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GRAN TORINO 3 stars (R) For possibly his last screen role, Clint Eastwood plays a pistol-packing, bigoted Korean war vet who becomes reluctantly involved with his Hmong neighbors. Gran Turino's ideas are about as obvious as a bad Stephen King adaptation, but thereís something irresistible about the filmís middle section, when Eastwood bonds with a young man (Bee Vang) over manual labor. Gran Turino walks a fine line between critiquing vigilante tactics and endorsing them, but Eastwoodís command of the screen ultimately prevails over the filmís clunky qualities. -- Holman
HE'S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU (PG-13) From former Sex In The City writers comes this lighthearted story of love and miscommunication.
HOTEL FOR DOGS (PG) Emma Thompson and Jake T. star in this comedy about pooch-loving kids who secretly adopt dogs.
INKHEART 2 stars (PG) A single dad (Brendan Fraser) who has the power to make characters from books emerge into the real world (and vice versa), tries to find his long-lost wife (Sienna Guillory) while contending with literary characters run wild. Iain Softley directs this adaptation of a popular Young Adult novel but never seems to have a firm grasp on the premise or the magical rules. Paul Bettany, Helen Mirren and especially Andy Serkis (Gollum from The Lord of the Rings) seem to have emerged from a much better film than the one that surrounds them, and the film features amusing references to The Wizard of Oz. -- Holman
THE INTERNATIONAL 2 stars (R) An Interpol agent (Clive Owen) and a New York City attorney (Naomi Watts) try to build a case against a corrupt global bank, but all their potential witnesses end up dead. Inspired by the BCCI banking scandal of the 1990s, The International hits the national mood just right – what better time to attack financial institutions than during a global financial meltdown? Run Lola Run director offers technically proficient spy-type thrills, but the film wavers uncertainly between loud action movie and tub-thumping economic populism. -- Holman
LAST CHANCE HARVEY 2 stars (PG-13) While visiting London for his estranged daughter's wedding, Harvey Shine (Dustin Hoffman) finds a shot at love with single airline employee Kate Walker (Emma Thompson). Admirably, director Joel Hopkins gives plenty of breathing room to the two leads, who happen to be two of the finest actors of their respective generations -- Thompson in particular radiates such class and charm, she could be a lost Hepburn sister. At best the film resembles a mid-life Before Sunset, but the film doesn't give Hoffman or Thompson enough interesting things to do and fritters away its good will on Harvey's career crisis.
MADAGASCAR: ESCAPE 2 AFRICA 3 stars (PG) In this sequel to Dreamworksí hit cartoon feature from 2004, the group of Central Park zoo animals inadvertently return to their African roots but Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) has difficulties living up to his alpha male father (the late Bernie Mac). While stooping to some mean-spirited slapstick at the expense of an old lady, it improves on the original by enhancing the light-hearted character conflicts over the New-Yorkers-out-of-water-shtick. Alexís ìarcî almost resembles a thinly-veiled coming-out story, by way of The Lion King. (Incidentally, it looks great in IMAX.) -- Holman
MADEA GOES TO JAIL (PG-13) In this adaptation of a Tyler Perry play, a tough-talkin' and heat-packin' grandma spends some time behind bars.
MARLEY AND ME In this squeaky-clean film adaptation of John Grogan's book, John (played by Owen Wilson) and Jennifer (played by Jennifer Aniston) adopt a cute dog named Marley and start a family.
MILK 3 stars (R) Sean Penn offers a charismatic and uncharacteristically elfin performance as San Francisco city supervisor Harvey Milk, the first openly gay man elected to major public office in America. In many ways director Gus Van Sant delivers a conventional Hollywood biopic of a compelling martyr, but Milk's portrayal of gay activism and California ballot measures proves almost shockingly relevant as it opens after the passage of Prop 8 in California. Josh Brolin offers an intriguing supporting role as the enigmatic Dan White, Milk's fellow supervisor who seems at once attracted to and repelled by Milk. -- Holman
MY BLOODY VALENTINE 3-D (R) This gore-splattered horror flick centers around a mine-shaft tragedy.
NEW IN TOWN (PG-13) An affluent executive from Miami learns to love blue collar country life when a corporate job relocates her to Minnesota.
NOTHING LIKE THE HOLIDAYS (PG-13) A Puerto Rican family living in the area of Humboldt Park in Chicago face what may be their last Christmas together.
NOTORIOUS 2 stars (R) Christopher Wallace, aka Biggie Smalls, aka the Notorious B.I.G. (played by likeable newcomer Jamal "Gravy" Woolard) rises from the violence of 1980s Brooklyn drug dealing to the violence of the 1990s hip-hop scene. The film captures some of Biggieís hip-hop excitement without replicating the charisma such figures as Tupac Shakur (Anthony Mackie), and the details of the East Coast/West Coast rap rivalry prove disappointingly sketch. Antonique Smith and Naturi Naughton offer sultry support as Faith Evans and Lil' Kim, respectively. -- Holman