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June 16, 2006|By MICHAEL SRAGOW AND CHRIS KALTENBACH | MICHAEL SRAGOW AND CHRIS KALTENBACH,SUN MOVIE CRITICS

Capsules by Michael Sragow and Chris Kaltenbach, except where noted. Full reviews at baltimoresun.com/movies.

Akeelah and the Bee -- follows a formula, one of the oldest in all of fiction: an underdog, struggling against the odds, seeks fame, fortune and - most importantly - self-respect. But this is one of the most winning movies of 2006 in its abundance of great intentions. (C.K.) PG 112 minutes B+

An Inconvenient Truth -- is more than a documentary of Al Gore's dynamic traveling slide show about global warming. It's a spiritual autobiography and a call to conscience that rests on Gore's credibility as a student of ecology and an individual engaged in the key conflicts of his time. (M.S.) PG 100 minutes A.

Art School Confidential -- is intermittently exhilarating. Director Terry Zwigoff (Bad Santa) skewers not just the jocks who taunt the artist hero (Max Minghella) in high school, but the clueless members of his family and, most of all, the pseuds who surround him at the Strathmore Institute. When the hero falls for a model (Sophia Myles), it becomes an unwieldy combination - bitter and semisweet. (M.S.) R 102 minutes B

The Break-Up -- is half a great movie: a biting, hard-hearted comedic look at what happens when former lovers take off the gloves and begin using each other as emotional punching bags. But The Break-Up doesn't offer insight into how the attraction between Vince Vaughn's Gary and Jennifer Aniston's Brooke arose. (C.K.) PG-13 105 minutes B

Cars, -- the latest computer-animated universe from director John Lasseter, contains only automobiles that have human features. But these cars overflow with heart, wit and new ideas. Lasseter turns a portrait of hot-shot Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson), into a salute to slowing down and savoring life. (M.S.) G 116 minutes A

The Da Vinci Code -- issues a spray of perspiration - not from the hero (Tom Hanks) and heroine (Audrey Tautou) outrunning forces set on framing them for multiple murders, but from director Ron Howard and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman as they try (and fail) to stay on top of Dan Brown's heavy, exposition-riddled plot. (M.S.) PG-13 149 minutes C

District B-13 -- boasts actor-athletes David Belle and Cyril Raffaelli, who turn kicking butt into jack-booted ballet. It's 2010, and the French government has disowned and walled off the most crime-ridden suburb of Paris. The plot clicks into gear when someone hijacks a neutron bomb and delivers it to the district's ruling drug lord. The entire film goes by like a theme-park cyclone ride. (M.S.) R 85 minutes B

Keeping Up With the Steins -- is equal parts a rumination on the rapacious silliness that comes from efforts to keep up with the Joneses and a tale of family rapprochement. Too bad the filmmakers couldn't settle on one plotline and stick with it. The resulting film is affable enough. (C.K.) PG-13 99 minutes C+

Mission: Impossible III -- will provide a satisfying ride for series fans; others may regard it as TV squared. The action hinges physically on Tom Cruise's abilities to race through city streets like the Flash or soar through the air and land safely thanks to super bungee cords and his virtuoso ways with a parachute. (M.S.) PG-13 125 minutes B-

The Omen -- with Liev Schreiber and Julia Stiles as the unwitting parents of the anti-Christ, is an almost scene-for-scene remake of the original 1976 film, so what's the point? Besides offering the giddy pleasure of seeing Mia Farrow play a demonic nanny, there's not much to the film that a repeat viewing of its earlier incarnation couldn't provide. (C.K.) R 110 minutes C+

Over the Hedge -- is the tale of forest critters and their wide-eyed introduction to the pleasures and dangers of suburbia. It has animals that will appeal to the young, humor that will appeal to adolescents, tongue-in-cheek sophistication that will endear itself to adults and an appreciation of its animated predecessors that should warm the hearts of veteran moviegoers. (C.K.) PG 86 minutes A-

Poseidon -- fails to provide even the dubious excitement of seeing a handful survive and hundreds of passengers and crew drown when a monstrous wave overturns a cruise ship. It's clear no one's on the open sea, just in some studio tank, stuck up Remake River without a paddle. (M.S.) PG-13 99 minutes D

A Prairie Home Companion -- is a down-home-exquisite musical dramedy. Working from a script by Garrison Keillor, with some of the personalities and/or characters from Keillor's radio show of the same name, the director, Robert Altman, achieves a homespun-gossamer texture. (M.S.) PG-13 105 minutes A

The Proposition -- is one of those grand, mythic Westerns. Only this rough-hewn land isn't the American West, but the Australian Outback. And while this terrific film sounds like something out of the Sam Peckinpah playbook, the auteurs here are director John Hillcoat and writer Nick Cave. (C.K.) R 104 minutes B+

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