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What it's about : With a can-do Aussie spirit, English aristocrat Lady Sarah Ashley (Nicole Kidman, above) and her right-hand man and lover, the Drover, end up rescuing and running the ranch her murdered husband left her.

Rated: PG-13

The scoop : Despite the fresh environments, this film is made up of bits and pieces of other movies, including The Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind, Casablanca, and, yes, Cattle Queen of Montana; and by the end, it's just a more-than-you-can-eat buffet of colorful kitsch.

Grade: * 1/2


What it's about : A dog who plays a superhero on TV thinks he is one in real life, which presents all sorts of problems when he unexpectedly finds himself in New York, a continent away from his beloved owner, Penny.

Rated: PG

The scoop : The script is smart, its conceit a heart-tugger in the finest of senses, and it's the first Disney effort in way too long to be more concerned with being a movie than with being a breeding ground for product tie-ins.

Grade ***: 1/2

Four Christmases

What it's about : After years of leaving the country for Christmas, a couple are forced to spend the holiday with their families when fog shuts down the airport and they're interviewed live on TV.

Rated: PG-13

The scoop : Yet another "Holidays+Families=Hell" comedy, but this one's surprisingly funny. Vince Vaughn, as one-half of the trapped couple, is his usual boarish self, but Reese Witherspoon (above) explores her lighter side to great effect as the other half.

Grade : *** 1/2

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa

What it's about : Alex the dancing lion (Ben Stiller) and his fellow expatriates on the island of Madagascar head back to New York on Air Penguin but crash-land in Africa.

Rated: PG

The scoop : This uproarious cartoon suggests what would happen if Comedy Central and the Animal Planet co-produced Roots III. Menageries of characters trace loony curlicues in and around the narrative, and Sacha Baron Cohen commits comic grand larceny as Julien, king of the lemurs.

Grade : *** 1/2

Quantum of Solace

What it's about : 007 avenges the death of his true love while obliterating a crooked international green-industry syndicate.

Rated: PG-13

The scoop : Daniel Craig (above), the most Byronic of all James Bonds, manages the astonishing task of rooting an outlandish yet sober-sided movie in reality and bringing it an air of wicked amusement, too.

Grade: ** 1/2

Slumdog Millionaire

What it's about : The unlikeliest epic hero ever: a ragamuffin (Dev Patel, above) in Mumbai (formerly Bombay) who, at age 18, becomes a contender on the Indian version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

Rated: R

The scoop : Director Danny Boyle outdoes himself with a blend of hair-raising social melodrama, earthy humor and mystic adventure. The result is a movie of kaleidoscopic contradictions and dazzling clarity: a Dickensian extravaganza.

Grade: ****

Transporter 3

What it's about : Frank Martin (Jason Statham, above), who offers super-swift automotive transport of goods or people for the right price, no questions asked, breaks his rules more flagrantly than ever for the sake of his latest package - a Ukrainian beauty named Valentina (Natalya Rudakova).

Rated : PG-13

The scoop : Statham brings an actor's craft and a star personality to this stoic role. If you're addicted to action, the movie itself will put you in adrenaline-freak heaven.

Grade: ***


What it's about : Good-guy vampire Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson) and human Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart, both above) fall into a love that's immediate and absolute and, at the same time, not to be consummated - unless Edward decides to let himself go wild and drink her blood.

Rated : PG-13

The scoop : This flesh-biter of a movie never turns into a nail-biter. The emphasis is on swooning, and even the amorous thrills fade away.

Grade: **

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