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MATCH POINT (R) Woody Allen's latest is a smart movie, but smart in ways we don't typically associate with this filmmaker. It's also filled with passion (!), murder (!!), sex (!!!), and there's not a single stammering neurotic in sight. Match Point is set in London, far from Allen's usual Manhattan haunts, and concerns a young working class stiff (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) who ingratiates himself with an upper crust families and then threatens to topple his own house of cards because of an uncontrollable urge for a husky-voiced American femme fatale (Scarlett Johansson). Match Point unfolds like film noir crossed with one of those tragic Verdi operas that its characters are constantly listening to, and although are a handful of lighter moments as well, one person's tragedy is another's comedy (as with all of Allen's films). Essentially, though, the glass is not only half-empty but decidedly smeary in Match Point, with a tough, engrossing, pretense-free story the likes of which we've really never seen before from this famous filmmaker. Also stars Brian Cox, Matthew Goode and Emily Mortimer. 4 stars

MEMOIRS OF A GEISHA (PG-13) Beautiful to look at and with barely a thought in its pretty little head, Memoirs of a Geisha takes what might have been a culturally-specific slice of Asian subject matter and inexplicably infuses it with heaping helpings of that old Chicago razzle-dazzle. The film takes place in Japan around the time of the Second World War, but it's a Hollywood fantasy-Japan, where everybody speaks English and acts like they're in an American movie. We're thrust headlong into the tale of Sayuri (Zhang Zyiyi), a penniless waif who is forced into service at a geisha establishment and eventually inducted into their ways. An overlong film that feels rushed at all the wrong moments, Memoirs turns out to be a visually impressive but hopelessly generic soap gussied up with a few superficial exotic flourishes. 2.5 stars

MRS. HENDERSON PRESENTS (R) Bland, British and boring — three words that should never have to go together but too often do. The movie — which is one of the first productions from ex-Miramax honchos Harvey and Bob Weinstein's new company — is meant to be taken as "classy" (it's a WWII period piece, after all, and then there are all those English accents), but the script reeks of shallowness and clichés. Dame Judi Dench stars as a wealthy widow who buys an old theater and eventually begins putting on all-nude reviews, which she defends as being good for national morale. Bob Hoskins is the theater manager who develops feelings for Dench's character, and much is made of the aimless, incessant bickering of the film's two leads (who we're assured are actually deeply in love) and the naughtiness of female flesh being paraded across the screen. Also stars Will Young and Christopher Guest. 2 stars

MUNICH (R) Despite a marketing campaign that sells it as a more-or-less straight-ahead suspense thriller, Munich is a glum, oddly muddled affair, so consumed with wallowing in ethical ambiguities and hand-wringing over endless cycles of violence that it forgets to give us an engaging story. Director Steven Spielberg focuses on the aftermath of the slaughter of 11 Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics — when a hit squad was dispatched to assassinate the Palestinian organizers of the massacre — but Munich is less concerned with creating a visceral thrill ride out of the often horrifying mechanics of revenge than with grinding our noses in the pointlessness of it all. If you were expecting a Kill Bill adrenaline rush recast as a less guilty pleasure, forget it. Spielberg leans over so far backward in an effort to be evenhanded that there's really no one to root for or against, a problem exacerbated by too many forgettable characters saddled with flat-footed dialogue endlessly re-stating the movie's thesis that violence begetting violence can only be wrong. Stars Eric Bana, Geoffrey Rush, Daniel Craig, Ciaran Hinds, Mathieu Kassovitz, Hanns Zischler, Ayelet Zurer and Michael Lonsdale. 3 stars

NANNY MCPHEE (PG) The screenplay here, which Emma Thompson adapted from Christianna Brand's Nurse Matilda books, begins in a place just macabre enough and even a wee bit perverse — much like the seven supremely naughty children featured in Nanny McPhee. This unmanageable brood pride themselves on having driven away scores of hearty nannies screaming in terror. Enter the eponymous Nanny McPhee, a snaggle-toothed, warty, anti-Mary Poppins played by Thompson herself as a cross between a drill sergeant, a Zen master and a troll. As expected, the supernaturally-powered uber-nanny butts heads and eventually bonds with the wild beastie-boys-and-girls, magic is unleashed, and tough love conquers all. The movie winds up a little too eager to warm hearts and never quite lives up to the promising Roald Dahl/Edward Gorey darkness of its set-up, but Nanny McPhee gets most of what it does right. Also stars Colin Firth, Angela Landsbury, Kelly MacDonald, Imelda Staunton and Derek Jacobi. 3 stars

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