Movies

Opening Friday

The Day the Earth Stood Still

Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, Kathy Bates and Jon Hamm (

Mad Men

) star in this remake of the 1951 sci-fi classic about an alien who visits Earth.

Delgo A troubled teen and unlikely friends try to save the world from warring factions in this animated feature.

Eden

Troubles begins to surface in a marriage nearing its 10th anniversary.

Frost/Nixon

Ron Howard directs this retelling of David Frost's (Michael Sheen) interviews with Richard Nixon (Frank Langella) three years after he resigned the presidency in disgrace.

Nothing Like the Holidays

A far-flung family unites in their native Chicago for an eventful Christmas. John Leguizamo and Freddy Rodriguez star.

Stranded: I've Come From a Plane That Crashed on the Mountains

This doc looks at a 1972 plane crash in the Andes through the eyes of its survivors.

Trainwreck: My Life as an Idiot

A recovering alcoholic with attention deficit disorder and Tourette's syndrome falls for a gold digger who inspires him. Seann William Scott and Gretchen Mol star.

What Doesn't Kill You

Two Boston thugs (Mark Ruffalo, Ethan Hawke) find their lifelong friendship under strain when one wants to go straight following a stint in prison.

While She Was Out

A suburban housewife fights for her life when she becomes stranded in a forest with a group of murderous hooligans. Kim Basinger stars.

Excellent (****)

Reviewed by critic Steven Rea (S.R.)

Slumdog Millionaire

A street kid-turned-gofer who gets on the Indian version of

Who Wants to be a Millionaire?

, and keeps answering the questions correctly, amazingly. 2 hr.

R

(violence, profanity, adult themes) -

S.R.

Very Good (***1/2)

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

Anita O'Day: The Life of a Jazz Singer

A fine, lively documentary portrait of the late, great jazz singer, a hard-boiled woman who lived far into her 80s and whose rhythmic vocalizations rank right up there with Billie Holiday and Etta James. 1 hr. 32

No MPAA rating

(profanity, adult themes) -

S.R.

A Christmas Tale

A fractious family gathered in a comfy house for Yuletide celebration - with Catherine Deneuve presiding over an amazing cast of French stars. Roiling with laughter, tears, drunken confessions, revelatory soliloquies, sorrow and love - it's a true family feast.

No MPAA rating

(profanity, adult themes) -

S.R.

Happy-Go-Lucky

Mike Leigh's odd, ingenious portrait of a cheery London schoolteacher, a 30-year-old single gal played with depth and indomitability by Sally Hawkins. With Eddie Marson in an unforgettable role as a seething driving instructor.

1 hr. 58

R

(profanity, adult themes) -

S.R.

I've Loved You So Long

Kristin Scott Thomas is extraordinary as a woman just released from prison, struggling to work her way back into society, and haunted by the guilt of her crime. A story that's stark and redemptive, from French writer and first-time director Philippe Claudel. 1 hr. 5

PG-13

(sex, nudity, profanity, adult themes) -

S.R.

Let the Right One In

A very fine, very frightening Swedish noir about a misfit boy befriended by a 12-year-old vampire. With voyeuristic gore and an undercurrent of dread, this is up there with the bloodsucking classics. 1 hr. 54

R

(violence, gore, adult themes) -

S.R.

Rachel Getting Married

According to the rules, tragedy ends in death, and comedy in marriage. But Jonathan Demme's superb ensemble drama starring Anne Hathaway as the troubled sibling home for the wedding of her sister (the astonishing Rosemarie DeWitt) is decidedly not a comedy. Rather, it's the heartrending story of a troubled girl tearing apart the family tapestry and, with her sibling's help, learning to piece together its common threads. With Bill Irwin, Anna Deavere Smith, and the extraordinary Debra Winger. 1 hr. 54

R

(sexuality, profanity, emotional violence) -

C.R.

Also on Screens

Australia **

Long in the making - and almost as long in the watching - Baz Luhrmann's epic piffle, set in 1939, is a Down Under mash-up of vintage Hollywood Westerns and romancers, with a World War II movie thrown in after the first hour-and-a-half. Starring Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman. 2 hrs. 45

PG-13

(profanity, violence, adult themes) -

S.R.

Bolt ***

Wiggy, waggy-dog story about a Shepherd who gets a new leash on life. In this Disney animation Bolt (voice of John Travolta) is a canine James Bond who doesn't realize that his sonic-boom bark and supersonic speed are the products of TV special-effects wizards. He learns that he's an ordinary dog - with the extraordinary loyalty of his species. 1 hr. 36

PG

(intense action and pup-in-peril situations, suitable for ages five and over) -

C.R.

Four Christmases *1/2

Wan comedy about spending the holidays with his redneck Dad, her cougar mom, his red-hot hippie mama, and her much-married father. Despite a promising opening, it squanders the comic talents of supersized Vince Vaughn and petite Reese Witherspoon. 1 hr. 22

PG-13

(sexual humor, language, slapstick violence) -

C.R.

