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. 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. -- Curt Holman
BEDTIME STORIES (PG) Fantasy and reality blend together when Skeeter Bronson (Adam Sandler) tells his niece and nephew outlandish tales that mysteriously come true. The magical results turn sour when Bronson loses control of his own stories.
THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON 4 stars. (PG-13) See review here.
GRAN TURINO 3 stars. (R) See review here.
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.
THE READER 4 stars. (R) See review here.
THE SPIRIT See review at here.
VALKYRIE 2 stars. (PG-13) See review here.
MAD MONSTER PARTY? (1967) In this all-but-forgotten stop-motion animated feature from producers Rankin-Bass, a group of classic monsters -- Dracula, Dr. Jekyll, Frankenstein's monster, etc. -- gather at an island for musical hijinks. Boris Karloff and Phyllis Diller provide some of the voices. Silver Scream Spook Show. Sat., Dec. 27, 1 and 10 p.m. The Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave. $10 at night, $7 matinee (children under 12 free). 404-873-1939. www.plazaatlanta.com
AUSTRALIA 2 stars. (PG-13) An English aristocrat (Nicole Kidman) and an Australian cattle driver (Hugh Jackman) become reluctant partners for a cattle drive across the outback at the eve of World War II. Moulin Rouge director Baz Luhrmann indulges his taste for cartoonish hypberbole for the film's hyperactive, grating first 45 minutes, before settling down into a more conventional, tolerable Old School sprawling epic romance. -- Holman
BOLT 3 stars. (PG) Superpowered canine Bolt (voiced by John Travolta in his most enjoyable performance in a decade) protects a girl (Miley Cyrus) from evildoers, unaware that theyíre on a TV series. The dog ends up traveling cross-country with a fanboy hamster (Mark Walton) who thinks Boltís a real hero, and a cynical alley cat ("Curb Your Enthusiasm's" Susie Essman) who knows he's not. -- Holman
A CHRISTMAS TALE 4 stars. (NR) Arnaud Desplechin's rich, challenging family drama keeps holiday cheer in the background to focus on the complex dynamics of a French family beset with medical problems. The matriarch (Catherine Deneuve, the first lady of French actresses) needs a bone marrow transplant and one of the possible donors may be her abrasive, alcoholic middle son (Quantum of Solace's Mathieu Almaric) in only one of the film's fraught plot threads. The philosophical screenplay at times keeps the audience at arm's length but rewards careful reflection on its ideas and metaphors for family behavior. -- 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
DELGO 2 stars. (PG) On an alien planet inhabited by rival alien races, teenaged Delgo (voiced by Freddie Prinze, Jr.) must save a princess (Jennifer Love Hewitt) to prevent full-fledged war. Somewhat reminiscent of Jim Henson's puppet fantasy The Dark Crystal, this Atlanta-produced computer-animated sci-fi adventure features gorgeous "world-building" designs, imaginative alien creatures and elaborate battle scenes. -- Holman
FOUR CHRISTMASES 2 stars. (PG-13) A yuppie couple (Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon) get a crash course in family togetherness when forced to make four separate visits to their divorced parents (Robert Duvall, Mary Steenburgen, Sissy Spacek and Jon Voight, all Oscar winners). Vaughn and Witherspoon seem like a great comic team on paper, but his role's so uptight and they're both so disgustingly happy (at first) that sparks never really fly. -- Holman
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." The film falls short of convincing the audience that the interviews served as a historical tipping point. -- Holman
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