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Daily Staff ReportVail, Co, Colorado
In this photo provided by Warner Bros. Pictures, Drew Barrymore stars as Sophie Fisher and Hugh Grant stars as Alex Fletcher in Warner Bros. Pictures? and Village Roadshow Pictures? "Music and Lyrics." (AP Photo/Warner Bros. Pictures/Gene Page)

BABEL Cast: Brad Pitt, Cate Blanchett, Gael Garcia Bernal.In “Babel,” a tragic incident involving an American couple in Morocco sparks a chain of events for four families in different countries throughout the world. In the struggle to overcome isolation, fear and displacement, each character discovers that it is family that ultimately provides solace. In the remote sands of the Moroccan desert, a rifle shot rings out — detonating a chain of events that will link an American tourist couple’s frantic struggle to survive, a nanny illegally crossing into Mexico with two American children and a Japanese teen rebel whose father is sought by the police in Tokyo. Separated by clashing cultures and sprawling distances, these four disparate groups of people are nevertheless hurtling toward a shared destiny of isolation and grief. Rated R (for violence, some graphic nudity, sexual content, language and some drug use).- L.A. Times-Washington Post News ServiceTHE QUEEN Cast: Helen Mirren, James Cromwell.”The Queen” is an intimate behind the scenes glimpse at the interaction between HM Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Tony Blair during their struggle, following the death of Princess Diana, to reach a compromise bwtwenn what was a private tragedy for the Royal family and the public’s demand for an overt display of mourning. Rated PG-13 (for brief strong language).- L.A. Times-Washington Post News ServicePAN’S LABYRINTHWriter-director Guillermo del Toro is the most accomplished fantasist in contemporary cinema, a master creator of images, atmosphere and mood who uses his visionary’s gifts to do what others cannot: make imaginary worlds seem more real than reality itself. With this film, del Toro has made his most accomplished film to date, a work set in two parallel worlds, the cold, brutal one of Spain in 1944 and an equally disturbing alternative universe that a serious 10-year-old girl named Ofelia stumbles upon behind an old mill. This dark and disturbing fairy tale for adults has been thought out to the nth degree and resonates with the irresistible inevitability of a timeless myth. With Mirabel Verdu, Sergi Lopez, Ivana Baquero and Doug Jones. In Spanish with English subtitles. (1:52) R for graphic violence and some language.- L.A. Times-Washington Post News Service

BREACHThe true story of the U.S. government’s investigation into FBI operative Robert Hanssen’s work as a double agent is viewed through the eyes of a young agent (Ryan Phillippe) who is asked to gain the trust of Hanssen (Chris Cooper). With Laura Linney, Dennis Haysbert, Caroline Dhavernas, Gary Cole and Kathleen Quinlan. Screenplay by Adam Mazer and William Rotko. Story by Mazer, Rotko and Billy Ray. Directed by Ray. PG-13 for violence, sexual content and language.- L.A. Times-Washington Post News ServiceTHE LAST KING OF SCOTLAND Anchored by a tremendous performance from Chris Cooper as real-life double agent Robert Hanssen, this spy thriller quietly but suspensefully unfolds the story of how colleagues cornered the FBI man after 20 years of selling secrets to the Russians. The film is a logical follow-up for director and co-writer Billy Ray, who previously took on the story of a real journalist exposed as a deceiver in “Shattered Glass.” Ryan Phillippe plays a young FBI man assigned as an aide to Hanssen and ordered to report back to the agent (Laura Linney) leading a colossal investigation on the FBI veteran. Without blazing guns or monstrous explosions, the film plays out with cunning moderation and authenticity. An Academy Award winner for his supporting role in “Adaptation,” Cooper rarely gets the chance to take the lead. He does so here with magnificent flair, presenting a cold, complicated character who’s conflicted by compassion, arrogance, petty desires and phony patriotism. PG-13 for violence, sexual content and language. Running time: 110 minutes. Three stars out of four.- David Germain, AP Movie Writer

