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On the Screen

****: Inspired brilliance

***: Solid filmmaking

**: Mild entertainment

*: Embarrassing dreck

****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)

**Curious George

The question is whether we, as adults, can sit through an hour and a half of watching a non-talking monkey and a man in a bright yellow suit voiced by Will Ferrell. The answer, surprisingly, is an emphatic yes. What really sells the movie to adults is the amount of emotion generated with such a simple plot, although the most delightful aspect by far is the music. Before long, you may find yourself buying the soundtrack to a movie that is quite funny and enjoyable, even to those over the age of five. (Yong-yi Zhu)

**Eight Below

“Eight Below” is a nature movie riding the waves of last year’s successful “March of the Penguins” and “Grizzly Man.” Disney decided to hop on the bandwagon, but had to bastardize the genre with their requisite gag-inducing scenes. I am happy to say that even Disney can’t completely ruin a good thing; if you need an escape and some brain candy, not to mention beautiful scenery and some terrific canine acting, you could do worse than this Antarctic adventure film. (Alice Macdonald)

* Firewall

Boasting equivocal baddies, a potboiler script, and cookie cutter performances, “Firewall” is a film that’ll see the second-run theaters by Valentine’s Day. Harrison Ford plays Jack Stanfield, a bank security expert whose life and family are threatened when robbers force him to commit electronic theft from his own employers. A great deal of acting talent is wasted on this picture, and unless something great comes along, Ford’s career is essentially over. (Kevin Der)

****Munich

Inspired by the very real events of the 1972 Olympics, when eleven Israeli athletes were killed by Palestinian terrorists, this perfectly executed film advocates peace and wisdom. With this film, Spielberg intends to show that any conflict affects the globe, and that events in the Middle East are as relevant to our country’s future as those within our own borders. (Kevin Der)

** 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)

*** Tsotsi

Destruction — of people, lives, and community — is a fact of life in the ghetto. What sets “Tsotsi” apart as a film about the life of an urban gangster is its message of hope. From the start, viewers experience the slums of Johannesburg, South Africa, through its music, an enthralling innovation on hip-hop. The secondary characters are straightforward and often fall into recognizable types, so the film is rightly named after its most interesting character; his redemption courses through the heart of the film. (Beckett Sterner)

*** Why We Fight

Director Eugene Jarecki paints a convincing portrait of how hidden backroom 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 on 9/11, a neoconservative leader (William Kristol), the pilots who fired the first salvo in the Iraq war, and more. (Beckett Sterner)

Compiled by Jacqueline O’Connor and Nivair H. Gabriel