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Published: Thursday, 12/1/2011

Movie reviews: 12-01

Summaries are condensed from Blade reviews and reflect the theater schedule starting Friday. Films are rated on a scale of 5 stars (best) to Bomb (worst). The reviewer's name, movie running time, and abbreviations of the theaters where the movie is playing are at the end of each summary.

A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas. Six years after their previous adventures, the pothead pals (John Cho and Kal Penn) have grown apart and lead unconnected lives. That all changes, though, with the arrival of a package in the mail marked "High Grade." R ** 89 min. (Wire review) (FP)

Arthur Christmas. Christmas comes early with Arthur Christmas, and this is one holiday gift worth keeping. Arthur (voice of James McAvoy) is the son of Santa, and a bit of a clumsy though well-meaning misfit in the now high-tech business environment of Santa's workshop at the North Pole. Arthur's brother Steve (voice of Hugh Laurie) runs the show and oversees thousands of elves, with an older Santa now relegated to the figurehead of Christmas. But a single mistake on Christmas Eve causes Arthur to save the day, and others to reevaluate the true meaning of the holidays. Arthur Christmas' animation is charming, voice acting terrific, and story clever and joyous. PG **** 97 min. (Baird) (FP, FT, Fox)

Breaking Dawn -- Part 1. The Twilight film series may be bulletproof to critics' shots, but there's no getting around the fact the movies have been, with the exception of Eclipse, artistic failures. The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn -- Part 1 only compounds the problems. The continued story of the romance of human Bella (Kristen Stewart) and vampire Edward (Robert Pattinson), Part 1 features the couple getting married and learning they're expecting. The pregnancy has major repercussions, creating the melodrama that drives the film. The lifeless acting and horrid dialogue written in Twitterspeak (140 characters or less) only makes things worse. Twilight fans deserve better than Breaking Dawn. In fact, we all do. PG-13 108 min. * 1/2 108 min. (Baird) (FP, LC, FT, Fox)

Dolphin Tale 3D. Morgan Freeman, Ashley Judd, and Harry Connick, Jr. are among the stars of this family-friendly tale about a boy who befriends a dolphin that lost its tail in a crab trap. PG ** 1/2 112 min. (Wire review) (MIT)

Happy Feet Two. Mumble, The Master of Tap, has a problem because his tiny son, Erik, is choreo-phobic. Reluctant to dance, Erik runs away and encounters The Mighty Sven -- a penguin who can fly! Mumble has no hope of competing with this charismatic new role model. But things get worse when the world is shaken by powerful forces. Erik learns of his father's "guts and grit" as Mumble brings together the penguin nations and all creatures to put things right. In 3D at select theaters. PG *** 1/2 99 min. (Wire review) (FP, FT, LC, Fox)

The Help. Set in Mississippi during the 1960s, a southern society girl who returns from college determined to become a writer, but turns her friends' lives -- and a small Mississippi town -- upside down when she decides to interview the black womenwho have spent their lives taking care of prominent southern families. PG-13 *** 1/2 138 min. (Wire review) (MIT)

Hugo. Not since Avatar has a 3-D movie felt so alive. But the stunning 3-D in Hugo is only part of the movie's charm. Martin Scorsese, directing his first family movie, winds audiences down a path of wondrous adventure and surprises. Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) is a 12-year-old orphan in Paris who lives in a clock tower and fixes things. Then he meets Georges Meliès (Ben Kingsley), a broken man in need of emotional repair, and his goddaughter Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz), whose help and friendship prove invaluable to Hugo. This film doesn't talk down to children, and if it weren't for Hugo's slow mid-section, it would be near perfection. PG **** 127 min. (Baird) (FP, LC, FT)

Ides of March. During the frantic last days before a heavily contested Ohio presidential primary, an up-and-coming campaign press secretary finds himself involved in a political scandal that threatens to upend his candidate's shot at the presidency. R **** 102 min (Baird) (FP, FT)

