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June 13, 2008

Capsules by Michael Sragow or Chris Kaltenbach, unless noted. Full reviews are at baltimoresun.com/movies.

Baby Mama: Tina Fey inhabits what should be her comfort zone as a career woman who decides to use a surrogate to have a baby and ends up with raucous, declasse Amy Poehler. As the movie makes its way toward its denouement that leaves everyone happy-ever-after, the film feels emptier than your typical successful high-concept comedy. Part of the problem is the center will not hold: The TV stars are outmatched by a strong supporting cast (Greg Kinnear, Maura Tierney, Holland Taylor, Steve Martin, Sigourney Weaver and more). (M.S.) PG-13 96 minutes C

The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian : The four children from The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe return to their beloved kingdom of Narnia and attempt to free it from evil humans with the help of a prince, Caspian. It's a spectacle of marvels filled with terror, love and joy. (M.S.) PG 140 minutes A

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull: Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) fights a Soviet super-agent for the Crystal Skull of Akator, an otherworldly artifact possessing mystical powers. Amid a string of hilarious and outlandish shocks, Harrison Ford makes Indy more engaging than ever. You also get Karen Allen and Shia LaBeouf. (M.S.) PG-13 120 minutes B+

Iron Man: Robert Downey Jr. stars as Tony Stark, a munitions tycoon who gets kidnapped by enemy weapons dealers and creates new-millennial armor that turns him into a superhero. Director Jon Favreau and its two teams of screenwriters root Iron Man's high-flying derring-do in a change of heart that clicks first emotionally, then comedically, and ultimately in both ways. What gives the movie its lift is that it plays these changes for humor, as well as risk and pathos. So far this spring, as far as live-action would-be blockbusters go, all that glitters is iron. (M.S.) PG-13 120 minutes A-

Kung Fu Panda: Reared to be a noodlemaker, roly-poly panda Po (Jack Black), the hero of this martial-arts cartoon, leaps into the chop-socky big leagues when he accidentally wins a competition to find the Dragon Warrior. The film hits its stride when Po goes one-on-one with Master Shifu (Dustin Hoffman), a red panda who is as fleet and sharp as Po is roly-poly and fuzzy. Overall it has a cuddly kapow. (M.S.) PG 88 minutes B

Roman de Gare: In director Claude Lelouch's delightful flim-flammery, three characters entwine in risky, funny and mysterious ways: a popular novelist (Fanny Ardant), her secretary or ghost writer (Dominique Pinon) and a hairdresser (Audrey Dana) abandoned by her doctor-fiance. All the actors come through for Lelouch: Ardant has her grand-dame act down cold; Dana should become a major movie star; and Pinon conveys the charm and attractiveness of attentive yet playful creativity. (M.S.) R 103 minutes B+

Sex and the City: The movie extends the series finale's soapier aspects into an agony-thon about Miranda's marriage, Samantha's efforts to stay faithful and Carrie's on-and-off romance with Mr. Big. At 21/2 hours, is it like five TV episodes stitched together? No such luck. It's more like a single episode padded out. (M.S.) R 135 minutes C-

Speed Racer: In this live-actor version of the Japanese cartoon, an auto-racing champ named Speed Racer (Emile Hirsch) takes on the sleazy corporate giants who control the sport. The writing-directing Wachowski brothers - Andy and Larry - create a psychedelic candy store, but it's a family film done as a trip film - and it is a trip, but it's a bad trip. (M.S.) PG 129 minutes C

Standard Operating Procedure: Documentary-maker Errol Morris examines the crimes against humanity at Abu Ghraib prison from the perspective of investigators and perpetrators - and catalyzes unexpected and often harrowing blends of outrage, sympathy and sorrow. (M.S.) R 118 minutes A-

The Strangers: A strange girl in a clownlike "Dollface" party mask, a friend hiding behind a Betty Boop-like "Pin-Up Girl" mask, and a man who follows serial-killer film tradition by wheezing behind a baglike mask terrorize a young couple (Liv Tyler and Scott Speeman) at a secluded vacation home. Writer-director Bryan Bertino's decision to siphon all personality from the psychos and pour it into their victims backfires. You wish they'd mask their targets to put us out of our misery. (M.S.) R 76 minutes F

The Visitor: is small in size, huge in spirit, and emotionally incandescent. Richard Jenkins stars as an economics professor who befriends a young Syrian man (Haaz Sleiman) and his Senegalese girlfriend (Danai Gurira) and falls hard for the Syrian's mother (Hiam Abbass). Jenkins is marvelous as an academic who has let his life become all form, no content, and Sleiman matches him as a fellow who has gotten through life doing what he loves - playing the African drum, living with his beloved - and, perhaps, has too little fear of losing it. They, and the movie, triumphantly follow the beat of a different drum. (M.S.) PG-13 108 minutes A

You Don't Mess With the Zohan: Adam Sandler plays an Israeli commando who fantasizes about being a hairdresser and fulfills his dream when he fakes his own death and flies to New York. The movie bloats, and the humor wears thin, but it's still one of Adam Sandler's sturdier vehicles. That's consumer guidance - not high praise. (M.S.) R 112 minutes C+

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