MOVIES

Movies are rated on a letter-grade scale, from A to F. Opinions by R-J movie critic Carol Cling (C.C.) are indicated by initials. Other opinions are from wire service critics.

Motion Picture Association of America ratings:

G – General audiences, all ages.

PG – Parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children.

PG-13 – Parental guidance suggested. Some material may not be suitable for children under 13.

R – Restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or guardian.

NC-17 – No one under 17 admitted.

NR – Not rated.

ALIENS VS. PREDATOR: REQUIEM

(C) If you love the notion of pitting slimy, H.R. Giger-inspired extraterrestrial bugs against giant butt-kicking reptile Rastafarians — without talky humans getting in the way — the first half of this sequel to 2004’s "Alien vs. Predator" is for you, as an oddly Schwarzenegger-esque Predator (Ian Whyte) comes to Earth to dispose of Alien evidence and defeat a deadly new hybrid. Leaner, meaner and more physically expressive than previous incarnations, Whyte also manages (despite a helmet and no intelligible dialogue) to out-act the puny humans in his way. Overall, it’s a passable slasher that’s still nowhere near the interspecies smackdown geeks have long imagined. (86 min.) R; violence, gore, profanity.

ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS

(C+) Everybody’s favorite singing chipmunks add rap to their repertoire in a live-action/animation combo starring Jason Lee (TV’s "My Name Is Earl") as David Seville, who loses control of the computer-generated title cuties (voiced by Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler and Jesse McCartney) to an evil music executive (David Cross). Other than the computer animation, not much has changed in almost 50 years: Seville’s still a fussbudget, Alvin’s still a brat, and their high-pitched singing still is an acquired taste. (92 min.) PG; mild rude humor.

AMERICAN GANGSTER

(C+) The greatest gangster story ever told? Not by a long shot. This saga — about a Harlem heroin kingpin (Denzel Washington) and the scrappy Jersey cop (Russell Crowe) on his case — tries too hard to prove its classic credentials. It’s got two great stars, but only one great star part (Washington’s), throwing the movie off-balance. Still worth seeing, especially for the performances, but hardly the knockout it wants to be. (158 min.) R; violence, pervasive drug content and profanity, nudity, sexual situations. (C.C.)

ATONEMENT

(B) Keira Knightley reunites with "Pride & Prejudice" director Joe Wright for this admirable, if less than enthralling, adaptation of Ian McEwan’s unsettling novel, set in 1935 Britain, about a precocious 13-year-old (Saoirse Ronan), who misinterprets the romance between a servant’s son ("The Last King of Scotland’s" nuanced James McAvoy) and her older sister (Knightley), leading to life-changing consequences that reverberate through World War II — and beyond. (123 min.) R; disturbing war images, profanity, sexual situations. (C.C.)

AUGUST RUSH

(C-) Sugar rush would be more like it. Given up at birth, an 11-year-old musical prodigy (Freddie Highmore) survives on the New York streets and composes the siren call that will lure his musical parents (Keri Russell, Jonathan Rhys Meyers) back together. This is the kind of saccharine fairy tale that makes "Cinderella" look like kitchen-sink realism. (114 min.) PG; mild violence and profanity, mature themes.

AWAKE

(D+) Don’t believe the title — this wannabe thriller is more likely to put you to sleep, as a wealthy young businessman (Hayden Christensen) undergoes the heart-transplant surgery of his (and your) worst nightmares. Jessica Alba is the woman of his dreams, Terrence Howard the man with the scalpel. And everyone, including the audience, gets what’s coming to them. (81 min.) R; profanity, intense disturbing situations, brief drug use.

BEE MOVIE

(B — what else?) Just out of college, bee student Barry B. Benson (voiced by Jerry Seinfeld, who also co-writes) rebels against a career in honey and ventures outside the hive, where he encounters a sympathetic florist (voiced by Renée Zellweger) — and decides to sue the human race for stealing honey. Matthew Broderick, John Goodman, Chris Rock, Alan Arkin, Oprah Winfrey and Kathy Bates also buzz in and out of this fast-flying cartoon, while Seinfeld bats a zinger for every stinger. (90 min.) PG; mild suggestive humor.

BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU’RE DEAD

(B+) Director Sidney Lumet ("Serpico," "Network," "Dog Day Afternoon"), going strong at 83, scores again with a taut, inexorable thriller about cash-strapped brothers (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Ethan Hawke) who scheme to rob a jewelry store — owned by their elderly parents (Albert Finney, Rosemary Harris). Lumet never met a family feud he didn’t like; the result is a thriller of enormous power that craftily transforms family melodrama into high tragedy. (116 min.) R; strong graphic sexuality, nudity, violence, drug use, profanity. (C.C.)

