ATONEMENT 4 stars (R) See review.
FRESHMAN ORIENTATION (R) See review.
THE GOLDEN COMPASS (PG-13) See review.
O JERUSALEM 2 stars (R) Meandering wildly through the events surrounding Israel's controversial creation, this unfocused and poorly handled portrayal of two improbable friends in the midst of war, the Jewish Bobby (JJ Feild) and Muslim Said (Said Taghmaoui), plays out like a forced series of history lessons. Unfortunately, education on Israel's seemingly endless history of violence comes at the expense of a film experience that itself feels endless. -- Allison C. Keene
ROMANCE & CIGARETTES (R) See review.
THE PERFECT HOLIDAY (PG) An aspiring songwriter (Morris Chestnut) uses his part-time job as a department-store Santa Claus to woo a beautiful divorced mom (Gabrielle Union). With Queen Latifah as the spirit of Christmas and Hustle & Flow's Terrence Howard as a holiday-hating imp. (Really).
DR. STRANGELOVE (1964) (PG) Stanley Kubrick's frightening satire and anti-war Oscar nominee is still relevant 43 years later. Tues., Dec. 11. 14th St. Playhouse, 173 14th St. 404-733-4738. www.14thstplayhouse.org
FRIDAY THE 13TH PART 4 (1984) (R) Splatter Cinema presents the final chapter of the cult-classic horror films. Tues., Dec. 11. Plaza Theatre. 1049 Ponce De Leon Ave. 404-873-1939. www.plazaatlanta.com
THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975) (R) The cult classic of cult classics, the musical horror spoof follows an all-American couple (Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick) to the castle of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry), a drag queen/mad scientist from another galaxy. Midnight, Fri. at Plaza Theatre, and Sat. at Peachtree Cinema & Games, Norcross.
3:10 TO YUMA 4 stars (R) Christian Bale plays a tough but indebted rancher hired out to help escort a ruthless, charismatic outlaw (Russell Crowe) to the prison train that gives the film its title. After such revisionist Westerns as Unforgiven and HBO's "Deadwood," director James Mangold (Walk the Line) offers a pleasingly old-fashioned oater full of horses, six-guns, rugged landscapes and even more rugged actors. Crowe has the plum part, but Bale doesn't let him steal the movie. -- Curt Holman
ACROSS THE UNIVERSE 3 stars (PG-13) A handful of young Americans and one Liverpudlian sing Beatles songs amid the tumult of the 1960s in this trippy musical from director Julie Taymor (Titus, Frida). The trope of naming characters after Beatles songs, such as central lovers Jude (Jim Sturgess) and Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood), can be ridiculously heavy-handed, but the film's gorgeous visuals, appealing musical numbers and unstated Iraq war subtext keep it from being a baby boomer wallow in nostalgia. -- Holman
AMERICAN GANGSTER 3 stars (R) This sprawling crime drama set in Vietnam War-era Harlem pits Denzel Washington's fastidious rising mob boss against Russell Crowe's doggedly honest narcotics cop. As usual, director Ridley Scott crafts images that mark him as an artist of color and light, but the premise's shades of gray elude him, particularly the implication that the mobster's success represents a triumph of African-American enterprise. The cast ultimately lives up to the film's sweeping social statements that emulate the gritty idealism of Serpico more than the bloody melodrama of Scarface. -- Holman
AUGUST RUSH (PG) A fairy tale-esque drama about an orphaned musical prodigy who uses his talents to find his absentee parents. Kristen Sheridan (Disco Pigs) directs.
AWAKE (R) Hayden Christensen plays a man who awakens during open-heart surgery to find the anesthesia has left him aware, but paralyzed. Joby Harold directs.
