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VS/N: 9 scenes of sex and graphic innuendo. VV: 2 scenes. VP: 31 harsh expressions. VD: 1 scene of alcohol, 4 scenes with cigarettes, 4 scenes with substance abuse.

The Man Who Wasn't There (R)

Director: Joel Coen. With Billy Bob Thornton, Frances McDormand, James Gandolfini. (116 min.)

Sterritt **** Thornton gives an Oscar-worthy performance as a 1940s barber who's unhappy about the affair his wife is having. The plot thickens when he arranges a blackmail scheme to take revenge. This is an affectionate homage to the "film noir" genre, acted to near-perfection by a choice cast.

Staff ***1/2 Sustained tension, well-paced, impeccable acting, atmospheric.

VS/N: None. VV: 3 scenes, including graphic violence. VP: 38 mostly mild expressions. VD: 5 scenes with alcohol, 32 scenes with cigarettes.

Monsters, Inc. (G)

Director: Pete Docter. With voices of John Goodman, Jennifer Tilly, Billy Crystal, Steve Buscemi. (90 min.)

Sterritt *** The setting is a monster-populated city where the monsters are more scared of kids than kids are of them. The characters are as sweet as they are ridiculous, and the story is told with gentleness and tact. But many of the story's grownup touches - a monster love affair, references to old movies - are more calculated than clever.

Staff ***1/2 Warm and fuzzy, Not as good as "Toy Story," inventive, well-voiced.

VS/N: None. VV: 10 scenes, of comic violence. VP: None. VD: None.

Novocaine (R)

Director: David Atkins. With Steve Martin, Laura Dern. Helena Bonham Carter. (95 min.)

Staff **1/2 There is comedy in "Novocaine," a film-noir tale about a dentist who becomes a murder suspect, but it's pitch black. One immediately empathizes with him during his plight as he runs from both cops and the real murderer. This is an unconventional film, but director Atkins manages to get the difficult tone right. By Stephen Humphries

Riding in Cars With Boys (PG-13)
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