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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.
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.
NATIONAL TREASURE 2: BOOK OF SECRETS (PG) In the sequel to National Treasure, treasure-hunter Ben Gates (Nicolas Cage) follows clues in a mystery involving John Wilkes Booth and the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Jon Turteltaub directs.
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
THE PERFECT HOLIDAY 1 star (PG) An aspiring songwriter (Morris Chestnut), uses his job as a department store Santa Claus to court a divorcee (Gabrielle Union). Despite the charms of Chestnut and Union, The Perfect Holiday, written and directed by Lance Rivera, bestows the gift of contrived plotting, flavorless jokes and holiday whimsy forced down your throat. To call it a lump of coal in your stocking insults the heat-generating usefulness of real lumps of coal. -- Holman
P.S. I LOVE YOU (PG-13) When Holly Kennedy's (Hilary Swank) husband dies from an illness, she is left grief-stricken. She discovers her late husband has planned out 10 monthly messages to guide her through recovery, which help her slowly transition to a new life. Directed by Richard LaGravenese.
THE RED BALLOON-WHITE MANE (NR) The classic French short film The Red Balloon is the charming story of a boy befriended by an expressive red balloon, which proceeds to follow him around throughout his day. The film is co-featured with White Mane, the story of a boy's love for a wild horse that only he can tame.
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