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January 03, 2010

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



Bitch Slap In this throwback to the B-movie/exploitation genres of the '50s through the '70s, three bad girls attempt to extort and steal $200 million in diamonds from a ruthless underworld kingpin at a remote desert hideaway. With Julia Voth, Erin Cummings, America Olivo, Michael Hurst, Lucy Lawless and Kevin Sorbo. Written by Eric Gruendemann and Rick Jacobson. Directed by Jacobson. (1:44) R. Story on Page D6

Daybreakers Humans have become an endangered species, hunted and forced into hiding after a mysterious plague transforms the majority of the world's population into vampires. With Ethan Hawke, Willem Dafoe, Claudia Karvan, Michael Dorman, and Sam Neil, Vince Colosimo and Isabel Lucas. Written and directed by Michael and Peter Spierig. (1:38) R.

Leap Year A woman follows her boyfriend to Ireland to ask him to marry her, but complications arise when she is stranded and must enlist the help of a surly Irishman. With Amy Adams, Matthew Goode, Adam Scott and John Lithgow. Written by Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan. Directed by Anand Tucker. (1:40) PG.

North Face Based on a true story, four German climbers attempt to conquer the north face of the Swiss massif the Eiger in a Nazi propaganda competition in 1936. Directed by Phillipp Stozl. In German with English subtitles. (2:06) NR.

Wonderful World A folk-singing, compulsively marijuana-smoking divorced dad has his negative world views confirmed when his Senegalese roommate falls ill. With Matthew Broderick, Sanaa Lathan, Phillip Baker Hall, Michael Kenneth Williams, Jodelle Ferland and Ally Walker. Written and directed by Josh Goldin. (1:35) R.

Youth in Revolt A 14-year-old attempts to lose his virginity to the girl of his dreams. With Michael Cera, Jean Smart, Ray Liotta, Steve Buscemi, M. Emmett Walsh, Justin Long, Mary Kay Place, Zach Galifinakis and Fred Willard. Screenplay by Gustin Nash, based on the novel by C.D. Payne. Directed by Miguel Arteta. (1:30) R. Story on Page D4

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.

Avatar Think of "Avatar" as "The Jazz Singer" of 3-D filmmaking. Think of it as the most expensive and accomplished Saturday matinee movie ever made. Think of it as the ultimate James Cameron production. Whatever way you choose to look at it, "Avatar"'s shock and awe demand to be seen. You've never experienced anything like it, and neither has anyone else. (K.Tu., Dec. 17) Also in IMAX 3D. (2:30) PG-13.

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 who 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 Pen?lope Cruz and filmmaker Pedro Almod?var 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.

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