* Wed., Jan. 2. 14th St. Playhouse, 173 14th St. 404-733-4738. www.14thstplayhouse.org.
HOUSE OF WAX IN 3-D (1953) Presented by the Silver Scream Spook Show, Vincent Price stars in the story of a disfigured sculptor who opens up the House of Wax using the wax-covered bodies of his victims as his displays. Sat., Dec. 29. Plaza Theatre, 1049 Ponce de Leon Ave. 404-873-1939. www.plazaatlanta.com
THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW (1975) (R) The cult classic of cult classics, the musical horror spoof follows an all-American couple (Susan Sarandon and Barry Bostwick) to the castle of Dr. Frank-N-Furter (Tim Curry), a drag queen/mad scientist from another galaxy. Midnight, Fri. at Plaza Theatre, and Sat. at Peachtree Cinema & Games, Norcross.
ACROSS THE UNIVERSE 3 stars (PG-13) A handful of young Americans and one Liverpudlian sing Beatles songs amid the tumult of the 1960s in this trippy musical from director Julie Taymor (Titus, Frida). The trope of naming characters after Beatles songs, such as central lovers Jude (Jim Sturgess) and Lucy (Evan Rachel Wood), can be ridiculously heavy-handed, but the film's gorgeous visuals, appealing musical numbers and unstated Iraq war subtext keep it from being a baby boomer wallow in nostalgia. -- Holman
ALIEN VS. PREDATOR 2: REQUIEM (R) The follow-up to Alien vs. Predator features the iconic monsters waging yet another brutal battle in a Colorado town.
ALVIN AND THE CHIPMUNKS 3 stars (PG) This fluffy film chronicles the Chipmunks' rise to hyperpitched harmonizing fame and their narrow escape from the pitfalls of child stardom. On the human side, Jason Lee as Dave Seville looks uneasy living life in a partially CGI world, whereas David Cross, playing an exploitative record exec, basks in his screen time. Here, modernization and re-imagining turn out to be not such distasteful concepts, and even allow for a dash of satire most appreciated by fans of the earlier TV series. -- Allison C. Keene
AMERICAN GANGSTER 3 stars (R) This sprawling crime drama set in Vietnam War-era Harlem pits Denzel Washington's fastidious rising mob boss against Russell Crowe's doggedly honest narcotics cop. As usual, director Ridley Scott crafts images that mark him as an artist of color and light, but the premise's shades of gray elude him, particularly the implication that the mobster's success represents a triumph of African-American enterprise. The cast ultimately lives up to the film's sweeping social statements that emulate the gritty idealism of Serpico more than the bloody melodrama of Scarface. -- Holman
ATONEMENT 4 stars (R) An intelligent but confused adolescent girl (Saoirse Ronan) tells a lie that separates two young lovers (Keira Knightley and James McAvoy). Joe Wright crafts an insightful adaptation of Ian McEwan's acclaimed novel that begins with an intimate look at the passions and frustrations at an English country estate, and expands to include the destruction of World War II. Playing the same character at different ages, Ronan, Romola Garai and Vanessa Redgrave offer a devastating portrayal of guilt and the inability of words to undue their power to harm. -- Holman
AUGUST RUSH (PG) A fairy tale-esque drama about an orphaned musical prodigy who uses his talents to find his absentee parents. Kristen Sheridan (Disco Pigs) directs.
AWAKE (R) Hayden Christensen plays a man who awakens during open-heart surgery to find the anesthesia has left him aware, but paralyzed. Joby Harold directs.
BEE MOVIE 2 stars (PG) After discovering life outside the hive and meeting a human florist (Renee Zellweger), a young bee (Jerry Seinfeld) sues the human race for the honey industry's exploitative practices. The closer Bee Movie hovers to Seinfeld's appealing brand of observational humor, the bigger laughs it finds, but the script flits in so many different directions, we can't help but remember that story wasn't always the strong suit of Seinfeld's eponymous "show about nothing." -- Holman
BEFORE THE DEVIL KNOWS YOU'RE DEAD 4 stars (R) Octogenarian director Sidney Lumet takes the hipster genre of choice -- the bloody, chronologically scrambled heist movie -- and turns it into a weighty family tragedy that's still nastily entertaining. Phillip Seymour Hoffman (in one of the year's best performances) and Ethan Hawke play desperate brothers whose ill-fated plan to rob their own parents takes on the dimensions of Cain, Abel and Oedipus. -- Holman
BELLA 2 stars (PG-13) A haunted chef (Eduardo Verástegui) and a pregnant waitress (Tammy Blanchard) leave their jobs at a trendy restaurant to spend a romantic, soul-baring day in Manhattan. This heartfelt but overly sentimental film from Alejandro Gomez Monteverde celebrates food, family and New York, but the leading actors' performances are a little blank and the ending too convenient by half. Manny Perez steals the film as satisfyingly hateful restaurateur and petty tyrant.-- Holman
BEOWULF 4 stars (PG-13) The Anglo-Saxon epic poem of strapping Beowulf (voiced by Ray Winstone) and his monstrous adversaries gets brought into the 21st century with director Robert Zemeckis' "performance-capture" animation techniques (a form that's still a work in progress, but has improved significantly since The Polar Express). For all the CGI monsters, including misshapen ogre Grendel, the real attraction is the revisionist screenplay, which reimagines the heroic tale into a tragedy about the corruption of power. Definitely see it in digital 3-D, which makes up for the rubbery quality of some of the human characters. -- Holman