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Sterritt ** Allen reprises his 1994 role as an ordinary guy who's taken over Santa's job. This time he has to marry a Mrs. Claus, get his misbehaving son off the "naughty" list, and save his workshop from a malfunctioning Santa robot, all before Christmas Eve. Allen does well with all three of his roles, ably helped by the Disney makeup department. The rest of the acting is bland, but the movie's preteen target audience won't mind, and adults will find occasional grown-up jokes to chuckle at.Skip to next paragraph
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Staff *** Funny, heartwarming, romantic.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 5 scenes cartoonish violence. Profanity: 1 mild expression. Drugs: 2 mild scenes with alcohol.
Director: Steven Soderbergh. With George Clooney, Natascha McElhone, Viola Davis. (99 min.)
Sterritt *** Astronauts on a space station investigate a mysterious planet that's really a living entity capable of haunting the Earthlings with strange visitors, replicas of people they had troubled relationships with in their earlier lives. The story comes from Stanislaw Lem's brilliant novel, and Soderbergh's style is strongly influenced by Soviet filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky's classic 1972 version. The audience for this slow, dreamlike epic isn't Clooney fans or adventure buffs, but viewers who enjoy thinking about compelling questions of past and present, reality and unreality, life and death - with no easy answers.
Staff *** Contemplative, brooding, smart, dark.
Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes implied sex, partial nudity. Violence: 5 scenes of violence, including suicide. Profanity: 5 expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes of alcohol.
Director: Paul Justman. With The Funk Brothers, Chaka Kahn, Joan Osborne. (108 min.)
Sterritt **** The self-named Funk Brothers were enormously gifted studio musicians who accompanied a wide range of Motown stars, from Stevie Wonder to Smoky Robinson and the Miracles. They changed the course of pop music while receiving little of the acclaim or attention they deserved. Justman redresses this injustice in his rollicking documentary about them, which will have your toes tapping and your ears sizzling whether you're a Motown fan or not.
Staff ***1/2 Energetic, informative, celebratory.
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 2 archival clips of violence against civil rights activists. Profanity: 3 expressions. Drugs: 7 scenes of drinking, smoking.
Director: Pedro Almodóvar. With Javier Cámara, Darío Grandinetti, Geraldine Chaplin. (116 min.)
Sterritt **** The main characters are two very different men caring for women in long-term comas, and the message is that the power of love and compassion must never be underestimated, even when the recipients seem oblivious. The intricate story is challenging to follow and sometimes perverse in its content, including a surreal sex fantasy that many viewers may find too weirdly explicit for comfort. There's no mistaking the rays of optimism shining at its heart, though. In Spanish with English subtitles.
Director: Ron Clements, John Musker. With (voices) Emma Thompson, Martin Short. (95 min.)
Staff **1/2 Disney's latest animated film launches Robert Louis Stevenson's "Treasure Island" into outer space. Jim is a rebellious teen who yearns to explore the galaxy. So when a stranger hands him a holographic map with the location of a pirate's fortune, he and a crew of "spacers" set off solar sailing to find it. Emma Thompson's voice is put to excellent use as the modern, feminine Captain Amelia, but the most valuable gem in this film is the combination of handrawn and computer-generated animation. Overall, this is a worthwhile family movie, but don't expect it to be priceless. By Stephanie Cook Broadhurst
Sex/Nudity: None. Violence: 12 scenes of cartoon violence. Profanity: None. Drugs: 1 scene with smoking.
Director: Hilary Birmingham. With Anson Mount, Julianne Nicholson, Bob Burrus, Glenn Fitzgerald. (102 min.)
Sterritt **** This is a quietly told drama of two young men, their troubled father, and their efforts to carve out a satisfying life on their modest farm as financial and emotional problems loom. Such understated storytelling, sensitive directing, and avoidance of easy filmmaking tricks are all too rare in American movies. This is truly one from the heart.
Staff ***1/2 Touching, nuanced, well-paced.
Sex/Nudity: 3 scenes of implied sex. Violence: 3 mild scenes. Drugs: 9 scenes with alcohol. 2 scenes of smoking.