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by THE INLANDER & r & & r & ACROSS THE UNIVERSE & r & & r & Julie Taymor's phantasmagorical musical takes almost three dozen Beatles songs, shapes a story from their lyrics to present a spin through the '60s, complete with an anti-war stance and lotsa drugs. (ES) Rated PG-13





AMERICAN GANGSTER


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





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





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 haunts him. When a young girl, Nina gets fired from her job at the restaurant, Jose accompanies her around the city for the day as she confides in him about her unexpected pregnancy and her plans for getting an abortion. It's a heartwarming story about good people and unfortunate events. (AM) 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





DAN IN REAL LIFE


Dan (Steve Carell) is a sad widower who 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. (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. (LB) Rated R





FRED CLAUS


A classic Vince Vaughn performance, cleaned up for a PG rating, turns out to be not so funny. Paul Giamatti plays a Santa Claus who may be forced to abandon Christmas because of Fred's negligence. Kevin Spacey plays the villain who threatens to move Christmas to the South Pole. The movie has childish humor but even with appearances by Chris "Ludacris" Bridges as the North Pole's Elf DJ, the film fails to bring comedic relief to the rest of us. (AM) 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.





INTO THE WILD


Sean Penn adapts Jon Krakauer's 1996 nonfiction story about a screwed-up, brilliant, naive idealist who gives up all worldly possessions for a two-year tramp across America, ending in an ascetic retreat to the Alaskan wilderness. The gorgeous Alaskan scenery and the finely portrayed characters he meets along the way make this a deeply affecting road movie. (JS) Rated R





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





LIONS FOR LAMBS


A conservative senator (Tom Cruise) tries to convince a liberal reporter (Meryl Streep) about his plan to salvage Iraq by winning in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, an Army helicopter crashes and the Taliban closes in. And a professor (Robert Redford) wonders why his students have tuned out. (ES) Rated R





LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA


Only in the contrary mind of Gabriel Garcia Marquez could a journal of sexual conquests be seen as a story of fidelity and crippling unrequited love. Young heiress Fermina leaves Florentino to pine for decades, through war, cholera, age -- and those 622 lovers. The film isn't as evocative as the book, but it is simple, absurd and heartfelt. In its own imperfect way, it's magic. (LB) Rated R





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 plays a "fixer" in a Manhattan law firm. But one call involves a litigator in his own office (Tom Wilkinson) who has decided to work against instead of for his clienty. A nail-biter with classy performances and a tight, twisting script. (ES) 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 END IN SIGHT


A documentary about the descent of Iraq from a brutal dictatorship to a land of anarchy, told not by liberal pundits, but by people like Richard Armitage and Barbara Bodine, who were in charge of Iraq -- the people who were actually there, on the ground, making suggestions and seeing those suggestions ignored time and again. (LB) Not Yet Rated





P2


We'll sum up P2 -- a film about a workaholic lawyer who works late on Christmas Eve and falls victim to a murderous stalker -- in one word: "irredeemable." Security guard Thomas (Wes Bentley) starts killing people who have wronged Attorney Angela (Rachel Nichols), to woo her. That's when P2 becomes a dumb-as-hell splat-fest. (LB) 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. Still, 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





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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