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8/18/2006 8:00 PM Eastern

When the Levees Broke

Home Box Office Monday, Aug. 21, and Tuesday, Aug. 22 (9 p.m.)

Spike Lee’s epic When The Levees Broke is an exhaustive “film document” about New Orleans before, during and after Hurricane Katrina. The four-hour documentary is a wrenching experience that will leave viewers profoundly moved and more than a little angry.

Dubbed “A Requiem In Four Acts,” Levees opens with a montage of footage showing pre- and post-Katrina New Orleans accompanied by the plaintive strains of “Do You Know What It Means to Miss New Orleans.” The song’s images of magnolias in bloom and a lazy Mississippi are the perfect accompaniment and a melancholy counterpoint to the images on screen.

Lee interviewed nearly 100 people — among them, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, Rev. Al Sharpton and countless New Orleans residents — and he wisely lets them do all the talking, without narration or commentary. One standout is Phyllis Montana LeBlanc, whose spirited recounting of her own struggle for survival is unforgettable.

From the failure of the levees to the failure of government, the documentary is a painful reminder of how New Orleans was not only a victim of natural disaster but also of bureaucracy and neglect. It’s hard to watch Levees without thinking how ironic it is that the Big Easy’s other nickname is “The City That Care Forgot.” — George Vernadakis

Cheetah Girls 2

Disney Channel Friday, Aug. 25 (8 p.m.)

The Disney Channel aims to continue its successful run of music-based original movies with a sequel to the franchise that arguably sounded the first successful notes for the genre, The Cheetah Girls.

Cheetah Girls 2 marks the return of Galleria (Raven-Symone), Aquanetta (Kiely Williams), Dorinda (Sabrina Bryan) and Chanel (Adrienne Bailon) as a New York-based, teenaged multicultural singing group trying to fulfill their dreams of stardom. The movie transports the girls from the streets of New York to the picturesque avenues of Barcelona, where they are to compete in an international amateur music contest.

While there, each of the girls gets swept up in other personal pursuits that take their eye off the prize and ultimately threaten to break up the group. Eventually, they get it together and take the competition stage in the movie’s final climactic and energetic musical number.

The writing and storyline have improved from the 2003 version, and the dance performances choreographed by High School Musical director Kenny Ortega will surely have tweens dancing in school halls for a long time to come. Combine that with the movie’s catchy mix of R&B, Latin and rock tunes, and Disney will no doubt be riding the Cheetah Girls 2 to the top of the ratings and CD sales charts. — R. Thomas Umstead

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