BEE MOVIE 2 stars (PG) After discovering life outside the hive and meeting a human florist (Renee Zellweger), a young bee (Jerry Seinfeld) sues the human race for the honey industry's exploitative practices. The closer Bee Movie hovers to Seinfeld's appealing brand of observational humor, the bigger laughs it finds, but the script flits in so many different directions, we can't help but remember that story wasn't always the strong suit of Seinfeld's eponymous "show about nothing." -- Holman
BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD 4 stars (R) Octogenarian director Sidney Lumet takes the hipster genre of choice -- the bloody, chronologically scrambled heist movie -- and turns it into a weighty family tragedy that's still nastily entertaining. Phillip Seymour Hoffman (in one of the year's best performances) and Ethan Hawke play desperate brothers whose ill-fated plan to rob their own parents takes on the dimensions of Cain, Abel and Oedipus. -- Holman
BELLA 2 stars (PG-13) A haunted chef (Eduardo Verástegui) and a pregnant waitress (Tammy Blanchard) leave their jobs at a trendy restaurant to spend a romantic, soul-baring day in Manhattan. This heartfelt but overly sentimental film from Alejandro Gomez Monteverde celebrates food, family and New York, but the leading actors' performances are a little blank and the ending too convenient by half. Manny Perez steals the film as satisfyingly hateful restaurateur and petty tyrant.-- Holman
BEOWULF 4 stars (PG-13) The Anglo-Saxon epic poem of strapping Beowulf (voiced by Ray Winstone) and his monstrous adversaries gets brought into the 21st century with director Robert Zemeckis' "performance-capture" animation techniques (a form that's still a work in progress, but has improved significantly since The Polar Express). For all the CGI monsters, including misshapen ogre Grendel, the real attraction is the revisionist screenplay, which reimagines the heroic tale into a tragedy about the corruption of power. Definitely see it in digital 3-D, which makes up for the rubbery quality of some of the human characters. -- Holman
THE BOURNE ULTIMATUM 3 stars (PG-13) In the third Bourne movie, amnesiac superspy Jason Bourne (Matt Damon) crosses the globe to reclaim his memory and outwit his former CIA spy masters (including David Strathairn). Paul Greengrass also directed the trilogy's previous entry and again masterfully employs shaky camera work and soundtrack percussion to raise the audience's pulse rate; he could make doing laundry unbearably exciting. Nevertheless, given the identical plots (and impassive acting from Julia Stiles) in all three, it's no wonder Bourne can't remember anything. -- Holman
CHRISTMAS IN WONDERLAND (PG) Been wondering where Patrick Swayze's been? He's back, to star as Wayne, a father stuck with his kids doing the holiday shopping. When they find a bag of counterfeit money at the mall, they inadvertently help catch the crooks. Directed by James Orr (Blowing Smoke).
THE COMEBACKS (PG-13) In Tom Brady's (The Hot Chick) spoof on classic sports films Rocky, Field of Dreams and the like, unlucky coach Champ Fields (David Koechner) is hired to coach a talentless and deranged college football team.
CONTROL 3 stars (R) An absolutely beautiful, stylish black-and-white ode to the lead singer of Joy Division, Ian Curtis (Sam Riley), who killed himself in 1980 at age 23. Riley is superb and absolutely charismatic in his onstage performances and Samantha Morton as his bedraggled, wretchedly love-starved wife does a wonderful job of keeping this from being the one-note story of a suffocated, tortured artist. There were clearly other people hurt by Curtis' demons. But for all its exquisite evocation of the dire mood of '70s Manchester and Joy Division's music, the film lacks an emotional depth to match.-- Feaster
DAN IN REAL LIFE (PG-13) Steve Carell stars as Dan Burns, an advice columnist whose relationship expertise fails to serve him in his own life. Peter Hedges directs (Pieces of April).
THE DARJEELING LIMITED 3 stars (R) Three brothers (Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman) embark on a so-called "spiritual journey" across India by train, but struggle against their petty habits and sibling rivalry. Rushmore director Wes Anderson expands his artful but precious visual style through the bustling, shifting Indian landscape, but still keeps the audience at a distance from the characters. -- Holman
ELIZABETH: THE GOLDEN AGE (PG-13) Cate Blanchett reprises her Oscar-nominated role as Queen Elizabeth I in director Shekhar Kapur's sequel, which finds the virgin queen encountering such royal headaches as Mary Stuart and the Spanish Armada.
ENCHANTED (PG) Kevin Lima (Eloise at Christmastime) directs in this Disney fairy tale meets modern-day New York City. A fairy-tale princess from the past (Amy Adams) gets thrown into present day by an evil queen (Susan Sarandon).
FRED CLAUS 2 stars (PG) Santa's bitter older brother Fred (Vince Vaughn) reluctantly moves back to the North Pole after St. Nick (Paul Giamatti) bails him out of jail. Vaughn and Wedding Crashers director David Dobkin try to mix the caustic comedy of Bad Santa with the yuletide whimsy of The Santa Clause and inevitably fall short of either goal. Admittedly the last half hour finds some nice moments, and Giamatti's winning performance takes Santa from patient to anxious to outraged. Overall, though, it's as if Vaughn wanted to do his own version of Bill Murray's Scrooged, forgetting that nobody much liked Scrooged, either. -- Holman
THE GAME PLAN (PG) Andy Fickman (She's the Man) directs this story about superstar quarterback Joe Kingman (Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson) who must end his bachelor ways following the discovery of a daughter he never knew he had. Kyra Sedgwick stars as Joe's tough-talking agent.
