Movies

Opening This Week

These movies open Friday unless noted.

Alvin and the Chipmunks

Jason Lee (

My Name Is Earl

) stars as Dave in this family comedy based on the cartoon series about three singing chipmunks with squeaky voices.

Darfur Now

This documentary looks at the genocide in Darfur, in Sudan.

I Am Legend

In this sci-fi thriller, Will Smith is the only survivor of a plague that has turned the rest of New York into mutant beasts.

Juno

An eccentric teen (Ellen Page) who finds herself unexpectedly pregnant makes an unlikely decision about the future of her unborn child.

The Kite Runner

After 20 years in the United States, an Afghan businessman returns to his homeland to atone for betraying a childhood friend. From the best-selling novel by Khaled Hosseini.

The Perfect Holiday

A young girl asks Santa to find a new man for her mother. Starring Gabrielle Union and Morris Chestnut.

Opens Wednesday

The Red Balloon/White Mane

Two classic French shorts from the '50s are restored - one about a boy and the balloon that follows him everywhere, the other about a boy who seeks to tame a white horse.

Starting Out in the Evening

Lauren Ambrose (

Six Feet Under

) stars as a grad student who tries to resurrect the career of her inspiration, an aging, long-forgotten writer (Frank Langella).

Excellent (****)

Reviewed by critics Carrie Rickey (C.R.) and Steven Rea (S.R.). W.S. denotes a wire-service review.

Before the Devil Knows You're Dead

An audacious tale of greed, infidelity and murder from top-of-his-game director Sidney Lumet, this jewelry-store-heist melodrama involves two brothers (Ethan Hawke and Philip Seymour Hoffman), their agitated dad (Albert Finney), and Marisa Tomei as an unfaithful spouse. It's a horror show of hatred and festering psychic wounds. So why is it so much fun? 1 hr. 48

R

(violence, profanity, drugs, sex, nudity, adult themes) -

S.R.

The Bourne Ultimatum

This clenched-jaw thriller based on the Robert Ludlum character - with Matt Damon back again as the somebody's-messed-with-my-head secret agent known as Jason Bourne - is unstoppable, gear-grinding, globe-hopping fun. 1 hr. 51

PG-13

(violence, action, adult themes) -

S.R.

Very Good (***1/2)

Enchanted

Supercalifragilistic. Amy Adams is a delight as the cartoon princess from Andalasia who falls down a well, climbs up a sewer and finds herself - a real live woman now - smack in the middle of Times Square, searching for true love's kiss. With Patrick Dempsey and James Marsden, songs by Alan Menken and Stephen Schwartz. 1 hr. 47

PG

(innuendo, mild cartoon violence) -

C.R.

Into the Wild

Sean Penn's exhilarating and exceptional telling of the real-life story of Chris McCandless, who renounced family and friends to take a journey of self-discovery across America and into the Alaskan wilderness. With Emile Hirsch. 2 hrs. 20

R

(profanity, brief nudity, animal violence) -

C.R.

Lust, Caution

Ang Lee's richly detailed espionage drama takes place in World War II Shanghai, where a Chinese collaborationist is seduced and betrayed by a young actress posing as a businessman's wife. Suspenseful and erotic, with terrific performances from Tony Leung and Tang Wei. 2 hrs. 37

NC-17

(sex, nudity, violence, adult themes) -

S.R.

Michael Clayton

First-rate thriller about a second-rate guy. George Clooney gives a sterling performance as the morally tarnished title character, a fixer at a law firm where everything is coming apart. 2 hrs.

R

(profanity, sexual candor) -

C.R.

No Country for Old Men

The Coen brothers' taut, terrific adaptation of the Cormac McCarthy novel about a psycho killer, a Vietnam vet, a Lone Star sheriff, and the bag of money that brings them together on the stark borderlands of 1980 West Texas. With Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, and Javier Bardem. 2 hrs. 02

R

(violence, profanity, adult themes) -

S.R.

Also on Screens

August Rush **

Oliver Twisty urban fairy tale about a musical prodigy (Freddie Highmore) who believes his parents are still alive and that he can find them through his music. Preposterous, but if you let the music carry you, you might get sucked in. With Robin Williams, Terrence Howard and Keri Russell. 1 hr. 40

PG

(Dickensian thematic elements, appropriate for children 8 and up) -

C.R.

Awake **

Hayden Christensen stars as a man who suffers from "anesthetical awareness," a condition that leaves him awake, but paralyzed, during heart surgery. 1 hr. 18

R

(profanity, disturbing situation) -

W.S.

Beowulf **

A Looney Tunes

300

, this digitally animated adaptation of the crusty Anglo-Saxon poem about a demon-slaying Geat offers cartoony, video-game likenesses of its all-star cast, including Angelina Jolie as a naked, serpent-tailed, stiletto-heeled Grendel's Mother. Hot mama! 1 hr. 55

PG-13

(violence, nudity, adult themes) -

S.R.

Fred Claus **

Sporadically funny tale of sibling rivalry in which the few good jokes about cheery Santa (Paul Giamatti) and his grumpy elder brother (Vince Vaughn) sail over the heads of the under-12 set at whom this movie is aimed. 1 hr. 56

PG

(mild profanity, rude humor) -

C.R.

