OPENING THIS WEEK

The Ice Harvest (R) Charlie Arglist (John Cusack), a dim-bulb lawyer-turned-crook, attempts a Christmas Eve heist, hoping to swindle the local mob out of some money.

In the Mix (PG-13) When Darrell (Usher Raymond) saves the life of a mob boss (Chazz Palminteri), he’s brought into the crime family’s fold and given a job protecting the don’s daughter. Complications arise when the two fall in love despite their different backgrounds.

Just Friends (PG-13) At his high school reunion, a womanizer (Ryan Reynolds) gets the chance to come face-to-face with the old crush (Amy Smart) who turned his heart cold.

The Polar Express 3-D (G) Charleston IMAX brings back its big 3-D version of The Polar Express, a magical tale of the Christmas Eve re-education of a Santa-doubting adolescent teetering on the brink of disbelief. In Robert Zemeckis’ computer-animated film adaptation of Chris van Allburg’s illustrated book, though, there’s also a bizarre, palpable sense of unease that’s due to the animation style, which despite its faithful replication of Allsburg’s painterly compositions, doesn’t translate all that successfully to the screen. Despite being slightly creepy, the film boats a strong storyline that brims with hope, possibility, and plenty of warm and tender Christmasy moments. — Mark Savlov

Pride & Prejudice (PG)
Read the review here.

Rent (R)
Read the review here.

Yours, Mine, and Ours (PG) A widow (Rene Russo) and widower (Dennis Quaid) fall in love and marry, much to the dismay of their combined 18 children — a.k.a. this year’s Cheaper by the Dozen.

CRITICAL CAPSULES

Capote (R) Capote isn’t really about the murders that shattered the town of Holcomb, Texas, and became the fodder for Truman Capote’s legenday novel In Cold Blood. It’s about — although this only slowly becomes clear — Capote’s capacity for self-deception. Director Bennett Miller and screenwriter Dan Futterman brilliantly skitter around the edges of the crime, and Philip Seymour Hoffman doesn’t impersonate Capote so much as embody the author so intimately that there is no artifice or actorly showiness in the Capote-isms: the lisping, the dapperness. Mostly, though, we see in Capote’s interactions with the people of Holcomb and with the killers what a tough son of a bitch he really is. — MaryAnn Johanson

Chicken Little (G) Corporate mentality wins again! Deciding that no one wants hand-drawn animation any more and forgetting that their last sizable homegrown hit, Lilo and Stitch, was hand-drawn, the suits at Disney decided to make a computer-animated film of their very own. And a joyless affair it is, but that’s what happens when you make things by committee. They shot for The Incredibles and didn’t even manage Madagascar. Small children will like it. Adults will mostly be thankful it’s only 77 minutes long — and even at that it’s outrageously padded. — Ken Hanke

Derailed (R) If this would-be thriller and cautionary tale (the wages of adultery are hell — even if you don’t have a pet rabbit) didn’t take itself so seriously, it might have been a trash masterpiece. As it stands, it’s a slickly made fiasco that thinks it’s so clever that it constantly telegraphs its “surprise” ending. Worse, it suffers from major miscasting in Jennifer Aniston. Even with two pounds of eye makeup she still comes off as one half of the Doublemint Twins. She merely looks like she’s masquerading as a femme fatale — probably for a fancy dress Rotarian fundraiser. More amusing than thrilling. — KH

Get Rich or Die Tryin’ (R) The idea of presenting a gun-toting gangster as a misunderstood youth in search of a father figure is about as dubious as Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson’s acting. It will be argued that the story is about the fictionalized version of “50 Cent” overcoming his past through rap music. That might hold water if the songs didn’t catalogue and glorify that past — not to mention that the murderous violence continues right up to the film’s final scene of Marcus walking onstage. The fact that the film has the temerity to present him there as a Christ figure only makes the message that much more suspect, despite Jim Sheridan’s directorial proficiency. — KH

Good Night, and Good Luck (PG) George Clooney’s remarkable film feels like a smooth, sardonic smack in the face of today’s so-called newspeople, the cinematic equivalent of a withering glare and a disdainful roll of the eyes. Yeah, it’s about CBS’s Edward R. Murrow and how he took on Sen. Joseph McCarthy’s right-wing insanity, but what it’s really about is how badly we need a Murrow now. What’s most brilliant about it isn’t that it ends up serving the very purpose that it suggests no one else is serving — but that it’s so damn cool. — MJ

