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ON THE SCREEN

The following movies are playing this weekend at local theaters. The Tech suggests using <http://www.boston.com> for a complete listing of times and locations.

HHHH Excellent

HHH Good

HH Fair

H Poor

102 Dalmations (HHH)

Cruella De Vil is released after three years in prison, and now she’s on yet another villainous quest. This time, she’s set her eyes on the “ultimate” fur coat, which requires 102 dalmatians. Watch Cruella and her group of bumbling henchmen manipulate flirtatious kennel-owner, Kevin, and his love-interest, Cloe, to humerous ends. -- Devdoot Majumdar

Adventures in Wild California (HHH)

The theme of this movie, California’s wild nature, is the direct inspiration for the spirit of adventure, exploration, and innovation -- but it is the glorious visuals (sky surfing and regular surfing, snowboarding, helicopter flights) that provide real excitement. -- Vladimir Zelevinsky

Best in Show (HH)

The latest release by mockumentary filmmaker Christopher Guest spoofs the peculiar American phenomenon of the dog show, and focuses on nine would-be blue-ribbon winners, each more absurd than the last. The most unforgivable error Guest makes is in the film’s marketing. Best In Show is guilty of one of the most onerous offenses of bad action flicks: it gives away its best scenes during the film’s trailer. What’s left after the jokes that everyone’s already seen is a series of unrelated and mostly offensive stereotypical scenes, the theatrical equivalent of calling people names. It is too bad that Guest, given his considerable resumÉ and a great setup for a film, can’t grow up enough to intelligently poke fun at a decidedly deserving subject. -- Jed Horne

Billy Elliot (HHH)

A sweet, spirited, and enjoyable (albeit sometimes clumsily rendered) movie experience. A young British boy, hypnotized by dancing, begins studying ballet, much to the chagrin of his lower-class father. The seemingly obligatory political backdrop is awkward and unnecessary, but overall, it’s a heart-warming and amusing piece of light fare that recovers well from any of its missteps. Warning: thick British accents. -- Karen Feigenbaum

Charlie’s Angels (HHH)

This mixture of James Bond, Mission: Impossible, The Matrix, and Drunken Master is so much fun that it can’t help but be infectious. The screenplay suffers from familiarity, and the final sequence is a letdown, but most of the movie is preposterously entertaining. Crispin Glover as a wordless assassin is a comic highlight. -- VZ

Dancer in the Dark (HHH)

BjÖrk, Catherine Deneuve, and director/writer Lars von Trier team up in this ambitious musical. A heavy and tragic plot collides with campy musical numbers to form a film that is better off as a drama than a musical. BjÖrk and Deneuve’s performances are stellar, but the rest of the cast needs intense dance and vocal training in order to make a more convincing musical. The film’s music has traces of BjÖrk’s unique electronic style, but still feels held back and pulled in different directions. Bring tissues. -- Annie Choi

The Legend of Bagger Vance (H)

A tiresome tale about golfer Randolph Junuh (Matt Damon), who lost his “swing,” and the mysterious caddy (Will Smith) who helps out by offering philosophical golf advice. Though Damon and Smith give excellent performances, the lack of character development and corny golf spirituality ruins this film. -- DM

The Legend of Drunken Master (HHH)

Out of three things this Jackie Chan martial arts extravaganza tries to do, two succeed: the way it works as a window into everyday Chinese life, and the superb martial arts choreography (the final battle is nothing short of stunning). The middle section, which tries to mix drama with slapstick comedy, is largely dispensable, but the rest of the movie makes it easy to ignore the parts that don’t work. -- VZ

Little Nicky (HH1 2)

Yet another uninspiring film in Adam Sandler’s film career. Countless cameos from movie stars and SNL would-have-beens divert the attention from Sandler, who is never given the chance to really shine. Though there are some funny scenes, this film falls short on delivering belly laughs. -- Erik Blankinship

Meet the Parents (HHH)

From the director of Austin Powers comes this offbeat and original romantic comedy about hapless Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) and his attempts to impress his future father-in-law (Robert DeNiro). Pam’s (Teri Polo) father, Jack Byrnes, instantly decides that he’s unimpressed by his daughter’s husband-to-be and what follows is a disastrous family weekend during which things just keeping getting worse. With laugh-out-loud humor and an endless array of gut-busting scenes, this film proves to be Stiller’s greatest success since There’s Something about Mary. -- Ryan Klimczak

Pay it Forward (HHH1 2)

With an outstanding and talented cast of actors, Pay it Forward proves to be one of this year’s most emotionally evocative movies. Social studies teacher Eugene Simonet (Kevin Spacey) creates an assignment of impossible standards: “Think of an idea to change the world -- and put it into action.” The persistent and imaginative Trevor McKinney (Haley Joel Osment) constructs an ambitious plan known as pay it forward, whereby one act of kindness is reciprocated by three new acts of kindness, and so on. Inspiring, original, and thought-provoking, this film takes us on a spiritual journey on the nature of humanity. -- RK

Red Planet (H)

A tiresomely repetitive compendium of some of the most excruciatingly boring sequences ever committed to celluloid, this movie strands five people on Mars to slowly kill them off one by one, using such devices as solar flares and a berserk robot that knows kung-fu. The audience is also in mortal danger -- of being bored to death. -- VZ

Remember the Titans (HHH)

This is a beautifully directed movie about the social and racial conflicts of the 1970’s. Inspired by real events, the movie examines the relationship between two football coaches, one white and one black, trying to overcome racial differences that tear the whole community apart after an all-white school and an all-black school are united. Featuring great actors and lovely music from the 70’s, this movie depicts stirring aspects of human nature. A must-see. -- Bogdan Fedeles

Requiem For a Dream (HH1 2)

Requiem For a Dream, directed and co-written by Darren Aronofsky (the writer/director of Pi), employs an intense visual style to describe the personal hells of four drug-addicted characters and their interconnected spirals into madness and depravity. Aronofsky has overstepped his ability as a filmmaker in his sophomore effort, and for all the flashy pyrotechnics, Requiem falls flat on an unfocused plot and mediocre acting. Viscerally, however, Requiem is as satisfying, if not more so, than Pi. If you liked Pi, Requiem is a must-see. If you didn’t, don’t bother. -- JH

Unbreakable (HHH)

M. Night Shyamalan’s follow-up to The Sixth Sense is, despite the presence of Bruce Willis in the lead and similar visual sensibility, a rather different movie: a largely unpredictable genre yarn, which, fortunately, never takes itself too seriously (a couple of very intense sequences excepted). Bruce Willis is used more as a screen presence than a real actor, but Samuel L. Jackson is electrifying. -- VZ