BRIDGE TO TERABITHIAThere’s something endearingly quaint about the images and ideas presented here, the notion that the most troubling force in a kid’s life could be the fear of a bully on the school bus. The special effects in this coming-of-age fantasy tale, though, are extremely high-tech – yet feel distractingly clunky. (They come from Weta Digital, the same company that designed the visuals for the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy.) Effortless performances from the two young stars ultimately make this movie worthwhile, regardless of the age of the kids watching. Josh Hutcherson and AnnaSophia Robb star as the outcasts of Katherine Paterson’s book, who form a friendship based on loneliness and a shared love of imagination. They merge his artistic skills with her talent for storytelling to create a magical land where they rule as king and queen. Robert Patrick plays Hutcherson’s gruff, hardworking dad, with Zooey Deschanel (lovely as always) as the kids’ supportive music teacher. If you’ve never read the book, here’s a bit of advice: Bring Kleenex. PG for thematic elements including bullying, some peril and mild language. 95 min. Two and a half stars out of four.- Christy Lemire, AP Movie CriticSMOKIN’ACES It’s a mad, mad, mad, mad world of hit men, hookers and assorted crazies that writer-director Joe Carnahan has compiled in this willfully incoherent action-comedy. The filmmaker spins a violent, cartoonish tale about a Vegas illusionist moonlighting in organized crime, an aging Mafioso who wants him dead, the FBI agents investigating them and the swarm of hired killers and bounty hunters who descend like locusts on his Reno hideout in pursuit of $1 million. There are nuggets of humor and flashes of hilariously choreographed brutality among the splatter patterns, but his reluctance to develop any of the ideas beyond the vignette level makes for an unsatisfying whole. With Jeremy Piven, Ryan Reynolds, Ray Liotta, Ben Affleck, Andy Garcia and Alicia Keys. (1:47) R for strong bloody violence, pervasive language, some nudity and drug use.- L.A. Times-Washington Post News ServiceGHOST RIDERAnother Marvel Comics superhero makes the leap to the big screen. Nicolas Cage plays a stunt motorcycle driver who sold his soul to the devil and now becomes the flaming skull-headed Ghost Rider whenever he’s in the presence of evil. With Eva Mendes, Wes Bentley, Sam Elliott, Donal Logue and Peter Fonda. Screenplay by Mark Steven Johnson. Directed by Johnson. PG-13 for horror violence and disturbing images.- L.A. Times-Washington Post News ServiceDREAMGIRLS As directed by Bill Condon, who also wrote the adaptation of the multiple Tony Award-winning play, this film tells a familiar story of the rags-to-riches rising of a Supremes-like girl group with conviction and pizazz. It’s a smartly entertaining example of updated traditionalism, of using modern energy and techniques to galvanize a story that was old-fashioned when director Michael Bennett dazzled Broadway with it in 1981. It’s a love song two times over, a tribute to a vibrant period of American popular music as well as a style of filmmaking we don’t get to see enough of, the big-budget Hollywood musical. PG-13 for language, some sexuality and drug content.- L.A. Times-Washington Post News ServiceBECAUSE I SAID SODiane Keaton and Mandy Moore star as a mother and daughter bound by a mutual dependence so neurotically obsessive it makes the affair in “Last Tango in Paris” look breezy. Fearing young Millie’s (Moore) imminent spinsterhood, Daphne (Keaton) places a personal ad and interviews the candidates herself. This, more or less, is how Millie ends up dating a handsome musician (Gabriel Macht) of whom her mother disapproves and a smug architect (Tom Everett Scott) she’s vicariously crazy about. Directed by Michael Lehmann, “Because I Said So” rejects recognizable (and therefore funny) human behavior for a formula so trite it became self-parodic long ago. (1:42) PG-13 for sexual content including dialogue, some mature thematic material and partial nudity.- L.A. Times-Washington Post News Service

BLOOD DIAMONDThis ambitious film, viewable as either half empty or half full, attempts something difficult. Set in Sierra Leone and starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Jennifer Connelly, it wants to be an action thriller with serious political overtones, to be as much a position paper as “Zulu Dawn.” It can be pulled apart or appreciated, depending on your mood, but it should be recognized that movies like this have become as rare as the stone that sets its plot in motion. (2:19) R for strong violence and language.- L.A. Times-Washington Post News ServiceGHOST RIDERBRIDGE TO TERABITHAMUSIC &LYRICSA weird little hybrid of a romantic comedy that’s simultaneously too fluffy and not whimsical enough. Writer-director Marc Lawrence is definitely aiming for a retro ’40s feel, with his bustling New York setting and witty characters who repeatedly burst into song. But he’s infused the movie with a forced contemporary flavoring, including a Britney Spears-style pop diva and references to performers like Shakira and Justin Timberlake, and he gets too bogged down with industry types and their business meetings. The songs are catchy, though – especially “Way Back Into Love,” the tune Hugh Grant and Drew Barrymore’s characters craft together, which will be stuck in your head like a psychotic episode for days if not weeks to come. And it’s nice to see Grant aging gracefully. Yes, he’s only 46, but he’s learned to wear his years well. As washed-up ’80s singer Alex Fletcher – formerly part of a band called PoP that’s clearly and hilariously modeled after Wham! – Grant is self-deprecating but he’s also not afraid to look pathetic, lonely and a little sad. It actually makes him more attractive. PG-13 for some sexual content. 95 min. Two and a half stars out of four.- Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic

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