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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.

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

The Day the Earth Stood Still

What it's about : Klaatu (Keanu Reeves, above), an alien in human form, and Gort, his bioengineered protector, want to save Earth, because it's one of the few orbs capable of supporting complex life.

Rated: PG-13

The scoop : For a while, this movie also seems capable of supporting complex life, thanks mostly to great casting. Then the inspiration and energy run out.

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 .:

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 boorish self, but Reese Witherspoon (above) explores her lighter side to great effect.

Grade : *** 1/2

I've Loved You So Long

What it's about : After 15 years in prison, a cultured, educated woman (Kristin Scott Thomas, above) comes to stay with her literature-professor sister (Elsa Zylberstein) in the French college town of Nancy.

Rated : PG-13

The scoop : This hushed, quietly charismatic movie is tense and absorbing; it makes you listen to its characters as if they are your intimates.

Grade: *** 1/2


What it's about : Harvey Milk (Sean Penn, above), a community activist in San Francisco, struggles to become the first openly gay man elected to high public office in a major U.S. city.

Rated: R

The scoop : The film rests so exclusively - and solidly - on its performances that audiences won't realize how strong its mojo is until an assassin's bullets break the spell.

Grade : *** 1/2

Seven Pounds

What it's about : Will Smith (above), as some kind of renegade IRS agent, dispenses financial and medical favors to strangers, rousing the concern of his own friends and loved ones.

Rated: PG-13

The scoop : Midway through, it piles on the romantic tear-jerking, but it's so crudely manipulative that when it ends there isn't a wet eye in the house.

Grade: *


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

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.

Grade: **

Yes Man

What it's about : Jim Carrey (above) plays a bank-loan officer who, personally and professionally, can't say "No!" - because he has made a covenant with a self-help guru (Terence Stamp) to say nothing but "Yes!"

Rated: PG-13

The scoop : The picture evaporates halfway through because the story itself is a one-liner, yet it also has a cast, including Carrey, Zooey Deschanel and Rhys Darby, who can turn odd curves into dynamite goofballs.

Grade: **

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