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (PG-13) There’s a lot that’s disconnected and disjointed in the muddled middle of Goblet of Fire — this is the Harry book that prompted speculation that it might have to be broken into two films to do it justice, after all. And for all the startling and delightful bits that remain, most of the characters other than Harry suffer a bit from dramatic malnourishment. But Ralph Feinnes’ Voldemort is Darth Vader and Satan in one slithery package, and he’s absolutely terrifying. The finale of Goblet of Fire is unsettling, in a way that’ll have you squirming in your seat. Which is as it should be. There’s a level of horror operating here that raises this beyond escapist family fare and into the realm of cutting metaphor for adolescence. Which is also as it should be. — MJ

In Her Shoes (PG-13) It’s totally a chick flick: there’s all sorts of stuff about shoes, and there will be some happy tears at the end. But it’s the good kind of chick flick, about real women with real problems that other real women can identify with, not the idiot kind that made the term “chick flick” derogatory in the first place. What elevates In Her Shoes to something profound and wise, what’s so refreshing is its refusal to be broken it down into clichés and stereotypes. Plus, Toni Collette has always been a goddess and always will be. — MJ

Jarhead (R) “Welcome to the suck,” indeed. Sam (American Beauty) Mendes’ Gulf War I film is basically a vacuous study of unlikable people waiting for nothing to happen. Jake Gyllenhaal plays a young cipher who joins the Corps, reads Camus, jerks off, goes to Iraq, goes crazy, and gets drunk — or perhaps vice versa. As usual, Mendes uses important stuff as material for ramming his empty pretensions to profundity and High Art up our innocent hindquarters. — Ian Grey

The Legend of Zorro (PG) The Legend of Zorro takes place ten years after the events in Mask of Zorro. This time, a ready-to-retire Zorro (Antonio Banderas) must stop a complicated plot to blow up the people of California. It’s not the masterful movie that its predecessor was, but it’s still a fun, exciting, gorgeous piece of swashbuckling adventure. Unfortunately, director Martin Campbell waters down the violence to get a more kid-friendly PG-rating. No one is ever stabbed, no one is ever cut, and the movie goes out of its way to find new methods of bonking people on the head. Note to Zorro: Your sword has a pointy tip. Use it. — KH

Prime (PG-13) Uma Thurman is a 37-year-old divorcee. Bryan Greenberg is a 23-year-old wannabe artist. They have lots of sex, the details of which Uma reveals to her therapist, Meryl Streep. Then Uma learns that her therapist is her lover’s mother. Oops. Don’t get hoodwinked into thinking this is a romantic comedy. It’s witless, pointless, puerile, unsexy, and boring. — Marci Miller

Walk the Line (PG-13) Walk the Line is Johnny Cash’s story and more. It captures his life from shortly before his first record up until his marriage to the woman he’d spend the last 35 years of his life with, June Carter. Because of that, this is both of their stories. Featuring a legendary performance from Joaquin Pheonix as the Man in Black, filled with Cash’s music and full of rousing life, Walk the Line is a fantastic success. You’ll clap, you’ll cheer, you’ll cry, and then you’ll run out and buy every scrap of Johnny Cash music you can find. This is a special film, much more than a biopic: it’s an emotional masterpiece, and easily one of the year’s best. — Joshua Tyler

The Weather Man (R) It’s not a crowd pleaser and it’ll never achieve the box-office success of Gore Verbinski’s last two films, The Ring and Pirates of the Caribbean. Even so, The Weather Man is a rich and frequently wonderful film anchored by terrific performances from Nicolas Cage, Michael Caine, and newcomer Gemmenne de la Pena. Sometimes darkly funny, but not really the comedy the trailer suggests, it’s an atmospheric work about coming to terms with our own limitations and the expectations imposed on us by others that deserves a broader audience than it’s likely to get. — KH

Zathura (PG) Two young boys stumble across a strange board game called “Zathura” and in short order their entire home is flung into space and assaulted by burning, flying rocks. If they want to get back to Earth, they’ll have to play their way through Zathura and win. Elf director Jon Favreau’s flick is great fun and a visual treat, but it just misses greatness by rote of a flat, confusing narrative. Parents my leave befuddled by the sometimes careless plot and it’ll never be considered the family classic that Elf already is, but Zathura will fire up their kids’ imaginations. — JT