9 3 stars (PG-13) In a post-apocalyptic city, robotic ragdolls, including inquisitive 9 (voiced by Elijah Wood), fight off the remnants of the war machines that destroyed humanity. With so many computer-animated cartoon features devoted to pop-savvy kiddie comedies about talking animals, it's refreshing to see a CGI adventure with a unique vision. Director Shane Acker's vision of jerry-rigged, Rube Goldberg-style inventions and landscapes can be fascinating. That said, 9 is PG-13 for a reason, and may be too intense for little kids and too dark for many adults. It's like Pinocchio vs. Terminator. — Curt Holman
AMELIA 2 stars (PG) Two-time Best Actress Oscar-winner Hilary Swank certainly looks the part as toothy, tomboyish aviatrix Amelia Earhart, playing opposite Richard Gere as Earhart’s publisher, promoter and husband-to-be George Putnam. But, unbelievably, director Mira Nair shows virtually no interest in the excitement of aviation, preferring to focus on Earhart’s love triangle with Gene Vidal (Ewan McGregor) and her celebrity as a 1930s feminist icon. A beautifully photographed biopic, Amelia generates almost no dramatic interest until the re-creation of the last leg of her final flight. — Holman
ASTRO BOY 4 stars (G) When Dr. Tenma’s (Nicolas Cage) son Tobio (Freddie Highmore) meets an unfortunate end, the grief-stricken scientist creates a robotic boy in his son’s image powered by an experimental power source — blue-core energy. Tobio soon learns he’ll never replace his flesh-and-blood predecessor and flees when facing deactivation from his father and war-mongering General Stone (Donald Sutherland). His escape takes the young robot on an action-packed journey where his destiny is ultimately revealed.
BLACK DYNAMITE 4 stars (R) Mack daddy and one-man killing machine Black Dynamite (Michael Jai White) wages a vendetta against jive turkeys who killed his brother and peddled dope to kids. His righteous battles uncover a conspiracy that takes him from the 'hood all the way to "the Honky House." Giving credit where it's due, White's portrayal of Dynamite is effortless and shows a rarely seen comedic side. As the story progresses, the jokes start to get a bit stale, but the film revives itself as it reaches its oddly climactic ending. Although Black Dynamite successfully spoofs the campy essence of blaxploitation films of the '70s, it perfectly balances its riffs as an homage to the badass alpha-male leads and social-message vehicle the genre spawned.— Edward Adams
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