Opening This Week
These movies open Friday unless noted.
Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem
The residents of a small town are in for trouble when rival groups of aliens and predators stop by for a little war in this sequel to the 2004 sci-fi thriller.
The Great Debaters
Denzel Washington directs and stars as a professor at a small black college in Texas who molds a group of students into a debating team that challenges Harvard for the national championship. Forest Whitaker also stars.
The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep
The special-effects team behind the
Lord of the Rings
trilogy worked on this fantasy about a boy who finds a magical egg on a Scottish beach.
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
(violence, profanity, drugs, sex, nudity, adult themes)
Very Good (***1/2)
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
Julian Schnabel's impish and pitiless profile of Jean-Dominique Bauby, a Parisian rake who suffers a massive stroke that leaves him almost completely paralyzed. In this portrait of the artist who creates despite physical restraints, Mathieu Amalric plays Bauby, who dictates a memoir one letter at a time by blinking his eye to his secretary. In French with English subtitles. 1 hr. 52
(nudity, sexual content, profanity) -
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
(innuendo, mild cartoon violence)
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 starring J.K. Simmons, Allison Janney, Jennifer Garner, Jason Bateman and Michael Cera. 1 hr. 31
(sexual candor, procreative candor, mild profanity) -
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
(mature themes, sexual violence) -
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 in the stark borderlands of 1980 West Texas. With Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, and Javier Bardem. 2 hrs. 02
(violence, profanity, adult themes) -
The superb Laura Linney and Philip Seymour Hoffman costar in Tamara Jenkins' mordant and poignant portrait of siblings caring for the ailing parent (Philip Bosco) who abandoned them in childhood. 1 hr. 53
(profanity, sexual candor) -
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
(Mild vulgarity) -
Charlie Wilson's War ***
Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman star in this true-life tale of a party-hearty Texas congressman who orchestrated one of the largest covert operations in U.S. history, funding the fight against the Soviets in 1980s Afghanistan. Anything but a sober history lesson, this Mike Nichols-directed political comedy abounds with sex, drugs and intrigue. 1 hr. 37
(sex, drugs, profanity, nudity, violence, adult themes) -
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 . . .
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
(violence, profanity, scares, adult themes)
National Treasure: Book of Secrets *1/2
A thumping, gabby slog of a sequel to the surprise 2004 blockbuster. Nicolas Cage returns as the galavanting historian, this time digging for clues in the diary of Lincoln assassin John Wilkes Booth. An impressive cast - Bruce Greenwood, Ed Harris, Harvey Keitel, Diane Kruger, Helen Mirren and Jon Voight - is wasted. 2 hrs. 04
(action, adult themes) -
Sweeney Todd **1/2
Tim Burton adapts Stephen Sondheim's dissonant musical into a splatter operetta starring Johnny Depp as the Barber of Deville, Helena Bonham Carter as his accomplice, and Alan Rickman, sepulchral and sensational, as the corrupt judge who incites Sweeney to seek revenge. 1 hr. 57
(blood, gore, sexual candor) -
Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story **1/2
A clump of cinematic silly putty starring John C. Reilly as a musical shape-shifter who, over 50 years, morphs from rockabilly goat to folkie troubadour to rock dinosaur. With Jenna Fischer as the Puritan hottie who sings backup and Tim Meadows as the drummer ever ahead of the curve when it comes to happening drugs. 1 hr. 36
(full frontal nudity, sexual candor, sex, double-entendres, and drugs galore) -
Reviewed by critics Wendy Rosenfield (W.R.), Howard Shapiro (H.S.) and Toby Zinman (T.Z.).
Opening This Week
(Merriam) The wizards of percussion return. An imaginative, joyful celebration of rhythm and noise. Opens Wednesday.
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.
(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.
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.
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)
(Delaware Theatre Company) A farcical lark through the plays. Ends today.
The Eight: Reindeer Monologues
(Bckseet Productions at Society Hill Playhouse) Comedy. Through Dec. 29.
(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.
(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. Ends today
. - H.S.
Holiday Show at the Swing Club
(Theatre Horizon at the Centre Theatre, Norristown) A 1940s musical revue that evolved from interviews with senior center residents. Great tunes, swinging hoofers and affectionate performances led by Ted Powell as bandleader Jimmy Goodshaw. 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.
Menopause: The Musical
(Society Hill Playhouse) Long-running, popular show about The Change. Open-ended run.
(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.
(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.
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.
(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.
Winter Musicale 2007
(Bristol Riverside Theatre) The annual songfest. Ends today.
The Velveteen Rabbit
(Enchantment at the Suzanne Roberts) A Grammy-nominated musical recording of Margery Williams' classic children's book is played over a live adaptation of the story with masks and puppets. Aurally and visually pleasing, just not at the same time. Through Dec. 30.
The World Goes 'Round
(11th Hour at Walnut 5) Kander and Ebb musical revue of songs from
Kiss of the Spiderwoman
and more, all given new and contemporary context. An enjoyable evening, if not the youthful, avant-garde edginess we've come to expect from the company. Through Dec. 30.
The Kingdom **1/2
Rambo-rousing tale of an elite FBI squad that slips into Saudi Arabia to investigate a terrorist attack on American employees of a U.S. oil company. With Jamie Foxx, Jennifer Garner and the compelling Ashraf Barhom. 1 hr. 50
(graphic violence, profanity) -