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Staff ** Bitterness over losing both parents 20 years ago has turned Davey Stone into the town drunk. Yet as Hanukkah begins, Whitey, the basketball league's retiring referee, sees through the Grinch-like façade and hopes to make Davey his replacement. Sandler provides voices for the characters and co-wrote the screenplay and songs. This is hardly classic holiday material, as tasteless gags and language undermine the moments of warmth and comic brilliance. See it if you must, but leave the kids at home. Staff ** **** **• • **

Sex/Nudity: 7 instances innuendo. Violence: 7 scenes of cartoonish, dark violence. Profanity: 12 harsh expressions. Drugs: At least 7 scenes of drinking.

Ararat (R)

Director: Atom Egoyan. With David Alpay, Arsinée Khanjian, Christopher Plummer, Elias Koteas. (116 min.)

Sterritt ** A young man explains to a troubled customs official why a film he's making - about the horrific treatment of Armenians by Turks in the World War I era - has strong reverberations in his own Armenian-Canadian family; this sparks a densely structured series of flashbacks, film-within-a-film scenes, and episodes from present day. Egoyan is one of Canada's most ambitious filmmakers, but the power of this intricate drama falls short, despite his personal investment in the subject, since he is of Armenian ancestry himself.

Sex/Nudity: 4 scenes of nudity and sex. Violence: Violence includes rape and torture. Profanity: 5 harsh expressions.

Die Another Day (PG-13)

Director: Lee Tamahori. With Pierce Brosnan, Halle Berry, John Cleese, Judi Dench. (132 min.)

Sterritt ** The suave British agent starts his 20th screen adventure by falling into enemy hands and getting kicked out of Her Majesty's Secret Service. But don't fret - he's running true to form within a scene or two, wowing everyone with fast escapes, jaunty wisecracks, and amorous escapades. Tamahori both humanizes the hero and surrounds him with so many visual effects that you might think you're watching a sci-fi fantasy rather than an espionage epic. Brosnan is in top form, though, making the 007 role more his own than anyone since Sean Connery called it quits.

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