BEOWULF

(C ) Director Robert Zemeckis uses 21st-century motion-capture technology to revive this Old English epic — and reshape its leading players — as the stalwart title warrior (voiced by Ray Winstone) battles a fearsome monster (Crispin Glover), the monster’s shape-shifting siren of a mother (Angelina Jolie) — and a persistent dragon. The special effects are the real stars of the show, generating a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing much — so see this in 3-D, where the effects really make an impact. (114 min.) PG-13; intense sequences of violence, sexual situations, nudity. (C.C.)

CHARLIE WILSON’S WAR

(B) Finally, a movie about America’s (mis)adventures in Afghanistan that’s actually entertaining, focusing a good-time Texas congressman (a wry Tom Hanks), a right-wing Houston socialite (a sly Julia Roberts) and a rogue CIA agent (Philip Seymour Hoffman, socking home another grand-slam portrayal) who team up to funnel money and weapons to Mujahedin rebels after the 1979 Soviet invasion. (97 min.) R; profanity, sexual situations, nudity, drug use. (C.C.)

DEEP SEA 3-D

(B) Get up close and personal with ocean wildlife, unveiled in the reach-out-and-touch weirdness of Imax 3-D at the Luxor. This giant-screen documentary introduces exotic denizens of the deep so extravagantly extraterrestrial, nothing created by Hollywood’s special effects labs could possibly compete. (40 min.) G; all ages.

DINOSAURS 3-D: GIANTS OF PATAGONIA

(B+) Now at Luxor’s Imax theater, this excursion traces the evolution — and extinction — of giant prehistoric beasts that rip each other’s faces off in thrilling computer-generated segments showcasing species we didn’t see in "Jurassic Park." Paleontologist Rodolfo Coria proves a congenial tour guide, while Donald Sutherland’s droll narration emphasizes a quality all but extinct in large-format documentaries: humor. (40 min.) NR; very large, very loud dinosaurs.

ENCHANTED

(B) When an evil queen (Susan Sarandon) zaps storybook princess Giselle (the enchanting Amy Adams) to modern-day Manhattan to get her away from her princely stepson (James Marsden, delightfully dunderheaded), Giselle’s new surroundings — and a dreamy divorce lawyer (Patrick Dempsey) — alter her happily-ever-after plans. This fractured fairy tale succumbs to computerized effects overkill at the end, but until then this tuneful Disney charmer salutes and spoofs studio traditions with equal flair. (107 min.) PG; scary images, mild innuendo. (C.C.)

THE GOLDEN COMPASS

(B-) A plucky young heroine (Dakota Blue Richards) journeys to the icy ends of a parallel world as the forces of light (representing scientific reason and free will) clash with the mighty, monolithic governing body known as the Magisterium. The first chapter of Philip Pullman’s "His Dark Materials" trilogy plays like a cinematic mix tape of "The Wizard of Oz," the Harry Potter movies, "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" and the "Lord of the Rings" trilogy. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. (124 min.) PG-13; fantasy violence. (C.C.)

THE GREAT DEBATERS

(B) Denzel Washington stars in and directs an earnest, stand-up-and-cheer drama, set in small-town 1935 Texas, about the members of an all-black college’s winning debate team, who battle Jim Crow — and each other — on the road to glory, leading to a climactic showdown with the Harvard University squad. Nate Parker, Jurnee Smollett, Kimberly Elise and Washington’s fellow Oscar-winner, Forest Whitaker, co-star. Yes, it’s formulaic and (what a shock!) the good guys triumph. But Washington shows welcome restraint in recounting a tale well worth telling — one that could have easily degenerated from inspiration to manipulation. (123 min.) PG-13; violence, disturbing imagery, profanity, brief sexual situations. (C.C.)

I AM LEGEND

(C+) Will Smith steps into the roomy shoes of Charlton Heston (1971’s "The Omega Man") and Vincent Price (1964’s "The Last Man on Earth"), playing the last uninfected survivor of a cataclysmic plague that’s transformed fellow survivors into ravenous vampires. The movie’s depiction of a feral, post-apocalyptic New York City is suitably creepy, but director Francis Lawrence ("Constantine") zooms through fleeting food-for-thought passages to get to the run-and-gun action. (100 min.) PG-13; intense sci-fi action, violence. (C.C.)

