BIOPIC

Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Chris O'Donnell, Peter Sarsgaard, Timothy Hutton, John Lithgow, Tim Curry, Oliver Platt, Dylan Baker

CRITICS CHOICE

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Alfred C. Kinsey believed in sex by the numbers. His pioneering research in the 1940s and '50s into America's sexual habits presented irrefutable evidence that everyone was doing it—sometimes in solo, homosexual and adulterous ways—and both fascinated and outraged a prudish nation. Kinsey's journey from repressed youth to lauded but controversial scientist is traced with crackling energy and smarts in an accomplished film by writer-director Bill Condon (Gods and Monsters).

Kinsey didn't start out studying what Americans did between the sheets. A zoologist, his first passion was the gall wasp; he amassed a collection of 1 million of the wee insects, becoming the world's foremost expert. When his interest turned to human biology, he focused the same scientific zeal on learning everything there was to know about sex that others had been afraid to ask. Supported by his helpful wife (Linney) and assisted by a cadre of male researchers (O'Donnell, Sarsgaard and Hutton), Kinsey diligently set about exploring the nation's sexual predilections as well as his own bisexuality. Sex could be quantified but, as he concludes in the film, "when it comes to love, we're all in the dark."

The film moves along briskly (dragging only near the end), covering much ground in a fresh, often humorous manner. Neeson, in one of the year's best performances, builds a full-bodied portrait of a complex man. Linney is just plain wonderful as his wife, a no-nonsense woman who herself developed a lively interest in sex. Along with Ray, this is a movie bio that is not to be missed. (R)

MYSTERY

Gael García Bernal, Fele Martínez, Daniel Giménez-Cacho, Javier Cámara, Francisco Boira

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In a scene midway through this intoxicatingly complex movie, two characters head into a theater whose marquee reads "Film Noir Week." It's writer-director Pedro Almodóvar's winking acknowledgment that Bad Education (in Spanish, with English subtitles) is an up-to-date reworking, and warping, of the classic suspense genre. The newfangled twist: Education's obsessive love affairs are all between men; its femme fatale is a transvestite.

Set between 1964 and 1980, the multi-threaded story involves a film director (Martínez), an actor (Bernal) and the priest who abused one of them as a boy during their school days. Nothing is quite as it seems—this is film noir, after all—and even the most villainous characters have their sympathetic moments.

Almodóvar (Talk to Her) shows his usual visual lushness and fluidity. His color palette is as intense as ever, as if to match the strong emotions of his characters. Bernal, in a turn that's the polar opposite of his idealistic Ché Guevara in the recent The Motorcycle Diaries, gives a virtuoso performance that keeps viewers (and the characters around him) perpetually off-balance. Note: Though there's no full-frontal nudity, Education's sex scenes are quite frank. (NC-17)

ANIMATED

Voices by Tom Kenny, Bill Fagerbakke

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This movie should carry an advisory: slippery when wet. It's hard to get ahold of exactly whom this weird, wacky and surprisingly entertaining film is aimed at. Is it kids who've made SpongeBob SquarePants a giant TV hit on Nickelodeon? Their parents, who happily sit there pretending to supervise but really enjoying the quirky humor of the show's undersea world? Or is it the altered-state, Yellow Submarine crowd?

Whatever, as those younger and more blasé might say. The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie follows our squishy hero on a dangerous journey to recover a stolen crown and prove that, despite his pigmentation, he's anything but yellow. It's not The Incredibles or Shrek, but SpongeBob will keep one and all feeling jolly for 88 minutes. (PG)

Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason

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Same characters, similar shenanigans. If you enjoyed 200l's Bridget Jones's Diary, the sequel will be just your cup of slightly warmed-over tea. Rénee Zellweger, Colin Firth and Hugh Grant star. (R)

Seed of Chucky

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The murderous doll—that would be Chucky (below, voiced by Brad Dourif)—returns for his fifth outing in a semi-amusing film more interested in satirizing the horrors of Hollywood excess than in scoring scares. Chucky and his bride, along with a newly discovered son, terrorize big-screen star Jennifer Tilly (portraying an exaggerated version of herself). (R)

The Incredibles

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Retired, married super-heroes return to action, along with their superkids, in a grand animated adventure sure to delight all ages. (PG)

Paul Giamatti Sad-sack specialist Giamatti, 37 (American Splendor), has critics toasting his bittersweet turn as a wine-loving frustrated writer in the hit indie comedy Sideways.

ON WHETHER HE'S LIKE HIS SIDEWAYS CHARACTER Sure, there are points of identification, but he's so extremely depressed. I've never been quite that bad. Close. I can get that dark if they pay me. As funny as the movie is, what's great about it is that it's actually pretty grim too.

ONE WINE JARGON The language is ridiculous, Somebody gave me a chart that had all these gradations of taste and smell. It had words like baby diapers, petroleum jelly, tar. [Costar Thomas Haden Church] and I kept thinking, at some point, [one of us] has to smell a glass and say it smells like baby diapers. But we never did it.

ON DRINKING NONALCOHOLIC WINE WHILE SHOOTING It was disgusting. We'd have to be downing that stuff at 7 a.m., and it gave us splitting headaches. It coated our teeth with this gray, yeasty thing. We did drink real wine sometimes, just to be in the right mood, like during the dinner sequence. We got kind of liquored up.

ON NOT BEING A WINE CONNOISSEUR I could drink it out of a box and it would be fine. I might as well be drinking paint. I can't tell the difference. I don't know what's good and what's not. All I know is the cheap stuff gets you hammered faster.

HOT FASHIONISTA The Incredibles' scene-stealing seamstress-to-the-super-heroes Edna Mode

WHAT'S THAT ACCENT? I felt she was half German and half Japanese," says director Brad Bird, 48 (right), who voiced Edna. "The idea was to have two countries very good at both design and mechanical things."

REMINDS YOU OF... legendary Hollywood costume designer Edith Head? Vogue editor Anna Wintour? "I've heard Coco Chanel. Someone even said Isaac Mizrahi," says Bird, who insists she's not based on a specific person. "Everyone thinks they know who she is."

TYPICAL EDNA-ISM

"Supermodels...HAH! Nothing super about them. Spoiled, stupid little stick figures with poofy lips who think only about themselves—FEH! I used to design for GODS!"

  • Contributors:
  • Leah Rozen,
  • Tom Cunneff,
  • Daniel J. Vargas.