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by INLANDER STAFF & r & & r & ALIEN VS. PREDATOR: REQUIEM & r & & r & Red is indeed the color of Christmas. Colin and Greg Strause got fans in a froth when they won an R rating for this reprise of their terrible monster-on-monster flick from 2003. The monsters seem very monster-ish, and as they duke it out on Earth, their appetites for blowing people up, flaying them or biting them with big, drooling teeth remains unabated. Opens Christmas Day (KT) Rated R





ATONEMENT


Based on a prestigious novel, this has "Oscar contender" written all over it. In 1935 England, a little rich girl has a crush on a young man (James McAvoy) who's well-educated but lower-class; he longs for the girl's older sister (Keira Knightley). The little girl gets Robbie in some very deep trouble. Then the Dunkirk evacuation scrambles all their lives. The question is: Will the film sentimentalize the separated-lovers plot, or will it retain novelist Ian McEwan's emphasis on the soul-draining difficulty of lifelong remorse? (MB) Rated R





CHARLIE WILSON'S WAR


Director Mike Nichols and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin have conspired to make a campy, satirical movie about the way America funded and trained the soldiers of Osama bin Laden. Every line is delivered with a wink and a nudge. Tom Hanks and Julia Roberts trade too-witty barbs as a boozing and womanizing congressman and a right-wing socialite; meanwhile, Philip Seymour Hoffman steals scenes as a loose cannon and CIA fix-it man. (CS) Rated R





CONTROL


In the late '70s, control is what lead singer Ian Curtis of the post-punk band Joy Division didn't have. Curtis (Sam Riley) couldn't control his marriage, his band or his body (he had epilepsy) -- leading to his suicide at age 23. Control is based on Touched From a Distance, a biography of Curtis by his wife; even at age 30, Samantha Morton convincingly plays the teenage Deborah. (MB) Rated R





THE GREAT DEBATERS


African-Americans ought to idolize educators and accomplished students, not just athletes, celebrities and musicians. That seems to be some of the impulse behind this true-story film produced by Oprah and directed by and starring Denzel Washington. Somehow during the Depression, a small college in East Texas managed to challenge mighty Harvard in the national college debate finals. As the debate coach, Washington will face off against Forrest Whitaker. Opens Christmas Day. (MB) Rated PG-13





NATIONAL TREASURE: BOOK OF SECRETS


When his great-grandfather is accused of being the mastermind behind Lincoln's assassination, Ben Gates (Nick Cage) heads out to clear Gramp's name. He ends up, though, discovering the existence of a book that holds all of America's secrets (the JFK cover-up, the missing Watergate tapes, Area 51). Did you see the first National Treasure? Expect the same here. (LB) Rated PG-13





P.S. I LOVE YOU


A passionate married couple (Hilary Swank, Gerard Butler) is dealt a terrible blow when he suddenly dies and she, despite helpful friends, feels alone in the world. The film manages to find a lot of humor and positive vibes in the situation when she starts receiving letters of instruction from him, written when he was still alive, suggesting how she can get on with her life and maybe even find love again. (ES) Rated PG-13





SWEENEY TODD


Tim Burton and Johnny Depp -- together again -- in a big splashy version of the Stephen Sondheim musical about a Victorian-era barber (Depp) who, with his sharpest razors, decides to take revenge upon the dastardly judge (Alan Rickman) who tore him apart from his family. Helena Bonham Carter plays his accomplice, who makes meat pies with very special ingredients, and Sacha Baron Cohen plays an "Italian" snake oil salesman. It's gory and violent, and the songs aren't up to Sondheim par, but Burton's vision is amazing. (ES) Rated R





WALK HARD: THE DEWEY COX STORY


Finally, the long-awaited arrival of two inevitable film phenomena: the slapstick parody of the legendary-musician-battles-personal-demons biopic; and the coming of John-C.-Reilly-as-comedic-leading-man. Reilly plays a grits-brained, skirt-chasing, drug-addled country musician who goes from teen wonder to has-been and everywhere in between. Produced by Judd Apatow (Knocked Up) and Jake Kasdan (Orange County) and co-starring Jack White as Elvis and The Office's Jenna Fischer as Cox's ever-loving one-and-only one. (JS) Rated R





THE WATER HORSE: LEGEND OF THE DEEP


A little boy in Scotland finds what looks like a baby dinosaur. So the family decides that the creature -- by now, it's enormous -- has to be set free to swim in a nearby lake. Which, since this is Scotland, is known as a "Loch." Opens Christmas Day. (MB) Rated PG

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