Movies

Opening Friday

Doubt

Meryl Streep stars as a nun at a Catholic school in the Bronx who gets involved in a battle of wills with a charismatic priest (Philip Seymour Hoffman) who is accused of giving innapropriate attention to the school's first African American student. Directed by, and adapted from the Pulitzer Prize-winning play by, John Patrick Shanley.

Seven Pounds

A depressed and guilt-ridden IRS agent (Will Smith) tries to change his life by setting out to help seven strangers.

The Tale of Despereaux

An unusual-looking mouse with an interest in books falls for a princess in this animated feature.

Were the World Mine

In this fantasy musical, an outcast in a homophobic town obtains a potion that enables him to transform the townspeople.

Yes Man

Jim Carrey stars as a man who signs up for a self-help program that leads to him saying "yes" to anything and everything.

Excellent (****)

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

Slumdog Millionaire

A street kid-turned-gofer 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.

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

Even if you've read the nonfiction bestseller

Alive,

or seen the 1993 feature, the suspense in this quietly gripping documentary about the survivors of a 1972 plane crash in the Andes is still going to get to you. 2 hrs. 10

No MPAA rating

(intense images, profanity, adult themes) -

S.R.

Very Good (***1/2)

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.

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.

The Day the Earth Stood Still **1/2

Entertauning update of the 1951 sci-fi classic works along the lines of a lightbulb joke. How many astrobiologists does it take to save the earth? One, but only if the earth really wants to change. Jennifer Connelly is the astrobiologist and Keanu Reeves the alien life form who learns to appreciate humans. 1 hr. 43

PG-13

(graphic surgery, sci-fi explosions and threats, violence) -

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.

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

A Chorus Line

(Forrest Theatre) The quintessential American musical. Opens Tuesday.

Cherry Bomb

(1812 Productions) The company's holiday show celebrates an atrocious five-sister act. Previews today and Tuesday, opens Wednesday.

Continuing

25 Questions for a Jewish Mother

(Philadelphia Theatre Company) Judy Gold's examination of what it means to be one. Through next Sunday.

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.

Frost/Nixon

(DuPont Theatre) Stacy Keach, as Richard M. Nixon, and Alan Cox, as TV personality David Frost, head a solid national tour cast in the play that also premieres throughout the country as a film this weekend. Ends today.

- H.S.

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 punch line 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) This is the beloved holiday movie re-invented -- as a live radio play, The story's a classic, the cast is classy, and the production's attention to detail enriches it all. Through next Sunday.

- H.S.

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. Through Feb. 8.

Look Mom, I'm Swell

(Act II Playhouse) Local favorite Tony Braithwaite brings back his much-improved one-man reminiscence. Ends today.

- W.R.

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 next Sunday.

- W.R.

Oliver

(Media Theatre) A serviceable production of the musical misses a chance to say something new, and instead considers itself part of the furniture. Through Jan. 4.

- W.R.

Picasso at the Lapin Agile

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

Schmucks

(Wilma Theater) Stupifyingly unfunny and maudlin to boot, this play about Groucho Marx and Lenny Bruce has nothing to recommend it except an appearance by the ghost of Harpo Marx. And even that's too long. Through Jan. 4.

- T.Z.

She Loves You

(Society Hill Playhouse) This Beatles tribute takes you half 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 Stage Company) Paul Felder savages - in a good way - the role of radio-host Barry Champlain. Too bad everyone else looks like a cartoon. Through Jan. 11.

- W.R.

A Tuna Christmas

(Walnut Street Theatre) Funny and surprisingly touching, this show returns us to Tuna, Texas, for part two of the Tuna trilogy. John Zak and Benjamin Lloyd virtuosically play 24 characters, all of whom are having a bizarre and difficult Christmas. Through Jan. 4.

- T.Z.

Video

The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor **

Brendan Fraser is back (but Rachel Weisz isn't) in the second sequel to the ersatz Indiana Jones hit. The cliche-laden hodgepodge of period-piece chopsocky takes place in 1947 China, where an evil 2,000-year-old emperor has returned to life, requiring everyone to run around, shout and fight. 1 hr. 53

PG-13

(violence, action, adult themes) -

S.R.