Punisher: War Zone *1/2

Ray Stevenson stars as the voracious vigilante in this comic book adaptation. The nonstop graphic violence in this splatter-fest is truly shocking. 1 hr. 47

R

(excessive violence, profanity, drugs) -

D.H.

Quantum of Solace ***

Daniel Craig is back as a lean, mean, out-for-blood James Bond, looking to avenge the death of his

Casino Royale

girlfriend and finding a new Bond girl (Ukrainian supermodel Olga Kurylenko) in the process. Breathless action, big set pieces, locations on three continents. 1 hr. 46

PG-13

(violence, sex, adult themes) -

S.R.

Twilight ***

A pheromone-soaked high school romance rife with heavy-duty Dracula stuff, Catherine Hardwicke's savvy adaptation of the Stephenie Meyer bestseller turns vampirism into a metaphor for teen lust. Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson star - full of desire, and full of dread at what might happen if he sinks his fangs into her. 2 hr.

PG-13

(scares, adult themes) -

S.R.

Theater

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

New This Week

25 Questions for a Jewish Mother

(Philadelphia Theatre Company) Judy Gold's examination of what it means to be one. Previews Thursday and Friday, opens Saturday.

Cherry Bomb

(1812 Productions) The company's holiday show celebrates an atrocious five-sister act. Previews Thursday-Sunday and Dec. 16, opens Dec. 17.

Frost/Nixon

(DuPont Theatre) Steacy Keach is the disgraced ex-president, undone in his landmark TV interview with David Frost. Opens Tuesday.

James and the Giant Peach

(Arden Theatre) Roald Dahl's magical tale of an abused boy saved by the denizens of a large stone fruit. Previews Wednesday through Friday, opens Saturday.

Schmucks

(Wilma Theater) Groucho Marx and Lenny Bruce stage a funniness faceoff in a New York diner during the 1965 blackout. Previews Wednesday-Sunday and Dec. 9, opens Dec. 10.

Continuing

Cinderella

(People's Light and Theatre) Don't let the name fool you. This clever Jazz-Age panto adaptation is the polar opposite of that frilly princess-y Disney confection. Through Jan. 4.

- W.R.

Dark Play or Stories for Boys

(Theatre Exile) If a play about the dangers of Internet chatrooms and the creeps lurking there strikes you as old news, you will probably find Carlos Murillo's play, despite Exile's capable production, boring. Ends today.

- T.Z.

Gee's Bend

(Arden) Based on the lives of three generations of quilting women in Gee's Bend, Ala. The cast is rock-solid, perfectly suited to this unpretentious, unsentimental and altogether engaging play. Ends today.

- T.Z.

The Government Inspector

(Lantern Theater Company) This amusing 19th-century Gogol farce has a superb cast and lots of doors, but it's a one-joke two-act play, with a punchline you can see coming a mile away. Through Dec. 28.

- T.Z.

Hairspray

(Walnut Street Theatre) Big hair, big message, big beat with a big cast with big voices and big production numbers: big fun in the theater. Through Jan. 4.

- T.Z

.

It's a Wonderful Life

(Prince Music Theater) The beloved holiday film classic - staged as a radio play. Through Dec. 21.

Legally Blonde

(Academy of Music) This perky musical adaptation of the perkier movie, about a not-so-dumb blonde at Harvard Law, provides good fun, a female-empowerment message, two adorable dogs, and some great production numbers. Ends today.

- T.Z.

Look Mom, I'm Swell

(Act II Playhouse) Local favorite Tony Braithwaite brings back his one-man reminiscence. Through next Sunday.

The Music Man

(New Candlelight Theatre) This production goes all-out for the classic small-town musical tale of huckster Harold Hill and Marian the Librarian. Through Dec. 21.

- W.R.

Oliver

(Media Theatre) Please, sir, he wants some more! Through Jan. 4.

Picasso at the Lapin Agile

(Delaware Theatre Company) Steve Martin's take on Einstein and Picasso meeting in a Paris bar in 1904. Through Dec. 21.

Rock Doves

(Amaryllis Theatre) This grim soap opera is so place-specific - the nasty slums of Belfast - and so parochial in its Northern Irish accents and politics that an American audience is pretty much left out. Ends today.

- T.Z.

She Loves You

(Society Hill Playhouse) This Beatles tribute takes you half the way there, which for nostalgic day-trippers just might be enough to make it worthwhile. Open-ended run.

- W.R.

Talk Radio (Revised)

(New City State Company) Eric Bogosian's one-man-and-a-microphone rant. Through Jan. 11.

A Tuna Christmas

(Walnut Street Theatre) Two actors play all 24 denizens of Tuna, Texas, on the chaotic night before Christmas. Through Jan. 4.

Video

The Dark Knight ***

This sequel to 2005's

Batman Begins

has the Caped Crusader (Christian Bale) teaming up with Police Lt. Gordon (Gary Oldman) and a new D.A. (Aaron Eckhart) to take on the Joker (Heath Ledger in his final film). 2 hrs. 32

PG-13

(intense violence, sadism, threats to children) -

C.R.