Immortals. Filmmaker Tarsem Singh (The Cell, The Fall) brings his inimitable style to this recounting of the legend of the Greek peasant Theseus (Henry Cavill) chosen by Zeus to lead the fight against the tyrannical King Hyperion (Mickey Rourke), who is on a rampage across Greece to obtain a weapon that can destroy humanity. R * 110 min. (Wire review) (FP, FT, LC)

Jack & Jill. Adam Sandler pulls double duty in this comedy about an advertising executive (Sandler) who dreads the annual visit: a Thanksgiving visit from his twin sister (also Sandler). PG * 91 min. (Wire review) (FP, FT, LC, Fox)

J. Edgar. The secretive life of J. Edgar Hoover and the rich history of the FBI, which he helped launch and ran for decades, is a lot to cover in a two-hour-plus movie. For the sake of a complete biopic, J. Edgar gamely tries to get through much of this and short shrifts many key moments, including the kidnapping of Charles Lindbergh's son. Clint Eastwood, who directed J. Edgar, lacks focus with this effort. But the drama is bolstered by strong performances by Leonardo DiCaprio as Hoover, Naomi Watts as Hoover's loyal assistant Helen Gandy, and Armie Hammer as his right-hand man in the FBI and longtime lover Clyde Tolson. R *** 137 min. (Baird) (FP, FT, LC)

Like Crazy. A British college student (Felicity Jones) falls for an American student (Anton Yelchin), only to be separated from him when she's banned from the U.S. after overstaying her visa. PG-13 **** 90 min. (Wire review) (LC)

Moneyball. This adaptation of Michael Lewis' book, about an epiphany by Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane (Brad Pitt), who figures out how to stay competitive in the major leagues under a tight budget, is like The Social Network of baseball. Directed by Bennett Miller (Capote) and written by Steven Zaillian (Schindler's List) and Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network). The film is a triumph on every level: It's the movie of the year. PG-13 **** 126 min. (Baird) (FP, FT)

The Muppets. While on vacation in Los Angeles, Walter, the world's biggest Muppet fan, and his friends Gary and Mary discover the nefarious plan of oilman Tex Richman to raze the Muppet Theater and drill for the oil recently discovered beneath the Muppets' former stomping grounds. The Muppets must reunite to stage The Greatest Muppet Telethon Ever and raise the $10 million needed to save the theater. PG *** 98 min (FP, FT, LC)

My Week with Marilyn. In the summer of 1956, 23 year-old Colin Clark worked as a lowly assistant on the set of The Prince and the Showgirl. The film that famously united Sir Laurence Olivier and Marilyn Monroe. Nearly 40 years on, his diary account was published, but one week was missing, published some years later as My Week with Marilyn. When Arthur Miller, her husband, leaves England, the coast is clear for Colin to introduce Marilyn to some of the pleasures of British life; an idyllic week in which he escorted a Monroe desperate to get away from her retinue of Hollywood hangers-on and the pressures of work. R ** (Wire review) 96 min. (LC)

Puss in Boots. Based on one of the most beloved characters of the Shrek universe, this tells the hilarious and courageous (daring, bold, brave) tale of Puss' early adventures as he teams with mastermind Humpty Dumpty and the street-savvy Kitty to steal the famed Goose that lays the Golden Eggs. In 3D at select locations. PG *** 1/2 90 min. (Baird) (FP, LC, FT)

Rise of the Planet of the Apes. This story about the origins of the film franchise is a reality-based cautionary tale. James Franco plays a scientist who conducts experiments on the intelligence of apes and pushes things a bit too far. The animals suddenly become too smart for mankind's good - and decide they want to take over. PG-13 *** 1/2 110 min. (Wire review) (MIT)

Tower Heist. A crime caper about workers at a luxury condominium plotting to take back the pensions stolen by a Wall Street plunderer. Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, Matthew Broderick, Tea Leoni, Gabourey Sibide, Casey Affleck, and Alan Alda partake in the high jinks. PG-13 *** 1/2 104 min. (Wire review) (FP, LC, FT)



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