Jeff Bridges was nominated for an Oscar for “Crazy Heart.’’ Jeff Bridges was nominated for an Oscar for “Crazy Heart.’’ (Lorey Sebastian/Fox Searchlight Pictures)
February 5, 2010

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Avatar James Cameron’s long-game gamble pays off - for the most part. The film creates a planet called Pandora, a race of tall, blue cat-people called the Na’vi, and gives them both a dazzlingly colorful rain forest reality - part Rousseau, part George Lucas on inhalants. The 60 percent of the film that comes from the computer is tantalizingly realistic; the roughly 40 percent that’s live action is less convincing. With Sam Worthington, Sigourney Weaver, Stephen Lang, and Zoe Saldana. (162 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

The Blind Side Sandra Bullock plays a Memphis woman who takes in an enormous, athletic African-American. He thrives. She thrives. The film is hard to resist. But it’s another Hollywood movie about a black male rescued from God knows what either by nice white people or sports. Here it’s both. How good we feel is directly proportional to how blind we’re willing to be. (125 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

The Book of Eli Denzel Washington plays a lone dude in post-nuclear America carrying a Very Important tome that frontier boss Gary Oldman wants. It’s basically “The Road’’ with twice the plot, four times the ammunition, and half the brains; it’ll probably make 10 times the money. Costarring Mila Kunis; directed by the Hughes brothers. (118 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Crazy Heart A familiar tale - fading country musician hits bottom, looks up - enlivened by a great, generous jewel of a performance by Jeff Bridges, our shaggiest of leading men. Maggie Gyllenhaal plays a single mom who falls for him against her better judgment; Colin Farrell and Robert Duvall turn up, too. Songs by T Bone Burnett and the late Stephen Bruton. (111 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Edge of Darkness Mel Gibson returns to the screen after seven years as a veteran Boston homicide detective and single father whose daughter is murdered in front of his eyes. His assumption that he was the target proves wrong, and he tracks down and punishes the guilty parties. An above average revenge movie. (117 min., R) (Sam Allis)

An Education A charming, intelligent coming-of-age tale set in early-’60s London. Carey Mulligan is hugely appealing as a levelheaded teenage girl who gets involved with a mysterious older man (Peter Sarsgaard). Nick Hornby adapted the script, Lone Scherfig directed, but the movie belongs to its star. (95 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Fantastic Mr. Fox A dry stop-motion delight. Director Wes Anderson adapts Roald Dahl’s 1970 kids’ book to his usual obsessions (irresponsible dads, confused children). George Clooney voices the hero, raiding henhouses in a midlife crisis. A fairy tale for adults that’s gracious enough to let everyone play along. With the voices of Meryl Streep, Jason Schwartzman, and Bill Murray. (87 min., PG) (Ty Burr)

Fish Tank British filmmaker Andrea Arnold’s second film, after 2006’s unnerving “Red Road,’’ is about a tough, angry teenage girl (the remarkable Katie Jarvis) drawn to her mother’s boyfriend (Michael Fassbender) while trying to dance her way out of the projects. The director’s eye for detail is at times magical but sentimental clichés start creeping in toward the end. (123 min., unrated) (Ty Burr)

The Hurt Locker This war film focuses on the work of an Army bomb squad and one particularly gifted soldier (Jeremy Renner), who seems to have no fear of roadside bombs. We see and feel how when he disarms a bomb, it’s almost no different from watching a conductor seduce an orchestra or a chef produce a meal. (88 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

The Lovely Bones A spectacular, cringe-inducing failure as both a book adaptation and a film. Peter Jackson has taken Alice Sebold’s challenging novel - narrated by a murdered girl about the relationships that grow up after her death - and made one disastrous choice after the other. A fine cast (Saoirse Ronan, Mark Wahlberg, Rachel Weisz, Stanley Tucci) is wasted. (135 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus A Terry Gilliam movie, which means it’s a grotty, pleasurably indulgent mess. Christopher Plummer plays the 1,000-year-old sorcerer of the title, wearily battling the devil (Tom Waits) through the midnight streets of modern-day London. The late Heath Ledger’s performance has been completed by Johnny Depp, Jude Law, and Colin Farrell; it’s a gimmick that mostly works. (122 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Invictus A strong, sober-sided, largely satisfying entry in a rarely-seen genre: the Civic Statuary movie. Morgan Freeman takes a break from playing God to take on Nelson Mandela, bringing his fragmented country together via the 1995 Rugby World Cup. Matt Damon is fine, if opaque, as the team captain. It’s not one of Clint Eastwood’s very greatest films, but it works just fine. (134 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Legion Paul Bettany is an angel defiantly determined to protect diner waitress Adrianne Palicki and her unborn messiah-to-be from the apocalypse. For the surprising amount of time the movie spends trying to dimensionalize an ensemble that includes Dennis Quaid, Lucas Black, and others, they’re as implausibly shockproof as in any other doomsday flick. (100 min, R) (Tom Russo)

