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CONFESSIONS OF A SHOPAHOLIC Bored with a corporate job, a young woman tries to buy happiness in this adaptation of books by Sophie Kinsella.
CORALINE 4 stars (PG) When spunky tween Coraline Jones (voiced by Dakota Fanning) and her family move into a remote boarding house, she discovers a deceptively appealing ìother worldî full of magical wonders. Henry Selick, director of Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas, helms another film of stop-motion animated splendors reminiscent of such fantastical coming-of-age stories as Alice in Wonderland and Pan's Labyrinth. Definitely try to see it in 3-D, which fits the stop-motion format like a hand in glove, but be warned that the wild images may be too creepy for little kids. -- Holman
THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON 4 stars (PG-13) Remarkable special effects show Brad Pitt age backwards from an elderly infant to a middle-aged hunk in this adaptation of an F. Scott Fitzgerald story. Fight Club director David Fincher crafts fascinating and haunting images, and Tilda Swinton shines in the centerpiece romance, set at a wintry Russian hotel. Screenwriter Eric Roth borrows too heavily from his Forrest Gump script, however, particularly in the title characterís lifelong relationship with an inconstant dancer (Cate Blanchett). -- Holman
THE DARK KNIGHT 4 stars (PG-13) Reopening in conventional theaters as well as IMAX, director Christopher Nolan's follow-up to Batman Begins features such sharp conflicts, gritty locations and breathless action scenes that the flamboyant hero and villain costumes seem almost superfluous. The late Heath Ledger's creepy, charismatic turn as the anarchic Joker could have earned the actor a second career playing bad guys, while Aaron Eckhart's portrayal of district attorney Harvey Dent, the "white knight" of crime-ridden Gotham City, gives the film the dimensions of classic tragedy. As Bruce Wayne, Christian Bale doesn't seem to mind being upstaged. -- Holman
THE DAY THE EARTH STOOD STILL 3 stars (PG-13) When an alien named Klaatu (Keanu Reeves) takes human form in advance of a possible invasion, a single mom/scientist (Jennifer Connelly) tries to show him the best sides of humanity. Reeves should always portray aliens, since he's not as good at playing emotions than he is at not playing emotions. Director Scott Derrickson's remake admirably avoids preaching at the audience, leaving mankind's misdeeds implicit, rather than spelling them out. While reasonably entertaining, The Earth won't move for you. -- Holman
DEFIANCE 4 stars (R) In Western Poland during World War II, the Bielski brothers (Daniel Craig and Liev Schreiber) lead an armed resistance to Nazi invaders while forming a woodland sanctuary for their fellow Jews. Glory and The Last Samurai director Edward Zwick helms the most exciting yet thematically unambiguous of the current wave of Holocaust films, marked more by thrilling combat scenes and beautifully photographed scenes of harsh winters. The script hits the Biblical parallels with a heavy hand, but Craig and Schreiber bring chemistry to the brothersí sibling rivalry, and the film almost resembles a downbeat Robin Hood story. -- Holman
DOUBT 3 stars (PG-13) A strict nun (Meryl Streep) suspects a progressive young priest (Philip Seymour Hoffman) of an inappropriate relationship with a student in 1964. John Patrick Shanley adapts and directs the film version of his acclaimed play, which nevertheless still feels like material that belongs on the stage: Shanley's attempts to visually dramatize the story make the film feel like an Omen movie, while Streep's broad performance feels more attuned to comedy. It's still an engrossing depiction of the limitations of blind faith and the value of doubt, anchored by the work of Hoffman, Amy Adams and Viola Davis. -- Holman
ECHELON CONSPIRACY Mysterious phone calls signal the beginning of an insidious and violent plot.
FANBOYS 2 stars (PG-13) In late 1998, a group of Star Wars fans road-trips from Ohio to Marin County, Calif., to break into Skywalker Ranch and steal a rough cut of The Phantom Menace. First scheduled for release in 2007, the film became a geek cause celebre when the studio contemplated cutting out a wan subplot in which one of the friends is dying of cancer. Even with the cancer plot included, the characterizations are thin, the cameos predictable and the craft generally amateurish, suggesting that films like Clerks set the bar for comedies about fandom culture way too low. -- Holman
FIRED UP (PG-13) A couple high school studs leave football behind for a shot at cheerleading.
FRIDAY THE 13TH Creepy woods, copulating teens, and cold-blooded murders populate the latest installment of the Jason franchise.
FROST/NIXON 3 stars (R) Director Ron Howard imagines TV personality David Frost's (Michael Sheen) post-Watergate interviews with disgraced former president Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) as both a show trial and a boxing match. Reprising his stage role, Langella offers a sympathetic portrayal of Nixon with compelling gravitas, and the script's energetic wit and political strategies suggest a big screen version of "The West Wing." Reunited actor Michael Sheen with The Queen scripter Peter Morgan, the film falls short of convincing the audience that the interviews served as a historical tipping point. -- Holman
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