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by THE INLANDER & r & & r & AMERICAN GANGSTER & r & & r & Denzel Washington is the New York drug kingpin who does lots of business under the radar of the Italian Mob in the late 1960s. Russell Crowe is the clean cop who's out to clean up the streets. By interweaving multiple storylines about family relationships, good and bad cops, and powerful opposites bumping heads, director Ridley Scott and writer Steve Zaillian have created a tight, tough, gripping, nasty movie. (ES) Rated R





AUGUST RUSH


An orphaned boy named Evan (Freddie Highmore) connects his main love of music to his parents as he tries intently to find them on his own. His parents, a talented cellist from Juilliard and an Irish rock star (Keri Russell and Jonathan Rhys Meyers) briefly meet, fall in love, and are torn apart by an overpowering parent. Eleven years down the road, the parents are still unaware of Evan's existence until the musical prodigy ventures out to find them on his own. The acting of a few of the minor characters is unimpressive but the encouraging storyline and Highmore's ability to win over an audience make it a movie worthwhile. (AEM) Rated PG





AWAKE


When young billionaire Hayden Christensen undergoes a heart transplant, he finds that he's mentally awake but physically paralyzed as doctors pry open his chest. The phenomenon is real, though it's statistically overblown in the film's publicity and opening title cards. Unfortunately, that discussion overshadows a surprisingly good film. Christensen's a bore, but the Keyzer Soze plot twist and first-time director Joby Harold's clever obfuscation of good and bad are worth 78 minutes of your life. (JS) Rated R





BEE MOVIE


Jerry Seinfeld stars as a honeybee who escapes the hive, discovers that humans are stealing the world's honey, sues, then has to save the planet and its dying plant life. (JS) Rated PG





BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD


Director Sydney Lumet (Network) has long been able to pull beautiful performances from his actors, and here he provides guidance as two brothers (Ethan Hawke and Philip Seymour Hoffman) -- one strapped for cash, the other outwardly successful, both moral failures -- betray their parents. The film hangs on whether their father (Albert Finney) chooses vengeance or forgiveness. On that score, unfortunately, Before the Devil Knows You're Dead blows its d & eacute;nouement as badly as its characters have screwed up their own lives. (LB) Rated R





BELLA


Jose had a professional soccer career in line when a traumatizing accident turns him into a chef for his brother's classy restaurant. Flashbacks from this disturbing experience still haunt him. When a young girl, Nina, gets fired at the restaurant, Jose accompanies her around the city as she confides in him about her plans for getting an abortion. It's a heartwarming story about good people and unfortunate events. (AEM) Rated PG-13





BEOWULF


Director Robert Zemeckis foolishly inflicts the Polar Express treatment on this tale of a medieval warrior (Ray Winstone) fighting a man-devouring beast (Crispin Glover). Zemeckis spent millions of dollars computer-retouching live actors so they would resemble... themselves. It's like looking at corpses trying to fool us into thinking they're alive. (MJ) Rated PG-13





ENCHANTED


The sweet silliness of the collective Disney animated fairy tale landscape meets the rough reality of Noo Yawk City? Why didn't someone think of this sooner? Evil queen Susan Sarandon banishes princess Amy Adams from a parody of an animated world to an idealized version of Central Park -- with prince James Marsden in florid pursuit and McDreamy Patrick Dempsey lying in wait as a divorce lawyer. Wholly suitable for both kids and grownups, Enchanted is such a Disney-rific farewell to the days of hand-drawn animation that it's, well, enchanting. (MAJ) Rated PG





THE GOLDEN COMPASS


If it weren't for the wondrous visuals on display in this first film installment of the His Dark Materials trilogy, this would only merit a "wait for the DVD" rating. The too-confounding story traces the adventures of young Lyra (Dakota Blue Richards), the only person who can read the title Compass. She and her shape-shifting daemon must go up against the evils of Mrs. Coulter (Nicole Kidman) and get a giant ice bear (voice of Ian McKellen) on her side, as she searches for a way to travel between worlds. More is coming in two planned sequels. (ES) Rated PG-13





HITMAN


Agent 47 is an assassin. He has no name because he doesn't need to interact with society at large, other than to murder little individual pieces of it. He was secreted from an orphanage as a young boy, taken by a shadow organization whose sole purpose is to produce the world's best killers, and he was trained to be exactly that. As he trots the globe trying to figure out who set him up in the killing of the Russian president, we learn some lessons about videogames (Hitman is based on the long-running PC and console franchise) and how their film adaptations break the fourth wall. (LB) Rated R





LUST, CAUTION


Ang Lee's first film since Brokeback Mountain is the story about a na & iuml;ve school girl and her na & iuml;ve school friends who, wanting to help in some way with the Chinese war effort during World War II, hatch a plan to kill an operative that requires the girl to seduce the man. Lust, Caution isn't even mostly about sex. It's about the pressures put on people of conscience during wartime and the horrible choices that often need to be made between loyalty to country and loyalty to people. A beautiful, horrifying film. (LB) Rated NC-17





THE MIST


Working in collaboration with horrormeister Stephen King himself, director Frank Darabont (The Shawshank Redemption, The Green Mile) has produced a low-budget horror film worthy of being categorized with Psycho and Night of the Living Dead. When fog enshrouds a strip mall and a father and son are threatened by scary monsters, groupthink hysteria and individual responses to the unknown are put to the test. (CS) Rated R





MR. MAGORIUM'S WONDER EMPORIUM


The toy store of Edward Magorium (Dustin Hoffman) is full of magic, but only if you believe in it. When a mirthless accountant (Jason Bateman) drops by, all the toys play dead. Molly (Natalie Portman), the store's awkward manager, wonders why the need for an accountant nosing around -- until Magorium confesses he's leaving the store to her. Then things really get interesting: toy riots. (LB) Rated G





NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN


When Llewellyn Moss (Josh Brolin) finds the remnants of what looks like a drug deal gone bad -- lots of heroin, money and dead bodies -- he decides to take the money. Bad choice: That puts a psychopath (Javier Bardem) on his trail. And while Tommy Lee Jones' sheriff provides some help, Llewellyn has now plunged himself into a world in which everyday things -- a coin toss, a dog, a phone call -- turn lethal. Joel and Ethan Coen return to the violent black comedy of Fargo. (ES) Rated R





ONCE


A spare, beautiful quasi-musical about a street singer and the poor immigrant in whom he finds a muse, Once is easily the best movie I've seen in 2007. More than that, it's probably the most beautiful and guileless film to emerge from a decade overly obsessed with cleverness. (LB) Rated R





SEA MONSTERS


The IMAX folks spent so much on CG animation that they had to scrimp on cast. Still, the story of a family of dolichorynchops making their way in the world is compelling. And the graphics are, occasionally, stunning. (JS)





THIS CHRISTMAS


A Home for the Holidays-esque film, This Christmas follows the Whitfield siblings as they troop home for Christmas, each of them bringing their dramas. Lisa (Regina King) is coping with her cheating husband, Claude Whitfield (Columbus Short) is a soldier gone AWOL, and Michael "Baby" Whitfield (Chris Brown) is struggling to become a singer. The matriarch of the family (Loretta Devine), while coping as her children's inner secrets continually become revealed, is just happy to have everyone home. (TLM) Rated PG-13

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