GONE BABY GONE 3 stars (R) Movie star Ben Affleck makes a reasonably effective directorial debut, casting his younger brother Casey as a private detective hired to investigate a high-profile kidnapping. The director counterbalances the studied Boston accent and conspicuous Catholic imagery with taut suspense scenes and some strong performances (notably Ed Harris as a driven police officer), and the film's admirable embrace of ethical ambiguities gives audiences something to argue about on the way home. Adapted from a book by Mystic River novelist Dennis Lehane. -- Holman
HALLOWEEN (R) Musician and writer/director of the latest Halloween chapter, Rob Zombie promises new thrills as he revisits Michael Myers' horror story that began in 1978.
THE HEARTBREAK KID (R) The Farrelly brothers' latest film finds single and indecisive Eddie (Ben Stiller) pressured into proposing marriage to the sexy Lila after dating for one week. On their honeymoon he meets the true woman of his dreams and strives to win her over while dealing with his increasingly awful new wife.
HITMAN (NR) Gun-for-hire Agent 47 (Timothy Olyphant) is hired by a group to kill targets for cash. Xavier Gens directs.
IMAX THEATER The Alps Follow John Harlin III in MacGillivray Freeman's visually breathtaking documentary as he attempts to climb the same summit that proved fatal to his father 40 years ago. -- Holman
I'M NOT THERE 3 stars (R) Ambitious, smart but decidedly muddled, cerebral superhipster Todd Haynes' biopicture of enigmatic, chameleonlike singer Bob Dylan features six different actors playing Dylan, including a mind-blowing turn by Cate Blanchett, Richard Gere, Christian Bale and a young black kid (Marcus Carl Franklin). The film melds an equally diverse array of styles and film allusions from Fellini to D.A. Pennebaker. The film is often gorgeous and clever, though it may be deep Dylan fans who enjoy Haynes' crazy-quilt film the most. -- Feaster
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
JIMMY CARTER: MAN FROM PLAINS 4 stars (PG) Jonathan Demme (The Silence of the Lambs), who has treated everyman heroes before in his docs The Agronomist and Neil Young: Heart of Gold examines -- and sanctifies -- the contentious former president as he handles the controversy and vitriol unleashed during his book tour for Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid. Warm and intimate, Demme's doc shows Carter in all his complexity as a folksy Georgia boy but also a sharp-as-a-tack, cosmopolitan statesman capable of intelligently defending his views but also able to tear up at the memory of his mama. Carter fans will have a hard time suppressing their joy at this moving tribute to a remarkable man. -- Feaster
JOE STRUMMER: THE FUTURE IS UNWRITTEN 4 stars (NR) Documentarian Julien Temple follows up his terrific Sex Pistols documentary The Filth and the Fury with a rich, if at times unflattering, portrait of Joe Strummer, frontman for the Clash. Between blistering snippets of the band's performances, the companionable stories from friends and bandmates unfold like we're part of a companionable Irish wake for the "punk rock warlord." -- Holman
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.
KURT COBAIN: ABOUT A SON 2 stars (NR) Director AJ Schnack, director of the They Might Be Giants doc Gigantic (A Tale of Two Johns) turns to a different, more mythical rock legend in this conceptually minded doc/meditation on grunge legend Kurt Cobain. Schnack has used audio from a string of 25-hour interviews Cobain did from December 1992 to March 1993 with journalist Michael Azerrad to reanimate the singer and weds snippets of those interviews to imagery of the places Cobain lived. But the effort to give an impressionistic sense of Cobain seems scattershot and the imagery is grandiose and often disconnected from what Cobain is saying. The whole effort feels like a bit of a failed stunt. -- Feaster
LARS AND THE REAL GIRL (PG-13) Ryan Gosling stars as Lars, a lonely introvert who falls in love with a life-size doll to the dismay of his brother and sister-in-law. Craig Gillespie (Mr. Woodcock) directs.
LIONS FOR LAMBS 3 stars (R) Robert Redford directs and stars alongside heavyweights Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep in this earnest, talky drama. Redford is a Vietnam vet and university professor trying to convince his brightest, apathetic student to take some political stand against the war in Iraq while Streep and Cruise play a lefty reporter and Republican senator with very different views on American engagement abroad. An odd bird indeed, the film is politically impassioned, mixes up endless philosophical talk and war-film action, all as a kind of plea to Americans to engage. The film is imperfect, even clunky, but its passion and balance mark it as one of the more interesting recent fiction films about our murky political climate and the despair and apathy it inspires. -- Feaster
LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA (R) Based on the beautifully lyric novel by Nobel-Prize-winning author Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mike Newell (Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire) directs in this story of love over time. After losing his childhood love, Fermina Daza, Florentina Ariza waits through 50 years and 622 lovers to reclaim her.
MAMA'S BOY (PG-13) A 29-year-old slacker who lives with his mom realizes his setup is doomed when his mother meets Mert, a motivational speaker.
