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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
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