Film Capsules

Like real reviews, just shorter

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

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (PG) — The third entry in the C.S. Lewis franchise that kicked off five Christmases ago is a fleet, great-looking adventure filled with magical creatures, specious religious symbolism, and winking allusions to other big-screen epics (including The Lord of the Rings and Pirates of the Caribbean). Lucy (Georgie Henley) and Edmund's (Skandar Keynes) latest trip to land-of-enchantment Narnia — this time accompanied by their pesky cousin Eustace (a scene-stealing Will Poulter) — has less fat and a more lighthearted tone than the two previous installments. Once again relegating Tilda Swinton's White Witch and Liam Neeson's Asian to brief cameos may rub some fans the wrong way, but there's more than enough CGI eye candy to soothe even the most fickle of them. Directed by journeyman Michael Apted (whose eclectic oeuvre encompasses everything from 007, documentaries, and a Loretta Lynn biopic), Voyage of the Dawn Treader is a pro job, stylishly rendered. — Paurich

Enter the Void (NR) — It's tough to imagine anyone having a take-it-or-leave-it response to Gaspar Noé's woozy psychedelic epic. About the last moments and early afterlife of young drug dealer Oscar (Nathaniel Brown) in a neon-lit Tokyo, it's aggressively disorienting, elliptical, crass, and indulgent — a literal assault on senses and sensibilities, from its seizure-inducing opening credits to the vaguely incestuous ambiguities of its ending. But just as the film takes the first-person view of its transmigrating protagonist, it also represents the singular vision of an ambitious filmmaker who hasn't played it safe yet. The taboo-prodding visual extremes (from a post-abortion surgical tray to actual conjugal sparks) may provide state-of-the-art stoner mindblow, but Oscar's tie to his troubled sister (Paz de la Huerta) is the literal heart of the experience. — Lee Gardner

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. — Michael 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

Monsters (R) — In the very near future, a spacecraft crashes in Mexico, scattering large, tentacled creatures. The United States erects a mammoth wall protecting its land from the literal alien neighbors in the Infected Zone. And south of the border, where the U.S. military subdues larger threats while local law enforcement occupies the ground, a photojournalist escorts his publisher's daughter back to the States — a dangerous journey where illegal-immigration parallels couldn't be more obvious. Director Gareth Edwards tries to wrap a District 9-style political parable around this fantasy setup, and while he's got too many idea balls in the air to say anything provocative about any one of his concerns, Monsters entertains because of its smallness. It's a blockbuster sci-fi idea used to tell an intimate story, which is refreshing in and of itself. — Bret McCabe

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

Tamara Drewe (R) — Tamara (played by Quantum of Solace's Gemma Arterton) returns to her rural farmhouse home, right next to a writers' retreat run by Nicholas and his wife Beth. As directed by Stephen Frears, Tamara Drewe is a genteel, comely adult comedy-drama where Nicholas' cad card is exposed early on, and Tamara needs to reconcile who she feels she was in her past with the woman she is today. It's a breezy comedy, where a few hearts get broken, a herd of cows trample someone under hoof, and the poor boxer who started the stampede receives country justice. Tamara Drewe is one of those formulaic pleasures that punishes the bad and rewards the good, although the bad are really only needy and selfish and the good really only well-meaning. That it all takes place among grown-ups with adult concerns and brains is a welcome change of pace. — McCabe

The Warrior's Way (R) — An assassin hides out in a small town, where he meets Kate Bosworth.