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MARILYN HOTCHKISS' BALLROOM DANCING AND CHARM SCHOOL (PG-13) A half-digested mix of dopey camp, coming-of-age treacle and weepie mid-life crisis flick, this strange misfire is bland to the bone, although some might be offended by its inept attempt at combining contradictory tones. The movie includes three different narratives set in three different times, and it's all framed by the story told by a dying man (an over-the-top John Goodman) to a forlorn baker (Robert Carlyle) still dealing with his wife's suicide. We suffer through endless flashbacks of Goodman's first love and his introduction into the world of social etiquette via the titular charm school, then plod along with Carlyle's character as he visits that same school many years later. Cameos by respected actors are sprinkled throughout (Danny DeVito and Mary Steenburgen among them), but overall the film is as amateurish as it is predictable. Also stars Marisa Tomei, Donnie Wahlberg and Sean Astin. 1.5 stars

MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE III (PG-13) There wasn't a whole lot of logic or intricacy of plot in this franchise's first two installments either, but at least they were fun. Like its predecessors, M:I3 is all about the thrill of the chase, but the director this time out is J.J. Abrams, a TV veteran who shoots the film's all-important action sequences as frenzied, faceless and not particularly appetizing blurs that make us long for the unique stylistic signature of De Palma or John Woo. Tom Cruise returns, fresh from his baby-making marketing tie-in with Katie Holmes, but the real (and nearly only) reason to see the film is Oscar-winner Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Capote), who chews the scenery in style as a villainous arms dealer. Also stars Ving Rhames, Billy Crudup, Michelle Monaghan, Jonathan Rhys Meyers and Laurence Fishburne. 3 stars

THE NOTORIOUS BETTIE PAGE (R) The "notorious" in the title is both significant and ironic, since this cleverly crafted and very entertaining biopic portrays its subject — 1950s pin-up queen Bettie Page — as a sweet, innocent lamb who literally has to have it explained to her why some self-appointed protectors of society find her nude posing disgusting. There's a sprinkling of solid social commentary here, but don't go expecting another wrenching attack on social mores and repressed sexuality along the lines of The People vs Larry Flynt. Director Mary Harron (I Shot Andy Warhol) and writer Guinevere Turner (Go Fish) mainly have a lot of fun detailing Page's life from her prim upbringing in Nashville to her rise to fame as a nudie icon in New York. Gretchen Mol is surprisingly effective in the lead role, the film's blending of black-and-white and saturated color photography beautifully captures the spirit its 50's setting, just as its playfully mocking tone nails Page's basic approach to sex and life. Also stars Lili Taylor. 3.5 stars

OVER THE HEDGE (PG-13) Bruce Willis has his most convincing action hero role in some time, supplying the voice for a wily raccoon on a mission. The raccoon hooks up with a community of woodland creatures, leads them to the promised land of suburbia, introduces them to the glories of junk food, and shows them how to snatch the stuff in a series of daring heists. The catch here is that the raccoon has a hidden agenda — to eventually snag all the food for himself (specifically, for a intimidating bear he owes big time) — but, this being DreamWorks' latest PG-rated animation, the proper life lessons kick in just in time to ensure happy endings all around. Over the Hedge won't change anyone's life — the movie lacks the rafters-raising wit of a Shrek or the emotional richness of Pixar's best stuff — but this is solid, second-tier kiddie fare, and an awful lot of fun. Features the voices of Bruce Willis, Garry Shandling, Steve Carell and Nick Nolte. 3.5 stars

POSEIDON (PG-13) Poseidon is a thrill machine in the worst sense of the phrase — its characters are merely fodder for the machine, and it churns out its would-be thrills with such grinding, formulaic precision that the film becomes anything but exciting. After a perfunctory introduction of its characters (rugged, attractive or plucky stock types, all), the movie's titular ship is knocked for a loop by a tsunami-sized rogue wave. There's not even much dialogue — a good thing really, considering the lameness of what comes out of people's mouths here — so what we get is basically 90 minutes of forgettable characters wandering from one chamber to the next, leaping across chasms, climbing up shafts and dealing with copious amounts of fire and water as they attempt to stay alive. Stars Josh Lucas, Kurt Russell, Richard Dreyfuss, Jacinda Barrett and Emmy Rossum. 2 stars

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