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Italian for Beginners -- Lone Scherfig's romantic comedy fits nicely within Lars von Trier's Dogme 95 movement specifications (think The Celebration, The Idiots and Mifune) but stands well on its own. It's rude and prankish, but also smart as it partakes of romantic comedy expectations, challenging them and honoring them at the same time. A romance without music? Sherfig rises to the challenge in this tale of six thirtysomethings in a small Danish town looking for life with love. There are a couple of scenes that are so fragile, so right, I laughed and teared up at the same adorable moment. (RP) RATED R





Murder by Numbers -- Barbet Schroeder brings his substantial technical gifts to a Sandra Bullock police procedural: while not fully satisfying, it's still thrillingly smart and well-made. A 21st-century high school Leopold and Loeb are investigated by detective Bullock, who has more than a little darkness in her own past. While everyone involved is well aware they're not remaking the movies, they know they're making entertainment and work it at the height of their craft. With Ben Chaplin. (RP) Rated R





The Scorpion King -- WWF star The Rock gets his first major role as an assassin hired to take out a sorcerer who's aiding an evil warlord in this flashy, funny, action-packed prequel to The Mummy Returns. Lots of violence (all done off-screen), many cleverly-covered-but-still-scantily-clad women, and a great variety of fights with sharp objects. Wisely, the effects are kept to a minimum, and real people doing stunts are up front. The Rock rules. (ES) Rated PG-13





& lt;i & Capsule reviews are written by Ed Symkus (ES) and Ray Pride (RP), unless otherwise noted. & lt;/i &





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