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Films tout peace in the Middle East

Award-winning documentary filmmaker, Mark Freeman presents — two Oregon premieres in Ashland, "Talking Peace" and "Lines in the Sand."

Mark Freeman is an associate professor at the San Deigo — University School of Theatre, Television and Film.

"Talking Peace" is a documentary about A Jewish/Palestinian — living room dialogue in San Diego. Like dialogue itself, "Talking Peace" — is rooted in a process of getting to know distinct individuals and the — telling details of their history and experience.

"Talking Peace" debuts at the Temple Emek Shalom at 7:30 — p.m. Wednesday. The temple is at 1800 E. Main St. in Ashland. Call 488-2909 — or email: TEShalom@emekshalom.org

The move will also play at the First Prebyterian Church — of Ashland, Calvin hall at 11 a.m. on Sunday April 3. The church is located — at the corner of Siskiyou Boulevard and Walker Avenue. Call 482-3536 or — e-mail presbyashland@yahoo.com for more information.

"Lines in the Sand" debuts at the Ashland Independent — Film Festival, March 31- April 3. Call 488-3823 or e-mail info@ashlandfilm.org

"Lines in the Sand" is a lyrical portrait of art and meditation. — Using simple handmade tools, Kirk Van Allyn creates public art on the — Pacific shore. Beginning at low tide, the process of creation is the work — of art. Using the beach as his canvas, the artist paints with the elements — - sand, surf and light.

Mark Freeman will also participate in a documentary panel — presented by the Ashland Independent Film Festival on Friday April — from — 10 to 11:30 a.m. at the Varsity Theatre.

The film plays on Thursday at 9:40 p.m. and Saturday 6:40 — p.m. at the Varsity Theatre, 166 E. Main St. in Ashland.

'The Ring' sequel tops first (U.S.) film

"The Ring Two" has a B-movie premise with grade-A production — values, making it tenser, moodier, scarier, and all-around better than — you'd expect from a sequel - especially the sequel to a horror movie, — one that didn't exactly get universally ringing endorsements the first — time around (especially not from this typist).

Yes, the original "Ring" from 2002 made scads of money — - $129 million, to be exact. now haven't you learned that big box office — isn't necessarily an indicator of quality?

But "Ringu," the Japanese movie that was the basis for — "The Ring," was onto something. It's the highest-grossing film in Japan's — history and it launched an entirely new horror genre.

Hideo Nakata, the director of "Ringu," makes his American — film debut here. And that makes a huge difference. He seems completely — comfortable letting the pacing play out slowly and steadily, and not so — interested in gimmicks or quick, cheap scares - though there are a couple — that will make you jump out of your seat.

Oh, it's still based on a totally ridiculous idea, this — nonsense about a little girl who's been dumped down a well but still manages — to communicate through supernatural video production. It did then and — does still beg the question: If she can manipulate technology in such — a sophisticated fashion, why can't she get herself out of there?

Anyway, the spooky the little girl Samara is back, and — so is Naomi Watts' character, girl-reporter Rachel Keller, as the target — of her terror. Having survived the first film's deadly videotape attack — six months earlier, Keller has moved from Seattle to a small town in Oregon — to start over.

David Dorfman, who's also back from the original as Rachel's — young son, Aidan, has now graduated from the Haley Joel Osment School — of Kid Movie Creepiness and is working on his master's degree.

He becomes the human vessel through which Samara manifests — herself, which includes a visually stunning scene in which bathtub water — flies upward from his body and hovers like an upside-down pool on the — bathroom ceiling.

Others who have the misfortune of coming into contact — with her are rendered fatally paralyzed mid-scream, like figures in an — Edvard Munch painting. (Six-time Oscar winner Rick Baker, whose film include — "An American Werewolf in London" and "Men in Black," did the special-effects — makeup.)

An even more special effect is far simpler. Not to give — it away, but it's a cameo that will bring "Carrie" to mind, and make you — wish it lasted longer.

Watts is solid here as she is in everything - believably — frightened and protective, with grace under pressure and a natural ability — to connect with the audience.

But she and Dorfman and the aforementioned mystery performer — are all bogged down by the contrived, often clunky scares of returning — writer Ehren Kruger's script.

The movie is more effective when it's about a mother and — her child and the intangible spiritual phenomena plaguing them. When it — becomes too literal toward the end, focusing on the evil that sprouts — from their television set, it confirms that you really can go to the well — one too many times.

"The Ring Two," a DreamWorks Pictures release, is rated — PG-13 for violence/terror, disturbing images, thematic elements and some — language. Running time: 110 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.

