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Capsules by Michael Sragow and Chris Kaltenbach, except where noted. Full reviews at

ATL -- marks a promising feature debut from director (and Harford County native) Chris Robinson. This tale, of black teens in Atlanta trying to escape their neighborhoods, excels at moving beyond conventional Hollywood stereotypes. If only Robinson and screenwriter Tina Gordon Chism had paid as much attention to matters of story and narrative flow. Still, the film presents a complex depiction of the pressures faced by teens, particularly black youths. And at a time when much of what Hollywood regards as popular entertainment offers trite views of a world where nuance seems a dirty word, ATL entertains without oversimplifying and offers empathy without condescension. (C.K.) PG-13 108 minutes B-

Ask the Dust -- both honors and transforms John Fante's 1939 novel about a first-generation Italian-American novelist, Arturo Bandini (Colin Farrell), and his tortured relationship with an immigrant Mexican waitress, Camilla Lopez (Salma Hayek), in Depression-era Los Angeles. Writer-director Robert Towne turns it from a brilliant pathological nightmare to an authentic, gritty romance about the self-hatred that contorts love and the urge for transcendence that makes love real. (M.S.) R 117 minutes A-

Basic Instinct 2 -- retains much of what made the earlier film scurrilous but little of what made it interesting. We're reintroduced to Sharon Stone's Catherine Tramell as she races her sports car through the streets of London, engaged in sex with a soccer player. Tramell loses control of both herself and the car, sending it to the bottom of the Thames with soccer guy still inside. Scotland Yard enlists a psychiatrist, Michael Glass (David Morrissey), to interview Tramell and, before a judge, paint her as the psychopath she is. But the judge lets her off anyway. Now it seems poor Glass might be next. If this film does nothing more than wash Catherine Tramell out of Stone's system, all will not be lost. (C.K.) R 114 minutes C-

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 black 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

CSA: The Confederate States of America -- provocatively presents the world as it would be if the South had won the Civil War. The clever conceit behind CSA is not just to show the mock documentary, but to place it in the context of an evening of Confederate network TV. In taking us up to the present day, CSA uses a wide and inventive variety of bogus footage. Among the fakes are a 1950s pro-slavery educational documentary for schoolchildren and public service announcements for government bureaus like the Office of Racial Identity, concerned with unmasking people who are passing for white. (Los Angeles Times) Unrated 89 minutes B

Duck Season -- is an ironic, carefully crafted comedy, the latest indication that Mexican cinema is in one of its spasmodic periods of renaissance. Two adolescent friends, trading affectionate vulgarities, play violent video games under the aliases "Bush" and "bin Laden." Their teenage neighbor barges in to bake herself a birthday cake. And the pizza guy is there long enough to deliver his entire life's history/philosophy, while just hoping to get paid. The four are initially antagonists, but turn into allies over a pan of Rita's pot brownies: The marijuana causes a crescendo of latent unrest bursting to breathe free, and there's nowhere to go but down (and into an orgy of junk food). But almost everything that happens - and almost everything happens within the apartment - is food for dry humor and very recognizable humanity. (Newsday) R 85 minutes A

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

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