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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





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





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





ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE


Director Shekhar Kapur squanders the potential for contemporary parallels -- and even for historical accuracy -- in his over-romanticized treatment of personal and political events in the 1580s. Cate Blanchett is regal as Elizabeth I, Clive Owen is asked to swash too many buckles as Sir Walter Raleigh, and Abbie Cornish steals soap-opera thunder as the queen's lady-in-waiting. (MB) Rated PG-13





THE FINAL SEASON


Sean Astin encourages the residents of a small town in Iowa to rally behind the high school baseball team and its coach one last time before their school gets merged into another. (MB) Rated PG





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





THE HEARTBREAK KID


Ben Stiller suffers at the hands of a series of hollow, one-dimensional harpies in the Farrelly Brothers' remake of Neil Simon's 1972 original. The old one hit No. 91 on AFI's list of the funniest movies ever. This version misses the mark. (MJ) Rated R.





THE HUNTING PARTY


This is essentially a three-man buddy film flecked with black social satire. As cameraman and reporter, Terrence Howard and Richard Gere return to Bosnia, scene of Gere's character's nervous breakdown five years ago. But now Gere's on the trail of a genocidal dictator. Jesse Eisenberg provides comic relief in support. (LB) 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 idealistic Emory grad who gives up all worldly possessions and relationships for a two-year tramp across America, ending in an ascetic, suicidal 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





THE KINGDOM


When an FBI team (Jamie Foxx, Chris Cooper, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman) is sent to Saudi Arabia to investigate a horrific terrorist bombing, they find that local politics and traditions get in the way of everything they're trying to do. Part character study, part extremely intense action film. (ES) 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





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





MR. WOODCOCK


Fat kid (Seann William Scott) gets tormented by his P.E. teacher (Billy Bob Thornton), matures into a self-help author, looks on horrified as Mom marries Mr. Woodcock. (MB) Rated PG-13





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)





THINGS WE LOST IN THE FIRE


When Steven, husband of Audrey Burke (Halle Berry), is killed, she forms a close bond with Jerry (Benicio Del Toro), the childhood friend with whom Steven had recently reconnected. (LB) Rated R





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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