Report Card

October 13, 2005

STAFF CRITICS GIVE YOU THE LOWDOWN ON TEN TOP MOVIES, POPCORN NOT INCLUDED!

The Constant Gardener

What It's About: A midlevel British diplomat gets posted to Kenya, where his politically committed wife uncovers a global conspiracy between Western governments and Big Pharma.

RATED R

The scoop: Ralph Fiennes is at his heartbreaking best as the husband; Rachel Weisz is astonishing as a passionate activist.

Grade: A

Everything is Illuminated What It's About: A young American (Elijah Wood) journeys through the Ukraine hoping to find the woman whom he thinks saved his grandfather from the Nazis.

Rated: PG-13

The scoop: Eugene Hutz and Boris Leskin, as the hero's tour guides, conjure a genuine oddball chemistry with Wood that makes the climactic epiphany powerful and haunting.

Grade: B+

Flightplan

What It's About: Jodie Foster, already grieving over the death of her husband, loses her daughter in the middle of a trans-Atlantic flight - and nobody believes her.

Rated: PG-13

The scoop: Foster, in her first star role in years, delivers a tour-de-force of sustained tension in a film that ramps up the inflight horror from Red Eye.

Grade: B+

A History of Violence

What It's About: A small-town family man (Viggo Mortensen) proves ultra-competent at killing when he defends his diner against vicious burglar-assassins.

Rated: R

The scoop: You can read just about any message into it - about the dark side of Middle America or man's inherent bloodlust - or simply treat it as a shoot-'em-up.

Grade: C+

In Her Shoes

What It's About: High-powered lawyer Toni Collette and her total-opposite sister, flighty beauty Cameron Diaz, grow and settle their differences and realize they'll always need each other.

Rated: PG-13

The scoop: The performances outclass the get-out-your-handkerchiefs material.

Grade: C+

Junebug

What It's About: The Chicago-based son of a Southern family introduces his wife, an outsider-art dealer, to his mom, dad and brother in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Rated: R

The scoop: Embeth Davidtz, Amy Adams, Alessandro Nivola, Ben McKenzie, Scott Wilson and Celia Weston illuminate the comedy-drama behind the ties that bind and sometimes strangle.

Grade: A

Serenity

What It's About: Five hundred years in the future, a group of space rebels, for whom conformity is not an option, delight in being a pain in the side of the ruling Alliance, for whom conformity is everything.

Rated: PG-13

The scoop: This big-screen adaptation of Joss Whedon's cult TV series Firefly should delight those already familiar with its world and pique enough interest in everyone else to keep the franchise humming.

Grade: B

Thumbsucker

What It's About: A 17-year-old thumbsucker (Lou Pucci) turns into a school speech star thanks to Ritalin.

Rated: R

The scoop: Writer-director Mike Mills makes something delightful and unconventional out of what could have been standard adolescent-angst comedy.

Grade: B

Tim Burton's Corpse Bride

What It's About: A sensitive guy (voice of Johnny Depp) in a love triangle with a sensitive gal (voice of Emily Watson) and a dead bride (voice of Helena Bonham Carter).

Rated: PG

The scoop: The puppet animation, the Victorian Transylvania decor and the fractured-fairy-tale romance are funny, fetching and beguiling.

Grade: B+

Wallace and Gromit: The Curse of the Were-Rabbit

What It's About: The highly excellent dog Gromit and the dim yet upbeat human inventor Wallace take on a hulking monster who's devouring their town's veggies.

Rated: G

The scoop: Animator Nick Park has a genius for creating whimsies that are robust, hilarious and magical.

Grade: A+

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