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THE FOLLOWING MOVIES ARE PLAYING THIS...

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

Cast Away (HH)

All the physical courage and technical accomplishments of Cast Away are not enough to balance its unwieldy structure and make it anything but a extended catalogue of human misery. Just like the central Tom Hanks performance, it is courageous and elaborate -- and surprisingly joyless and little fun to watch. -- Vladimir Zelevinsky

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (HHH1 2)

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is a “wu xia” martial arts fantasy crossed with period romantic drama. It is a showcase for accomplished direction, stunning cinematography and special effects, and remarkable martial arts choreography. The most impressive aspect is the performance by a relative newcomer, Zhang Ziyi, who explodes on the screen like a force of nature. -- VZ

Down to Earth (HH1 2)

Chris Rock plays Lance Barton, an aspiring stand-up comedian who meets an untimely death. He strikes a deal with heavenly angels Keyes (Eugene Levy) and King (Chazz Palminteri) to be reincarnated as a rich, white business tycoon. Chris Rock plays his character with genuine enthusiasm and sincerity, and does not even utter a naughty word, conforming to the film’s PG-13 rating. -- Erik Blankinship

Finding Forrester (HHH)

Good Will Hunting revisited with Robin Williams’s humor replaced by Sean Connery’s sexy voice. Newcomer Robert Brown essentially plays himself: a brilliant high school athlete from the projects who receives a scholarship to a private school. Warm, dusty sentimental scenes combine with the vivid, noisy life of New York City to create a literary film with humor rather than pretense. -- Katharyn Jeffreys

The Gift (HHH)

Featuring the acting talents of Cate Blanchett, Greg Kinnear, and Hillary Swank, and boasting a screenplay by Tom Epperson and Billy Bob Thornton, The Gift, under the direction of Sam Raimi (A Simple Plan), seems the perfect formula for a good movie. And it is ... to a point. While this yarn about a woman with a psychic gift has well-rounded characters and well-developed tension, the latter part of the film reads only as a thrills-a-minute horror film with little substance. Open it up ... but know what to expect. -- Debora Lui

Hannibal (HH)

Compared to The Silence of the Lambs, this sequel is lacking lead Jodie Foster, director Jonathan Demme, and pretty much the point as well. Ridley Scotts directs by swooshing the camera around and the screenplay (David Mamet and Steven Zaillian, of all people) lurches unevenly. At least Anthony Hopkins still seems to have some fun. -- Rebecca Loh & VZ

Head Over Heels (H1 2)

A parody that wants to be a romantic comedy, Head Over Heels is a story about two normal people that fall for each other in the midst of the New York City fashion scene. Poorly acted and unnaturally developed, the movie may be considered funny at times, especially because of some laughable performances. If you have too much time to waste, you can go and watch it. -- Bogdan Fedeles

O Brother, Where Art Thou? (HHH)

The Coan brothers’ latest endeavor is clever, witty, and thoroughly enjoyable. With a stellar soundtrack, O Brother, Where Art Thou? is adapted from Homer’s Odyssey -- with a Coan brothers twist. George Clooney, John Turturro, and Tim Blake Nelson give excellent performances as three escaped convicts in the South. -- Annie S. Choi

Shadow of the Vampire (HH1 2)

Shadow of the Vampire is experimental director Elias Merhige’s fictionalized take on the creation of F. W. Murnau’s legendary (and amazingly enduring) 1922 silent classic Nosferatu, in which eccentric actor/vampire Max Schreck (Willem Dafoe) terrorizes the film crew led by director F. W. Murnau (John Malkovich). Despite a brilliant performance by Dafoe, and a demonstrated mastery of recreating the look of early silent films, Shadow of the Vampire is only quasi-successful and somewhat undeveloped in its take on the nature of obsession and the vampy nature of artistic genius. -- Jed Horne

Snatch (HHH1 2)

Madonna’s new hubby Guy Ritchie, bolstered by the run-away success of his first feature film, Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, can hardly be blamed for sticking to a successful formula -- take roughly six Tarantino-esque criminals, throw in a touch of wry British humor, and mix. This fantastically entertaining movie, which deftly mixes a botched diamond heist with the chaos of underground boxing, is a must-see, especially for anyone unfamiliar with Ritchie’s first film. -- JH

State and Main (HHH1 2)

The immovable object meets the irresistible force when small-town America collides with Hollywood in State and Main, the latest from the writer/director David Mamet. State and Main contains a few really good one-liners and sight-gags, and a well-concocted story. The film brings together a talented group of actors (including William H. Macy, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, and Alec Baldwin), bringing Mamet’s usually high-brow production ethos back down to earth. -- JH

Sugar and Spice (H1 2)

What happens when the A-squad cheerleaders try to rob a bank? Plot muddles, character flaws, and general teenybopper chaos happen. With a flawed script, flat characters, and an unrealistic premise, Sugar and Spice flounders while trying to be clever. -- Amy Meadows

Traffic (HHHH)

Stephen Soderbergh’s captivating docudrama of a film makes for a movie that transcends the “drug movie” genre. Eloquently written and perfectly acted, this movie is groundbreaking and definitely Oscar material. -- Devdoot Majumdar