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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





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 makes it a movie worthwhile. (AEM) Rated PG





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 haunt 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





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





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.





HITMAN


I'm 47 ... Agent 47. Nope, this professional assassin doesn't have a proper name. Played by a shaven-headed Timothy Olyphant, and engineered in a lab to make him perfect, he's set up and targeted by -- well, he doesn't know who's done this, but the Russians are chasing him all over creation. Things get more complicated when he falls for the lovely Nikka (Olga Kurylenko). (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





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





NO END IN SIGHT


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





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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