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November 10, 2006|By Michael Sragow and Chris Kaltenbach | Michael Sragow and Chris Kaltenbach,Sun Movie Critics

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

Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan -- features a terrific, risky comic creation: a village idiot for the global village. A TV reporter from Kazakhstan comes to the United States and discovers everything you always wanted to know about America but were afraid to ask. Conceived and acted by British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, the character of Borat catalyzes uncommon combinations of hospitality and hostility at every stratum of American society. Cohen and director Larry Charles give Borat the high-low genius of an aces episode of South Park. (M.S.) R. 85 minutes. A

Catch a Fire, -- based on the story of Patrick Chamusso (Derek Luke), a black South African whose torture at the hands of the apartheid government transformed him from an apolitical family man to a dedicated counterrevolutionary, is both a condemnation of torture as a political tool and a tribute to the bravery that exists within everyone. Director Phillip Noyce clearly sees parallels between South Africa in the 1980s and what's happening in Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib, firmly establishing that it's more than their own humanity that the authorities put at risk. What emerges is a compellingly righteous film condemning torture and inhumanity in the name of the law that seems as much a warning to the abuser as a commemoration of the abused. (C.K.) PG-13 101 minutes B+

The Departed -- illuminates, with a blowtorch, the tangled roots of urban corruption when a Boston Irish kingpin (Jack Nicholson) puts a mole (Matt Damon) in the State Police and the police put a mole (Leonardo DiCaprio) in the mob. The direction (Martin Scorsese) and the writing (William Monahan) burst with exposed-wire energy; so does the ensemble, including the scene-stealing Mark Wahlberg as a police sergeant. (M.S.) R 149 minutes A

Flags of Our Fathers -- purports to tell the story of Marines raising Old Glory on Iwo Jima and the iconic photo that was snapped during the battle to take the island during World War II. The film has all the coherence and lucidity of a fragmentation bomb. It spews out cliches about the ambiguous nature of heroism - failed cliches, at that - and they fatally wound any authentic character or artistic notion that it has. (M.S.) R. 132 minutes C-

Flushed Away -- an animated tale of pampered versus plucky rats (voiced by Hugh Jackman, Kate Winslet, Ian McKellen and others) spends a good bit of its time spinning its wheels and debating whether to be witty or settle for grade-school-level funny. When the latter wins out, Flushed Away shifts from inventive to pedestrian. But the filmmakers have a secret weapon: a Greek chorus of singing slugs, certainly the most talented gastropods to ever hit the big screen. Their appearances never fail to delight, and the gleeful sense of whimsy they nurture helps Flushed Away rise above its tendencies to opt for the lazy laughs. (C.K.) PG 84 minutes B

Jesus Camp -- is a hypnotic, upsetting and bleakly humorous documentary about evangelical children raised in churches and camps that emphasize ecstatic connections to God while blurring the line between church and state. Despite a half-dozen regrettable directorial decisions, the film taps urgent, often contradictory feelings. (M.S.) PG-13 87 minutes B+

The Last King of Scotland -- is Idi Amin, the Scot-loving Ugandan dictator who staged a coup in 1971, promised national unity and progress, and descended into barbarism. Forest Whitaker gives a performance huge in size and spirit and terrifying in its downward-spiraling momentum as Amin, and James McAvoy has a giddy self-awareness as the film's co-antihero, a reckless Scottish doctor who becomes Amin's personal physician. (M.S.) R 121 minutes A-

Man of the Year -- is about a Jon Stewart-like comedian (Robin Williams) who wins the presidency because of a voting-software malfunction. Although clunky moments crowd magical ones, it's different and better than its trailers: a piquant political comedy-drama without a prefab element in it, with a superb leading lady (Laura Linney) and a funny supporting cast (Lewis Black, Christopher Walken). (M.S.) PG-13 101 minutes B

Marie Antoinette -- is high-caloric art-house moviemaking, full of pastry-coated, sugar-swirled ideas and historical moments dipped in candy. They are consumed entirely in the watching of the movie. They leave no aftertaste - no troubling thought, no haunting emotion, except, perhaps, a smile and a tear for Kirsten Dunst's cheerful valor in the title role. (M.S.) PG-13 118 minutes C+

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