AEON FLUX (PG-13) Based on the popular MTV animated series of the '90s, Aeon Flux takes us 400 years into the future to the last city on Earth. Charlize Theron, making her debut in the sci-fi action genre, stars as an underground operative leading the rebels against totalitarian rule of a seemingly perfect society. Also stars Martin Csokas, Jonny Lee Miller and Frances McDormand. (Not Reviewed)

BEE SEASON (PG-13) Bee Season, which is the new film from Scott McGehee and David Siegel (Suture, The Deep End), is a very curious, vaguely cerebral drama about a household in crisis when sixth grader Eliza (Flora Cross) turns out to be a total savant in the area of spelling, causing her academically minded, control freak dad (Richard Gere), a religious studies professor, to begin instructing her in the ways of Kabbalah in order to maximize her gift. Meanwhile, Gere's son (Max Minghella) is getting cozy with the Hare Krishnas on the sly, and mom (Juliette Binoche) is slipping out at night to indulge in a few deep, dark secrets of her own. The basic form here is pure soap, but with flashes of oddly shaped substance and a sprinkling of mysticism that, while it doesn't quite mesh with the rest of the material, is fascinating all on its own. Buying Gere as a Jewish scholar, on the other hand, is a stretch no one should be required to attempt. Also stars Kate Bosworth. 3 stars.

CAPOTE (R) Anyone who has read In Cold Blood or seen the 1967 movie version will be basically familiar with the raw material here — a pair of drifters reveal themselves to a reporter while awaiting execution for the senseless slaughter of a Kansas family — but Capote yanks the focus away from the killers and puts it squarely on the writer and his process. That writer is Truman Capote, portrayed by Philip Seymour Hoffman in a performance that gives us traces of all the Capotes that we think we know — the narcissistic dandy, the sensitive artist, the twee fop with the whiney baby voice, the literary powerhouse — and fuses them all into a character too complex and human to be pigeonholed by any of those descriptions. Also stars Catherine Keener, Clifton Collins Jr and Chris Cooper. 4.5 stars.

CHEAPER BY THE DOZEN 2 (PG-13) So what is this, like the third movie in as many weeks about the trials and tribulations of families too big for their own good? This one's a sequel to the 2003 comedy, featuring Steve Martin as the head of a massive brood who find themselves squaring off against another family almost as large as theirs while on vacation. Also stars Bonnie Hunt, Hilary Duff, Eugene Levy, Piper Perabo and Tom Welling. (Not Reviewed)

THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA: THE LION, THE WITCH AND THE WARDROBE (PG) Although it gets off to a decidedly slow start, this big-screen adaptation of C.S. Lewis' beloved book turns out to be pretty smashing entertainment. Four heroic young siblings stumble into the film's magical realm of talking animals, evil queens, fauns, gryphons, centaurs, satyrs, Cyclopses and even a stripped-down Kris Kringle. The sheer profusion of fantastical beasties on display is worth the proverbial price of admission. It all culminates, as if you couldn't guess, in a massively proportioned Lord of the Rings-lite battle royale between the forces of good and evil, but hey, you could do a lot worse. Stars Tilda Swinton, Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, Anna Popplewell, William Moseley, James McAvoy and Jim Broadbent. 3.5 stars.

THE FAMILY STONE (PG-13) With a carefully calculated humor-to-pathos ratio and a sleigh-ful of crowd-pleasing clichés in tow, The Family Stone is a warm puppy of a movie, so desperate to be loved that it practically pees all over itself. The basic set-up here involves a yuletide reunion with the Stones, a mostly good-natured and open-minded bunch who nevertheless find themselves deeply offended when one of the adult siblings (Dermot Mulroney) brings his painfully uptight fiancée (Sarah Jessica Parker) home to meet the family. Oh, and did I mention that the doe-eyed younger Stone brother is not only gay but deaf, and has an impossibly adorable African-American boyfriend to boot? Or that Mother Stone is terminally ill and played by Diane Keaton? Or that Parker's perfect sister (Claire Danes) eventually shows up and lights up everyone's life in a way that instantly telegraphs the entire last act of the movie? It all bubbles over in a mad rush of predictable partner-swapping and soul-baring as The Family Stone struggles to convince us that its glib, cookie-cutter story is less bogus than it really is. But the movie's "truths" are worse than superficial — they're insincere — and the only insights found here are as cheesy as they are disposable. Also stars Rachel McAdams and Luke Wilson. 2 stars.

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