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•THE MARINE (PG-13) WWE wrestler John Cena makes his film debut as John Triton (which, frankly, makes a better wrestler name), a Marine who returns from the Iraq War only to see more combat stateside when his wife his kidnapped by an evil gang.
•THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993) **** (PG) The skeletal lord of Halloween gets a serious case of Christmas spirit and decides to replace Santa Claus, with chaotic results, in this stop-motion animated musical produced by Tim Burton. With more big laughs and fewer downbeat Danny Elfman songs, it could be a genuine classic. As is, it offers such visual delights that nearly every frame qualifies as a work of art. Re-released in a 3-D IMAX version. -- Holman
•ONE NIGHT WITH THE KING (PG) This retelling of the biblical story of Esther, who rises from slavery to become advisor to a king, includes supporting performances from Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif and John Rhys-Davies.
•OPEN SEASON (PG) A sheltered grizzly bear (voiced by Martin Lawrence) and a gabby mule deer (Ashton Kutcher) become unlikely allies in the wilderness. The presence of former Replacements singer-songwriter Paul Westerberg providing the film's music helps set it apart from this year's herd of mammal-based computer-animated films (The Wild, Over the Hedge, Barnyard, etc.).
•THE PRESTIGE **** (PG-13) Christian Bale and Hugh Jackman play rival Victorian-era stage magicians in an enchanting, intricate period piece. Director Christopher Nolan (Memento, Batman Begins) raises the suspense and emotional stakes of Christopher Priest's seemingly unfilmable novel, which features fascinating behind-the-scenes details of an illusionist's craft as well as the eternal tension between showmanship and technical perfectionism. The Prestige provides plenty of razzle-dazzle and clever construction that will reward a second viewing, even if the ambiguous ending prompts arguments about how they did it. -- Holman
•SCHOOL FOR SCOUNDRELS ** (PG-13) The 40-Year-Old Virgin minus the ongoing wit or sensitivity, this nerd-boy comedy stars a likable Jon Heder (Napolean Dynamite) as a parking cop prone to anxiety attacks and all-around twinkie behavior who gets in touch with his inner Butch by enrolling in a Learning Annex class taught by Alpha Male Billy Bob Thornton. -- Feaster
•THE SCIENCE OF SLEEP ** An aspiring artist (Gael García Bernal) finds his attraction to his next-door-neighbor (Charlotte Gainsbourg) complicated by his increasing difficulty in distinguishing his dreams from reality. French director Michel Gondry revisits similar themes from his Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind but the wild, surreal visuals never hold together as elegantly as in the previous film. Sleep nevertheless offers many lovely, memorable sequences, many involving stop-motion animation, that convey the messy, bric-a-brac of dreams and the circular nature of our obsessions. -- Holman
•SHORTBUS ** (NR) Beware directors who say they're going to make the definitive sex movie. With just one (albeit an exceptional one) film under his belt, Hedwig and the Angry Inch, John Cameron Mitchell feels it's time to tackle porno-quality sex married to an actual art-house story. The explicit sex is frank all right -- much of it placed front and center in the film's introduction -- but is tied to a shallow story about sexy New Yorkers who are having a hard time in bed. Sex therapist Sofia (Sook-Yin Lee) is unable to achieve orgasm and former hustler James (Paul Dawson) is unable to deeply connect to the man he loves. Mitchell suggests post-Sept. 11 angst is to blame, but cardboard characters and dialogue out of a 1960s encounter session may be the real problem. -- Feaster
•THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE: THE BEGINNING So how did Leatherface get such, uh, a leathery face? Find out in this prequel to the Chainsaw franchise of sequels and remakes, featuring Full Metal Jacket's R. Lee Ermey as evil sheriff father.
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