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Director: Mike Mitchell. With Ben Affleck, Christina Applegate, James Gandolfini, Catherine O'Hara. (91 min.)Skip to next paragraph
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Sterritt ** Deciding not to spend Christmas alone, a spoiled yuppie pays a fortune to a family for pretending to be his own loving relatives during the yuletide season. There are a few amusing moments, helped by subdued performances from Affleck and Gandolfini, but this is no "Bad Santa" despite its obvious ambition to play similar holiday tricks.
Director: Tim Story. With Queen Latifah, Jimmy Fallon, Jennifer Esposito. (79 min.)
Sterritt ** She's a cab driver, he's a cop, and their adversaries are bank robbers. Frivolous but fun, somewhere between a comic "French Connection" and the craziest Nascar race you never saw.
Staff **1/2 Idiotic plot, laughs aplenty, Latifah shines.
Sex/Nudity: 1 innuendo. Violence: 3 scenes. Profanity: 60 expressions. Drugs: 2 scenes with alcohol.
Director: Trey Parker. With voices of Trey Parker, Matt Stone, Kristen Miller, Elle Russ. (98 min.)
Sterritt ** A team of bumbling military heroes do battle with North Korea's dictator, who's enlisted a gaggle of Hollywood peaceniks as his dupes. With all the characters played by marionettes, this is an equal-opportunity satire, making fun of everyone from Michael Moore to flag-waving militarists. The only stand it appears to take is that all grownups are equally stupid - a childish attitude borne out by the comedy's heavy reliance on gross-out jokes.
Staff **1/2 Technical wonder, irreverent, brilliant satire.
Sex/Nudity: 11 instances. Violence: 21 instances. Profanity: 177 expressions, mostly strong. Drugs: at least 13 instances of smoking and drinking.
Director: David Gordon Green. With Jamie Bell, Josh Lucas, Dermot Mulroney, Devon Alan. (107 min.)
Sterritt *** A young rural man flees his dysfunctional household but is followed by a dangerous uncle who'd be happy to kill him. Taking great artistic chances in storytelling and performance style, Green finally fulfills the promise he showed in his fine 2000 drama "George Washington" as a terrific builder of mood, atmosphere, and psychological suspense.
Director: Mike Leigh. With Imelda Staunton, Peter Wight, Lesley Manville, Jim Broadbent. (125 min.)
Sterritt **** Staunton plays a middle-aged cleaning woman in 1950s London who performs illegal abortions in her spare time, motivated by an intuitive conviction that she's providing a desperately needed service for desperately needy women. The acting is brilliant and Leigh's screenplay is very long on compassion, very short on preaching and politics.
Directors: Barry Cook and Tony Bancroft. Voices of Pat Morita, Eddie Murphy, Ming-Na. (88 min.)
Staff **** "Mulan: Special Edition" marks the return of one of Disney's A-list animated films. There are some fun extras in this two-disc set: alternative openings, a wonderful song from Eddie Murphy that was cut, games, music videos, and backstage footage - but come Saturday night, the real reason to own this little gem is the lush animation and compelling storytelling. All the computers at Pixar can't match the ability of modern cel animation to create lush, flowing naturalistic movement that looks like a painting come to life. By Gloria Goodale