacher (Thornton) who made his high school days a living hell. Thornton makes no compromises and takes no prisoners when he plays Woodcock. He’s a hateful SOB, and he means it. That makes the movie better, actually, than if we sensed a heart of gold. Rating: Three stars.

Vanaja / **** (Not rated)
“Vanaja” (Unrated. 111 minutes). A beautiful and heart-touching film from India, about a lower-caste girl (Mamatha Bhukya) who takes dance lessons and develops a special talent She becomes the favorite of a rich landowner. but not when she and the landowner’s son begin to feel for one another. A film of striking visual splendour, with a luminous performance in the lead. Rating: Four stars.

Pete Seeger: The Power of Song / **** (No rating)
By Roger Ebert I don't know if Pete Seeger believes in saints, but I believe he is one. He's the one in the front as they go marching in. "Pete Seeger: The Power of Song" is a tribute to the legendary singer and composer who thought music could be a force for good, and proved it by writing songs that have actually helped shape our times ("If I Had a Hammer" and "Turn, Turn, Turn") and popularizing "We Shall Overcome" and Woody Guthrie's unofficial national anthem, "This Land Is Your Land." Over his long career (he is 88), he has toured tirelessly with song and stories, never happier than when he gets everyone in the audience to sing along.

In the Shadow of the Moon / **** (PG)
"In the Shadow of the Moon" (PG, 100 minute). I never use the words “must-see,” which have been cheapened by association with so many films you need not see. But this extraordinary documentary, interviewing many of the surviving Apollo astronauts about their voyage to the moon, combines restored and in many cases never-before- seen moon footage into a spellbinding experience. Especially recommended for those to whom Apollo is only a word in a history book. Rating: Four stars.

Silk / ** (R)
“Silk” (Unrated. Running time: 116 minutes. In English and Japanese with English subtitles.) A languid, too languid, story of romantic regrets, mostly ours, because romance is expected to carry the film without explaining it. It is told as a mournful flashback, circa 1860, narrated by a man (Michael Pitt) who has been in love with two women, one French (Kiere Knightley), one in far off Japan (Sei Ashina), where he goes to buy silkworms. Languid, slow, underwhelming. Rating: Two stars.

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