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by THE INLANDER & r & & r & ACROSS THE UNIVERSE & r & Julie Taymor's phantasmagorical musical takes almost three dozen Beatles songs, shapes a story from their lyrics, and puts characters together to present a spin through the '60s, complete with an anti-war stance and lotsa drugs. The Beatles don't exist in this world. Instead, the familiar songs seem to come right from the hearts of Lucy, Jude, Max, Prudence and Dr. Robert. (ES) Rated PG-13





AMERICAN GANGSTER


Denzel Washington is the heavy -- 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 -- known among peers, in a derogatory way, as a Boy Scout -- 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





THE ASSASSINATION OF JESSE JAMES BY THE COWARD ROBERT FORD


Casey Affleck is mesmerizing as the coward -- a 20-year old who's been obsessed with the James brothers since childhood. The title gives away the ending, but the journey is viscerally suspenseful, as Jesse James (played by a typically insane Brad Pitt) loses his mind and sinks into paranoia, mysticism and pointless revenge. (JS) Rated R





BEE MOVIE


Thankfully, those early trailers suggesting that Bee Movie was going to be a live-action film imitating an animated one (with real actors in fuzzy costumes pretending to be cartoon characters) proved false. The film is indeed CG-animated. Jerry Seinfeld (in his first -- and maybe only -- feature role) 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





THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM


The second sequel in the series takes everything up a couple of notches. Matt Damon returns as the amnesia-suffering former CIA agent, regularly chased and shot at for reasons that are revealed. (ES) Rated PG-13





THE COMEBACKS


Washed-up coach takes over the football program at Heartland State. His team's hopeless and populated by stereotypes. Naturally, they hone their skills, win games and get to play in the Toilet Bowl. Which tells you all you need to know about the humor quotient in The Comebacks. (MB) Rated PG-13





DAN IN REAL LIFE


Dan (Steve Carell) is a sad widower who, during a family get-together, finally finds another woman who interests him (Juliette Binoche), only to discover that she's the new girlfriend of his brother (Dane Cook). It's a great idea, but it falters, then runs out of steam, then tries a little too hard to pick up the beat again. Carell and Binoche are pretty good, but they need stronger writing around them. (ES) Rated PG-13





THE DARJEELING LIMITED


The story of three estranged brothers coerced by the oldest into a spiritual journey of reconciliation, Darjeeling is a picturesque film, shot in Wes Anderson's inimitable style. It's cold, though, more cynical than his previous works and almost humorless. That tone grates against the preciousness of the camerawork and makes for the brilliant director's least enjoyable, least redeemable work yet. (LB) Rated R





THE GAMEPLAN


Joseph Kingman should consider a vasectomy. Seriously. When you're the world's best football player and a perennial playboy bachelor something's bound to sneak up on you. That's exactly what happens when Kingman (the Rock) answers a doorbell one day to find he has a daughter. One part Any Given Sunday, one part Adventures in Babysitting and ten parts Big Daddy. (LB) Rated PG





GONE BABY GONE


Ben Affleck makes a solid directing debut in this gritty thriller about the kidnapping of a 4-year-old girl. It stars little bro Casey Affleck (in a terrific performance) and Michelle Monaghan as a private detective couple. With Ed Harris, and featuring a breakout role by Amy Ryan as the mom. (ES) Rated R.





HURRICANE ON THE BAYOU


Hurricane on the Bayou examines Hurricane Katrina as an ecological issue. Beginning as a documentary about the Mississippi Delta, the filmmakers end up turning their IMAX cameras on Katrina. (MD) Not Rated; no deaths are depicted





INTO THE WILD


Sean Penn adapts Jon Krakauer's 1996 nonfiction story about a screwed-up, brilliant, naively idealist who gives up all worldly possessions for a two-year tramp across America, ending in an ascetic retreat to the Alaskan wilderness. At 140 minutes, it's over-long, and its structure is as loopy as our protagonist (played by Emile Hirsch) and his journey. But what a journey! The gorgeous Alaskan scenery and the finely portrayed characters he meets along the way -- Vince Vaughn, Catherine Keener and a riveting Hal Holbrook -- make this a deeply affecting road movie. (JS) Rated R





LA VIE EN ROSE


This inscrutably told biopic of Edith Piaf's brief, sad life is lifted considerably by Marion Cotillard's performance. Director Olivier Dahan's frequent time shifting, though, obscures the march of tragedy, trying to connect past causes with future effects but never pausing long enough on one event. (LB) Rated PG-13





LARS AND THE REAL GIRL


Ryan Gosling stars as a troubled fellow with no social skills who brings a girl home to meet his family. But she's an inflatable doll he calls Bianca -- a "missionary" who's confined to a wheelchair. The premise wears out early, yet plods on. (ES) Rated PG-13





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





MARTIAN CHILD


Grieving widower John Cusack decides to adopt a quirky 6-year-old boy. Kid lives in a cardboard box and thinks he's from Mars. Heartwarming connections between misfit father and son ensue. (MB) Rated PG





MICHAEL CLAYTON


George Clooney, looking ragged, plays a "fixer" in a Manhattan law firm. He's the guy who cleans up the nasty messes the bosses don't want to deal with. But one call involves a litigator in his own office (Tom Wilkinson) who has decided to work against instead of for his client when he realizes that a mega-corporation is guilty. A nail-biter with classy performances and a tight, twisting script. (ES) Rated R





RENDITION


When an Egyptian-born American is taken into custody at an American airport, he vanishes, leaving his wife (Reese Witherspoon) angry. An old friend tries to help, then a CIA analyst (Jake Gyllenhaal) begins to question everything. (ES) Rated R





SAW IV


There's nothing surprising in the Saw IV trailer. It's looks to have the same dank corridors, arcane, flesh-shredding traps and clueless victims that have populated the previous three flicks. (LB) Rated R





SEA MONSTERS


The IMAX folks spent so much on CG animation that they had to scrimp on cast. The actor paleontologists who share the screen with the prehistoric deep-sea behemoths that once freely navigated the vast inland sea that covered Middle America are bad, but the story of a family of dolichorynchops making their way in the world is compelling. And the graphics are, occasionally, stunning. (JS)





30 DAYS OF NIGHT


A small Alaskan town, going through its annual month of darkness, is visited by a gang of vampires who, of course, thrive in the dark and, in this case, don't have to worry about any sunlight for a long time. (ES) Rated R





THIS IS ENGLAND


This raw and wrenching movie by writer-director Shane Meadows, set in 1983, tells how a lonely, basically gentle kid (Thomas Turgoose) ends up in room full of skinheads -- and why he doesn't get up and leave. The title is less a bellow than a shrug: These gray council houses, these fascist friends ... yeah, this is England. Turgoose plays the 12-year-old (a version of Meadows himself) as vulnerable-tough -- full of sawed-off cockiness but still grieving for his father. (JR) Not Rated





WE OWN THE NIGHT


The Russian Mafia is making lots of inroads in New York of the 1980s. Among those cops working to contain them are a father and son (Robert Duvall, Mark Wahlberg). But another son (Joaquin Phoenix) is on the payroll of the bad guys. (ES) Rated R

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