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August 31, 2007|By Michael Sragow and Chris Kaltenbach

Capsules by Michael Sragow and Chris Kaltenbach unless noted. Full reviews are at baltimore

Arctic Tale -- This visually resplendent documentary chronicles life cycles of polar bears and walruses in an age of global warming, but the movie is edited and, worse, narrated in condescending ways that sabotage the magic of the images and even undercut the movie's message that climate change will make all these animals endangered species. (M.S.) G 90 minutes C

The Bourne Ultimatum -- combines a dense and tingling atmosphere with headlong pacing and adventure as director Paul Greengrass takes the minimalist story line and snaps it like a whip. Using his camera to put you in Bourne's (Matt Damon) shoes or his sightlines, cutting with each shift of attention or slash of hand, foot and elbow, Greengrass lets you experience his hero's extreme sensations without overdosing on brutality. The swift, deft filmmaking and the authentic, in-your-eyeballs stunts pitch you at that giddy point of visceral enjoyment where you can't believe you're feeling what you're feeling - but, of course, you do. (M.S.) PG-13 111 minutes A-

Death at a Funeral -- is about a family's vain attempt to bury its patriarch with dignity at his suburban manse in the verdant English countryside. The movie is half-hilarious. It maintains its comical, rocky equilibrium as long as it sticks to domestic disasters and a Monty Python parody of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof; it lacks the dark soul for a real jet-black comedy. But Alan Tudyk, as a proper soul who inadvertently takes hallucinogens, is like a lyric physical poet of the whacked-out. (M.S.) R 90 minutes B

Hairspray -- In 1962 Baltimore, ebullient, obese teen Tracy Turnblad (Nikki Blonsky), who is gung-ho about romance, idealism and rock 'n' roll, helps integrate The Corny Collins Show. Director-choreographer Adam Shankman lets Tracy's jubilation as well as her conscience be his guide: Along with his all-star cast, he gives this musical a zest that gets audiences jumping. (M.S.) PG 117 minutes A

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix -- Harry must fight the evil of Lord Voldemort and the creeping, insidious cruelties of small-minded bureaucrats. It's a vivid and surprisingly ticklish series entry that leaves you stoked for what comes next. (M.S.) PG-13 138 minutes B+

Hot Rod -- stars Andy Samberg as Rod, a would-be stuntman or stunt-manchild who's trying to raise money for his stepfather's critical heart operation. You may enjoy the way director Akiva Schaffer and Samberg prolong Rod's pratfalls to absurd length, but the pleasure fades because there's no skill to the slapstick, only glorified amateurism. (M.S.) PG-13 88 minutes D-

I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry -- Two New York City firefighters (Adam Sandler and Kevin James) "marry" so one can change the beneficiary on his retirement benefits. Blechhh! Sandler and James have no chemistry, and this comedy formula - be as offensive as possible, as long as you see the error of your ways in the end - is indefensible. (C.K.) PG-13 110 minutes D+

The Invasion -- Outer-space organisms once again hitchhike to Earth and take over our bodies and brains while destroying our emotional identities. This movie is too impatient and out of it to express either what makes humans individual or what makes them part of a community in the new millennium. It has nothing going for it except the smashing good looks of Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig. (M.S.) R 90 minutes C-

My Best Friend -- follows a self-centered Parisian antiques dealer (Daniel Autheil) as he bets his business partner (Julie Gayet) that he can produce a best buddy in 10 days. The movie has a boundless source of emotional Super Glue in Dany Boon as the talkative, generous-to-a-fault cabby who becomes the antihero's instructor in friendship. (M.S.) PG-13 90 minutes B

The Nanny Diaries -- A would-be anthropologist (Scarlett Johansson) fantasizes that she can be a real-life Mary Poppins to an Upper East Side Manhattan tyke (Nicholas Art) and compensate for his abominable parents (Laura Linney and Paul Giamatti). It wants to be a "you'll laugh, you'll cry" kind of movie but is more like "you'll snicker, you'll doze." (M.S.) PG-13 107 minutes C

No End in Sight, -- the untold story of the Iraq war, turns out to be about many people who "tried to save a nation." The film introduces us to diplomats, statesmen, military personnel and scholars who struggled to avert disaster - but were unable to pierce the wall built around President Bush by Donald H. Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz, with the assistance of Condoleezza Rice and L. Paul Bremer. If any movie can rid Americans of "Iraq war fatigue," it's this muscular documentary. It provokes potent new feelings of outrage and catalyzes fresh thoughts about the right way to run a government, especially ours. (M.S.) Unrated 102 minutes A+

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