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INTO THE WILD 4 stars (R) Emile Hirsch stars as affluent Emory University grad Chris McCandless, who died at age 24 after dropping off the grid to live on his own in the Alaskan wilderness. A surprising amount of transcendence and hopefulness infuses the normally dour Sean Penn's fourth directorial effort about McCandless' physical and interior journey based on Jon Krakauer's nonfiction account. Marked by nods to '60s and '70s cinema, Penn's film also has relevance to our own times as growing eco- and global-awareness have made more and more people take a McCandless look at the bad path "civilization" is on. -- Feaster
THE JANE AUSTEN BOOK CLUB (PG-13) A group of friends meets to discuss the works of Jane Austen and discovers their romantic lives imitate the stories in the novels. Robin Swicod (The Red Coat) directs.
THE KINGDOM (R) In this Middle-East-meets-West thriller, FBI Special Agent Ronald Fleury (Jamie Foxx) leads an elite team (Chris Cooper, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman) in a criminal investigation in hostile Saudi Arabia. Peter Berg (Friday Night Lights) directs.
LUST, CAUTION 3 stars (NC-17) Ang Lee (Brokeback Mountain) proves yet again, if there is a film genre, he will tackle it. A mix of classic Hollywood melodrama and saucy Japanese pink film, Lee's wartime romance and spy thriller set in a 1940s Shanghai under Japanese occupation is rich with detail and a notable performance by newcomer Tang Wei as a spy in love with a collaborator (Wong Kar-wai leading man Tony Leung). But despite the luxurious atmosphere, Lee's film never entirely satisfies in explaining its lovers' behavior and motivations. -- Feaster
MICHAEL CLAYTON 4 stars (R) George Clooney puts a haunted pall over his trademark charisma as the title role of this conspiracy thriller, a big law firm's "fixer" who discovers the conscience he didn't know he had. First-time director Tony Gilroy effectively evokes the paranoid films of the 1970s by creating a plausible sense of big-city dread, embodied in Tilda Swinton's superb portrayal of a female executive wracked with guilt at her monstrous decisions. The instigating plot about an agribusiness cover-up isn't very memorable, but Michael Clayton makes the most of is moral ambiguity without feeling merely vague. -- Holman
3 stars (G) A silly throwback to the physical pratfalls of Keaton and Jacques Tati, this fluffy tale of semiretarded Brit Mr. Bean vacationing in the South of France is a nice break from the usual scatological kid movies. A campy cameo by Willem Dafoe as a pretentious American director in Cannes only ups the escapist fun. -- Feaster
RANDY AND THE MOB 3 stars (PG) In this indie screwball comedy, Oscar-winning writer/director Ray McKinnon plays a would-be wheeler-dealer and his more successful gay brother in a small Georgia town. Not all of the slapstick gags and plot contrivances work, but Walton Goggins (The Shield) offers a hilariously quirky turn as an idiot-savant wiseguy. Throughout, McKinnon shows the same eye for the charm and complex realities of the contemporary South that he brought to his previous films Chrystal and the brilliant Oscar-winning short "The Accountant." -- Holman
RESIDENT EVIL: EXTINCTION (R) Milla Jovovich returns in the third and final installment of this video-game series as Alice, determined to eliminate the virus that threatens to make every human being undead.
RUSH HOUR 3 HIIII (PG-13) After an attempted assassination of the Chinese ambassador, the LAPD'S Chris Tucker and Chinese cop Jackie Chan bicker all the way to Paris. Fast-talking Tucker and fast-moving Chan make such a natural comic team that it's a shame three-time director Brett Ratner never built them a vehicle with witty jokes or racial insight. All three films are pretty crummy, interrupting the loud comedy and louder action with some still decent stunt work from Chan (now 53 years old), but even the funny outtakes during the closing credits seem calculated. -- Holman
THE SEEKER: THE DARK IS RISING (NR) Based on author Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising series, Will Stanton (Alexander Ludwig) learns he is the last of a group of immortal warriors dedicated to fighting evil forces.
SHOOT 'EM UP Clive Owen (Children of Men) must fight to protect himself and the newborn child he just delivered from the gunmen trying to kill them.
THE SIMPSONS MOVIE 3 stars (PG-13) In the long-awaited film version of television's longest-running comedy, the Simpsons flee to Alaska when Homer (voiced by Dan Castellaneta) accidentally causes an environmental catastrophe. The movie offers far more laughs than you'd get from four current episodes of the once-brilliant show, yet the plot (involving a giant dome) turns out to be as lame and contrived as any present-day story line. The movie makes you laugh nonstop but miss the show in its heyday simultaneously. -- Holman
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