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December 20, 2009

Capsule reviews are by Kenneth Turan (K.Tu.), Betsy Sharkey (B.S.) and other reviewers. Compiled by Anthony Miller.



Alvin and the Chipmunks 2: The Squeakquel The chipmunks head to school to save the music program in a battle of the bands where they face off against the Chipettes. With the voices of Zach Levi, David Cross, Jason Lee, Justin Long, Matthew Gray Gubler, Jesse McCartney, Amy Poehler, Anna Faris and Christina Applegate. Screenplay by Will McRobb and Chris Viscardi. Directed by Betty Thomas. (1:28) PG.

Police, Adjective A police officer on a surveillance mission has a crisis of faith. With Dragos Bucur, Vlad Ivanov, Irina Saulescu and Ioana Stoica. Directed by Corneliu Porumboiu. In Romanian with English subtitles. (1:55) NR.


The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus A traveling show where members of the audience get to choose between light and joy or darkness and gloom is run by Doctor Parnassus, who is desperately trying to renege on a deal with the devil. With Heath Ledger, Christopher Plummer, Verne Troyer, Andrew Garfield, Lily Cole, Tom Waits, Johnny Depp, Colin Farrell and Jude Law. Written by Terry Gilliam and Charles McKeown. Directed by Gilliam. (2:02) PG-13.

It's Complicated A divorced mother becomes caught up in a love triangle when she renews a romance with her ex. With Meryl Streep, Steve Martin and Alec Baldwin. Written and directed by Nancy Meyers. (1:54) R.

Sherlock Holmes Guy Ritchie directs the newest portrayal of Arthur Conan Doyle's famous detective and his stalwart partner Dr. Watson. With Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong and Kelly Reilly. Directed by Ritchie. (2:14) PG-13.

Critics' Choices

An Education Invariably funny and inexpressibly moving in the way it looks at a young girl's journey from innocence to experience, this film does so many things so well, it's difficult to know where to begin cataloging its virtues. What's easy is knowing where you'll end up, which is marveling like everyone else at the performance by Carey Mulligan that is the film's irreplaceable centerpiece. (K.Tu., Oct. 16) (1:35) NR.

Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans Cold-blooded reptiles are lurking everywhere in this slick new noir, with snakes, iguanas, gators and especially Nicolas Cage at their slithering and cynical best. Cage is the bad cop whom director Werner Herzog pushes into the deep bayou muck, human and otherwise, that Hurricane Katrina has left behind. The filmmaker has done well by noir too, giving us exactly what he should -- crime, corruption, sarcasm, sex, sleaze and shadows all through the glass darkly. (B.S., Nov. 20) (2:01) R.

Broken Embraces Something almost magical happens whenever actress Penélope Cruz and filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar work together, and so it is with "Broken Embraces," a twisted tale of love, death and a badly edited film. The writer-director is up to his old tricks, creating an onion of an experience -- a movie within a movie within a movie. Cruz's performance is just as complex. And the moral of this story? Whatever else you do, never mess with the director's cut. (B.S., Dec. 11) In Spanish with English subtitles. (2:09) R.

Crazy Heart There's a powerful symmetry at work here, a parallel between protagonist Bad Blake, a country singer whose entire life has led him to a nadir of disintegration, and star Jeff Bridges, whose exceptional film choices have put him at the height of his powers just in time to make Mr. Blake the capstone role of his career. (K.Tu., Dec. 16) (1:52) R.

Four Seasons Lodge How does life go on, where does it go, when a person has had to confront the worst of existence? Inspirational in unexpected ways, "Four Seasons Lodge" provides answers to those eternal questions, bringing a vibrant perspective to the resilience of the human spirit with its documentary portrait of a Catskills bungalow colony run by and for Holocaust survivors. (K.Tu., Dec. 11) (1:37) NR.

Good Hair Chris Rock tries to untangle a question posed by his young daughter: "Daddy, why don't I have good hair?" The result is an amusing, poignant and surprisingly candid look at the issues and implications tied to "black" hair -- as in ethnic -- with a disarming Rock coaxing answers and opinions from an eclectic cross-section of African Americans who spend billions to process and weave their way to straightness. With Rock as our tour guide, the film weaves as much comedy as fact into the narrative, making the experience a satisfying entertainment even for the lucky few who have no hair cares at all. (B.S., Oct. 16) (1:35) PG-13.

Invictus Blending entertainment, social message and history lesson, director Clint Eastwood's latest film focuses on one particular moment in history, when South Africa's newly elected leader Nelson Mandela, played by Morgan Freeman, tried something so brazen, so risky, that his closest advisors were not only against it, but they also thought it was political suicide. (K.Tu., Dec. 11) (2:12) PG-13.

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