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Dark And Darko 

The Charlotte Film Society's June schedule won't be mistaken for, say, a Marx Brothers marathon on Turner Classic Movies, but don't let all the doom and gloom of this month's offerings scare you away. It's a lineup that almost runs the gamut of quality, but there's at least one title in there that cries out to be seen and savored. (Movies begin this Friday at the Manor Theatre and continue the following Friday at Movies at Birkdale. Call 414-2355 for details.)

Donnie Darko One of the most brazenly original films of 2001 (which may explain why it received only minimal distribution), this feature from first-time writer-director Richard Kelly casts Jake Gyllenhaal (who looks like an even glummer Tobey Maguire -- if that's possible) as the title character, a disaffected teen whose suburban lifestyle is interrupted by frequent trips to a psychiatrist, a jet engine crashing into his house, and the presence of a frightening, life-size rabbit who informs him that the world will end in approximately one month. Drew Barrymore, Patrick Swayze and Mary McDonnell are among those participating in this wildly inventive drama (with a twist of wicked humor) that gains upon repeat viewings. ***1/2

The Son's Room Winner of the Palme D'Or at last year's Cannes Film Festival, this touching drama from Italian director Nanni Moretti had its stateside thunder stolen by the similar In the Bedroom. Like Bedroom, this one also centers on how the death of a popular boy affects the lives of those around him, particularly family members struggling to make sense of it all. Not as powerful as Bedroom but also not as melodramatic, The Son's Room does a fine job of conveying the anguish of its characters as they repeatedly torture themselves by playing mental games of "what-if?" ***

Time of Favor A major award winner in its Israeli homeland, this blend of political intrigue and romantic longing (a soldier falls for a rabbi's daughter while his buddy plots to blow up an Islamic holy ground) is intermittently interesting yet suffers from debuting writer-director Joseph Cedar's often unimaginative framing. **1/2

Fat Girl Catherine Breillat's controversial (and, given its full-frontal nude shots of underage girls, unrated by the MPAA) drama starts out as an interesting, unhurried look at female sexuality, with a frumpy 12-year-old constantly living in the shadow of her gorgeous 15-year-old sister. Their dialogues are open and honest, yet the film's absurdly over-the-top climax negates much of what has transpired until then. Still, this earned raves from several prominent critics, so judge for yourself. **

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