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March 31, 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 -- is a movie only 14-year-old girls can love. Claire (Emma Roberts) and Hailey (Joanna Levesque) are bumming. Hailey's mom has landed a dream job in Australia. Then a storm deposits a mermaid (Sara Paxton) in their Florida pool. She must find someone to love her in three days or marry her father's pick. For their help, she'll trade one wish. But the boy Aquamarine wants is Raymond (Jake McDorman), whom both girls have a crush on. (C.K.) Rated PG 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 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

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 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. Curious George is a charmer. (C.K.) G 87 minutes B

Dave Chappelle's Block Party -- records the comic's attempt to stage his dream rap concert on a Brooklyn 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 almost as sly as Mark Twain's. (M.S.) R 100 minutes B+

Eight Below, -- in which eight sled dogs are stranded in the frozen Antarctic, should win over all but the determinedly cynical. Guide Jerry Smith (Paul Walker) takes a scientist to look for meteorites. When a storm hits, the two are saved by their dogs, which they are then forced to leave behind. Guilt-ridden, Smith tries to return for them. The dogs are gorgeous, loyal and whip-smart. Sure, the movie's manipulative, but at least it's expertly manipulative. (C.K.) PG 112 minutes B

Failure to Launch -- offers Matthew McConaughey as Tripp, a 35-year-old yacht broker who still lives at home. Though they don't really mind having Tripp around, Mom and Dad (Kathy Bates and Terry Bradshaw) eventually hire Paula (Sarah Jessica Parker), who makes a living out of luring overgrown boys out of parents' houses. Failure to Launch resorts to mismatched-couple formulas. But it also keeps the atmosphere light and the laughter steady. (C.K.) PG-13 95 minutes. B

Final Destination 3 -- continues the movie franchise in which some teen and a group of his or her friends somehow cheat death, only to discover soon thereafter that the Grim Reaper doesn't like taking no for an answer. As the movie progresses, the teens meet their ends in grisly ways. Granted, there's a certain perverse fun in trying to outguess a movie like this. But this is the third trip to the same cinematic trough, and it's hard to believe even hard-core fans aren't getting a little tired of the repetition. (C.K.) R 90 minutes C

Find Me Guilty -- stars Vin Diesel in the off-type role of mobster Giacomo "Jackie Dee" DiNorscio, who served as his own counsel during the longest criminal trial in U.S. history. Jackie Dee is a stand-up guy who turns into a stand-up comic in the courtroom. He seduces the jury with his joshing and his display of honor among thieves (and racketeers and murderers). He doesn't win over the movie audience: This film flat-lines early. (M.S.) R 124 minutes C

Firewall -- offers competently doctored formula: Grade B pap with a violent mickey in it. As a computer security V.P. for a bank, battling a thief who locks down his family, Harrison Ford has the reliability and simple charm of the old Timex watch: He takes a licking and keeps on ticking. (M.S.) PG-13 106 minutes B-

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