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March 10, 2006|By MICHAEL SRAGOW & CHRIS KALTENBACH | MICHAEL SRAGOW & CHRIS KALTENBACH,SUN MOVIE CRITICS

Capsules by Michael Sragow and Chris Kaltenbach. Full reviews at baltimoresun.com/movies.

Aquamarine -- will separate the world into two camps: 14-year-old girls who will love it, and those who will realize this is a movie only 14-year-old girls can love. Claire (Emma Roberts) and Hailey (pop singer Joanna "JoJo" Levesque) are enjoying summer in the seaside Florida village they call home. Hailey's mom, a marine biologist, has just landed a dream job in Australia. Devastated, the girls try to ignore their coming separation, opting instead to partake in their favorite pastime: boy-watching. And that means, especially, the hunky Raymond (Jake McDorman). Then a storm deposits a mermaid (Sara Paxton) in their pool. The mermaid, named Aquamarine, must find someone to love her within three days, or she'll have to marry someone her father has picked out. Help me, she tells the girls, and I'll grant you a wish. Now Claire and Hailey face a dilemma. They could use the wish to keep Hailey from having to move. But the boy Aquamarine has settled on is Raymond. Can the girls overcome their shared crush? Of course they can. While they're at it, they learn from her, absorbing some of her self-confidence and willingness to take chances. (C.K.) Rated PG. Time 100 minutes B-

The Boys of Baraka -- provides eloquent and infuriating testimony to the failures of the Baltimore public school system. But the two-year program it's based on - sending a score of 12- and 13-year-old African-American boys to a boarding school named Baraka, in Kenya - remains a sign of hope, even after the program disintegrates. And the movie is a sign of hope, too. It's unceasingly involving and entertaining. (M.S.) Unrated 84 minutes A

Brokeback Mountain -- stars Heath Ledger as the ranch-hand lover of rodeo-man Jake Gyllenhaal. After their first summer of love, they marry and start families, but reconnect after four years. Soon they're going on "fishing trips" and comparing notes on lives of quiet desperation. The result is as close to a still life as you can get with human characters. (M.S.) R 134 minutes C

Cache -- is the feel-guilty movie of the new millennium. The director, Michael Haneke, an Austrian who makes films in France, depicts characters who'd just about define the discreet charms of the bourgeoisie if he weren't so intent on unveiling their inner sleaziness. Daniel Auteuil plays the host of a public-TV talk show, a sort of Gallic Charlie Rose with intellectual street cred. Juliette Binoche plays his wife, a success in publishing. Auteuil starts to receive disturbing surveillance videos that link him to the aftermath of a terrible racist episode in French history. (M.S.) R 121 minutes C+

Capote -- is a bleakly funny, profoundly unsettling depiction of Truman Capote as a young literary lion on the scent of his "nonfiction novel" about a Kansas murder. As Capote bonds with killer Perry Smith, actor Philip Seymour Hoffman takes the writer from tenderness to brute manipulation. He creates the odyssey of a man who achieves a self-knowledge that defeats instead of strengthens him. (M.S.) R 114 minutes A+

Curious George -- gives the fabled Man in the Yellow Hat a name (Ted), but otherwise all is as it should be in this winsome big-screen adaptation of H.A. and Margret Rey's tales of a mischievous monkey and his innocent adventures. The story is about Ted's search in Africa for a giant idol that will save his museum from bankruptcy and the little monkey who follows him home. Like the books from which it springs, Curious George is safe and tame, utterly without guile or malicious intent. Some adults may find the film unbearably simplistic, or its pace burdensomely slow. But it would be a shame if movie audiences have become so hyper-adrenalized that they can't appreciate a charmer like this one. (C.K.) G 87 minutes B

Dave Chappelle's Block Party -- simply records the build-up and the play-out of the comedian's attempt to stage his dream rap concert on a Brooklyn street corner, shooting it in sherbety colors and editing it in an ice-cream swirl. Chappelle doesn't just generate laughs: He inspires wonder and delight. He's an observational comic with a drawling syntax that's almost as sly as Mark Twain's. He loves Thelonious Monk's timing because when the jazzman seemed off-rhythm, he was really on. The same is true of Chappelle. (M.S.) R 100 minutes B+

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