Movies

Opening This Week

No movies open this week.

Excellent (****)

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

Fantastic Mr. Fox The fur flies in Wes Anderson's stop-motion- animation gem about an erudite predator and his burrowing brood. With the voices of George Clooney, Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, and Bill Murray, this adaptation of a Roald Dahl book is the best animated film of the year, and maybe the best film, period. 1 hr. 27 PG (cartoon violence, "cussin' ", adult themes) - S.R.

Up in the Air As the frequent-flying "career transition counselor" (read: the suave bully you hire when you're scared to fire employees), George Clooney gives the performance of his career. Jason Reitman's movie is perfectly tailored to the star's melancholy twinkle and purring motormouth. With the sublime Vera Farmiga and quirky Anna Kendrick. 1 hr. 48 R (language, sexual content) - C.R.

Very Good (***1/2)

Avatar James Cameron's mega- expensive technological marvel is also a whole lot of fun: A gamer generation's Dances With Wolves, with a human soldier (and his avatar) falling in love with a blue-skinned alien from the planet Pandora. 2 hr. 41 PG-13 (violence, aggressive action, alien beasts, adult themes) - S.R.

Brothers Jake Gyllenhaal, Tobey Maguire, and Natalie Portman deliver the best work of their careers in this keenly observed and heartbreaking remake of the 2004 Danish film about a soldier gone to war, and the wife and black-sheep brother he leaves behind. 1 hr. 55 R (violence, scenes of torture, sex, profanity, adult themes) - S.R.

An Education Disarming and unexpectedly poignant story set in 1961 of a dreamy, Oxford-bound 16-year-old (enchanting Carey Mulligan) who takes up with a sophisticated older man (Peter Sarsgaard). Pungently realized by filmmaker Lone Scherfig from the memoir by Lynn Barber. 1 hr. 35 PG-13 (discreet sexual content, smoking) - C.R.

Me and Orson Welles Richard Linklater's spirited reimagining of what went on with charismatic madman Orson Welles as he and his Mercury Players mounted their historic production of Julius Caesar in 1930s New York - before Citizen Kane was even a gleam in his eye. Christian McKay, as the young, blustery Welles, is riveting. With Zac Efron and Claire Danes. 1 hr. 54 PG-13 (sex, adult themes) - S.R.

The Princess and the Frog This jazzy, pizzazzy, and enchanting Disney animated musical of the old-school, hand-drawn style features a scrappy new-school heroine - one who is both self-made and prince- completed. Anika Noni Rose is the voice of Tiana, a hardworking waitress hoping to save enough tips to buy her own restaurant, and Bruno Campos is a Mediterranean prince who steps into some deep voodoo when he disembarks in 1919 New Orleans. 1 hr. 37 G (some scary ghosts, may be too intense for viewers under 7) - C.R.

Also on Screens

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Squeakuel **

If you can read this, you're probably too old for this live-action sequel featuring the famously cute singing furballs. With Zachary Levi and David Cross. 1 hr. 28

PG

(some crude humor) -

D.H.

The Blind Side **1/2 Sandra Bullock stars as a Southern woman who takes a destitute teen into her home. Based on a true story, it's part sports saga, all tearjerker. 2 hrs. 08. PG-13 (violence; drug and sex references) - D.H.

Did You Hear About the Morgans? *1/2 Hugh Grant and Sarah Jessica Parker as unhappily married Manhattanites who witness a murder and are remanded to witness protection. So mirthless that you'll want to enroll in a witless-protection program. 1 hr. 43 PG-13 (sexual references, threats of violence) - C.R.

It's Complicated *** Meryl Streep as the hypotenuse in a romantic triangle between her ex-husband (Alec Baldwin) and an architect (Steve Martin) in Nancy Meyers' sprightly fairy tale for adults. R (pot-smoking, Baldwin's naked pot belly) - C.R.

Sherlock Holmes ** Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's famous consulting detective has Attention Deficit Disorder in Guy Ritchie's clamoring, breathless, turn-of-the(last)-century action movie. Robert Downey Jr., ripped and ready with the glib riposte, is Holmes, and Jude Law his bland Dr. Watson. The Holmes-as-action-hero conceit could have been fun, if anyone had thought to write a screenplay that made sense. 2 hrs. 08 PG-13 (action, violence, adult themes) - S.R.

The Twilight Saga: New Moon *** Swoony love triangle plus swoopy camera work equals this abstinence-makes-the-heart-grow-

fonder adaptation of Stephenie Meyer's young-adult romance novel. With angst princess Kirsten Stewart, passion prince Robert Pattinson, and stud muffin Taylor Lautner. 2 hrs. 10 PG-13 (girl in peril, threats of terror, vampire and werewolf violence) - C.R.

Theater

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

Continuing

Holiday Show With the Swing Club Band

(Theatre Horizon) Seasonal swing as the Swing Club rings in 1950 with cheer and charm. Through next Sunday.

- W.R.

Oliver! (Walnut Street Theatre) You couldn't ask for a better rendition of this musical based on Dickens' Oliver Twist. Superb cast, Mark Clements' fine staging, Lionel Bart's great songs, and Victorian London's mean streets - it's all here. Through Jan. 10. - H.S.

Peter Pan (Arden Theatre Company) Douglas Irvine's new adaptation is sweet, but the real stars of this production are the Arden's set, puppet, and costume-design team. Through Jan. 24. - W.R.

Red, White, and Tuna (Walnut Street Theatre's Independence Studio) Unlike the first two hilarious Tuna plays, the quick-change, two-actor, many-character trilogy about the benighted residents of this Texas town concludes on a flat, unfunny note. Through next Sunday. - T.Z.

Scapin (Lantern Theatre Company) A holiday frolic, full of funny fun, likely to amuse everybody. Moliere's classic comedy has been adapted for contemporary tastes by the great clown Bill Irwin and further tweaked by puppeteer Aaron Cromie. A hugely enjoyable evening. Through next Sunday.

- T.Z.

Snow White (People's Light & Theatre) This year's panto doesn't match last year's spectacular hit, but still provides everything kids have come to expect. Through next Sunday. - W.R.

This Is the Week That Is (1812 Productions) The annual satiric look - this year, focusing on the new administration - hits and misses, but the cast is uniformly endearing. Through next Sunday. - H.S.

When You Comin' Back, Red Ryder? (New City Stage Company) Things get messy at the diner. Through Jan. 11.

The Wizard of Oz (Media Theatre) Acting and singing are fine, but the production suffers from uninspired stage effects and a pedestrian look. Through Jan. 10. - H.S.

The World of Jewtopia (Kimmel Center) A hit wherever it goes, this Broadway-bound show is a festival of humor, schtick, and stereotypes. Ends today.

Video

District 9 **1/2

Intriguing premise about aliens stranded on Earth and forced to live in a squalid South African shantytown. The seamless mix of documentary-like footage of humans interacting with the human-sized, buglike ETs is gritty and gripping, but the story devolves into a shoot 'em up. 1 hr. 52

R

(violence, gore, profanity, aggressive action, adult themes) - S.R.