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Stars carry load in ‘State of Play’

Washington Post

Taking cues from such recent headlines as Chandra Levy and Blackwater – not to mention the classic “All the President’s Men” – this film plays politicians and journalists against each other in a continually shifting game of back-scratching and back-stabbing.

Congressman Stephen Collins (Ben Affleck), a rising political star, is caught up in a scandal that may or may not have anything to do with a string of murders being investigated by Washington Globe reporter Cal McAffrey (Russell Crowe).

Caught in the middle is a plucky young blogger played by Rachel McAdams, who teams up with McAffrey to get to the bottom of events that spin more and more improbably out of control.

The film features terrific performances from its aforementioned stars; Helen Mirren has some especially choice moments as Cal’s vinegary editor.

But the filmmakers seem less interested in its text than in its subtext, in this case the death rattle of Old Media. (1:57; rated PG-13 for violence, profanity, including sexual references and brief drug content.).

‘Earth’

You may have seen the television ads for this debut documentary feature from Disney about the struggles of three animal families (polar bear, elephant and whale) to survive against the elements.

The ads begin, “Wherever there is life, there are stories.” That’s really what this movie is: a gorgeously photographed storybook.

It starts with a mother polar bear and her two cubs in Norway, moves to equatorial Africa for a look at a herd of elephants searching for water and ends with the journey of a humpback whale and her calf to Antarctica.

In between, there’s plenty of jaw-dropping cinematography. (1:29, rated G)

Also available: “Sin Nombre,” “Supernatural: The Complete Fourth Season,” “Two and a Half Men: The Complete Sixth Season”

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