JUNO

(B) Star Ellen Page and screenwriter Diablo Cody are generating major Oscar buzz (some of it deserved) for this witty comedy-drama about a wisecracking high school misfit (Page), pregnant by her boyfriend ("Superbad’s" Michael Cera), who finds a seemingly perfect couple (Jason Bateman, Jennifer Garner) to adopt the baby. The always-superb Allison Janney and J.K. Simmons co-star in "Thank You for Smoking" director Jason Reitman’s sassy yet sweet exploration of love and family. Mostly a delight, if too self-consciously clever for its own good. (92 min.) PG-13; mature themes, sexual situations, profanity. (C.C.)

THE KITE RUNNER

(B-) An Afghan-born writer living in the U.S. ("United 93’s" Khalid Abdalla) returns to his homeland to redeem a childhood act of betrayal in a hit-and-miss adaptation of Khaled Hosseini’s novel that begins well but drags onward, and downward, as it shifts from past to present. The flashbacks, set in Afghanistan before the Soviet invasion, feature two youngsters (Zekiria Ebrahimi, Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada) so fresh and spontaneous they make everything, and everyone, else seem dull by comparison. In English and Dari, Pashtu, Urdu and Russian with English subtitles. At multiple locations. (122 min.) PG-13; mature themes (including child rape), violence, brief profanity. (C.C.)

LIONS 3-D: ROAR OF THE KALAHARI

(B+) This award-winning National Geographic production, filmed in the wild by Tim Liversedge, goes 3-D, focusing on a lion king’s battle with a young challenger for control of his throne — and a valuable water hole in Botswana’s Kalahari desert. It’s not a new movie, but this remastered giant-screen version, now at the Luxor’s Imax theater, has been magically transformed: you’re not merely there, you’re a lion, an honorary member of the pride. (40 min.) NR; animal violence.

MARGOT AT THE WEDDING

(C-) Writer-director Noah Baumbach follows 2005’s "The Squid and the Whale" with another dysfunctional family portrait, this one about an arrogant writer (Nicole Kidman) who disapproves of her insecure sister (Jennifer Jason Leigh) — and the slob of a slacker (Jack Black) she’s planning to marry. Kidman and Leigh convey their characters’ warped sibling rivalry with painful intensity, but Baumbach never figures out how to make these characters the slightest bit likable — or, failing that, more interesting than their agonizingly tedious foibles. (93 min.) R; sexual situations and references, nudity, profanity, brief violence. (C.C.)

MICHAEL CLAYTON

(B+) One man’s corporate failure is another man’s moral triumph in this thriller about a world-weary fixer for an elite law film (a peak-form George Clooney) who’s had it with cleaning up behind-the-scenes messes. Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton and Sydney Pollack anchor the ace supporting cast of a movie designed for those willing to pay attention as manipulative characters plot moves, score points — and gauge the price they’ll eventually have to pay. (120 min.) R; profanity, including sexual dialogue. (C.C.)

THE MIST

(C) Giant, bloodthirsty creatures unleashed by a freak storm prey upon a Maine village, and people (played by, among others, Thomas Jane, Andre Braugher, Toby Jones and a holy-rolling Marcia Gay Harden) react in unconstructive ways. "Shawshank Redemption" writer-director Frank Darabont’s windy adaptation of yet another Stephen King novella serves up yet another Chicken Little admonition built upon the cynical belief that when the sky really falls, we’ll reveal our true inner beast — and prey on one another. (127 min.) R; violence, terror and gore, profanity.

MYSTERY OF THE NILE

(B+) This Imax documentary, now playing at the Luxor, chronicles the first descent of the Blue Nile from source to sea, a 3,250-mile, 114-day odyssey that brings explorers face-to-face with rapids, crocodiles, bandits, malaria, sandstorms and the fierce desert sun. (47 min.) NR; all ages.

NATIONAL TREASURE: BOOK OF SECRETS

(B-) Dauntless treasure hunter Benjamin Franklin Gates (Nicolas Cage) returns for more fractured history lessons and Indiana Jones-ing as he searches for 18 missing pages from the diary of Abraham Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth — which could prove the key to an international conspiracy. Silly, breezy escapism with nothing on its mind but unpretentious fun — which, in a season loaded with weighty inspirational fare, is welcome indeed. (124 min.) PG; action violence.

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN

(A) The Coen Brothers, Joel and Ethan, get back to basics with an instant-classic adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s novel of the wild New West. The Coens’ best since 1996’s "Fargo," this finds deadpan humor on the blood-soaked trail of a crime spree gone wrong, as a good ol’ boy (comeback kid Josh Brolin) finds $2 million at the site of a botched drug deal — and finds himself on the run from a spectral psycho killer (a stunning Javier Bardem). Tommy Lee Jones rounds out the superb starring trio as an old-school sheriff who wonders whatever happened to the code of the West. (122 min.) R; strong graphic violence, profanity, nudity. (C.C.)

