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On the Screen

****: Excellent

***: Good

**: Average

*: Poor

****Capote

For a movie about a brutal murder, this film pursues its subject, the relationship between a writer and a killer, in an eerily peaceful mood. Like the lonely house where the murder happened, Truman Capote, a writer for “The New Yorker,” and Perry Ellis, a convicted murderer on death row, are emotionally distant, though they yearn for a connection. In what is unquestionably one of the best films of the year, we watch Capote struggle between his self-interested, manipulated goals as a writer and his honest love of a cold-blooded killer. (Beckett Sterner)

*** The Constant Gardener

Though this may appear to be a film about the drug companies taking advantage of Africans, it is in fact a story about what a man will do for a woman he loves with every ounce of his strength. If you want a smart film that’s not only well done but is also pleasing to watch, this is a must. (Yong-yi Zhu)

* Derailed

One easy message: don’t ever cheat on your wife or your life will fall apart. Clive Owen is Charles Shine, a business executive whose affair with Lucinda (Jennifer Aniston) makes him easy fodder for a blackmailer. Unfortunately, poor acting and zero chemistry result in a movie that is slow to engage and tough to believe. (Yong-yi Zhu)

* Doom

This film, starring The Rock as a space marine, was made primarily for fans of the “Doom” computer games, leaving everyone else to suffer through what is essentially a mindless action flick. Fans probably won’t be bothered that the movie has no plot, but anyone else should give it a miss. (Andrew Guerra)

** Elizabethtown

Would you feel like committing suicide if your company lost $972 million on your watch? Drew Baylor (Orlando Bloom), is responsible for exactly that at the beginning of this film. When Drew heads home to cope with the death of his father, he falls in love with Claire (Kirsten Dunst), a flight attendant, mends ties with his Kentucky family, and addresses his feelings about the spectacular failure of his line of shoes. (Natania Antler)

*Get Rich Or Die Tryin’

This film is loosely based on the life of rapper 50 Cent. A choppy and nonsensical autobiography, the film is so directionless you’re not quite sure it’s the end of the movie because you never understood what it was moving towards. (Yong-yi Zhu)

***Good Night, and Good Luck

In the era of McCarthyism, one reporter from CBS, Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn), went on the air to take down Senator McCarthy and his fire-and-brimstone tactics. The gaudiness and questionable quality of current national news networks contrasts with the work done by Murrow in this film. It represents a quick break from the onslaught of violent images and biased reporting, providing a model for the highest level in TV broadcasting. (Kapil Amarnath)

*** Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

The beginning of Harry Potter’s fourth year is punctuated by murder and hints of a dark plot that involves his own abduction at the hands of the most evil of wizards. Soon after arriving back at Hogwarts, Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) is shocked to find himself selected as a Tri-wizard Champion, one of four students competing in a perilous magical tournament. Director Mike Newell chooses from J. K. Rowling’s marvelous source material and creates an enormously satisfying film that is delightful in its dangers and thrills. Easily the best film of the series to date, “Goblet of Fire” captures the essence of the novel without being burdened by the need to fulfill every written detail. (Kevin Der)

***In Her Shoes

Maggie (Cameron Diaz) is sassy, flirty, and carefree, willing to let her looks pay her way through life. Her sister Rose (Toni Collette) is a self-conscious workaholic who tries to be responsible enough for both herself and Maggie. It isn’t until they learn to step into each other’s shoes and understand their relationship from the other’s perspective that they can fully appreciate their sisterhood. (Danbee Kim)

** Jarhead

At the beginning of this film, Jake Gyllenhaal sits on the toilet, Camus’ “The Stranger” in one hand, a bottle of laxative in the other. By the end, he’s fought in the Gulf War, and he’s woken up to the world. Sam Mendes’ “Jarhead,” though entertaining, fails to capture complex changes in its main character, and falls short of the high expectations thrust on it. (Kapil Amarnath)

** The Legend of Zorro

The sequel to “The Mask of Zorro,” this film adopts the tried-and-true superhero action formula with the return of the masked Zorro (Antonio Banderas). It is a predictable movie with a predictable ending but is nevertheless enjoyable to watch. (Sie Hendrata Dharmawan)

*** Paradise Now

A certain amount of courage is required to create any sort of portrayal of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To depict a conflict so deeply rooted and contentious is to invite controversy, particularly when the portrayal does not clearly favor one side. Through this balanced depiction of a polemical conflict, the film invites viewers to determine for themselves how to view suicide bombing, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and even wider questions on the meaning of dignified life. (Andrew Guerra)

*** Pride and Prejudice

Much as a tender heart can be touched and transformed by love, so your moviegoing experience will be enchanted by the brilliance of Joe Wright’s adaptation of Jane Austen’s classic novel. Elizabeth Bennett (Keira Knightley) struggles to find love as a lower class woman in early 19th century Britain. The adaptation is absolutely perfect for the big screen; everything about this film will absolutely dazzle you. (Yong-yi Zhu)

**Prime

It’s a love story with the finest smattering of smart, funny lines that could pull laughs from any audience. The acting is superb, (Uma Thurman, Meryl Streep) and the story is intriguing. There is, however, a wistful sluggishness that makes “Prime” barely fall short of delivering a truly memorable experience. (Danbee Kim)

***Saw 2

This film’s violence and gore is on par with other movies like “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” and its intensity matches that of traditional slasher films. Jigsaw (Tobin Bell) is back to his old tracks, once again kidnapping innocent people and forcing them to play sick games he has devised. This thriller pushes the bounds of macabre to new heights. (Yong-yi Zhu)

***Shopgirl

Mirabelle (Claire Danes) is a lonely artist and sales clerk at Saks Fifth Avenue, and soon meets Jeremy (Jason Schwartzman), a goofy artist, and Ray (Steve Martin), a wealthy middle-aged man. This is a drama about life and romance, and it is full of bittersweet challenges and decisions — it’s not a typical chick flick with a happy ending. (Jillian Berry)

*** The Squid and the Whale

One part comedy, one part touching drama, and one part gross-out, this film tells the tale of how two children choose between their parents as role models after their parents’ divorce. Of course, if your father (Jeff Daniels) is hooking up with his 20-year-old student and your mother (Laura Linney) can’t stop describing the list of affairs she’s had, choosing your preferred role model can be a challenge. The Berkmans produce hilarious lines and moments, and there’s something glorious about how firmly they march into the model of a dystopian family. (Beckett Sterner)

** The Weather Man

Dave Spritz (Nicholas Cage) predicts the weather for a local TV station but has no degree in meteorology and simply makes guesses on air. But with an ex-wife who hates him and kids with drug problems, Dave finds himself in a mid-life crisis. From him, we learn that life isn’t perfect, and we just have to deal with the crap that gets thrown at us along the way. (Yong-yi Zhu)

***Zathura

From the illustrated pages of Chris Van Allsburg, author of classics like “The Polar Express” and “Jumanji,” this film adaptation follows a similar to vein to the latter. Two boys find a dusty old board game in their basement, and once they start playing, they find their house drifting through outer space and faced with perils like meteor showers, alien attacks, and gravity fields. In the end, the amusing adventure these kids go on outweighs the rather poor acting and lackluster pacing. (Nikhil Nadkarni)

Compiled by Kevin Der