Black Snake Moan

At the State Theater

four stars out of five

When a down-on-his-luck farmer (go-to Hollywood presence Samuel L. Jackson) finds a beat-up, unconscious, half-naked young woman on the side of the road (Christina Ricci, “Prozac Nation”), he takes it upon himself to “cure” her of her “wickedness” – the hard way. Hint: It involves chains.

Zodiac

At Quality 16 and Showcase

Three stars out of five

“Zodiac” opens in 1968 and doesn’t stop jumping weeks, months and even years, following the various men – a drug-addled San Francisco Chronicle reporter (Robert Downey Jr.), a family-man detective (Mark Ruffalo) and, eventually, the SF Chronicle’s cartoonist (Jake Gyllenhaal) – who take charge of and are slowly consumed by the investigation into California’s most notorious (and elusive) serial killer.

Pan’s Labyrinth

At Quality 16, Showcase and The State Theater

four stars out of five

Guillermo del Toro’s lush and complex masterpiece boldly articulates the evils of fascism with a gorgeous fantasy outfit, including fauns, fairies and the whole bit. Be advised: the year’s most uncompromising vision is also one of its most violent

Volver

At the Michigan Theater

Four stars out of five

Pedro Almodovar’s sprawling melodrama returns the director’s female-driven roots and is thrillingly alive with murder, a possible ghost and all kinds of cross-generational drama. Penelope Cruz is as radiant as ever, but she’s finally given something more to do than just look pretty.

The Number 23

At Quality 16 and Showcase

Two stars out of five

While reading a book about a detective who slips into paranoia and dementia, Walter Sparrow (Jim Carrey) begins to follow suit. Though Carrey allows a glimpse into his darker, pseudo-Goth side, director Joel Schumacher has bitten off more than he can chew, spending so much time dabbling in various themes of paranoia that he forgets to make this thriller-mystery provocative.

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