ONE MISSED CALL

(C) Yet another Hollywood co-opting of a Japanese horror hit, this remake of 2003’s "Chakushin Ari"admonishes us that personal electronics are the highway to hell, as several people receive voice-mail messages from the future — including the date, time and details of their deaths. Sure, it’s absurd, but it also taps into our concealed fantasies of what we’d like to see happen to people who talk too much on their cell phones. Edward Burns, Shannyn Sossamon, Ray Wise and Margaret Cho lead the cast. (87 min.) PG-13; intense sequences of violence and terror, frightening images, some sexual material, thematic elements.

P.S. I LOVE YOU

(C+) A young widow (a tearfully gallant Hilary Swank) tries to rebuild her life, following instructions left by her late husband ("300’s" Gerard Butler). Swank’s "Freedom Writers" director, Richard LaGravenese does the best he can to cool down the mostly overheated farrago of sentiment, self-help and romantic cliché that marks this seven-hankie weepie co-starring Gina Gershon, Kathy Bates, Lisa Kudrow (will someone please give this woman her own movie already?) and Harry Connick Jr. (126 min.) PG-13; sexual references, brief nudity.

REVOLVER

(D+) Just out of the slammer, a gambler (Jason Statham) vows vengeance against the casino boss (Ray Liotta) who done him wrong, only to become embroiled with a pair of enigmatic loan sharks (André "3000" Benjamin, "The Sopranos’ " Vincent Pastore) in a pretentious, often incomprehensible thriller from writer-director Guy Ritchie. Given Ritchie’s penchant for flashy twists (remember "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels" and "Snatch"?), we keep waiting for a payoff. But as "Revolver" rolls on — and on and on and on — it becomes painfully apparent that Ritchie’s firing nothing but blanks. (95 min.) R; violence, profanity, nudity. (C.C.)

SEA MONSTERS: A PREHISTORIC ADVENTURE

(B+) Go under the sea — and back in time — with this Imax 3-D documentary from National Geographic, now at the Luxor, about the 82-million-year-old creatures that swam the world’s oceans — from the Tylosaurus (the T. rex of the deep) to the most dangerous sea monster of all, the mosasaur. (40 min.) NR; all ages.

SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET

(A) There’s thrilling, as in "producing sudden, strong and deep emotion or excitement." And there’s thrilling — as in "moving with rapture; delighting beyond measure." Star Johnny Depp and director Tim Burton’s sixth collaboration is both: a soaring, stunning adaptation of composer Stephen Sondheim’s landmark Broadway musical, with a haunting Depp as both monster and victim, a falsely imprisoned barber who returns to Victorian London after years in exile — and launches a bloody quest for vengeance against the judge (sly Alan Rickman) who stole his wife and daughter. (117 min.) R; graphic bloody violence. (C.C.)

TITANIC

(B) James Cameron’s epic account of the luxury liner’s first (and final) voyage returns for a 10th-anniversary cruise (at Tropicana Cinema), with Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet as star-crossed sweethearts. The movie’s mammoth title ship proves far more compelling than its human passengers, yet despite an oversized cargo of melodramatic baggage that would sink a lesser vessel, "Titanic’s" sheer spectacle keeps the movie afloat. (194 min.) PG-13; disaster-related peril and violence, nudity, sexual references, brief profanity. (C.C.)

WALK HARD: THE DEWEY COX STORY

(B-) John C. Reilly takes on the title role in a raucous, raunchy spoof of pop-icon biopics (think "Walk the Line"), playing an ill-starred dimwit of a country rocker stumbling his way back and forth from "tragedy" to "triumph." More smiles than belly laughs, but this erratic, enjoyable goof from the hit-making machine of "Knocked Up" and "Superbad" producer Judd Apatow skewers some of its targets with irresistible glee. (96 min.) R; sexual content, graphic nudity, drug use, profanity.

THE WATER HORSE: LEGEND OF THE DEEP

(B) In World War II-era Scotland, a lonely boy ("Millions" charmer Alex Etel) discovers a mysterious egg that hatches a playful sea monster in a sweet, family-friendly fantasy featuring Emily Watson, Ben Chaplin, David Morrissey — and narrator Brian Cox. It borrows more than a bit from "E.T." as it amusingly explains the legend of the Loch Ness monster. But it also weaves a moving tale of loyalty and unexpected friendship. (111 min.) PG; action/peril, mild profanity, brief smoking.

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