Movies

Opening This Week

These movies open Friday unless noted.

Charlie Wilson's War

Tom Hanks stars in this movie inspired by the true story of an alcoholic Texas congressman whose covert work led to the funding of Afghan rebels who helped repel the Soviet invasion of their country. Also starring Julia Roberts.

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

The true story of Elle France editor Jean-Dominique Bauby (Mathieu Amalric), who suffered a paralyzing stroke, yet could communicate his experiences by blinking his left eye. English and French with subtitles.

National Treasure: Book of Secrets

Nicolas Cage returns as treasure hunter Ben Gates in this sequel to the 2004 hit. This time he seeks the truth behind Lincoln's assassination.

P.S. I Love You

A widow (Hilary Swank) discovers that her late husband has left 10 messages to help her move on with her life.

The Savages

A brother and sister (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Laura Linney) grow closer while caring for their elderly, once-abusive father (Philip Bosco).

Sweeney Todd

Johnny Depp stars in this Tim Burton adaptation of the Broadway musical about an unjustly imprisoned barber who seeks grisly revenge on those who've done him wrong. Music by Stephen Sondheim. Also starring Helena Bonham Carter and Alan Rickman.

Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story

Despite sleeping with more than 400 women, fathering more than 20 children, and trying every drug known to man, musician Dewey Cox (John C. Reilly) has become an American icon, in this spoof of a musical biopic.

Excellent (****)

Reviewed by critics Carrie Rickey (C.R.) and Steven Rea (S.R.).

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 Red Balloon

This 1956 short, shot on the streets of Paris and following a day or two in the life of a little boy and his balloon, remains one of the greatest children's films ever made. Which means it's great for grown-ups, too.

White Mane

, a second short from 1953, is paired with

The Red Balloon

for a total running length of 1 hr. 15

No MPAA rating

(nothing offensive) -

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.

Juno

A 16-year-old girl (sensational Ellen Page) has an unplanned pregnancy, plans to give up the baby for adoption. Improbably endearing comedy about a decidedly unfunny situation. Also staring J.K. Simmons, Allison Janney, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman and Michael Cera. 1 hr. 31

PG-13

(sexual candor, procreative candor, mild profanity) -

C.R.

The Kite Runner

Moving adaptation of Khaled Hosseini's beloved best-seller about the interwined lives of Afghan boys whose friendship - and lives - are forever altered one day before Soviet tanks and then Taliban fundamentalists roll into Kabul. With the splendid Homayoun Ershadi and mournful Ahmad Khan Mahmoodzada. 2 hrs. 02

PG-13

(mature themes, sexual 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

Alvin and the Chipmunks **1/2

The harmonizing rodents are back, this time in CGI, with Jason Lee as their live-action dad in this diversion for 6-year-olds and their babysitters. 1 hr. 31

PG

(Mild vulgarity) -

C.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.

The Golden Compass ***

A smartly realized adaptation of Philip Pullman's trilogy about a feisty girl with special powers (and a special compass), coping with child-abducting evildoers, flying witches and talking bears in a 19th-century parallel universe. Daniel Craig, Sam Elliott and Nicole Kidman are among the grown-ups in this fantastical world. 1 hr. 58

PG-13

(violence, children in jeopardy, adult themes) -

S.R.

I Am Legend **1/2

Will Smith is the last man in Manhattan in this viral sci-fi thriller. It's essentially

28 Days Later . . .

, or

28 Weeks Later . . .

, only with millions more for special effects, and nothing approaching those pics' power and smarts. But Smith's a genuine star, and there are long stretches where his military scientist dude prowls the streets, a creepy hush in the air, commanding our attention. Warning: plot holes the size of New York potholes. 1 hr. 40

PG-13

(violence, profanity, scares, adult themes) -

S.R.

The Perfect Holiday *

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

Surviving Christmas

for sheer unwatchability among Christmas films. 1 hr. 36

PG

(sexual innuendo) -

C.R.

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.).

Continuing

Age of Arousal

(Wilma) The Wilma's U.S. premiere of this Canadian play about Victorian women fighting for equality is a solid production of a belabored script. Great costumes, though. Through Jan. 6.

- H.S.

Ain't Misbehavin'

(Prince Music Theatre) Melba Moore headlines a good cast in this entertaining if not always thrilling revue of 29 Fats Waller songs. Through Dec. 31.

- T.Z.

A Christmas Carol

(Mum Puppettheatre). Local playwright Bruce Graham and puppeteer Robert Smythe team up with Charles Dickens to create an imaginative, charming production of the old favorite; Jered McLenigan's 25 voices are remarkable. Through Dec. 30

- 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.

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.

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. Through Dec. 31.

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. Ends today.

Sleeping Beauty

(Arden) Whit McLaughlin directs that rare production whose discrete elements - set, costumes, music, lighting, directing, acting - add up to one enchanting entity. Through Jan. 27.

- W.R.

This Is the Week That Is

(1812 Productions at the Adrienne) A vaudeville of skits and songs of up-to-the-minute political satire, often funny, rarely shocking. Through Jan. 13.

- T.Z.

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, revealing why it's rarely seen: The play is overwritten and the production is overdirected and overacted. Ends Saturday.

- T.Z.

Winter Musicale 2007

(Bristol Riverside Theatre) The annual songfest. Ends next Sunday.

The World Goes 'Round

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

Bomb-itty of Errors

last season. Through Dec. 30.

Video

The Simpsons Movie ***

It's funny, but not

that

funny. The iconic cartoon sitcom clan get their own widescreen epic, with a save-the-world eco-disaster plot and guest turns by Green Day and Tom Hanks. While every effort has been made to super-size the mega-hit TV show, the film feels more like a patchwork of episodes than a fluid, organic whole. 1 hr. 27

PG-13

(cartoon nudity, underage drinking, adult themes) -

S.R.