The Damned United ***1/2 ( 3 1/2 STARS) You don't need to love soccer to treasure writer Peter Morgan's latest reality-based triumph about a complex, controversial figure. Morgan has followed "The Deal," "The Queen" and "Frost/Nixon" with this ruefully funny, sometimes harrowing and ultimately touching portrait of the iconoclastic, brilliant British football coach Brian Clough (Michael Sheen) and his smart, steady partner, Peter Taylor (Timothy Spall). This movie about the twisted motives, heroism and creativity that fuel top-level competition also provides the most moving portrait of male friendship that we've seen all year.
Opening next Friday
The Blind Side: (Warner Bros.) A poor, oversized and under-educated teenager (Quinton Aaron) is recruited by a major college football program, where he is groomed into an athletically and academically successful NFL prospect. With Sandra Bullock and Kathy Bates. Based on the life of Michael Oher of the Baltimore Ravens.
An Education: (Sony Pictures Classics) The coming-of-age story of a 16-year-old girl (Carey Mulligan) who becomes smitten with a fast-living older man in 1960s London.
Planet 51 : (TriStar) An American astronaut lands on Planet 51 to discover little green people living an idyllic life. With the voices of Dwayne Johnson, Seann William Scott and Jessica Biel.
Precious: (Lionsgate) An illiterate teen who is pregnant with her second child is invited to enroll in an alternative school in hopes that her life can head in a new direction. With Gabourey "Gabby" Sidibe and Mo'Nique.
The Twilight Saga: New Moon: (Summit Entertainment) Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson return in this sequel to "Twilight," which finds Bella drawn into the world of werewolves after the departure of her vampire love. With Taylor Lautner and Peter Facinelli.
Release dates are subject to change.