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On the Screen

****: Excellent

***: Good

**: Average

*: Poor

** Aeon Flux

Oscar-winning actress Charlize Theron plays Aeon, an assassin working for the Monic rebels against the harsh rule of the Gooldchilds of Bregna, the last city on Earth. Loosely adapted from MTV animated shorts, the film offers fast-paced action and a fresh style, with idyllic gardens filled with razor blade grass and poison dart-shooting trees. But “Aeon Flux” is flawed beyond the bastardization of its source material, with clumsy voice-overs, plot compression, and shallow characters. (Andrew Guerra)

****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)

* Chicken Little

Chicken Little (Zach Braff) is a tiny chick who warns that the sky is falling down. If you expected something spectacular out of Disney without having animation guru Pixar by its side, you would be sadly mistaken. It may be entertaining for small children, but for everyone else, it will simply be a film with far too much cuteness and far too few funny jokes. (Yong-yi Zhu)

*** The Chronicles of Narnia:

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe

C. S. Lewis wrote a story about the triumph of good over evil (and yes, the Second Coming and the importance of faith), and the loyalty of four brothers and sisters to each other and their friends. Lucy Pevensie steps through a wardrobe of fur coats and finds herself in Narnia, a magical land with talking animals and mythic beasts, and a White Witch who’s covered the land in eternal winter. But there’s no need to look for religious underpinnings when the fantasy easily stands alone. Narnia is a wonderful escape within an escape; like the old professor who owns the wardrobe, I can’t wait to go back. (Rosa Cao)

* 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)

*** 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 Triwizard Champion, 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)

** Jarhead

At the beginning of this film, Jake Gyllenhaal sits on the toilet, Camus’ “The Stranger” in one hand and a bottle of laxatives 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)

***Memoirs of a Geisha

A geisha is a woman who holds a powerful sexual allure by playing hardball in a game defined by men. The film, adapted from Arthur Golden’s novel, follows a girl named Chiyo (adult played by Ziyi Zhang), who is sold from her home in a fishing village to become a geisha in Kyoto. As one who captivates men’s hearts through grace and beauty, Chiyo lives her life as an ornament to the wealthy, but dreams of romantic love with the Chairman (Ken Watanabe). So idolized by Western culture, this struggle for romance is perhaps what makes a love story in the life a geisha such a fascinating yet foreign tale. (Beckett Sterner)

*** 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 dazzle you. (Yong-yi Zhu)

*** Rent

Based on Jonathan Larson’s rock musical, this film tells the story of three couples struggling to overcome many obstacles — drug addiction, AIDS, homelessness, and others. Flooding its audience with messages of love and things that get in its way, “Rent” inspires laughter, tears, and personal examination at a level few films can match. (Kenneth Roraback)

***Shopgirl

Mirabelle (Claire Danes) is a lonely artist and sales clerk at Saks Fifth Avenue who 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 your 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)

** Syriana

Writer and director Stephen Gaghan, who penned “Traffic,” discusses the energy crisis and the war for oil in this new drama. Part of an ensemble cast, Bob Barnes (George Clooney) is a CIA operative in the Middle East who must protect U.S. interests in oil, but he starts to question his government’s motives. Though Gaghan presents a convincing, albeit pessimistic world view, he does not provide an artistic vision. Ultimately more enjoyment comes after the final reel, from thinking about the questions that the film raises. (Kapil Amarnath)

***Walk the Line

Drawing its material from Johnny Cash’s autobiography, the film explores the musician’s struggle with drug abuse, his relationship with his eventual wife June Carter, and his music. Joaquin Phoenix portrays Cash convincingly, and even does his own singing. Though it recalls past films like “Ray,” the film is a fine portrayal of a legendary musician. (Brian Chase)

Compiled by Kevin Der
and Jacqueline O’Connor