Burlesque (PG-13) — An early Christmas gift for Proposition 8 opponents, writer-director Steven Antin's indifferently constructed, lazily written backstage musical is still worth checking out if you're a guilty-pleasure enthusiast. Christina Aguilera (not terrible) plays a small-town waitress who, after hopping a bus to Los Angeles, gets a job as an all-singing, all-dancing showgirl at an upscale gentlemen's club. Since the, er, eclectic cast also includes Cher as co-owner of the Burlesque Lounge, Alan Cumming (camping it up as the MC), and an indispensable Stanley Tucci (the club's been-there, seen-it-all stage manager), there's serious, albeit disreputable fun to be had. — Milan Paurich
Faster (R) — A generic, by-the-numbers action flick starring a coasting Dwayne Johnson and a slumming Billy Bob Thornton, this (barely) glorified B-movie should have gone straight to video and saved everyone involved a lot of needless embarrassment. The only distinction of this otherwise completely forgettable snoozer is the amount of sadistic violence meted out to the bad (and good) guys. — Paurich
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Part 1 (PG-13) — After nine years, six movies, and more hormone-fueled growth spurts than you can shake a wand at, this is the beginning of the end of the Harry Potter franchise. And like last year's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the first part of the boy wizard's final chapter (the second half arrives next summer) is directed by David Yates. And like last year's outing, this penultimate offering is an occasionally rousing adventure that also connects on an emotional level. The movie's dark tones make it one of the moodiest in the series and therefore one of the most complex. — Gallucci
Love and Other Drugs (R) — Movies rarely pack as much into 113 minutes as Edward Zwick's romantic comedy-drama. Jamie (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a glib womanizer who gets by on his seductive charm. The job's slippery ethics match his personality — the sleazy tactics he uses to push pills include seducing receptionists and pimping for horny physicians. Jamie pursues Maggie (Anne Hathaway), a clever and beautiful artist with early-onset Parkinson's disease, and the pair — both averse to commitment — begin an affair, complete with plenty of onscreen nudity. Love and Other Drugs is so entertaining that when Maggie's illness really takes hold, it's like a punch to the gut. — Pamela Zoslov
The Next Three Days (PG-13) — The domestic idyll of high-school English teacher John (an endearingly pudgy Russell Crowe), his wife Laura (Elizabeth Banks), and their young son is shattered when she's arrested for the murder of her boss. Convinced of her innocence and out of legal options, mild-mannered John engineers a daring prison break, with some advice from a grizzled veteran escapee (a marvelous Liam Neeson). Despite a few missteps, The Next Three Days, like the other flims of deeply thoughtful Crash screenwriter-director Paul Haggis, is made with style and conviction, and infused with a deep mistrust of authority. — Zoslov
Tangled (PG) — Disney has played around with fairy tales before, but Tangled is a different kind of mess. Based on the story of longhaired damsel-in-distress Rapunzel (the movie's original title, by the way), the heroine (voiced by Mandy Moore) is a stronger, more independent girl here — still trapped in that dreadful tower, but more than capable of making it on her own. She's also pretty good at kicking butt, which she does alongside thief Flynn (Chuck's Zachary Levi), who reluctantly rescues Rapunzel from her towering prison. Like Shrek, Tangled stirs around fairy-tale conventions. Unlike Shrek, it doesn't do a very good job of it, but there are some cute moments. — Gallucci
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