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by THE INLANDER & r & & r & AN AMERICAN CAROL & r & & r & By the guy who created Airplane and the Naked Gun series comes a mishmash satire that asks the question: What if a Michael Moore-type documentarian were visited -- in Christmas Carol fashion -- by the ghosts of George Washington, George S. Patton and ... by the look of it, Trace Adkins. Bill O'Reilly has a cameo. Kelsey Grammar plays Patton. (LB) Rated PG-13





APPALOOSA


The Robert B. Parker book that celebrates loyalty and friendship -- and dangerous good guys versus despicable bad guys -- in the Old West was directed by and stars Ed Harris as a lawman for hire who comes to the town of Appaloosa with his trusty deputy (Viggo Mortensen) to deal with the nasty yet classy villain (Jeremy Irons) who believes he owns everyone and everything there. There's also a love interest (Ren & eacute;e Zellweger), but the guys are more interesting. (ES) Rated R





BEVERLY HILLS CHIHUAHUA


Not much more to be gleaned from the trailer than cute lap dogs singing truly horrible songs. It's too soon to tell if this film will be another way marker on the road to the apocalypse, but we'd wager a guarded "Yes." (LB) Rated G





BODY OF LIES


A senior CIA strategist (Russell Crowe) and a Middle East operative (Leonardo Dicaprio) are hunting down an Osama Bin Laden wannabe, and it's all good, from the perspective of entertainment: The film is clever and subtle and demands that you pay attention, and rewards you. But there are some scary think-bombs here about how terror is theater, a kind of performance on the world stage that both sides are playing on. (MJ) Rated R





BURN AFTER READING


I've figured out how Joel and Ethan Coen do it -- they don't think about tone or genre: They just think about a character. A brilliant but heartless killer like Anton Chigurh is naturally going to take them in one direction, and so we get No Country for Old Men. And a bubble-headed knuckleknob like Chad Feldheimer is naturally going to take them in another direction, and so we get Burn After Reading. (MJ) Rated R





CITY OF EMBER


Children's fantasy centering on a colony of survivors buried in a city deep below the earth. The city that has kept them alive and safe from the harsh outside world is beginning to die, and now it's up to a ragtag group of kids to solve the riddle to escape Ember. Bill Murray and Tim Robbins play the grownups. (LB) Rated PG





THE DARK KNIGHT


Seldom do follow-ups ring so true to the original, then do them one better. Director Christopher Nolan revisits what he did with Batman Begins and improves everything. Christian Bale is gloomier, both as Bruce Wayne and as the Caped Crusader, while Heath Ledger's intense, frightening and funny Joker might make the world forget that Nicholson ever played him. (ES) Rated PG-13





THE DUCHESS


Georgiana Spencer, the 18th-century Duchess of Devonshire (Keira Knightley), was a hard-drinking, politically outspoken pop hero and fashion plate of her day. But there was trouble in the bedroom, as her husband (Ralph Fiennes), who wanted her around only to produce an heir, had a live-in mistress. An intriguing premise, but the lush-looking film is underwritten and overacted, and not one of these sad, wealthy, woe-begotten people is worth giving a hoot about. (ES) Rated PG-13





EAGLE EYE


Using cell phones and GPS and whatever, some mean old lady is tracking Shia LeBeouf and Michelle Monaghan's every move! It's so creepy! And they're, like, being framed as terrorists, so now the entire country is chasing after them! They're trying so hard to be like Hitchcock and, you know, win Oscars! Which they won't. (MB) Rated PG-13





THE EXPRESS


The based-on-fact story of Ernie Davis, the talented halfback who played magnificent football for Syracuse but never made it to a professional career. It's also a study of racism in America in the '40s, '50s, and '60s, and how it affected student sports. Great performances by Rob Brown as Davis and Dennis Quaid as Syracuse coach Ben Schwartzwalder. Also: terrific action, great '50s music, and a positive message. (ES) Rated PG





FIREPROOF


Working as a firefighter for the city, Caleb Holt (Kirk Cameron) is known across town as a hero. Although he regularly rescues people from burning buildings, his marriage is going down the drain. Cameron's character is about to give up and leave his wife when his father sends him on a "Love Dare." (TLM) Rated PG





MAX PAYNE


You know videogame adaptations are hitting their stride when a studio is able to book Mark Wahlberg in the title role of a noir shooter about a cop who comes home from his beat to find his wife and daughter murdered by drug dealers. An odd twist is that the film seems to have Max fighting demons, or at least winged creatures, something the videogame never tackled. Fanboys are pissed about the rating undermining the ultraviolence of the game. (LB) Rated PG-13





NICK and NORAH'S INFINITE PLAYLIST


It's Ferris Bueller's Night Out, though sweeter and less snarky. Sensitive musician Nick (Michael Cera) has been dumped by bitchy Tris (Alexis Dziena), but hey: no previous cohort of teenaged boys would have been given the chance to get dumped by her in the first place. And then he meets Norah (Kat Dennings). This is a Romeo + Juliet for the iPod generation, when labels and cliques have disappeared and we all have only ourselves to blame for our stumbling blocks. (MJ) Rated PG-13





NIGHTS IN RODANTHE


Diane Lane is at odds with her husband, so she agrees to escape by spending a weekend house-sitting a friend's inn on the coast of North Carolina. And wouldn't you know it? In walks ... Richard Gere. (Ladies, you should be so lucky.) He's tormented, of course, by personal problems of his own. Is that romance we can smell in the salty sea air? (MB) Rated PG-13





QUARANTINE


An apartment building is quarantined. When a hazmat team is sent in two days later, the residents are nowhere to be found. Quarantine tells the story of the interim, where a reporter and some firemen get slowly picked apart by those absentee residents... who happen to have turned into zombies. (LB) Rated R





RELIGULOUS


Documentary wherein Bill Maher goes around telling adherents to basically every faith on earth that they're morons for believing in God. (LB) Rated R





SEX DRIVE


A loser with a crappy job who has never had a girlfriend starts a cyber-relationship with a hot girl by telling her he's a college football player. Then he steals his brother's GTO to drive cross-country to meet her. Seth Green is involved. Write your own joke here. (LB) Rated R





THE SECRET LIFE OF BEES


Queen Latifah and Dakota Fanning star in the film about a family of African-American sisters with a bee farm in the '60s who help an orphaned white girl with nowhere else to turn. Then the white neighbors catch wind. (LB) Rated PG-13





W.


Surely this is the greatest satire of the American presidency ever made. It's like Being There, but more terrifying: Instead of a wise, gentle idiot becoming president, it's an incurious, perpetually adolescent idiot. Surely this would be a horror story if it were true. "George W. Bush" -- a vivid yet intentionally appalling creation of Josh Brolin, director Oliver Stone and screenwriter Stanley Weiser -- is a shocking, swaggering caricature, but an endlessly amusing one. And Stone's mock-tragic undertone is riotous. (MJ) Rated PG-13

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