Lakview Terrace and other new movies

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WALL-E (G) The animation whiz-kids at Pixar are no strangers to wringing emotion from talking toys, endearingly anthropomorphic fish and other decidedly non-human creations. But some of the most poignant moments ever found in a Pixar film occur in the first half of WALL-E, a nearly wordless journey through a decimated future where humans are conspicuous by their absence, and by the mess they've left behind. Those first 45 minutes alone make WALL-E arguably the first genuinely post-apocalyptic kid flick and also Pixar's masterpiece, a pitch-perfect blend of epic sci-fi and comedy pantomime recalling the glory days of silent cinema. The titular hero — a rickety robot who might be Chaplin's Little Tramp reincarnated as R2D2 — spends his solitary days cleaning up the mountains of trash left by vanished humankind, an endless routine that's finally shattered when our hero falls for a visiting fem-bot and follows her back to the mothership, where more than a few surprises await. The smoothly digestible freneticism of WALL-E's last act is a bit of a let-down after the near-minimalist poetry of the unconventional opening passages (scenes of WALL-E silently trying to make sense of our cultural bric-a-brac are particularly eloquent), but the amazingly human (and humane) robot-to-robot romance here is one for the ages, and the movie almost always gives us something wonderful to gawk at while serving up nods to everything from Silent Running and A.I. to Jacques Tati, 2001 and beyond. And don't miss the short film that precedes the main attraction, another concentrated dose of Pixar's slapstick brilliance that, with nary a word, sets the stage nicely for WALL-E, one of the best films of the year. Features the voices of Ben Burtt, Jeff Garland, John Ratzenberger, Sigourney Weaver and Fred Willard. 4.5 stars

THE WOMEN (PG-13) (PG-13) Meg Ryan plays a wife and mother whose privileged life crumbles when she discovers her husband is having an affair with a perfume counter clerk (Eva Mendes). "Murphy Brown" creator Diane English mishandles this remake of the classic 1939 screwball comedy with an all-female cast. Annette Bening stands out as a caustic magazine editor who struggles with professional compromises, but otherwise The Women offers conventional you-can-have-it-all uplift while sending mixed messages about label-obsessed materialism. Also stars Eva Mendes and Debra Messing. 2 stars —Curt Holman

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