Be Cool —

Chili has abandoned the fickle movie industry, as he becomes — the promoter of a struggling singer who is being pursued by the Russian — mafia. Follow up to "Get Shorty". John Travolta, Uma Thurman, Danny DeVito, — Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Cedric the Entertainer.

PG-13 for violence, sensuality, and language including — sexual references, 120 min.

Bride and Prejudice —

In English, Hindi and Punjabi with English subtitles It — begins in a modest Indian village when a woman sets out to find husbands — for her four beautiful daughters. The smart and headstrong Lalita announces — she will only marry for love, giving her mother nightmares. When Lalita — meets wealthy AmericanWill Darcy, sparks fly. Music, dance and spectacle — merge with love, vanity and society in this Bollywood adaptation of Jane — Austen's "Pride and Prejudice". Directed by Gurinder Chadha ("Bend it — Like Beckham") Aishwarya Rai, Martin Henderson, Daniel Gillies

PG-13 for some sexual references/111 min.

Guess Who —

Percy is taking no chances with his daughter's future, — and has her latest boyfriend, Simon, checked out. On paper, he passes — with flying colors. But one thing Percy doesn't know is that Simon is — white, and wants to marry his daughter. Bernie Mac, Ashton Kutcher, Zoe — Saldana, Judith Scott.

PG-13 for sexual humor/104 min.

Hotel Rwanda —

Ten years ago one million people were brutally murdered — in only three months, an atrocity largely overlooked by the rest of the — world. Inspired by his love for his family, an ordinary man summoned extraordinary — courage to save the lives of over a thousand helpless refugees by granting — them shelter in the hotel he managed.

Directed by Alejandro Amenabar ("The Others," "Open Your — Eyes")

Don Cheadle, Sophie Okonedo

PG-13 for violence, disturbing images and brief strong — language, 121 min.

Ice Princess —

A brainy ugly duckling, whose mother has her on the fast — track to Harvard, becomes a champion figure skater with the help of physics, — a disgraced coach, three snotty ice princesses, a chorus of stage parents — and the hunky boy who drives the Zamboni machine. Michelle Trachtenberg, — Joan Cusack, Kim Cattrall.

G/98 min.

Merchant of Venice

William Shakespeare's tale of a man, Antonio, who offers — to go into debt for a loan so that his friend will have enough money to — court a certain woman. The debt is owed to Shylock, a moneylender who — demands a pound of flesh if the loan cannot be repaid. Directed by Michael — Radford. Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons, Lynn Collins, Joseph Fiennes.

R for some nudity/138 min.

Million Dollar Baby —

A fighter turned trainer eventually agrees to train a — woman in her early 30's who is determined to begin a boxing career. The — two discover in each other a sense of family they lost long ago. Directed — by Clint Eastwood; Starring Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman. —

PG-13 for violence, some disturbing images, thematic material — and brief drug use, 137 min.

Miss Congeniality 2: Armed and Fabulous —

Gracie Hart has become a glorified public relations mascot — for the FBI after her pageant exploits, but when two friends are kidnapped — she must find a way to get back in the field and solve the case. Sandra — Bullock, Regina King, William Shatner, Heather Burns.

PG-13 for sex related humor/107 min.

Ring Two —

Six months after the horrifying events that terrorized — Rachel and her son in Seattle, Rachel and Aidan move to the small coastal — community of Astoria, Oregon, to start anew. But dread overtakes resolve — when evidence at a local crime scene - including an unmarked videotape — - seems eerily familiar. Directed by Hideo Nakata, the director of the — original Japanese blockbuster "Ringu", upon which "The Ring" was based — Naomi Watts, Simon Baker, David Dorfman, Sissy Spacek.

PG-13 for violence/terror, disturbing images, thematic — elements and some language/111 min.

Robots —

Set on a world populated entirely by robots, a young genius — wants to make robots capable of making the world a better place. But his — dream is challenged by a corporate tyrant and the sexy corporate robot — trying to seduce him. Voice talents of Ewan McGregor, Robin Williams, — Halle Berry, Greg Kinnear, Mel Brooks, Drew Carey, Jamie Kennedy

PG for some brief language and suggestive humor/92 min. — (including 2 minute "Ice Age 2" short)

Vera Drake —

3 Academy Award Nominations including Best Director, Actress, — Original Screenplay. Set in 1950's London, Vera, a cheerful, grandmotherly — woman performs abortions long before they were legalized in Britain. When — one of her patients nearly dies, Vera's practice is revealed to the police — and she falls into the legal system. Directed by Mike Leigh ("Topsy Turvy", — "Secrets and Lies") Imelda Staunton, Phil Davis, Peter Wight, Adrian Scarborough, — Heather Craney

R for depiction of strong thematic material, 125 min.