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On the Screen

****: Inspired brilliance

***: Solid filmmaking

**: Mild entertainment

*: Embarrassing dreck

* Don’t Come Knocking

Where is Howard? Who is Howard? That’s the question this entire film tries to answer. The movie follows Western movie star Howard Spence (Sam Shepard) as he leaves the set of his latest film and runs away to rediscover himself, leaving no way for anyone to track him. Shepard does an excellent job, and Jessica Lange’s companion performance screams for an Oscar nomination — the movie, though, still leaves a lot to be desired. Though enhanced by great music, the film drags on in parts and ultimately lacks cohesion and direction. (Yong-yi Zhu)

** She’s the Man

Starring Amanda Bynes, this movie is an unimpressive, medium-quality modern adaptation of the Shakespeare comedy “Twelfth Night.” There are two kinds of humor, witty and situational, and “She’s the Man” only excels at the latter. It could have been much more than just a teenybopper movie with some awesome Shakespearian references, but that’s just not what they wanted for this picture. What a tragic ending for this comedy! (William Andrews)

** Syriana

Writer and director Stephen Gaghan, who penned “Traffic,” explores 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 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)

**V for Vendetta

Three great things about Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s graphic novel “V for Vendetta” are that it’s a collection of brilliant character studies, it’s not like any other dystopian story, and the connection between the two main characters isn’t reduced to a cheap and hackneyed infatuation. In their movie adaptation, the Wachowski Brothers changed all that. Natalie Portman’s performance is memorable; a masked Hugo Weaving delivers his lines with great success; and as far as cinematography and special effects are concerned, director James McTeigue doesn’t disappoint. It’s a far more difficult task, however, to tell a good story, and this movie doesn’t. (Nivair H. Gabriel)

Compiled by Jacqueline O’Connor and Nivair H. Gabriel