Nine Rob Marshall’s musical about an uninspired Italian movie director is full of all the mistakes Marshall made with “Chicago.’’ The editing murders all the logic of the choreography. The camera shoots too many sequences from dubious positions. The numbers themselves are locked away from the rest of the narrative action. With, among others, Daniel Day-Lewis, Penélope Cruz, Nicole Kidman, and Judi Dench. (118 min., PG-13) (Wesley Morris)

Precious: Based on the Novel “Push’’ by Sapphire Is America, in fact, ready for a movie about a poor, fat black girl (Gabourey Sidibe) who can’t read and is pregnant, for the second time, with her absent father’s baby? Who cares? It’s here, and it’s very much alive. In its own determined way, this is a work of immense, astonishing joy. It believes that in this girl’s wide, brown face and bleak little life there’s a reason to live. Mo’Nique brings down the house as her mother. (110 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

The Princess and the Frog In the year of America’s first black president, it makes sense that Disney would introduce its first black animated princess. The movie has been vividly hand drawn and harmlessly racialized. But the story, about an aspiring chef and a prince who are turned into frogs, needs renovating, too. The chef swears she doesn’t believe in fairy tales but finds herself going through the motions of one anyway. The voices include Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, and Oprah Winfrey. (97 min., G) (Wesley Morris)

Sherlock Holmes The latest big-screen version of Arthur Conan Doyle’s legendary detective is a sly, noisy ride: “Pirates of the Caribbean’’ for smart people. Robert Downey Jr. brings his brain, his wits, and his gift for underplaying even as he understands he’s been hired by director Guy Ritchie to play Sherlock Holmes, action hero. With Jude Law (excellent) and Rachel McAdams (less so). (130 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

A Single Man Colin Firth has been our stalwart Hollywood Brit for so long you may have forgotten he can act. Based on the landmark 1964 novel, this casts the star as a closeted gay man mourning the death of his lover - it’s about the grief that dare not speak its name. Fashion designer Tom Ford directs sensitively but without much subtlety; Firth brings the latter. (99 min., R) (Ty Burr)

Skin A drama based on the unhappy story of Sandra Laing (Sophie Okonedo) who was born with black African features to white parents (Sam Neill, Alice Krige) during South African apartheid, raised as white only to feel, in adulthood, more accepted by her oppressed black compatriots. The movie crashes through the levels of fascinating irony until neither the lives nor the story make sense. A few good things have come from the bad of apartheid. This movie isn’t one of them. (88 min., PG) (Wesley Morris)

The Twilight Saga: New Moon The second installment in Hollywood’s adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s mega-selling vampire romance series is an anemic comedown after the full-blooded swoon of last year’s “Twilight.’’ Director Chris Weitz is stuck with a sequel that’s a morning-after mope-fest, but Taylor Lautner is relaxed and likable as Native American wolfboy Jacob Black. (130 min., PG-13) (Ty Burr)

Up in the Air From Jason Reitman, a warm, smoothly made movie about a man (George Clooney) who spends most of his time firing people. The movie concerns his attempt to settle down. At its very best, it invents new for old Hollywood sophistication. The sequined cocktail parties and crack banter are now happening in the Admirals Club lounge. With Vera Farmiga, Jason Bateman, and Anna Kendrick, who’ll rightly be labeled a discovery. (109 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

When in Rome There’s actually not a lot of Rome in this movie. And not much creativity or entertainment either. It’s a predictable romantic comedy starring Kristen Bell as an American who disturbs the mojo in an Italian “fountain of love,’’ which invites the advances of suitors ranging from Josh Duhamel to Danny DeVito. Even that sounds a whole lot funnier than it actually is. (91 min., PG-13) (Janice Page)

The White Ribbon The pristine paradise of a small, Protestant village in pre-World War I Germany is beset by all sorts of unspeakable horrors whose culprits continue to go uncaught. The Austrian writer and director Michael Haneke is determined to keep the ends loose. But that lack of closure turns out to be thrilling. Haneke lays his grim fable of a movie and its mysteries at our feet, where we see a picture of future evil develop. (140 min., R) (Wesley Morris)

The Young Victoria A sweet, stodgy historical romance about the difficulties of being a queen and a young woman, not necessarily in that order. Emily Blunt conveys the ardor and ambition of a teenage royal but she can’t convincingly do naivete. The scenes between her and Rupert Friend as Prince Albert are the movie’s strong suit. (104 min., PG) (Ty Burr)

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