Hitman *

An international assassin (Timothy Olyphant) tries to stay a step ahead of those looking to take him down, which include Interpol and the Russian military. 1 hr. 33

R

(strong, bloody violence, language and some sexuality and nudity) -

W.S.

This Christmas ***

When a dysfunctional family gets together for the holiday, secrets are revealed. Starring Regina King and Chris Brown. 2 hrs.

PG-13

(sexual innuendo and some violence)

-

C.R.

Theater

Reviewed by critics Wendy Rosenfield (W.R.), Howard Shapiro (H.S.) and Toby Zinman (T.Z.).

Opening

Holiday Show at the Swing Club

(Theatre Horizon at the Centre Theatre, Norristown) An original one-act musical set in the '40s and using popular Big Band-era songs. Previews start Tuesday, opens Friday.

Striking 12

(Prince) A cabaret musical by Valerie Vigoda, Brendan Milburn and Rachel Scheinkin. Opens Wednesday.

Winter Musicale 2007

(Bristol Riverside Theatre) Annual songfest. Opens Thursday.

The World Goes 'Round

(11th Hour at Walnut 5) Kander and Ebb musical revue from the company that gave us Barrymore-winning

Bomb-itty of Errors

last season. Opens Thursday.

Continuing

Age of Arousal

(Wilma) Blanka Zizka directs this U.S. premiere of Linda Griffiths' play about Victorian women fighting for economic and sexual freedom. Corset-loosening was probably more dramatic than bra-burning. We'll see. Through Jan. 6.

Ain't Misbehavin'

(Prince Music Theatre) Melba Moore sings Fats Waller. Through Dec. 31.

A Christmas Carol

(Mum Puppettheatre). Nice to be reminded in this season of rampant materialism that there are more important things than money. This imaginative and accomplished adaptation of Dickens' famous story features puppets, masks, silhouettes, two actors and lots of charm and talent. Through Dec. 30

- T.Z.

An Empty Plate in the Cafe du Grand Boeuf

(Arden Theatre) The title pretty much says it all - not much to chew on in this revival of Michael Hollinger's play billed as a "tragic comedy in seven courses." Ends today. -

T.Z.

The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)

(Delaware Theatre Company) A farcical lark through the plays. Through Dec. 23.

The Eight: Reindeer Monologues

(Bckseet Productions at Society Hill Playhouse) Comedy. Through Dec. 29

Greater Tuna

(Walnut Independence Studio) John Zak and Benjamin Lloyd play 20 characters in this mostly funny show about a redneck town in Texas. Through Dec. 30.

- T.Z.

Hate Mail

(Act II Playhouse) A slacker version of

Love Letters

features real-life married actors Damon Bonetti and Charlotte Northeast, who bring to life the cringe-worthy humor and frustration of early-adult courtship. Ends today.

- W.R.

Hello Dolly!

(Candlelight Theatre, Wilmington) The costumes are great, the dancing's lively, but many of the performances are overblown, more like cartoons than real characters. Tickets include dinner. Through Dec. 23.

- H.S.

Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat

(Media Theatre) The Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice musical about Old Testament jealousy and redemption is like the best Sunday school class ever. Media's production delivers on every aspect except set and sound. Through Dec. 30.

- W.R.

Menopause:

The Musical (Society Hill Playhouse) Long-running, popular show about The Change. Open-ended run.

Peter Pan

(Walnut Street Theatre) Revival of the much-loved musical about a boy who won't grow up. Director Marc Robin keeps all your childhood memories intact, and inserts a few extra giggles in this robust, splendid production. Through Jan. 6.

- W.R.

Santaland Diaries

(Flashpoint Theatre at Fergie's Pub) David Sedaris' snarky holiday satire. Through next Sunday.

The School for Wives

(Lantern Theater Company) Moliere's rarely seen comedy about an old guy, a young wife and the ensuing commotion in a lively, charming production. Ends today.

- T.Z.

Sleeping Beauty

(Arden) Whit McLaughlin directs this family show. Through Jan. 27.

This Is the week That Is

(1812 Productions at the Adrienne) Up-to-the-minute political satire. Through Jan. 13.

Treasure Island

(People's Light & Theatre) Not a retelling of the Stevenson pirate classic - though it does retain a few of the original's characters - this fun musical panto calls for rowdy audience participation and lots of laughs. Through Dec. 30.

- W.R.

Vieux Carre

(EgoPo at Christ Church Neighborhood House) The New Orleans company takes on the New Orleans master with this rarely seen Tennessee Williams play, the first of the company's Williams festival. Through Dec. 22.

Video

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix **1/2

Until now, the Harry Potter pictures were that rare franchise where every picture topped the prior one. In this one about Harry's coming of romantic, political and wizarding age, director David Yates shows rapport with actors and not much skill in integrating the characters with the special effects. Instead of igniting Potter fever it induces Potter fatigue. 2 hrs. 18

PG-13

(fantasy violence, nightmares)

- C.R.