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Due next week

"Fred Claus" — Vince Vaughn plays Santa’s older brother in a case of sibling rivalry. When he hits up Santa (Paul Giamatti) for a $50,000 loan to finance an off-track betting parlor, he walks into a crisis at the North Pole, and is just in time to save the day. With Rachel Weisz as Fred’s meter-maid girlfriend, Kevin Spacey as a mean accountant, and Ludacris as the elves’ favorite deejay. Oh, and Miranda Richardson as Santa’s wife. Rated PG for mild language and some rude humor. Two stars.

"Hancock" — Will Smith plays a Skid Row drunk with super powers and a super hangover, Jason Bateman is the PR man who wants to give him a new image, and Charlize Theron is the PR man’s wife, who starts looking at Hancock oddly the moment she sets eyes on him. And no wonder, as we discover the origins of this most confused of superheroes, who may save a man from being hit by a train, but ends up causing a train wreck. Sounds like slapstick comedy, but has an unexpected serious turn. Rated PG-13 for some intense sequences of sci-fi action and violence, and language. Three stars.

"Space Chimps" — A goofy animated space opera that sends three U.S. chimpanzee astronauts rocketing to a galaxy, as they say, far, far away. There they encounter strange life forms and the evil Zartog, who has captured an earlier space probe. Not in the same science fiction league as "Wall-E," but successful, with lots of whiz-bang action and some witty dialogue. Rated G. Three stars.

Recently released


"The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants 2" — Everything "Sex and the City" wanted to be. It follows the lives of four women, their career adventures, their romantic disasters and triumphs, their joys and sadness. These women are all in their early 20s, which means they’re learning life’s lessons; "SATC" is about forgetting them. Lots of warmth and heart, romantic cliches, seductive locations. With America Ferrara, Alexis Bledel, Blake Lively and Amber Tamblyn. Rated PG-13 for mature material and sensuality. Three stars.

"Tropic Thunder" — A troupe of actors, thinking they’re making a Vietnam War movie, gets lost in the jungle and is captured by druglords who think the actors are narcs. Very funny, with a terrific performance by Robert Downey Jr. as an Australian actor who seems to think he is black. Directed by Ben Stiller, who stars along with Jack Black, Nick Nolte, Steve Coogan, Danny McBride and Brandon T. Jackson. Pervasive language including sexual references, violent content and drug material. Three and a half stars.

"WALL-E" — The animated story of the last surviving solar-powered robot, in a world so filled with garbage that humans have escaped into orbiting spaceships. Directed by Andrew Stanton, who wrote and directed "Finding Nemo," it shares that film’s ability to appeal to the whole family, in a story that’s original, ingenious and touching. Three and a half stars.

Reviews by Roger Ebert unless otherwise noted.

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