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On the Screen

****: Excellent

***: Good

**: Average

*: Poor

****Brokeback Mountain

Ang Lee’s gritty and realistic film has been called revolutionary for being a mainstream movie about cowboys who fall in love with each other, but the story is in truth incredibly simple. At its heart, “Brokeback” is a beautifully crafted film that tells a story strikingly similar to some of the oldest tales of love in our society. (Andrew Guerra)


Set in 18th-century Venice, this romantic comedy is not only a chick flick, but the perfect date movie of the season. This story of finding true love via mistaken identities is rife with prettiness, and features some good acting. Heath Ledger as Casanova is surprisingly sympathetic, and Jeremy Irons deserves a half-star just for himself. Make sure you see this film with your favorite girl or boy. After all, Casanova wouldn’t want it any other way. (William Andrews)

*** 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)

***Glory Road

In sports movies, the important thing is often not the destination, but the journey. This is true in “Glory Road,” the Hollywood retelling of the 1966 Texas Western College basketball team. Texas Western played all black players against the all-white national power Kentucky in the 1966 finals and won. The win inspired a generation of black basketball players like Magic Johnson and Bob McAdoo, who went on to revolutionize the game. The real focus of the movie is on the players on the team, the racial obstacles they overcame, and how the journey changed them personally. (Brian Chase)

*** 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)

**King Kong

After the success of the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, Peter Jackson had a free pass to do any project he wanted, and he chose to retell the story of a big dumb ape and a blonde bimbo. Pretty cinematography was the highest expectation one could have for “Kong,” but with a narratively challenged script and unimaginative camerawork, the only beauty here was in Adrien Brody’s brooding eyes and droopy nose. (Nivair H. Gabriel)

*** Match Point

This film deviates from the usual Woody Allen offering. It boasts young, sexy stars and is set in upper-class London instead of his beloved New York. Jonathan Rhys-Meyers plays a young tennis coach who marries into an upper-class British family but falls in love with his brother-in-law’s fianc e, Nola (Scarlett Johansson). The biggest surprise is that this film is a thriller, with each scene building unbearable tension. (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)

*** The Producers

Mel Brooks’ first movie in 10 years features hilarious acting, excellent writing, clever song lyrics, and lots of unexpected jokes. For a lot of the time, however, it didn’t feel like a film. It didn’t feel like a Broadway show, either; it felt like a film trying to remind you it was once a show. Sure, it’s nice to give a nod to the film’s history, but if the set looks like a stage when you have movie resources at your disposal, that’s going a bit too far. (William Andrews)

*** 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 divorced parents as role models. 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)

*** Why We Fight

Director Eugene Jarecki paints a convincing portrait of how hidden back-room deals turn the government into an oligarchy of elite interests. This political documentary ties together a coherent narrative from a set of perspectives, key facts, and historical contexts. The movie features an NYPD cop who lost a son in 9/11, neoconservative leader William Kristol, a disaffected Pentagon analyst, the pilots who fired the first salvo in the Iraq war, and more. (Beckett Sterner)

Compiled by Kevin Der, Jacqueline O’Connor, and Nivair H. Gabriel