MANDA BALA 4 stars (NR) A Mondo Cane for 2007, this gorgeously photographed shockumentary paints a picture of contemporary Brazil as a global cautionary tale. The line between the haves and the have-nots is huge, and a cycle of kidnapping, corruption, butchering and compensatory plastic surgery has arisen in answer to that divide. Director Jason Kohn has worked with documentarian Errol Morris and his visuals are therefore as tight as his portrait of a world out of balance. -- Feaster
MARGOT AT THE WEDDING 4 stars (R) Director Noah Baumbach (The Squid and the Whale) proves his continued affinity for family dysfunction in this both uproariously funny and bitterly painful tale of two sisters (Nicole Kidman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, both in fine form) who try to mend fences but manage to just erect new ones as Pauline (Leigh) prepares to marry a directionless slacker (a divine Jack Black). Like Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? for the Prozac set, Baumbach's dark family comedy is distinguished by marvelous performances and cringe-inducing family "togetherness." -- 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
THE MIST 3 stars (R) After a massive electrical storm, residents of a small Maine resort town find themselves trapped in a supermarket by an unearthly mist and the unseen threat that dwells within. Frank Darabont (The Green Mile and The Shawshank Redemption) returns to the work of Stephen King, adapting his 1980 novella and staying faithful to a fault to King's enemy-within warnings of human frailty and religious zealotry (personified by Marcia Gay Harden's evangelical nutjob). The mysterious, monstrous elements of the film become a strange relief to the heavy-handed, condescending politics. Look for local actors Brandon O'Dell and Tiffany Morgan in small roles. -- Holman
MR. BEAN'S HOLIDAY 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
MR. MAGORIUM'S WONDER EMPORIUM (G) In this G-rated family film that appears to be angling to be the Willy Wonka for the new generation, Dustin Hoffman plays the owner of a magical toy store who plans to bequeath the shop to his nervous manager (Natalie Portman). Hey, "Magorium" rhymes with "Emporium!" What a coincidence.
THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS in 3-D 4 stars (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, but as is, it offers such visual delights that nearly every frame qualifies as a work of art. This "special edition" re-release enhances the animation to play up the new 3-D effects. -- Holman
NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN 4 stars (R) The Coen brothers make a rousing return to form in this Texas crime drama that strips away their trademark irony for brilliant, suspenseful set pieces. Josh Brolin's Vietnam vet, Tommy Lee Jones' aging sheriff and Javier Bardem's ruthless hitman engage in a three-way chase on either side of the Rio Grande. Don't let the anticlimactic ending sour you on the superb filmmaking. -- Holman
P2 (R) The last one out of the office on Christmas Eve, Angela is waylaid by a seemingly friendly security guard in the parking garage. Things turn ugly and Angela must find a way to escape from level P2 in the garage. Directed by Franck Khalfoun.
REDACTED 2 stars (R) The rape and murder of a teenage Iraqi girl by U.S. soldiers during the Iraq war is revisited in this fictionalized account presented through "alternative" media such as news reports, a faux documentary and primarily a camcorder diary. You can't fault director Brian De Palma's sincerity in both his critique of the U.S. occupation or his clear fascination with communications technology, but Redacted's amateurish acting and heavy-handed moralizing keep its nightmarish collage from ever feeling authentic. The final slide show of actual casualties of the war has more impact than the rest of the film. -- Holman
RUSH HOUR 3 1 stars (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
SAW IV (R) In the follow-up to Saw III, Jigsaw and his apprentice Amanda are dead. Detectives must sift through Jigsaw's latest grisly remains to piece together the puzzle. Darren Lynn Bousman directs.
SUPERBAD 4 stars (R) Jonah Hill and Michael Cera make a classic comedy duo as two nebbischy high schoolers trying to buy beer and score with girls before they go off to separate colleges. Although Superbad pays homage to the horny teen comedies of the 1980s, it's far funnier, warmer and better acted than any of them (except possibly Fast Times at Ridgemont High). -- Holman
THIS CHRISTMAS 3 stars (PG-13) Preston A. Whitmore writes and directs this dramedy about the holiday reunion of an extended African-American family, which includes an indebted musician (Idris Elba) and an abused wife (Regina King). The plotting's a bit familiar and the first act relies almost entirely on exposition, but the likable cast -- particularly Elba, King and Delroy Lindo -- help make This Christmas low-key but pleasing holiday fare. -- Holman
TYLER PERRY'S WHY DID I GET MARRIED? (PG-13) Tyler Perry (Diary of a Mad Black Woman) brings his theatrical production to the big screen where he stars alongside Janet Jackson and Jill Scott. The film explores the difficulties of modern relationships through the stories of eight married college friends.
In the latest 'Emory Looks at Hollywood' episode, Judith Evans Grubbs, Emory Professor of Roman…
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